Blog: Team orders causing rifts in top F1 teams

SBS World News Sports reporter Nick Vindin examines how a decision to ignore a team order during the Malaysian Grand Prix could splinter a Champion F1 Team.


Red Bull screeched across the line taking out first and second spot on the podium at the Malaysian Grand Prix. You would think euphoria would follow after success on the Sepang circuit – instead a hollow radio message filtered to the winner Sebastian Vettel, “You looked like you wanted it bad enough but still – there will be some explaining to do.”

As the three time world champion walked into parc ferme he was all but ignored by his fellow Red Bull driver and second-place getter Mark Webber. The Australian driver was seething and only reminded the German champion of team-protocol, “Multi 21 Seb, Multi 21.” The team-code that means hold stations and don’t pass – an instruction Webber followed and Vettel recklessly ignored.

Webber led the Grand Prix from lap six, and as he dived out of the pits for the final time he was still in front. It was then the Australian received a team message to ease up and nurse the car to the finish, “After the last stop obviously the team told me the race was over, we turned the engines down.” Webber adhered to that order and with his teammate behind him and daylight for third there was no reason to push the car unnecessarily.

The 36-year old was about to feel betrayed. After being told to ease the car home an attack came from his fellow Red Bull. Vettel protested that Webber was too slow and began trying to pass him. A remark crackled into Vettel’s cockpit “Seb, this is silly.”

Silly and dangerous as the two almost collided – the team reportedly reminded Vettel to maintain a gap to Webber. He didn’t. With ten laps to go the German sped past his teammate to take the victory.

Webber spent the remainder of the race contemplating what had just happened. Why had he loyally adhered to the call of “Multi 21” in the past, when he hadn’t received the same support? His emotions hadn’t cooled when it was time for the podium presentations, his body language and cool words said it all – “In the end Seb made his own decisions today and will have protection and that’s the way it goes.”

It’s not the first time Webber has felt Vettel has had favoritism, after winning the British Grand Prix in 2010 the Australian ribbed his team principal after crossing the line, “Not bad for a number two driver,” comments broadcast to the entire watching audience.

Webber could feel further aggrieved now knowing what was unfolding for third and fourth place behind him in Malaysia.

In third was Mercedes recruit Lewis Hamilton who, like Webber was told to ease his car in the closing stages. Behind him was teammate Nico Rosberg who felt he had the pace to get over Hamilton. Rosberg was told not to pass, and unlike Vettel he followed his team instruction.

On crossing the finish line Rosberg reminded his team that he had shackled his individual desire for the glory of the team, “Remember this,” he buzzed through the team radio. And it seems his team did. Lewis Hamilton was thankful and gracious for his support, “Nico should be standing here [on the podium]. Generally he had better pace than me throughout the race. He’s a great teammate and did a fantastic job today.”

Vettel conceded what he did was wrong, “I think we should have stayed in the positions that we were. I didn’t ignore it on purpose but I messed up in that situation and obviously took the lead which, I can see now he’s [Webber] upset.”

Both Mercedes pilots adhered to team instructions and while there is no doubt there will be tension between the silver-arrow drivers – at the core the team came first. While in the Red Bull garage the question of favoritism and inequality will again be omnipresent with seventeen races remaining this season.

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On assignment in PNG

SBS correspondent Kathy Novak reports from Papua New Guinea on the country’s eighth election, which is set to end months of political stalemate during which two men claimed to be prime minister.


Friday July 6 – Voting deadline extended

Voting in Papua New Guinea’s general elections was due to wrap up today, but the deadline has been extended after bad weather and logistical problems caused delays in some provinces.

Sun July 1 – PNG deputy wants top job

While Prime Minister Peter O’Neill is on track to hold his seat in the southern highlands, his deputy minister Belden Namah could be his biggest competition.

Sat June 30 – Fears PNG will have no female MPs

Papua New Guinea enters its second week of elections, but with the only female MP in PNG retiring, there are fears no woman will be elected in her place.

