Given the new radio driver-coaching ban that started at the Singapore Grand Prix this weekend, I found myself cringing a little when I heard Red Bull discussing issues with their driver Daniel Ricciardo.
They seemed to be discussing some technical issues Daniel was having and on the 4th lap the team radioed to Ricciardo telling him:
“Rear brakes are hot, rear brakes are hot. Brake balance two clicks forwards. Avoid the tow if you can, avoid the tow if you can. Pull right if possible, pull right if possible.”
Later in the race, Ricciardo was nursing a battery issue and the team instructed to avoid exit curbs and that this may help the issue. Those radio messages seemed a little odd to McLaren race director, Eric Boullier who said:
“I think it was coded, yes. It is up to the FIA to investigate, so it is not for me to say anything.
“But it was a strange message. Once would have been OK, but twice or three times is a bit strange.”
As for Red Bull, team boss Christian Horner said they were managing a technical issue and not coaching a driver on how drive better or gain lap time:
“It wouldn’t have made life easier, that’s for sure,” said Horner about Ricciardo’s chances of finishing on the podium if radio communication had been unrestricted. “We spoke to Charlie, we told him that he’s got some reliability issues and that was why he was told to keep off the kerbs because that was causing damage to the battery for instance. Its finding that balance with this radio stuff.
“These cars are so bloody complicated. There is an awful lot going on. I totally support getting rid of driver coaching through the radio. It’s not the engineers job to tell him to brake 10m later or turn in earlier but managing the actual power unit they’re so complicated that just from a reliability and safety point of view that’s so important.”
In the end, it is a perception issue and perhaps fans don’t like their drivers being coached on where best to find time in a lap but that horse has run. The amount of real-time data harvested during a race can be relayed to the driver to improve their performance so it is a very real part of the drama. It is the evolution of the technology that Formula 1 prides itself on.
The cars themselves are so complicated that managing any battery, brake or heat-related issue now becomes a safety trump card as well so how can you deny that type of communication and who would want their name on a ban that could end up hurting someone?
Now we could see system management radio messages actually being used to coach driver as a pre-determined message that seems banal regarding a brake heat issue could actually mean something entirely different. It all gets a bit goofy at this point. You made your technological bed now sleep in it. If you don’t like the amount of data, then change the real-time telemetry regulations.