Radio ban: Ferrari absolved, Merc’s menu?

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I was asked about the ability to use pit boards for messaging to the driver about car settings and other elements that would have been previously radioed to him but can no longer due to the radio restrictions the FIA have placed on teams in 2016.

It was a great question and the answer is no, they can’t use the pit board to relay car settings etc. This came to light in Australia as Ferrari had a message that was seemingly coded and it was reported to the FIA by a competitor.

The message said, “-3.2 LFS6 P1” and while that may very well have been instructions for a setting on the car, the FIA have cleared Ferrari of any wrongdoing as AUTOSPORT explains:

“During the race a number of teams had problems with fuel recalculations in the wake of the 20-minute red flag stoppage following McLaren driver Fernando Alonso’s violent accident on lap 17.

Whiting confirmed to Autosport after the race the red flag and restart raised “a number of glitches” that needed to be solved.

For Ferrari, and Vettel in particular, it led to a problem with how the SECU (standard electronics control unit) software handled the stoppage, necessitating the pitboard message at the time.

The FIA therefore concluded the message was permissible and will not take any action.”

So this was an acceptable use of the pit board. It does also bring up a question over text messaging to the driver’s steering wheel and there were some interesting tweets regarding a video of Lewis Hamilton’s car during the Bahrain Grand Prix seen here just after the upshift from 4th gear:

If pit board messaging isn’t allowed, it’s a sure bet that having messages on a steering wheel is not allowed. I’m not sure what the message on the wheel is but the tweet thread said that the team explained this as a multi-menu setting which very well could be the case. A sort of menu that has multiple modes you can select. I would tend to believe that but it is up for the briefest of time. Draw your own conclusions. Here is a closeup by Frank T. on Twitter:

Hamilton wheel message

Regardless, the teams will be looking for ways to relay critical information for sure. The radio ban hasn’t manifest itself in a tangible way that fans can see at home but it was revealed that in Australia, Nico Rosberg’s brakes were at critical temperature at one point in the race. I wondered in Bahrain would see failure and to be honest, perhaps the teams could have caught Palmer or Vettel’s issues had they been allowed to radio the driver but I have not read any comment to that point.

IF the radio ban is working and improving the racing, the teams probably won’t be bragging about it because they’d like to be able to radio so they will most likely play it down but the FIA should be letting us know that their ban on radio messages is a success…if it truly is impacting racing.



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Paul KieferJr

Okay, if you can’t do anything over the radio (unless acceptable), could the car itself convey a message (via onboard computer) and flash that message onto the steering wheel (i.e., “Warning: Brake Temp above Max”, “Warning: Tread depth below Min LR”, etc.)?


That’s the thing, if a driver is allowed to have a flashing light, or gauges to indicate things like RPM or gear selection, then why can’t they have indicators for fuel, temp and wear levels of various components?

What’s the limit, and if it’s ok to have an indication in the cockpit about something then why is it a problem if the team radios the driver about it?

Negative Camber

I think a large part of the complexity isn’t just over status but software and engine mapping along with the SECU and fuel flow etc. That’s the complexity of the hybrid and I’m a little surprised we haven’t seen any issues yet given the ban. Last year, there were all kinds of warnings and instructions signaling impending doom if drivers didn’t make immediate adjustments. Surely that situation still exists but no doom this year. Not yet anyway. Not that we know of.


I think there’s a couple of reasons we haven’t heard the impending doom calls: 1: Reliability for most teams is going up, and the failures we’re seeing aren’t necessarily catastrophic engine destroyers even if they have been race ending. 2: There are indicators of some sort in the cockpit regarding overall engine health. Odds are they’re subtle indicators like a light over the white dial that glows blue instead of green if something’s not right, or something else that changes color to indicate an abnormal condition the driver needs to be aware of. 3: The drivers have all mentioned having… Read more »


I think the impending doom will occur when we get towards the end of the power units life. Last year the units had to last for five race weekends (about 2500 – 3000 km), This year, they don’t need to last as long (21 races means driver’s each get an extra power unit), and so far the units are less than halfway through their expected life.
By the time we get to Spain we may begin to see an impact of who has been using the more aggressive engine modes too much.