Thur June 28 – I’ll make sure O’Neill’s jailed, Somare says

EXCLUSIVE: Former PNG prime minister and candidate Sir Michael Somare told SBS he will defeat incumbent PM Peter O’Neill at the election and that ‘Peter will go to jail’.

Mon June 26 – Hela province key to PNG future

The province of Hela is at the centre of Papua New Guinea’s economic future, but locals say they are missing out on their fair share from the boom.

Sat June 23 – PNG goes to the polls

It’s the first day of voting in Papua New Guinea in elections that will carry on for the next two weeks and monitors are expecting some violence and fraud.

Fri June 22 – O’Neill campaigns in PNG central highlands

Incumbent prime minister Peter O’Neill used the last day before the elections to campaign in Tari in the central highlands.

Wed June 20 – Security tightens ahead of PNG elections

Officers from the Australian Defence Force arrived to the Papua New Guinea Highlands – a region notorious for election-related violence – to help beef up security.

Tues 19 June – Poverty, disease key to PNG elections

For many voters, access to housing, transport and health care remain major challenges. And as PNG struggles with an HIV/AIDS epidemic, there are also concerns the election itself will spread more disease.

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Comment: Steps to lower computers, software prices

By Mark Gregory, RMIT University

Australians are paying about twice as much as they should for a range of tech products including computers, software and digital downloads.


It’s time for the government to act to bring this shameful situation to an end, to stop foreign multinationals from ripping us off. But until then, people should take steps to lower the cost of buying tech products. How? Read on.

Choice report into high IT prices

The Australian consumer watchdog Choice made a submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry into IT Pricing last week. It found the cost of IT products to Australian consumers could not be justified and that price discrimination was a systemic problem.

The Choice report highlights that the high cost of IT products disadvantages all consumers and prevents Australian companies from competing in the digital economy. The flow-on effect was higher prices for everyone in Australia.

Choice reported that for one product – Microsoft’s Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate with MSDN (New Subscription) – it would be cheaper to fly an employee to the US and back twice, and for this employee to purchase the product while overseas. The product’s retail monetary price difference is US$8,665.29 between Australia and the US.

Excuses made for high prices

Multinationals have argued that rental, labour and transportation costs, and the associated GST, cause the disparity. Another gem of a reason was the argument by foreign companies that Australia was a small market and therefore the cost of selling products here would be higher due to marketing costs.

The excuses are flimsy and transparently false. The Choice report states that these cumulative costs do not account for the doubling in prices for IT hardware and software. Digital downloads from some foreign multinationals are sold to Australians more than 50% higher than to US consumers.

Choice spokesman Matt Levey said:

Global companies [are] pricing these products at a point where they think people are going to buy it, regardless if that’s at parity with other countries.

They use a number of technological barriers to actually prevent Australians from accessing these products from parallel importing them and direct importing them from cheaper markets.

How to purchase directly from the USA

Many large US based online stores such as Lands End and L.L. Bean offer similar products to those available in Australia at quite amazing prices and provide international shipping.

But some companies utilise a range of practices to prevent international customers from purchasing directly from the USA. The company might reject the purchase based on the shipping address, the type of credit card used or because your computer is located in Australia.

Other factors you need to check on before making an international purchase are whether the product will work here and if the warranty will be supported.

To purchase directly from the USA it’s important to only use reputable mail forwarding companies and to read the fine print before any purchase. Mail forwarding has become a very competitive market so check competitor prices often.

To purchase directly from the USA follow these steps:

Register with a company that provides a USA address and mail forwarding. Examples are Shipito, MyUS, ForwardIt, and the Australian-based PriceUSA.

Register with an international payment provider that provides purchase insurance, such as PayPal.

If you wish to purchase on a site such as Ebay USA, set the USA address you have been provided with by the shipping company as your registered PayPal address and current shipping address.

Another hurdle to overcome is the use of geo blocking by websites such as Apple iTunes. Geo blocking is a recent move by global online stores to segment the world into markets and control access to products and pricing.

