F1 radio ban opens door to freak results - Wolff

Formula 1's tougher team radio clampdown for 2016 will open the door for increased tension between drivers, and the possibility of underdog victories, reckons Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff.

As part of an effort by the sport to increase the importance of drivers, the FIA is imposing much tighter restrictions on what teams can tell drivers while they are out on track.

It has been done through a stricter enforcement of Article 20.1 of F1's Sporting Regulations, which states that: "The driver must drive the car alone and unaided."

More errors

While messages are still allowed for safety critical items, one of the biggest differences compared to 2015 is that there will no longer be allowed constant feedback about tyre wear, fuel consumption and engine settings.

And with these areas so key to the outcome of F1 races, Wolff thinks it likely that drivers are going to be making errors – which could increase the likelihood of some shock results.

"It will create more error and therefore more variability in the results, which is important for the sport," said Wolff, when asked by Motorsport.com about the impact of the radio clampdown.

"People want to see the underdog win. They get bored with the dominant car winning.

"Having said that, I have to be careful because pride becomes a fall. I am not saying we are dominant again, but I am saying that people, fans and spectators, they do like the thought that the underdog could win and the result could be different.

"This is why we switch on a football game – there were more varied world champions in F1 than there were in the Premier League which is always the same teams, but there is the possibility of an underdog winning or a freak results.

"This is what these new regulations could cause."

Mercedes tensions

The inability of a team to influence drivers engine settings could prove particularly problematic for teams where there is intense rivalry between their two drivers.

For there could be temptation by one of them to run a more aggressive engine map to better defend or attack, which may then expose them to fuel economy issues later in the race.

Mercedes was well known to strictly enforce engine map modes on Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg in recent years, something that it will not be able to do while the race is on from now on.

Wolff added: "The so-called 'strat' modes on the engine make quite a substantial difference, because the more powerful you run, the better you defend and the better you attack.

"If the driver needs to judge himself when to use what, it will make for different strategies, and drivers will use different power modes at different stages of the race. This will give more differences between cars – and less optimisation."

Wolff also admitted that there was the possibility of a team seeing a driver using a strategy that left him exposed to a rival and it being powerless to interfere.

"If you are a control freak – it will be psychotherapy watching it unfold in a way you wouldn't want it to happen, or you wouldn't do it. But now it is just down to the driver."

He added: "It will be down to greater planning before the race. It will be down to intelligence to remember what it was. It will be down to intelligence and instinct to do the right thing at the right time, in terms of engine deployment, power deployment.

"And in terms of tyre strategies, in terms of pit stops, in terms of judging where you are in the race. It is almost like cutting off radio transmission between the pit wall and the car. It is a little bit similar to MotoGP."

No remote control

Although increasing the likelihood of errors, Wolff believes the radio clampdown will be a positive for putting results back in the hands of the drivers.

"We are being so much more restricted in passing on information to the drivers during the race that a lot around strategy, around engine mode deployment, around tyre choices – even up to a point of pit stops – is down to the driver to decide," he said.

"And that will be less optimised by algorithms or clever engineers and it will give room for error.

"What I like is that it must be perceived again that is the drivers again who is taking the decisions and not remote control from the garage."

However, he thinks fans may miss a little the frequent radio messages that have entertained them over recent years.

"We like radio transmissions and the emotions around it, this is why it happened back 15 years ago that we wanted to be part of the emotions in the car.

"Maybe we have gone too far and need to cut it back a bit – but whether it is better for the fans I am not sure.

"They will have less understanding of what is going on in the car, because the driver will be on the radio less."

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Teams Mercedes
Article type Breaking news