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F1 Singapore Grand Prix: Radio ban could make starts ‘more random’

F1 drivers continue to speak out about the FIA-imposed ban on radio communications during grands prix, citing race starts as a likely source of problems.

Driver reaction to the FIA's decision to restrict the amount of radio traffic being relayed from the pit-wall in the remaining races of 2014 has been mixed, although start-line procedures seem to be the area of most concern.

While four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel reacted to the FIA's list of banned messages [ see separate story with worries about the preservation of components, and Valtteri Bottas hinted that there could be safety issues if drivers were unaware of faults on their cars, the main focus fell on the start, a time where almost all admitted to getting a lot of guidance from their engineers.

“Normally, we get information on what to change on the clutch,” McLaren rookie Kevin Magnussen revealed, “We do a practice start and a formation lap and we will, most of the time, change something on the clutch. But no-one will do that any more, so starts could be a little bit more random.”

Bottas agreed that the start would be more of a challenge, with more detail for the driver to memorise.

“In the end, it's going to be down to the driver to feel if there is too much clutch slip or too much wheelspin and make the adjustments himself,” the Finn concurred, “I think, in practice, we'll be learning those things as, before the race start, there will be more things for the driver to memorise where, sometimes, you'd rely on the team telling you the things about the clutch, engine mode, pedal map settings.

“You know you need to make changes, but you knew that the team would remind you. Now there will be more work to do from a driver's point of view. It is kind of cool - but we can't blame the team for bad starts any more as it's up to us!”

Bottas appears more concerned that the team will not be able to advise him as t any potential technical problems that could put himself of his rivals in jeopardy.

“At the last race, my rear brakes were overheating and I needed to go forward with the brake bias,” the Williams man revealed, “Without the team telling me that, I probably wouldn't have finished the race.

“With the current regulations, that information can't be displayed on the dash, [so] there is a safety element and that's a grey area at the moment.”

Like countryman Kimi Raikkonen, Bottas admits to not being much of a talker during races, although he notes that he will still be able to relay as much as he likes back to the pits…

“I'm okay with the [ban on] telling drivers how to drive,” he insisted, “I'm not worried about losing guidance from the engineer – it's going to be the same for everyone so that's okay.

“From what has been picked up from the radio of other teams, I think I am one of the quiet ones, but I can still tell the team anything I want. They're a lot more limited [on what they can tell me], and it's going to be a real challenge for the engineers. They're used to saying some things a lot, and I think, for them, it is going to be a bit weird.”

First year driver Marcus Ericsson underlined the main difference that could affect individual drivers, with teams not employing universal dashboard displays on which the team could relay important information.

“I like the idea [of the ban], to be honest, but for us, as a small team, I think it's a bit more tricky because, on our steering wheel, we don't have a big display,” the Swede explained, “A lot of the other teams have a big display, so they can show a lot of stuff.”

Bottas confirmed that Williams had a similar issue to Caterham and it wouldn't be the work of a moment to make necessary changes, but Vettel insisted that it wasn't a question of how big the dash was, but how it could best be utilised, The German is particularly concerned that his Red Bull team will no longer be able to convey concerns about individual components.

“It doesn't change anything if you have a big screen or not, the things you can display are largely the same,” he claimed, “It just looks a bit more flashy if you have a big screen and colour, but whatever is written there is the same.

“Without help from outside, you don't know what's going on, so you need to make sure you leave plenty of margin, but the main difficulty is not necessarily the stuff like the fuel, because there it is fairly simple to put up some sort of target to follow. However, in terms of managing the components and how they work with each other, it could be - or will be - very difficult for us. It is not as simple as managing KERS in the past. If that was the case, then the radio ban is not a problem.

“That's why we have so many people in the garage… We don't fly them around the world to have a nice time, go to Singapore, Australia, Japan, have a couple of beers, nice steaks... They have a job to do here and, naturally, you can imagine that it can't be left to us to do all that. That's why I think it could be quite 'interesting'...”

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September 18, 2014 8:40 PM

Random bull crap is what they want to happen. It will spice up the show. Without radio advise vettel thinks parts will also fail and the limited parts usage penalties will come into effect. Another way to shuffle the order.


September 19, 2014 5:57 AM

Totally agree. Performance information does not corralate directly with safety. If a part is failing or not performing properly and the driver cannot recognise or manage that himself the team can stop the car if it feels it is dangerous to continue. If you listen to Magnussen it is quite worrying how drivers have become disconnected from actually driving the car. Christ the driver will now have to think about setting the clutch by how it feels!!! Oh dear disaster. So if it is carried out and enforced we may actually see the best "drivers" coming to the fore not just the exocet drivers who go out and rely on the teams to make up for the deficit in their overall driving nous.

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