Ecclestone on Radio ban: I banned it, drivers love it…or do they?

Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone says it was he who banned the “ship-to-shore” communication going forward in the series. According the BBC, the venerable F1 boss explained his rationale saying:

“They shouldn’t have someone on the pit wall telling them what to do,” Ecclestone said.

“We have a regulation in force, ‘drivers must drive the car alone and unaided’. They have been well and truly aided and still are, even if we get rid of this ‘ship to shore’, as I call it. There are still a lot of aids they shouldn’t have.”

Apparently (as the “apparently kid” would say) the drivers are happy about, according to Ecclestone:

“The drivers are all happy it’s gone. They drive the cars, they should know what’s wrong and right,”

Well, some drivers might be but there are others who are not. According to an article at AUTOSPORT, Williams F1 driver Felipe Massa isn’t too keen on the idea saying:

“Maybe they changed it because they spoke to the old drivers too much.

“In some areas I think it’s fine. If the team tells you not to use the tyres so much in corner five because you’re using them too much compared to your team-mate, it’s OK not to say that. This is not a problem.

“But you have so many things that we do in the car, that if you don’t do maybe you put too much temperature in the rear brakes because the temperature gets too high, and then you just have a fire in the car. Maybe you could have a big accident.

“We have a very complicated power unit in the car that is not related to the driver.

“We saw situations like when Lewis [Hamilton] had fire in his car – you could have that many times if you’re not using the right settings.

“That’s not related to driving, that’s related to the complicated settings.”

A ban of this type is complicated to manage as code words, hints and veiled suggestions will be the cause célèbre for teams who want to implicate others of wrong doing. Can a ban such as this be completely fool-proof? Probably not but it can take the edge off blatant radio chatter sharing information on every intricate detail a driver is doing against his teammate and others and to be honest, it seems that this year, Mercedes were doing the lion’s share of this type of communication.

Sebastian Vettel sees other issues that aren’t centered on teammate information comparisons saying:

“But it could be a problem if you have to manage the state of charge through the whole race.

“That is why we have so many people in the garage. If they weren’t necessary they would not be here.

“We don’t fly them around the world to have a nice time in Singapore, Japan, and Australia – have a couple of beers and nice steaks.”

Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso doesn’t think it’s going to be a big issue and Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton says he’s excited to see how the team manages it. My recollection is that these are two drivers that don’t necessarily like a lot of radio chatter.

PErhaps it is a veteran vs young driver issue? McLaren’s Jenson Button added his perspective and it is quite measured or at least balanced:

“I think part of our job is to do our homework and to be prepared for the race, and if we feel there’s degradation of the tyre we should know where the tyre is going. It shouldn’t all be done by the sensors of the car.

“I just think it’s nicer for the drivers, personally. Because being told that your team-mate is quicker than you in a corner and you have to make more time through there braking five metres later…

“I mean, all that homework should be done already. You should have learned that.

“It should be in your nature to want to learn and prepare for the race.”

What do you think? Is Bernie’s ‘ship-to-shore’ crutch or something that is intrinsically the new era of F1 and allowable for racing purposes alone? Is it too much information taking the series even more out of the driver’s control? Is it a case of young drivers not doing their homework for each race? Vettel’s comment about a phalanx of engineers just to monitor the car and radio details to the driver could be a significant cost savings and isn’t that what F1 wants now?


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