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FIA sticks with telemetry supplier - for now
27 April 2013
There will be no panic moves to change the supplier of F1's on-track electronic marshalling system ahead of the Grand Prix of Spain at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona on May 12, it's been reported.
The crucial system has been experiencing problems from the start of the current season, ever since new providers Riedel took over the contract to run the system from previous incumbents EM.
The situation came to a head in China when eight drivers - including Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel - were cited for using their DRS overtaking boost systems while there were yellow flags out elsewhere on the Shanghai International Circuit.
A post-race investigation by the stewards traced the problem back to the ongoing glitches with the driver's in-car electronic data which meant that they weren't being told about the yellow flags until a minutes after they happened.
In addition, the part of the system that previously allowed the FIA to centrally control whether drivers were able to activate DRS at any given stage of the race was also not functioning properly, leaving drivers reliant on instructions over the team radio from the pit wall. In the circumstances, the stewards conceded that there had been a considerable "degree of confusion" over the situation and opted not to penalise any of the eight drivers involved.
The problem was still ongoing in the following race in Bahrain, leading many to speculate that EM might be asked to step back in and provide the service again in Barcelona. That was never a realistic option, however, as teams would have had to roll back changes to the electronic systems on their cars to make it happen.
magazine, the FIA has this week now told teams that they are happy Riedel made progress at Sakhir in ironing out some of the bigger problems with the new systems, and that as a result the company would be given more time before the contract situation is reviewed.
The parts of the system relaying marshalls' flag instructions around the circuit together with the GPS tracking of the cars to pin-point precision out on the track are said to be very nearly back to full working order. But despite that progress, the cockpit warning lights on the drivers' steering wheels are still said to not be reliable enough to be used under race conditions, and Riedel faces a race against time to try and get the system up to scratch in time for the next Grand Prix.
The three-week break between Bahrain and Barcelona will help the telemetry suppliers with their endeavours, as will having a track close at hand which is used by many F1, GP2, GP3 and other championships over the course of a race season, and which has solid infrastructure and reliable electronic services with which to base their work.
The FIA has given no indication of how much longer it plans to give Riedel to get the system fully operational and glitch-free before it will start considering other, more drastic solutions to the ongoing problem that's been something of an embarrassment for all concerned.
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