The pro’s and con’s of radio ban…in same sentence

You have to work at the craft a little in order to be the master of the back-handed compliment and it clearly seems to me that Toto Wolff has spent much of his life honing his ability to tell people to “go to hell” and have them actually thank him for it. It’s an art.

It’s even more important when you’re a man who has an opinion on every aspect of F1 including your team, other teams, other drivers, other sports and the most finite detail of the series. You have to be able to tack and pivot. Take the ban on certain radio communications for instance.

If you are one of those Formula 1 fans who feel the radio messages have gotten out of control and the sport should ban the radio, then, you may feel like the sport is seeking a compromise with you or you may feel patronized because clearly the elephant in the room is the radio and banning certain types of messages simply means teams will use coded messages.

Regardless, here is a case of Toto Wolff complimenting the concept and then in the same breath, tipping his hat to the point that he doesn’t like the idea of any radio band:


“It’s an absolutely positive step,” said Wolff.

“The target was to make things less predictable, more variable, and this is what’s going to happen.

“There is the potential now for races between them to unfold in a different way.

“Take the so-called ‘strat’ modes on an engine that make quite a substantial difference in terms of efficiency in making it through a race.

“Obviously you only have certain allowances in various power modes, but the more powerful you run, then the better you defend, the better you attack.


“We like radio transmission and the emotion around it, and this is why it happened 15 years ago, that we wanted to be part of the emotions in the car,” said Wolff.

“Now maybe we’ve gone too far in cutting it back a bit, and whether it’s better for the fans, I’m not sure.

“They will have less understanding of what’s going on in the car because the driver will be on the radio less.

“But it will create more error, therefore more variability in the result which is important for the sport.

“This is how it goes because people want to see the underdog win. They get bored with a dominant car winning.”

So it’s “people” who don’t like domination that are creating the issues, fair enough. I will say that having watched F1 for many years now, I felt like Mercedes really ramped up the radio chatter and car management when they got back into the sport. I don’t remember another team telling their drivers what to do and when to do it as much as Mercedes and there were times you’d think Nico Rosberg may not be able to actually drive a car given the types of conversations and questions he was asking the team.

I’m divided on the radio ban to be honest, I’ve written about it before in that the amount of data that is harvested from a car during a race is astronomical and perhaps you could cut some of that down. If you have the data, you’ll use it so reduce the amount of data and the teams have less to discuss. What!!?? Are you against safety??!!

There are many of you out there who say, “just ban the radio period and use a pit board like MotoGP” and I see that point too but that might be a little draconian even for me. I’ll have to work on my Toto position on this and figure out a way to say “I love it, I hate it”.


0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments


While I understand the concern about too much being passed over the radio and the feeling that some teams are essentially driving the car from the pit wall… I think radio communications need to be part of the sport and fans need to be able to listen in… As it is, with the full face/head helmets it’s impossible to see emotion from a driver when they’re in a car short of them gesturing at another driver… Hearing those messages allows the fan to get something from the driver when they’re out on track… Yeah it may be whiny at times… Read more »

Negative Camber

That’s my rub too, radio is a part of the sport and to be honest, it can be entertaining and informative. They’ve chosen to harvest every possible detail of the car in real time so they share that. If they weren’t allowed to harvest all that data, maybe they wouldn’t but that’s a weak argument on my part admittedly.


Maybe the issue isn’t the data that’s collected… If this is supposed to be the pinnacle of motorsport why do we keep looking to limit what teams can do with the cars and the information they can harvest from them? Why not limit who has access to that data real time? Isn’t there already a limit on the number of folks a team can have trackside? And to get around that limit the larger teams have datalinks back to their factory where even more folks and computers are analyzing and crunching that data… So why not cut the datalinks? Restrict… Read more »

Richard Piers

Now I think I’ve got swing axle disease. I thought I was reasonably well educated but don’t understand what you or Toto are trying to say.
Not really necessary for the pits to have a continuous update of the state of play, they can download afterwards, and if it’s a problem the car should be able to tell the driver.
Let the driver make the decisions with signal boards as necessary, the guessing, on all parts, would make everything more entertaining.

Negative Camber

Yeah, that’s kind of my point here. they can DL all the data they want after the race. Having it in real time is nice but it also prompts real-time management of the race, car and driver and that’s maybe a bridge too far? Ban it like driver aids. :)


I know I’m not an old school fan – but every time it comes up on the podcast I end up yelling at my radio (yes, I’m one of those folks) If F1 is the pinnacle of motorsport why is everybody so hung up on preventing innovation and leveraging every single byte of data that teams are able to generate? The days of the guys running around in front engined cars on skinny tires, where the safety gear consisted of a leather helmet, goggles, a handlebar mustache, and possibly a bandana are over. Those days aren’t nearly as romantic as… Read more »

Negative Camber

I completely understand and you make a great point. I think the reason is because there is an imbalance of sorts. I have no issue with a radio but when they send shifting beep alerts, manage every facet of where to brake, what strat to be on, how much this, how much that…it really is swinging the pendulum way to the egghead side of the sport. I love the eggheads but I also love the drivers and the racing. :)


There is already a sporting regulation that states the driver mmm ust drive the car alone and unaided. This would appear to allow the FIA to ban the pit to driver communication that tells him how to drive the car (engine modes to use, when to save fuel etc.).
I don’t object to the team collecting data, but if they couldn’t feed the information back to the driver,there would be no need to do it in real time. The FIA though relies on some of the data to demonstrate compliance with the regulations.

Fred Talmadge

There is no rule that can stop the best team coming up with the best design and winning the most races.

Negative Camber

True and I get your point although some in the paddock might argue with you on that one like removing J-dampers mid-season etc. :)


Todd, if limiting telemetry is against safety, then maybe the solution is to limit what they can do with it.

Ban all buttons from the steering wheel except pit limiter, radio, Jensen, and maybe brake bias. Of course you have to ban them from other places as well.

I agree that the radio adds a lot of drama and character to the race and drivers and it would be terrible to lose that. You won’t stop teams from doing whatever they can to bend the rules, so simply limit what they are able to do.


I’m hoping that the ban this season may encourage drivers to carry their full fuel allowance at the start of the race, so they have the option of ignoring team instructions and running the more powerful engine modes for longer. Once they get caught out in the race and nearly run out at the end of the race, their behaviour may change from the current theoretically faster way of running the race (which doesn’t allow the drivers to battle effectively on track). However, these are all clever people, and we may find radio conversations about the weather or other apparently… Read more »

Paul KieferJr

Compare that to what they do in American racing (IndyCar, NASCAR, etc.) and see how they communicate between pit and driver. Would that be acceptable?