F1 radio clampdown divides opinions

The new F1 radio restrictions coming into play in this weekend's Australian Grand Prix were received with mixed feeling by the drivers.

The FIA's clampdown on radio chat was one of the most talked-about subjects in the Melbourne paddock on Thursday, and opinions were divided among the drivers as to the impact on the racing.

That was perfectly represented by the contrasting views of Nico Rosberg and Fernando Alonso.

"It has a big influence," Rosberg said. ""It's great, because we're not muppets anymore. It's down to us to get the job done on our own. It's very good.

"It's gone to the extent of not even being able to tell us that strategies have changed, so if I change from a three-stop to a two-stop, I'm driving flat-out thinking I'm stopping in two laps time, and then they're just not going to pull me into the box. And then my tyres are done.

"So for sure, there's going to be some more fault. What is it going to do? It's going to make it more challenging at times. From that point of view, I'm comfortable."

Robots

Alonso, meanwhile, felt that drivers will now have to follow pre-agreed plans "like a robot" because they won't have the flexibility to discuss alternatives to what was previously agreed.

"Honestly, we need to wait and see a couple of races to really make a conclusion on these radio limitations," said Alonso. "I don't want to be negative on any of the changes, but I honestly think that this will do the opposite probably.

"The aim is to give the driver more freedom, or more input in terms of strategy or changes in the car, or preparation. I think now we will not have any input in anything we do – because we have not the possibility to have that conversation with the team or have that decision on the radio.

"So we will stick to the programme and what we decide two hours before the race in the strategy meeting and we have to follow that.

"I don't think it is going change anything, but if it does change it will be even less possibility for a driver because we are not able to chat [about] that thing."

The FIA has made the step of changing what was a list of things that could not be discussed on the radio into a list of things that can now be discussed, and even that has been trimmed further recently – teams can no longer discuss subjects like the tyre choice at the next pit stop or safety car windows.

No problem

"We're all in the same boat," said world champion Lewis Hamilton. "Some of us will handle it better than others. I don't particularly see there being much of be a problem. But is it good? I don't really know, but we'll manage it the best way we can."

Williams driver Valtteri Bottas, meanwhile, welcomed the move, saying it puts more responsibility on the driver's shoulders.

"It relies a bit more on the driver to give all the feedback about the tyres, about if we think we can continue this Plan A, or Plan B or Plan C strategy, or whatever. And all the fuel saving and everything relies a bit on us as a driver, so more responsibility.

"I think it's only a couple of races and then it's standard, no drama.

"It's going to be more quiet in the cockpit, but it doesn't stop us as drivers from sharing all the information that we have.

"I think it's good. In qualifying finding a good gap is a bit like a bit like in go-karts or junior formulae, you need to find a good gap without some info. That's OK for me."

Teammate Felipe Massa added: "You will hear a lot less talking on the radio. I don't know if it's nice for the fans or not, because people like to hear what a driver is saying. If they understand anything or not I don't know, but people like to hear radio! But it's OK to do it.

"I hope when you have a little bit more experience it can help in this area as well, compared to maybe young drivers, compared to teams that you are fighting with. I'm totally ready to start and totally ready to learn, and trying to learn as quick as I can all these different rules that we're going to have this year."

Extra work

Williams' Pat Symonds said the restrictions just add more work, but they should not be a problem.

"The real fundamental change in the last couple of TDs [Technical Directives] is that previously there was a list of things that we weren't allowed to talk about," Symonds said.

"Now there is a list of things which we are allowed to talk about, which of course is a lot more exacting, because if you're told you can't talk about this and can't talk about that, by implication you can talk about everything else – politics, religion, everything!

"Whereas now we have a very specific list of things we can talk about. Last week that was tightened up a bit more, with a few more things taken off it.

"It's not a problem from our point of view. It does rely on the drivers having to remember a bit more, it does rely on us having to put a bit more automation into things, so it increases the workload."

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