A year ago, the Malaysian grand prix sparked the infamous ‘Multi 21’ team orders scandal.
But behind the Mark Webber versus Sebastian Vettel shenanigans, team orders were also afoot at Mercedes. Late in the race, Nico Rosberg was quicker than Lewis Hamilton at Sepang, but in order to safeguard a sure podium rather than risk it over a wheel-to-wheel battle, Mercedes issued a ‘hold station’ order. That sparked a controversy of its own, but team chairman Niki Lauda insists there will be no team order repeat in 2014, despite the fact championship leader Rosberg and Hamilton might now be duelling for the win. “For me, there are no more team orders. They’re free to race,” the great Austrian told Switzerland’s Blick newspaper.
German Rosberg, the winner in Melbourne, agrees that there will be no repeat of Sepang 2013 in Malaysia this time around. “This year, we are here to race. That is the clear message and you will see it on the track,” he is quoted by Le Figaro. Rosberg added: “At the same time, we know there will be times when there could be team orders. It’s inevitable. “But we’ve discussed it and we know where we stand,” he insisted.
And, anyway, the Mercedes drivers might not have the luxury of fighting only amongst themselves for victory, as the competition appears closer to the pace in Malaysia than it was in Melbourne. Rosberg, speaking to Germany’s Sport1, agrees: “Melbourne has never been a good guide. It (the pecking order) is always a bit messed up there.”