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Defiant Massa skips team orders

2014-03-31 08:51

DOING WHAT'S RIGHT: Williams driver Felipe Massa believes he was doing the 'right thing' when he refused team orders to allow team mate Valterri Bottas to overtake during the 2014 Malaysian GP on Sunday. Image AP

SEPANG, Malaysia - Team orders triggered another 2014 Malaysian Grand Prix controversy on Sunday, with Brazilian Felipe Massa defiant after refusing to obey an instruction to let Williams team mate Valtteri Bottas overtake.

Massa, no stranger to unwelcome radio messages at his previous team Ferrari, finished the second race of the Formula 1 season seventh and just ahead of his frustrated team mate.

McLaren's Jenson Button was sixth, managing to hold off the Williams pair despite struggling for straight-line pace.


Williams' chief operations engineer Rod Nelson said the team felt Bottas had fresher tyres than Button and would have been able to challenge the Button better than Massa, whose rising engine temperature was causing concern.

Massa didn't see it that way. He said he was surprised to hear the message 'Valtteri is faster than you, do not hold him up' over the team radio. He said later: "What I did was correct. I try and do the best for the team. I'm sure the result would not have changed if I had let him past.

"The team respects me 100% and showed they respect me after the race so I have no problem at all. What happened today was not what I expect but what I did was correct.

"The problem was that I was much quicker than McLaren the whole race but going out of the last corner McLaren had very good traction... Valtteri had the same problem, overtaking McLaren was not easy."

Nelson said the plan had been for Bottas to attack Button but if he wasn't able to overtake then Massa would have been allowed to reclaim seventh from the Finn.


Choosing his words carefully, Nelson said there would be a discussion with both drivers to address the matter and that it was "a strategic decision" rather than team orders.

Nelson said: "Massa didn't do what we would have preferred. We look to maximise our Constructor's points whenever we go racing. Felipe was running high temperatures on his engine and we were concerned about it; Valtteri had much fresher tyres, certainly better than Jenson.

"We thought it would be good to give Valtteri a go against Jenson and then if he hadn't achieved that in two or three laps we would have swopped drivers again."

Nelson said Williams did not have 'team orders'. "It's not like other teams where they have No.1 and No.2 drivers. We have two No.1 drivers. We will go through with the drivers later and discuss what we expect."

Bottas was in a sombre mood while addressing reporters after Massa, initially tried to steer questions off the subject, which took the shine off Williams moving into fourth on 20 points in the Constructors' standings.

Bottas said he had followed a subsequent instruction by not overtaking Massa in the final two laps before contradicting the Brazilian's version pre-season discussions.

"We have spoken about these situations but we need to go more into the details," he explained, adding that he could have overtaken Button. "We are going to talk about whatwe need to do in similar situations so everything is clear. What are the rules..."

The wording of the message would have been particularly painful for Massa, who was famously told "Fernando is faster than you" while leading the 2010 German GP. On that occasion, he moved over to let team mate Fernando Alonso win in what he later described as the toughest moment of his career with Ferrari.

2013's Malaysian GP had two similar controversies, with Red Bull's F1 champion Sebastian Vettel ignoring a coded 'multi 21' instruction and passing team mate Mark Webber for victory.

Mercedes' Nico Rosberg, who finished second behind team mate Lewis Hamilton in Sunday's race, obeyed an order in 2013 to hold station behind the Briton.

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