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Whiting's radio clarification actually raises more questions

NEWS STORY
19/09/2014

One cheeky observer pointed out that there was something Mosley-esque about the way the FIA clamped down on driver coaching over the radio.

In the build-up to the Singapore weekend it was announced that teams would not be able to provide driver or car performance instructions over the radio, but following a meeting with the teams on Thursday afternoon the FIA backtracked and announced that the ban would only include driver coaching.

The whole saga left some to suggest that the FIA's extreme initial position was designed to provoke the teams into negotiating back to a solution they would not have otherwise accepted.

Whatever the case, the radio rules have a rushed appearance.

Speaking in Singapore, Charlie Whiting admitted the notion came from a discussion among the members of the Strategy Group just two weeks ago at the Italian Grand Prix.

The reinterpretation is designed to change the concept that driving a modern Formula One car is easy. The idea is to hand back some of the control to the drivers, who themselves will have to rely on instinct and experience.

The problem is the changes have been instigated without taking time to fully appreciate the implications. Teams with large displays on their steering wheels were immediately at an advantage, penalising teams for making design decisions some 12 months ago. Uncertainty also abounded over how the brake-by-wire systems could be safely managed, not to mention the unanswered questions around how the FIA will monitor the use of coded messages, a scenario which has no obvious solution.

"It was put to me yesterday, for example, if something like ‘oil transfer is allowed' as a message it could be coded in such a way that oil transfer, when told to a driver in turn 1, means something different to if it's told to them in turn 10," Whiting explained. Sort of.

"It's going to be a little difficult but I'm fairly confident we can get over that one."

While not impacted by the current reinterpretation, Whiting was less certain of Mercedes' "hammer time" messages to Lewis Hamilton.

While car performance messages are still allowed, for now, come the end of the season they will be outlawed. The call to Hamilton could then be construed to include instructions to increase engine performance settings which would therefore contravene the regulations.

"Now we've got a little bit more time we can discuss with the teams," was Whiting's response when posed with that hypothetical, which begs the question how he'd have managed the situation had the clarification not have been made.

In practice, infractions are expected to be managed with grid penalties. In race conditions the new for 2014 five-second penalty could be used. None of the teams fell foul during Friday practice as they all took a conservative approach for fear of being penalised.

There were also far simpler ways of achieving the same goal – giving the television broadcaster instructions on the sort of messages not to broadcast, for example.

"The fact of the matter is when the driver's on track he should be driving the car himself," Whiting contended. "That's the fundamental essence of the regulation in question really."

On balance it seems an unnecessarily complicated system which does little to change the ‘show' for fans, while the question of why it has been introduced now has not been adequately answered.

Check out our Friday gallery, here.

Mat Coch

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by Spindoctor, 21/09/2014 9:05

"Graham makers an excellent point. Not only does F1 Administration seem to attract the kinds of people he describes, but they also seem catastrophically incompetent with it!

"Rules", if they are to be effective must be unambiguous, yet F1 has constantly been plagued by arguments about the minutiae of interpretation of badly-thought-out rules. This radio-related batch will prove to be the most contentious ever, especially when a race result is determined by the application of a penalty for an apparent infringement."

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2. Posted by bfairey, 20/09/2014 8:13

"Oh for the good old days."

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3. Posted by stackvideo, 20/09/2014 6:54

"Formula 1 was once the high wire act in the circus but it has now descended into the clown act"

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4. Posted by Graham, 20/09/2014 4:25

"Why does motor racing attract people with nothing to do but be administrators and make up rules to interfere with real racing. Three solutions come to mind. Allow everything on the radio. Its highly probable that drivers who can act independently will win. If not then its probable that the overwhelming mountain of other rules has made the game too complex and the drivers need the real time support of 20 engineers and a few super computers.
If its all about the "public perception" then just ban broadcasting the radio comms.
If its really about making the driver independent then NO COMMS get out the chalk boards and wave at the driver as he goes past.
It seems to me that there are enormous advantages to the sport of racing for the driver to be as well informed as possible so why don't we just let his support team tell them whatever they think will make for good racing and better sport.

Does anyone really believe that RACING is improved by 5 second penalties for every damn thing.
"

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5. Posted by scf1fan, 20/09/2014 1:17

"Then they should take the particular sensors off the race cars, or eliminate that band in the telemetry during the race. If the teams can measure it by hand or eye (I.E. stopwatch, spotters, etc.) it would be fair game. If not, NOT! Sensors are for testing, not racing. Any other discussion as far as things like pit/tire strategy should then be fine."

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6. Posted by gturner38, 19/09/2014 23:07

"What's the point of not allowing the instructions in practice? Presumably it's still okay to talk to the driver while he is sitting in the pits, so coaching while he is sitting still and looking at a telemetry readout is okay, but coaching while on track practicing not only is illegal, it's actually subject to a bigger penalty than the 5 second penalty used in the race.

For a sport that has long had a reputation for keeping fans away from behind the scenes information, it is ironic that this is the solution to what they assume is fan reaction to radio calls that could just as easily be encrypted and at a minimum don't have to be broadcast."

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7. Posted by Spindoctor, 19/09/2014 20:25

"Well that's whole lot clearer then....
"

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