Race Director Charlie Whiting says FIA wanted to remain fair with radio crackdown
Governing body made compromise in 'name of fairness'; Crackdown revised ahead of Singapore practice due to teams' concerns
By Mike Wise in Singapore
Last Updated: 20/09/14 10:31am
Charlie Whiting says the FIA had fairness in mind when it decided to halve its list of banned pit-to-driver radio messages, although he concedes that things will inevitably become more complicated when the clampdown comes into full force next year.
The governing body’s Race Director was speaking in the Singapore paddock after teams raised concerns about the FIA's announcement they would restrict the flow of messages on car performance.
Drivers had feared potentially dangerous consequences if they weren’t made aware of, say, an overheating ERS battery or their car’s rear brakes – Williams Felipe Massa said he thought an accident might result - but according to Whiting it was competitive advantage that prompted the compromise.
“We felt that this should extend to car performance and driver-related performance parameters, but when one looks into it in more detail it became clear that some teams would be at a serious disadvantage,” he said.
“Not just in their know-how or ability to react in the short-term but also in hardware choices that were made a year ago,” added Whiting, referring to the larger cockpit displays some cars have, allowing their drivers easier access to information.
Whiting says the clampdown on messages relating to driver performance, which is still being introduced this weekend, was decided at a meeting of F1’s Strategy Group at the Italian GP.
“It’s the driver coaching element we want to stop, first of all,” he said. “More and more was being done for the drivers and that’s at odds with article 20.1 of the Sporting Regulations. That’s fundamentally incorrect in our view.”
Messages telling drivers where to brake, turn the steering wheel as well as offering details of rivals’ performance have become more frequent this season.
As a result, Whiting said it was better to act now than wait until 2015. “If you see or hear something you are uncomfortable with, whether it conforms to the rules or not, you have to do something about it”.
A concern has been that the changes will produce a mountain of extra work for the FIA and that stewards might have to spend hours listening to transcripts, with race results amended hours after the chequered flag has fallen.
Yet with eight people monitoring radio traffic in real time, Whiting expects a prompt response.
“We listen to these things in real time; we hear everything. And don’t forget that teams listen to each other intently. We’ll hear, don’t worry,” he said.
“We won’t have to trawl through hours of radio conversation to find out.”
And while there’s a chance that TV viewers might not hear a controversial message at first, Whiting suspects that “if a team was accused of saying something they shouldn’t have been saying, that would be available to the broadcasters in the fullness of time”.
Although race stewards issue penalties, Whiting mentioned the possibility of a five-second race penalty and a grid penalty if the offending message was relayed during practice or qualifying.
But with the issue of coded messages put on the back burner until next season - and the teams themselves against a full radio ban - he admitted that things will become even more complicated.
“We’ll need a little bit of time to think about [coded messages] because the list that the teams have been given today is quite straightforward,” Whiting added.
“If you put a longer, more complex, more technical list there will be greater opportunities for that sort of thing.
“The plan is to make it more far-reaching, to take in the technical elements as well, the technical assistance that drivers are getting about the performance of the car.
“It will inevitably be more complex, but unfortunately I think that is how the sport is. I think it’s going to be very hard to make it simpler unless, of course, one was to remove radios from the car.
“But I think that might not be very well-received.”
The 2014 Singapore GP is live only on Sky Sports F1 this weekend. Our race-day coverage begins at 11.30am on Sunday with lights out at Marina Bay at 1pm.