July 25, 2016 @ 07:00 PM

​Discussion: Let's talk about the team radio in F1

What is your thought on Formula 1’s team radio restrictions? Vote!

Throughout the years of Formula 1, the radio conversations broadcasted during the race have become more colourful and a source of entertainment as well. How could we forget Kimi Raikkonen’s infamous snaps across the airwaves when he was leading the race in the 2012 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix?

And Lewis Hamilton’s comment to his engineer “Don’t talk to me when I’m in the corners!” Carlos Sainz had the same complain during another race shouting “I was in the corners just now.”

There were other unaired messages as well, where engineers on the wall would pass on information like driving styles to their drivers or what gears to use in which corner and which line to take.

But in August 2015, the FIA, Formula 1’s governing body decided to clamp down on all these radio orders for the 2016 season:

“To ensure that drivers drive the car 'alone and unaided' and are not being 'coached' from the pit wall, stricter rules have been introduced to govern what information can and can't be given to a driver over team radio. For example, a driver can no longer be given information about driving lines or how to adjust his car to make it faster whilst out on track.”

This includes any help to rectify a technical problem when a driver faces them on the track. The restriction has led to a number of very frustrating situations from both the drivers and the pit wall.

For example, in the 2016 European Grand Prix held in Baku, Lewis Hamilton was faced with technical glitches in the race and the team knew exactly how to rectify the problem but was unable to give him the instructions to solve it. When the world champion had had enough of the warning signals on the dash he informed the team that “I might not finish the race ‘cause I’m going to try and change everything.” All the team could respond to this was “Err, we don’t advise that Lewis.”

Kimi Raikkonen was also another frustrated party in Baku asking “Is it the same like last race?” but all Ferrari’s pit wall could answer was “I can’t answer Kimi, I’m sorry.” The Iceman then retorted with a “For sure you can say yes or no!”

The biggest controversy that resulted from the new team radio restriction was in the 2016 British Grand Prix when Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg had a gearbox issue in the closing stages of the race and needed to fend off Red Bull’s Max Verstappen for second place. The team gave him the instructions to solve the issue and to avoid seventh gear.

Race Control had immediately announced that they will be investigating that matter. Mercedes was reportedly unaware of the investigation until they heard Red Bull’s conversation to Verstappen to keep Rosberg close. Rosberg was subsequently handed a ten-second stop-go penalty and demoted from second to third.

Following this controversy, the FIA proceeded to revise the regulation where the teams are allowed to inform the driver of a problem with the car if the driver were to return to the pits to carry out the necessary repairs.

But Jenson Button received a penalty due to radio restrictions just one lap later. At the start of the Hungarian Grand Prix, the McLaren-Honda driver had to slow from eight when his brake pedal went to the floor due to a lack of hydraulic pressure.

McLaren-Honda found out that it was a sensor failure and informed Button that all they needed to do was to change the switch and all will be well. Though Button pitted, the former world champion was still given a drive-through penalty as the information had been given to him through the airways when he was on track.

Understandably Button was furious, he argued that although he completely understands that drivers should not be fed information that helps them race but when safety was concern with brake pedal going to the floor, he should not be penalised for stopping an accident and should be praised instead.

"When you have a power unit that is so complex, a driver can't figure everything himself and when your brake pedal goes to the floor, I think of that as a safety concern,” said Button.

Since the European GP, World Champion Lewis Hamilton has put his foot down to have the restriction lifted, arguing that it was dangerous for the drivers that were racing at more than 350kph to try to figure out and adjust settings on the steering wheel when there was a problem.

Four-time World Champion, Sebastian Vettel, seconded that opinion to lift the ban. The Ferrari driver stated that “it’s a joke”.

“There’s a lot of boring stuff on the radio that got banned. I don’t see the point. All the buttons we have on the steering wheel are there for a reason. It’s not like we say, ‘We can build buttons, let’s put them on the steering wheel. It’s not our mistake that the cars are so complicated these days that you need a big manual and a steering wheel full of buttons to operate it.”

What are your thoughts for the pit to car messages restrictions? Do you think that the drivers should just endure the race with a technical problem that the engineers can solve easily or “complete bull***” in Vettel’s words?

Vote and tell us while you’re at it!

Vote for your opinion on the radio restriction controversy in F1 Should we keep the radio restrictions?

Jerrica Leong 

Meanwhile enjoy this video of the best team radio conversations throughout the years!

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