Ferrari have been in the Formula One spotlight this season having built a car that many F1 observers believe was the quickest in the field of 2022. Having claimed 12 of the 22 pole positions, the F1-75 was the king of the one lap shootout. Since Monza Ferrari brought few upgrades for the rest of the season having shifted their focus to next year’s chassis.
At that time Ferrari had 62% of the poles available but this fell away to just over 50% by the Saturday evening in Abu Dhabi.
Positive season for Ferrari
In many ways the season was a success for the forward moving Ferrari as Carlos Sainz scored his maiden F1 victory at the British GP together with the first three pole positions of his career.
Charles LeClerc hadn’t won a race since 2019 and added three more to his tally this season taking the Monegasque driver to 5 career F1 victories. The lead Ferrari driver also doubled his number of career F1 pole positions to 18.
Yet the season promised much more.
With two wins from the first three races Charles Leclerc was 44 points clear of Max Verstappen who would outscore the Monegasque by an astonishing 190 points over the next 19 races and turn his deficit to a 146 point advantage at the close of play.
History of Ferrari team orders
Ferrari’s modern history is one where team orders have been a bone of contention for fans of the sport and the driver deemed a number 2 within the team. Michael Schumacher was given precedence over his team mates during his run with the team from 1996-2006.
Ferrari would argue this delivered them 6 consecutive constructor titles and 5 drivers’ championships for Schumacher.
The most famous incidents when Ferrari instructed their number two to move aside was during the Fernando Alonso era with the team. During the 2010 German GP Rob Smedley famously instructed his driver Felipe Massa over pit radio, “Fernando is faster than you.”
The Brazilian duly slowed and allowed his team mate through which cause uproar in the paddock given team orders were illegal at that time.
Team orders return
However Ferrari have largely abandoned this kind of favouritism in recent times and the current drivers Charles LeClerc and Carlos Sainz have equal billing within the team.
Yet Sainz now reveals he was given clear team orders at the season finale in Abu Dhabi last weekend.
“I think we worked as a team,” Sainz reveals.
“I had clear instructions before the race to not fight him at the start or around the pit stops.
“We executed a good weekend in that sense and I am happy for him, honestly, because I really think he deserves that P2.”
Sainz not bitter
LeClerc was in a battle with Sergio Perez for second place in the drivers’ championship so Ferrari clearly returned to ensuring the order their drivers completed the race.
But Sainz was not bitter about the team’s instruction to him.
“I think he deserved to finish second this year,” Sainz added.
“He has been super-strong all year with this generation of cars. He has been driving extremely well and I may have to adapt and change a bit my driving to try and be closer to him.
“Congrats, because he did a great season on his side on his driving and he deserves that P2 in front of Checo.”
Red Bull refuse team orders
Red Bull Racing conversely refused Sergio Perez suggestion they ask Max to allow him through during the season finale.
During the early part of the race Perez was dragged along by his team mate as he retained the DRS behind Verstappen who was leading the race. But the double world champion began to eek out a gap over over 2 seconds on his team mate and Perez came on the radio suggesting he was hurting in the dirty air and could Max speed up.
This was a gentle effort to persuade the team to get Max to let Perez through and then defend from LeClerc.
During the post-race press conference, Verstappen was asked if he had been told by Red Bull to help Perez but said there was no orders and that it would not have been the “nicest way” to end the season.
“No, there was not [a team order], but also that is quite a tricky call to make.
“You can possibly block but I mean, is that fair racing? I think [that is] not the nicest way going out of the championship, out of the season you know?
“It looked like that Checo was catching him enough to try and actually get a movement and he lost quite a bit of time with that bit of a fuss between Pierre [Gasly] and Alex [Albon]. I was watching on the screen.”
Verstappen believes Perez had to earn his dues
Perez was caught and overtaken by LeClerc who finished 3 points ahead of the Mexican in the final F1 driver standings. Yet Verstappen believes his tea mates battle for P2 was lost elsewhere.
“In hindsight, probably, as a team, we could have pushed a bit more on that on that middle stint for Checo but that’s always easy to say afterwards.
“At the time, we thought that we had to be a little bit careful on the tyres but again, we’ve had a lot of great weekends but even in great weekends [there is] always things that you can learn.”
Ferrari are unlikely to instigate team orders in 2023 unless one driver becomes the clear challenger for the championship and is in a fight with another team for the accolade.
— McLaren (@McLarenF1) November 26, 2022