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Common sense prevails as F1 abandons complex radio ban rules

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Common sense prevails as F1 abandons complex radio ban rules
Jul 28, 2016, 10:38 PM

This site has argued that the rules introduced in the last 12 months restricting radio communications between the teams and drivers were nonsense a...

This site has argued that the rules introduced in the last 12 months restricting radio communications between the teams and drivers were nonsense and today the F1 Strategy Group has abandoned them, with the exception of the period before the start, where the driver must still prepare the clutch and start procedure for himself.

This is a victory for common sense. For a start most sports are introducing more radio access for fans, not less, so F1 was going against the tide. Second the richness of the radio messages had been totally compromised by the ridiculous ban which reached its nadir with Jenson Button being given a penalty last weekend in Budapest when discussing whether his car was about to fail.

And third it just made the sport look and sound ridiculous on TV as drivers and teams struggled to work out what could and couldn't be said. It was an unnecessary layer of complexity in an already over complex sport.

Red Bull pitwall

The onus is now on the TV production team, which is controlled by F1 commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone, to avoid broadcasting messages where the engineers are coaching the drivers in how to drive, which fans dislike.

That kind of message has always been part of the engineer's job as long as radios have existed, but the messages were just not broadcast before. One leading 1990s driver told me tonight that he was 'constantly coached' via radio and none of that was ever shared with the public.

Along with that other prevailingly negative narrative about 'track limits', with stewards lecturing drivers about staying within the lines on certain corners, the radio ban made F1 look over regulated. There were suggestions from some quarters tonight that track limits were also discussed in the Strategy Group and the decision made to relax those restrictions too, but that was not mentioned in the official FIA statement.

Paddy Lowe on pit wall

Now as far as the radio is concerned, it's a free for all, for this weekend's German Grand Prix and the teams must make all radio open to all competitors and media.

The FIA statement this evening said: "At the request of the Teams and Commercial Rights Holder, the FIA has agreed to adopt a more liberal approach to the interpretation of Article 27.1 (that a driver must drive the car “alone and unaided”).

"With the exception of the period between the start of the formation lap and the start of the race, there will be no limitations on the messages teams send to their drivers either by radio or pit board.

"This approach is aimed at providing improved content for fans and spectators, as teams will now be required to provide the Commercial Rights Holder with unrestricted access to their radio messages at all times that their cars are out of the garage."

Ironically it was on the eve of the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim two years ago that the FIA banned FRIC suspension systems, another radical mid-season rule change that fans had to digest.

It's not ideal, from that point of view, rather like the chaos around the unloved new qualifying format at the start of the season, which was introduced then, dropped, then went through a period of re-evaluation before being finally put out of its misery.
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Series Formula 1
Tags innovation