WHEN HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF - Massa vs Bottas
Malaysia has now became the home for team orders and bitter radio transmissions. After the ultra controversial ‘Multi 21’ team order of 2013, in which Sebastian Vettel denied to hold station behind his teammate Mark Webber and passed him disobediently, the fans hoped for a less contentious race on returning to the very same track in 2014. Which of course didn't happen.
And in this very case of 2014, Malaysia hosted the second round of “Felipe, Fernando is faster than you” although this time, it was Felipe Massa’s younger and less experienced teammate Valttri Bottas who replaced the Ferrari Spaniard in the famous transcript. Felipe, who I’m sure must have breathed a sigh of relief after breaking free of the Italian marquee Ferrari’s clutches, must have been disappointed when he was bound to “slavery” (as he called it) once again at Williams come a very familiar sounding message on lap 55-
“Felipe, Valtteri is fast than you”
Team orders have never failed to create a stir in viewers’ minds. Starting with labyrinthine code names (such in the case of Multi 21 of 2013) to the whole undertaking of deeming driverX “must faster” than driverY when he’s in fact constantly looking at the latter’s exhausts unable to pass him.
The objective Williams had behind the team order was to get Bottas who was in 8th position ahead of his teammate Massa in 7th position to have a crack at sixth-placed Jenson Button. Bottas, on fresher tires was evidently quicker than his teammate in P7 but unable to have a go at him, Massa was ordered to let him move past giving him a chance to grab 2 extra points.
“At Williams we want our drivers to race, we always have, and we're a team that's renowned for that, not a team that has a number one and a number two driver” said Claire Williams, the deputy tema principal of the Martini Williams Racing team. “What happened is we weren't necessarily prepared for the scenario that actually arose on the day.” She added.
However, despite the mishandled situation at Williams, Felipe Massa stood strong by his verdict and did not apologise to have disobeyed the orders that rekindled his role as a supporting player for Fernando Alonso at Ferrari. He also added that the fiasco did not damage his relationship with the team and he has “No problems working for the team when it’s necessary and at the correct time”
But was the team order necessary at this early stage? As there are two sides to a coin, the situation can be looked at from the drivers’ point of view and the team’s perspective.
Williams, who performed extraordinarily during the winter testing, have surprisingly fallen a foot back during the season. Despite going into the Australian Grand Prix as favourites, Williams managed a below-set-standard P5 with Bottas and a first lap accident saw Felipe massa’s Williams taken out. Having lost a handful of points in the constructors championship at the Australian GP, the team must have gone into Malaysia on optimising the results rather than data for a good chunk of points. And if getting Bottas past Button was the only way, then Massa put himself above the team. Then again, if one has to calculate the possibility of the foretold situation (Bottas moving past Button), the numbers wont be too big.
From a drivers’ point of view, moreover, from Felipe Massa’s point of view, it was a breach of trust. The 2008 vice champion, who shifted from Ferrari to Williams over the winter was optimistic about not having to play a number two driver job at the British team. But tables turned when the second race in succession ended in massive disappointment.