When Lotus decided toward the end of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix that it would risk trying to run both Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean until the end of the race, it made for exciting viewing.
Raikkonen was running third until his tyres began to grain rapidly, leading to Grosjean catching him and attempting to pass but not without a defensive fight from Raikkonen, who almost forced him off the track.
It prompted an angry exchange between trackside operations director Alan Permane and Raikkonen, the latter quoted on Autosport as telling Raikkonen to “get out of the f***ing way,” with Felipe Massa also in close attendance.
Not only did Lotus’ decision lead to an angry internal exchange, it also incurred the wrath of Pirelli themselves who had issued an advisory before the race about the maximum number of laps teams should risk running both compounds on safety grounds.
Pirelli has come under heavy scrutiny already this season after a series of tyre failures from its fast-wearing tyres and did not want a repeat of what happened at Silverstone earlier in the season.
As such, Pirelli set the limit at 15 laps for the soft and 35 for the medium. It was a directive Lotus chose to ignore, and although they were forced to pull Raikkonen in on the penultimate lap, Grosjean stayed out for a staggering 47 laps on the medium tyre to secure a surprise podium.
Although the set-up of the Lotus car has proved time and again this season that it is well suited to making its tyres last for longer than many of its rivals, Sunday’s race still raised an important question as to whether teams should be given the right to take matters into their own hands.
Permane told Autosport that it was not a snap judgement and that they had indeed consulted the FIA prior to the race about Pirelli’s advisory to make sure they could run as long as they wanted.
I spoke to Charlie [Whiting, F1 race director] this morning to make sure he was comfortable, and he absolutely was. It [the recommendation] wasn't going to be enforced and we were very, very comfortable. There were no safety issues at all. Pirelli put the lowest common denominator in, and their hardest team could only do 35 laps. We knew we were very comfortable to do much more than that.
But Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery was in turn disappointed that their directive had been ignored when he said, “We are disappointed to see that some teams went against our recommendations and used the compounds for longer than we advised them to do.”
Of course, an advisory should be exactly what it says on the tin and nothing more than that.
The final decision rests with the FIA and while, of course, we don’t want to see a repeat of what happened at Silverstone, what happened on Sunday made for great viewing over the final laps.
Lotus dared to take a risk that for one driver spectacularly paid off and for the other just failed to do so, with the now customary fruity exchange between Raikkonen and his operations director adding to the drama.