As NASCAR continues to investigate Michael Waltrip Racing’s actions in the closing laps of the regular season Sprint Cup Series finale at Richmond Saturday night, now’s an appropriate time to recall other team order controversies that have popped up over the recent years. Three of the most egregious – and memorable – have occurred in Formula One.
2002: AUSTRIAN GRAND PRIX, BARRICHELLO YIELDS TO SCHUMACHER
Hindsight being 20/20, this didn’t need to happen. Michael Schumacher and the Ferrari F2002 were all-conquering, and the German had his fifth (of seven) titles and third in a row wrapped by July of 2002.
So when Rubens Barrichello, who had dominated the early-season Austrian Grand Prix from pole position, was asked by the team to yield to allow Schumacher through, it raised a firestorm.
Barrichello said in later interviews that he was “threatened to be fired” if he didn’t pull over.
2002: U.S. GRAND PRIX, STAGED FINISH GOES AWRY
This is the one that wasn’t supposed to happen later in the year between the same two Ferrari teammates. In an attempt to set up a perfectly staged formation finish at Indianapolis, Barrichello actually got ahead of Schumacher by 0.011 of a second. Whoops.
Fortunately for F1, it wasn’t the worst day it had at Indianapolis – that came in 2005 with the Michelin tire fiasco.
2008: SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX, “CRASHGATE”
Probably Singapore’s most memorable contribution to Formula One in five prior Grands Prix, and certainly Nelson Piquet Jr.’s most memorable moment in his forgettable season-and-a-half with Renault.
The Brazilian crashed to bring out a safety car period on Lap 14. Renault teammate Fernando Alonso had already pitted and thus vaulted to a lead he would not relinquish.
Piquet, meanwhile, was later found by the FIA World Motor Sport Council to have crashed intentionally under the orders of Renault team boss Flavio Briatore and chief engineer Pat Symonds. Briatore and Symonds faced bans from F1, but after they sued, both had their bans overturned.
Piquet lost his Renault seat midway through 2009 and has since moved to America to pursue a career in the NASCAR ranks.
Others you can recall? Let us know in the comments.