It’s one thing to have on-board status indicators from embedded systems in the car. Golly, that’s true “road relevance,” so it should make some folks very happy. But it’s quite another thing to have overt and covert channels to the driver, and to provide him with explicit instructions about how to manage the car, the performance, the race, the pace and the embedded automotive systems. Especially when these instructions are as much from systems engineers sitting in a UK Midlands HQ, as from the engineers and strategists sitting at pit wall consoles. Nip it in the bud: ban realtime telemetry… Read more »


You just have to accept that modern F1 cars are more complex to drive and the drivers need some of these information. Even if you ban LCD screen, they can communicate with Morse code, so might as well band LED lights too, just have a steering wheel with no buttons, that’s not going to work with modern F1.

The problem isn’t the teams, the problem is the FIA trying to enforce confusing rules that can’t be fully enforced and confuses the fans.


This year I started watching IndyCar, and one of the things that struck me, especially in light of the furor over radio messages in F1 over the last several years, was the sheer number and type of messages radioed to drivers in IndyCar… For a series that is arguably much more of a “drivers” series than F1, the vast majority of messages to the drivers were related to where other cars were on the track in relation to the driver being spoken to – in particular as a driver was attempting to pull off a pass (or being passed) there… Read more »


I think having a spotter to let you know when other cars are next to you is vital if you are driving around an oval track at 200mph.

For regular road courses, not as much.


Why is it acceptable for a driver not to have the spacial awareness necessary to know where the cars are around him? Road course or oval shouldn’t matter.

Along the same lines – IndyCar drivers are given prep calls for flags and are told when to push as they approach a flag, and there’s not a soul complaining about it.


Because on an oval going 200 mph+ with cars nose to tails and going around curves there’s no way to see someone that might shoot out two cars back and make a run at the same time you do.

There’s also a strategic element to it, depending who is making the run. This would be allowed in F1.


No – the kinds of radio messages you hear in IndyCar wouldn’t be allowed. Reporting on the position of other cars in relation to yours is clearly driver coaching – hell they had to get the rules amended before Melbourne just to get permission to tell drivers gaps between cars.

Safety is also not a reason radio messages can be made – because if it was teams would be allowed to radio warnings regarding tire wear and brake temp before they reached critical levels.


Right now Indycar is objectively more enjoyable to watch than F1, less politics and more chances of different drivers to win. However, there is a gap developing between the big teams the ones behind.


Honestly – I still prefer F1 although I’ve only watched the two IndyCar races this year.

I find the rolling starts to be anti-climatic, although it was a little more exciting on the oval in Phoenix than on the St Pete road course. I also found the 6 cautions in Phoenix to be crazy. So far the only way I’ve been able to really follow what I’m seeing is to have a second screen with timing and scoring because in most shots at speed I find it extremely difficult to sort out, let alone track which car is which.


Make sure you catch the race in Alabama on the 24th– Last year’s was one of the best races I saw all season in any format.


“Almost as interesting – in Pheonix the first two race leaders were forced to pit due to cut tires. Same tire, same area, same relative portion of their stint – yet I didn’t hear anybody screaming over the Firestone tires.” I imagine you’re referring to Vettel’s reaction after his tire failed last year at Spa? In Phoenix those tires just started deflating. Vettel’s tire imploded under pressure and completely delaminated sending tire debris all over the place. (as did Nico’s during FP). There’s a massive safety issue. I’m sure if the tires stayed on the cars and could be driven… Read more »


But the risk of the tires deflating or exploding on an oval is the same – loss of control at 200MPH and off into a wall, only there’s more cars and less run off. The fact that neither driver ended up in the wall speaks more to the skill of Castroneves and Montoya than it does to the tires. Again, awfully odd that the inside shoulders on the right front of both cars were cut and both let go at the relative point in the stint. I’m not saying that the F1 drivers don’t have a right to be pissed… Read more »

charlie white

You really don’t expect the FIA to come down on Ferrari, do you? Of course not. Like team orders, this radio ban is almost impossible to enforce. How many employees would it take to monitor every transmission between 22 drivers and 11 teams. More to the point, with Jean Todt and the FIA public campaign for safe driving, do they want their top drivers to actually read text messages while driving at 200mph?


Get rid of realtime telemetry from the car during the race and quals. That’ll virtually eliminate the mandate for systems engineers to control the driver.


The team is free to prepare instructions supporting the driver into the car based on current settings etc. The trick is, it has to be prepared in the car and programmed up front, so no longer reacting to current situation on track etc.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x