Red Bull's "multi 21" controversy with Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber in Malaysia has prompted fresh calls to ban team orders in Formula 1, but doing so would simply create more problems than it solves.
The manner in which the Red Bull and Mercedes drivers were ordered to hold position at Sepang may be an annoyance to some fans who wanted to see a race to the flag, but a team orders ban would not have improved the situation. Red Bull and Mercedes were motivated to go into a formation pattern because of concerns about tires, and in the latter case fuel as well.
The high degradation experienced with the 2013 Pirellis meant there were big question marks about whether or not the rubber would last until the end of the race without hitting the often talked about "cliff" where performance drops off dramatically. On a day when title rival Fernando Alonso crashed out, it would have been foolish to have got your cars into a strong position in the race and then not protected it by nursing the machinery and rubber to the checkered flag.
That Vettel ignored the order is irrelevant to the argument over the rights and wrongs of team orders. It relates more to the relationship between the triple World Champion and team management.
The only difference to Malaysian GP events had team orders been banned would have been a change to secretive radio messages and perhaps more deception for fans. Just like prohibition in the United States did not stop people drinking alcohol – it simply drove the activity underground – so too a ban on team orders would just make such tactics plunge in to a murkier world.
Team orders have been a part of motor racing since the very first race. By the very nature of there being one team and two drivers, there are always going to be occasions when the team has to step in and make calls that perhaps are not in the best interests of individual drivers.
Allowing team orders means that such instructions can be made publicly, which at least leaves fans knowing exactly what is playing out in front of them. Ban team orders and you create ludicrous situations when drivers have to be given coded messages – "Fernando is faster than you" – or even forced to undertake charades like pitting too early, too late or for too long to swap a position.
In such events the biggest disservice is done to the fans, for they are led to believe that they are watching a race when in fact it is anything but. Above all else, teams have a duty to the fans to put on a race or to let it be clear when they are not. The existence of team orders gives them that platform.
It may not be what we want to see at times when we would rather have teammates gunning at each other wheel to wheel, but for that to happen all the time is a utopian idea, anyway.