FIA clarify radio ban

In the lead up to the Singapore Grand Prix, much discussion has centered round the ban of radio messages from pit-to-car types of conversations. The intent of this ban—the FIA explained—was to limit the driver aid that seemed prolific so far this season.

The reaction was met with some concern over the complexity of the systems used on a F1 car as well as safety and who’s against safety? The FIA have now relaxed their initial list of banned conversation content and the FIA’s Charlie Whiting explained why:

“We felt that this should extend to car performance and driver-related performance parameters, but when one looks into it in more detail it became clear that some teams would be at a serious disadvantage,”

“Not just in their know-how or ability to react in the short-term but also in hardware choices that were made a year ago,”

So the specter of the highly complex technology deployed by F1 has prevented the ban the FIA sees as driver aid. Should you ban a conversation regarding heat issues for a ERS only to have car catch fire or become an electrical hazard? Of course not.

Ultimately they made their bed and they need to realize that banning conversation is not going to end well. Some drivers intimated as much and most notably Williams F1’s Felipe Massa.

The new ban now includes such things as:

  • Driving technique
  • Driving lines and contact with curbs
  • Set-up parameters for specific corners
  • Gear selection and throttle application
  • Braking points
  • Rate of braking or application of brakes in general
  • Car stability under braking
  • Use of overtake button

Comparison to other drivers on:

  • Sector times, gear selection and corner speeds
  • Braking, throttle and DRS

If this is really what the FIA wanted then why the draconian initial ban on all communication?

F1 has technology and to be honest, if the teams have this information then why can they not share it with their drivers? If you don’t want this information then ban the telemetry systems or limit it.

It only seems natural that the evolution of the telemetry systems have continued to produce more and more data from the cars and logically this information presents opportunities for a team to improve their on-track performance if they relay that information to the driver in real time.

The cat is out of the bag on this issue and it will be difficult to put the genie back in the bottle. The forensic challenge of deciphering coded messages will now become an art but Charlie says they have that covered:

“We’ll need a little bit of time to think about [coded messages] because the list that the teams have been given today is quite straightforward,” Whiting added.

“If you put a longer, more complex, more technical list there will be greater opportunities for that sort of thing.

“The plan is to make it more far-reaching, to take in the technical elements as well, the technical assistance that drivers are getting about the performance of the car.

“It will inevitably be more complex, but unfortunately I think that is how the sport is. I think it’s going to be very hard to make it simpler unless, of course, one was to remove radios from the car.

“But I think that might not be very well-received.”

Ultimately if you want the detail to not be relayed, then don’t harvest the detail—I suspect the teams will find a way of relaying the critical telemetry details when needed. With today’s F1 spec—ERS, DRS, hybrid, turbo—it would be very difficult to reduce or eliminate the telemetry over safety reasons alone.

F1 often says they don’t have the resources or capacity to have consistent race stewards yet they seem to have 8-10 people that do nothing but listen to radio conversations. Seems like an odd place to put your resources when consistent stewarding is a much-needed element in F1 these days—but then that wouldn’t grease local FIA motoring club officials with a pivotal role to play for their continued support and membership would it?

Hat Tip: Sky Sports F1

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