A recent article by Dan Warne on Australian Business Traveller provides a step by step guide on how to create a US iTunes account in Australia. Unfortunatel,y if you also have an Australian iTunes account or sync over multiple devices, you may need to log out of one account and in to the other when carrying out updates or making purchases.

Another approach is to purchase US iTunes gift cards and have them shipped to you from the USA. You cannot use Australian iTunes gift cards (available from stores such as Coles and Woolworths) on the US iTunes website.

Why the Australian government has to act

I have written in the past about the mobile phone data plan rip-off and the international roaming rip-off. The common theme here is that international multinationals consider Australia to be affluent and therefore a target for overpricing.

The Australian political mantra that free trade and low tariffs will be to the Australian consumer’s benefit is obviously not working.

Choice’s three recommendations to combat international price discrimination are:

1) Educate consumers through government initiatives so people know their rights when shopping online – particularly in relation to returns and refunds, accessing legitimate parallel imports from foreign markets, as well as privacy and security.

2) Investigation by the Federal Government into whether technological measures enabling suppliers to discriminate against Australian consumers, such as region-coding or identifying IP addresses, should continue to be allowed.

3) Keep the low-value threshold (LVT) exemption for GST and duty on imported goods unchanged at A$1,000.

It seems Choice has advocated a softly-softly approach to solving the problem of high IT prices in the hope that the Australian government may take baby steps toward solving this problem. I fully support what Choice is advocating, but Australians need to demand more urgent and immediate steps to stop multinationals from price gouging.

Further Reading:

Verizon Wireless vs Telstra: the great mobile rip-off continues Are Australian international roaming charges the greatest rip-off in history?

Mark Gregory does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

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Sudan executes Darfur fighters

A seventh defendant, also from the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), was jailed for 10 years, lawyer Tahani Abdelrahim said

Abdelrahim said the sentences will be appealed.


The government announced two years ago that the seven were captured in West Darfur after a battle.

About 100 relatives of the accused attended the hearing at a downtown Khartoum court but everyone, including journalists, was ordered out for the sentencing by Judge Moutasim Tajalsir.

Abdelrahim said the accused stood and shouted in praise of JEM’s late leader Khalil Ibrahim as they heard the verdict.

“Khalil is a martyr. We are following his path,” she quoted them as saying.

Government forces said they killed Ibrahim in December. His brother took over as leader of the movement.

JEM spokesman Gibril Adam Bilal condemned the death sentences against its “prisoners of war” and called on the international community to ensure the punishment is not carried out.

One of those condemned to hang is from South Sudan.

More than 100 JEM rebels received the death penalty after the movement staged an unprecedented march to the outskirts of Khartoum’s twin city Omdurman in 2008 before being repulsed.

President Omar al-Bashir later remitted many of the sentences.

Bashir and Defence Minister Abdelrahim Mohammed Hussein are wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes committed in Darfur.

In 2003, JEM and other rebels drawn from Darfur’s non-Arab tribes rose up against the Arab-dominated Khartoum government. In response, the regime unleashed state-backed Janjaweed militia in a conflict that shocked the world and led to allegations of genocide.

Since then, much of the violence has degenerated into banditry.

The United Nations estimates that at least 300,000 people have died as a result of the Darfur conflict, while almost two million people remain displaced.

The Sudanese government puts the death toll at 10,000.

Last year, the government signed a peace deal in Doha with an alliance of Darfur rebel splinter factions, but JEM and other key rebels refused to sign.

Instead, they and insurgents fighting in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states formed the Sudanese Revolutionary Front to topple the regime they regard as unrepresentative of the country’s political, ethnic and religious diversity.

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Scientists push for nuclear power in Australia

A group of scientists and engineers has called on Australian political leaders to consider the introduction of nuclear power as an effective way of combating climate change.


The call has come from the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering. The Academy’s concerns have been backed by a number of scientists and engineers from countries across Europe.

