FIA relents on team radio strategy clampdown
Restrictions on radio communications during races have been relaxed following an intervention by the teams.
This year the FIA has imposed strict limits on team radio aimed at ensuring the driver pilots the car “alone and unaided”, as required by the regulations. A list of 24 permitted subjects teams could communicate to their drivers is defined in the rules. These largely concern safety, such as warning of terminal problems with their car or a competitor’s, track conditions, and so on.
But the teams felt that banning them from discussing race tactics would detract from the experience of watching F1 for television viewers. This came up on Sunday morning at the Australian Grand Prix, following a dramatic drop in broadcast radio messages – in the region of 85 per cent – as teams fretted over how they should phrase discussions with their drivers.
In a last-minute decision ahead of the first race of the season, FIA race director Charlie Whiting acquiesced to the teams’ suggestions and permitted discussions of tactics over the
FIA’S Charlie Whiting said they wanted to get rid of “coaching” but retain “juicy content” radio. Previously, the restrictions were so extreme that a team could not even tell the driver which type of tyres they were putting on his car – they would have had to show them to him as he came in to the pits. From the cockpit, the drivers cannot easily see the coloured sidewalls denoting the different compounds.
Also, drivers were permitted to make suggestions on race strategy, but would not know if these had been accepted by the teams.
Whiting initially was of the view that the TV show would not be negatively affected.
“First of all,” he said, “we heard many, many complaints from viewers who were getting a bit fed up of hearing the constant engineering assistance the driver was getting.
“That’s fundamentally what we want to cut out. But the driver is allowed to say anything he wants – there’s no restrictions on what he says; it’s what the teams says to him.
“You’ll still get what I call the juicy content – if someone has done something silly on track, the drivers can call him an idiot and all that sort of stuff. Those are the things I think people generally like to hear.”
The overarching philosophy of the ban remains, despite the slight relaxation.
When rules brought in to prevent drivers being ‘coached’ resulted in radio silence, the governing body softened its approach