Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen publicly exposed his team’s number 1 and number tactics during the German GP. During the pitstop phase, Raikkonen pitted from 3rd place, oddly before race leader Sebastian Vettel. After the round of pit stops, Vettel eventually dived in and emerged behind his teammate.
The status quo remained for a very long time and all the while, Lewis Hamilton was charging up the order. An increasingly frantic Vettel could not get past his teammate and begged the team to let him by. It didn’t help that Vettel’s fresher tyres were suffering behind the Finn’s dirty air.
After a while, Ferrari radioed Kimi and began a long-winded approach to asking Kimi to let Vettel past. Finally, Raikkonen, rather fed up with the meandering, told them to say it as it is. He said “If you want me to let him go, just tell me”. In any other situation, his bluntness would have evoked guffaws. But it also proved that Ferrari were back to implementing team orders despite them saying that the two were allowed to race.
Ferrari have a long history of implementing team orders and have been sneaky about it. Some of the most infamous ones was during the 2002 Austrian GP. At that time, the then Ferrari team principal, Jean Todt, radioed Rubens Barrichello. He said “Let Michael pass for the Championship”. Barrichello initially put up some resistance before allowing Michael Schumacher to pass him at the finish line.
A few years later, Felipe Massa got the following message “Fernando is faster than you, I hope you understand that”. The resulting overtake was blantantly obvious and even resulted in a ban on team orders.
In Vettel and Raikkonen’s case, there were many instances in previous races where team orders could have been imposed. But Ferrari abstained all that time and only acted in today’s race.