As Darren Mara reports, many of them argue that fears over potential mishaps from nuclear power have been vastly overstated.

The President of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, Professor Allan Finkel, says he believes there has been a lot of unnecessary scaremongering around nuclear energy.

He says this has particularly been the case since the accident at the Fukushima reactor in Japan in 2011.

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Dr Finkel says there were no deaths from nuclear radiation after the earthquake and tsunami and he believes the risk of radiation-linked cancers was near zero.

He believes nuclear technology is safe and could prove to be more effective than solar and wind power in reducing carbon emissions.

“In Australia, nuclear power would need to be eminently safe with minimal low grade waste and strict management of raw material at every stage. We would need a vigorous regulatory system and we would need to adopt internationally proven standard reactor designs. Perhaps we could even use small modular reactors of 300 megawats or less which are the sort that have been used in ships and submarines for nearly 60 years with an excellent safety record.”

That is a view shared by another scientist- Professor Ken Baldwin, who is the Director of the Energy Change Institute at the Australian National University in Canberra.

He believes Australia is at risk of falling behind other countries in the fight against climate change because its political leaders are not prepared to consider nuclear power.

“And if we cut ourselves off from a particular avenue to reducing this carbon dioxide in the world’s atmosphere, then we are essentially fighting the carbon challenge with one arm tied behind our backs (only partially). So that’s really the reason why we need to advance on all fronts simultaneously as hard as we can in order to fill that carbon gap and keep the carbon dioxide levels down to a reasonable level.”

Across Europe, a number of countries have relied upon nuclear power for decades.

The French government estimates three quarters of that country’s electricity is generated by nuclear energy.

Australian-born Dr Ron Cameron is the head of the Nuclear Development Division at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Nuclear Energy Agency in France.

Dr Cameron says he believes there would be clear long term economic and environmental benefits if Australia started building nuclear power plants.

“I think the debate around nuclear energy needs to happen and it needs to happen in Australia because of its really heavy reliance on fossil fuels which makes it difficult for Australia to say to other countries in the world, you need to control your emissions when it’s not taking leadership itself.

“So I think the low carbon argument is very strong. The argument of security of supply is very important and that’s where nuclear can help as well and the argument of affordability because Australian electricity prices are increasing rapidly and nuclear would provide a long-term stable electricity price.”

Another nuclear scientist from France, Dr Massimo Salvatores says the industry in his home country is closely monitored by independent safety authorities.

However he concedes that nuclear agencies have often struggled to explain their work to the general public.

“If you have the local people with you I think everything becomes much easier and much more under control. This has been, by the way, the experience in France, where the local population who have been the most informed and who get the most benefits from the installation of power plants in their area- they are the ones who are the most favourable and most in support of nuclear (power).”

Brisbane-based climate scientist, Emeritus Professor Ian Lowe says he believes political leaders need to confront public fears before there can be a sensible debate around nuclear energy in Australia.

He says he can relate to some of these fears, especially if plans were put forward for nuclear reactors in earthquake-prone areas.

“The concern people have I think is that when catastrophic events happen, the consequences if radio nuclear material is involved are much more serious than if it’s coal or gas or solar or wind. The nuclear waste problem is in principle solveable given enough political commitment and technical effort. But so far it hasn’t been solved 50 years into the nuclear power experiment.”

The concern over the disposal of nuclear waste is shared by environmental activist Natalie Wasley from the lobby group Beyond Nuclear Initiative.

She believes past experience has shown that the nuclear industry does not consult as effectively as it should with local communities over where to dump its waste material.

“In the last eight years, there has been a sustained community campaign in the Northern Territory to stop the federal government forcing its plans for a low to intermediate radioactive waste dump there. The government never asked Traditional Owners and local community members or at the time the Northern Territory Government about that proposal.

“That’s the sort of top-down secretive approach we see from governments all around the world in regards to nuclear facilities. It is very important that we do manage radioactive waste safely. As of yet, there is no high level radioactive waste facility operating anywhere in the world.”

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