I took some heat for suggesting that the real-time data harvesting teams currently engage in is the root cause of the driver coaching and over-use of the pit-to-car radio communication allowing the team to not only manage the race but actually manage the cockpit. It seems that I may not have been alone in my assertion as the FIA are now investigating banning data harvesting for 2016.
The ability to read and relay information from hundreds of on-car sensors in real time coupled with the current technical regulations that demand this kind of data in order to run the car has created prolific driver coaching in the past two years. This has begat a number of new radio ban lists from the FIA in order to clamp down.
My opinion was centered around allowing teams to harvest all the data they want in a blackbox-type recorder on the car to be examined after the race but to ban real-time data harvesting that can then be shared, again in real time, with the driver. I was accused of oppressing the sport’s reputation of being innovative with technology. My idea was thwarting innovative technology evolution of the sport. I’m not so sure I agree as my blackbox idea would allow for data harvesting as much as the team would like.
Regardless, the FIA are now looking at banning certain types of data leaving other types of data for on-car memory:
“Methods to limit the telemetry channels sent in real-time from the car to the pits will be investigated.
“The objective will be to restrict real-time data flow to signals essential to run the car. Any ‘monitoring’ or non-essential channels should only be logged to on-car memory.”
So there you have it. No, I’m no Delphic oracle but I will say that we were right about the new engine rules, the need for a reduced aero wing or the inclusion of a spec wing, the horror of DRS, and now the real-time data harvesting issue, not just driver coaching. I am also correct in suggesting that Mercedes have been one of the bigger abusers of driver coaching in recent memory.
Now, the FIA tried to issue a list of banned radio communication but as you would guess, teams weren’t happy about it…what!? are you against safety? Of course they are against it because these cars are so damned technical with their hybrid energy systems that the teams have to have this kind of real-time communication to keep the damned things running a full race. If the driver had 20 more idiot lights on the dash to tell him what to press when, we would be looking at safety issues…it’d be as bad a texting and driving.
Regardless, the FIA sent a notice to teams this weekend notifying them that they will institute a ban on radio communication in 2016. Here’s the list:
1. Indication of a critical problem with the car, e.g. puncture warning or damage.
2. Indication of a problem with a competitor’s car.
3. Instruction to enter the pit lane in order to fix or retire the car.
4. Marshalling information (yellow flag, red flag, race start aborted or other similar instructions or information from race control).
5. Wet track, oil or debris in certain corners.
6. Instructions to swap position with other drivers.
7. Acknowledgement that a driver message has been heard.
8. Lap or sector time detail.
9. Lap time detail of a competitor.
10. Gaps to a competitor during a practice session or race.
11. “Push hard”, “push now”, “you will be racing xx” or similar.
12. Helping with warning of traffic during a practice session or race.
13. Giving the gaps between cars in qualifying so as to better position the car for a clear lap.
14. Tyre choice at the next pit stop.
15. Number of laps a competitor has done on a set of tyres during a race.
16. Tyre specification of a competitor.
17. Information concerning a competitor’s likely race strategy.
18. Safety Car window.
19. Driving breaches by team driver or competitor, e.g. missing chicanes, running off track, time penalty will be applied etc.
20. Notification that DRS is enabled or disabled.
21. Dealing with a DRS system failure.
22. Change of front wing position at the next pit stop.
23. Oil transfer.
24. When to enter the pits.
25. Reminders to check for white lines, bollards, weighbridge lights when entering or leaving the pits.
26. Reminders about track limits.
27. Passing on messages from race control.
28. Information concerning damage to the car.
29. Number of laps remaining.
30. Test sequence information during practice sessions, e.g. aero-mapping.
31. Weather information.
This is all well and good but code words will be used to relay commands that are banned under this list. The only way to reduce this driver coaching is to prevent data from being harvested that can be shared instantly with the driver. If that isn’t possible, then they have to have a serious re-think about these engine regulations because right now, they seem to complicated to run without driver coaching.