2002 Austrian GP: Team Orders Hurt Ferrari Reputation

By Carlo Carluccio

Written in association with Missed Apex Podcast. Listen in the player below the article and please don't forget to comment.

I have a library of F1 race reports, and DVD’s, of all F1 races stretching back to the mid 60’s. You could say it’s a passion of mine and no doubt many would question my sanity. Yet from time to time I will select a race and relive the experience – usually with a fine malt and fragrant Cuban cigar.

Memories will surface from every given race – be it the location I originally viewed it or the company I shared the initial experience with. It can be bittersweet.

Sometimes when I’m discussing motorsports with friends or family we may touch upon the subject of the worst piece of driving witnessed or decisions that have caused controversy. Of course, everybody has their own opinion on matters.

I’m a Ferrari fan, first and foremost. That much has to be admitted. As an Italian it was unlikely to be anything but… so when observers state that Ayrton Senna driving Alain Prost off the track at the 1990 Japanese GP was disgusting behaviour, most people assume I’d be on the side of the Prancing Horse driver. It couldn’t be further from the truth.

I couldn’t stomach Prost from the moment the BBC F1 coverage made it clear that he assumed his team-mate, Rene Arnoux, should accede the lead to him during the 1982 French GP. Something called team-orders apparently. It didn’t make sense to my 13 year old mind at the time and to this day it still doesn’t.

You see, I have a problem. I still, naively, want to believe that F1 is a sport. That the teams genuinely compete against each other. And the goliaths that pilot these cars are the greatest sportsmen that ever lived. Sports’men’… not sports boys. Pay attention class.

So when I see team orders being employed I feel my illusions are being shattered. Especially when their employment isn’t to consolidate a championship challenge. So ‘Multi-21’ rankles. Coulthard moving aside for Mika in Melbourne 1998 frustrates. But possibly the most disgusting example was Jean Todt and Michael Schumacher destroying Ferrari’s history in Austria in 2002.

When the Ferrari F2002 was unleashed at that year’s Brazilian GP, it was obvious to all observers that the rest of the teams were in for a long season. By the time the championship arrived in Austria - for the 6th round – all bets were off.

Rubens Barrichello dominated qualifying, then led the race from the start. Beginning his last lap most observers believed that Todt and Schumacher wouldn’t request he give up his position - as the pair had asked, just twelve months prior. Most observers, including myself, would have been wrong.

As the red cars exited the final corner, they ‘reluctantly’ swapped positions and the chorus of boos was heard loudest opposite the podium. Those from around the world were more isolated in people’s homes.

The public’s disgust swamped the headlines for weeks - bringing about the cessation of team-orders at the end of the season. Although that particular knee jerk reaction was corrected after the 2010 season.

Of longer lasting significance was the damage to Ferrari’s legacy. What Enzo had strived to promote – that his machines counted for more than the driver – was destroyed that afternoon in the Styrian mountains…