An F1 consensus?

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Brought to you by TJ13 Editor in Chief Andrew Huntley-Jacobs

To most keen F1 observers, the notion suggested in the title is the epitome of an oxymoron. In 18 months the strategy group has so far managed consensus on just one matter that has been implemented; the restriction on drivers forever changing their helmet designs.

Yet recently, there appears to be another ‘C’ word emerging on the topic of F1 driver aids. There is an almost universal opinion that the modern F1 driver is being given too much assistance.

Max Verstappen outlines the problem. “Even for us young drivers the amount of technical stuff is too much. I would say that right now only 20 percent [of my attention] is occupied with racing, and the vast majority of the remaining 80 percent with watching over the technical stuff”.

Of course the topic of driver aids is fairly broad, just as is cost control – where another consensus has been reached that costs in F1 are too high. How to cut them is a whole different discussion.

The devil – as ever – is in the detail.

In the past week, Jean Todt has spoken on the issue. “All driver aids we can ban, we should do it. Although the engineers, they are smart people, so they will try to find a way to interpret that”.

Recently we saw an example of engineers and drivers circumventing the rules on driver coaching. During a pre-race session in Monaco, Lewis Hamilton asked about his line through turn one and his engineer replied, “I can’t answer that”.

Hamilton switched tack and asked about the weather. Peter Bonnington replied, “It’s fine”.

Bernie Ecclerstone is equally frustrated by the instructions from the pit wall to drivers on how to manage the car. “All this chatter with the pit wall and the instructions from the engineers for the drivers – all that has to stop!”

Yet the teams are addicted to their live race analysis and predictive programmes which run ongoing scenarios as to how to complete the race in the most optimum fashion.

It appears Lewis Hamilton is in favour of this ‘driver mentoring’ approach.

“What do you think’s going to happen if they don’t tell me about tyres? – I’m still going to drive the same.

“And if they don’t tell us about fuel, maybe more cars won’t finish. If that’s more exciting then we can do that”.

Hamilton argues that the current F1 drivers are receiving LESS information than a few years ago. However, the information they do now receive is in fact vital.

“With the way these tyres are, the optimal way to get to the end of the race is something we don’t have all the information in front of us for.

“You can’t feel how much fuel you’re using, you’re driving as fast as you can the majority of the time, so you need some guidance with that.

“With the tyres, sometimes as they start to lose rubber it’s difficult to feel it, it’s very subtle changes.

“You don’t know when temperatures are going to drop, so that’s when you need the guidance.”

Yet other contemporary drivers feel differently about this kind of information. During the Canadian GP, Valterri Bottas engineer – Jonathan Eddolls – asked his driver on lap 16 of the race:-

“Just give me some more feedback on tyres. How many laps left on this set?”

Bottas replied, “Losing a little bit of traction now. Maybe something between 15 and 20”.

Having the team chart the optimum race and instruct the driver how to change the setup of the car is not something Nigel Mansell believes should be happening.

“The drivers are not being given an opportunity to express how great they are as a race-car driver because there are too many aids and too many engineers telling them how to balance the car. The great thing about years gone by is that they had to balance the car themselves.”

Those who criticise Max Verstappen should hear him out on this issue.

“Sometimes I switch off the display in my car! I want to rely on my gut feeling. Isn’t that what made great race drivers in the end?”

Some drivers clearly have what it takes to read a fuel indicator and with the aid of an inboard computer work out fuel consumption for themselves. They may also be able to tell when their tyres have run out, and it’s time to stop and get new ones.

Wouldn’t this make F1 racing more interesting?

And it doesn’t cost very much either.

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21 responses to “An F1 consensus?

  1. Lewis Hamilton on Benefits – shock horror.

    There’s a touch of the Daily Heil over the objections to drivers being given the necessary information to finish a race. A couple of Nobs on Twitter and some not very bright journalists and we’ve got a bandwagon of gross stupidity being conducted by a Dwarf.
    All it needs is Charlie Whiting to stick his oar in and the media will have plenty of ammo to keep them going over this summer break.

  2. Of course they should let the drivers sort out those things themselves. Let them feel what goes on and act on that. Right now they are noting more as Radio Controlled puppets and you ask yourself who’s driving, the driver or the mechanic.

    It can be fun watching which driver gets it wrong with fuel and runs out in the end or who did bad tyre management, it would bring back the unpredictability which we are now so desperately missing with engines who don’t blow up anymore because they have to last for 5 races.

  3. Hamilton says: “With the way these tyres are, the optimal way to get to the end of the race is something we don’t have all the information in front of us for.”
    Yeah, my sypmathies and everything but really, I don’t want optimal I want exciting. Hamilton seems to think we all want it to be easier for him to do what he does. That’s not the case. It seems F1 has chased itself down a friggin rabbit hole, and now all they can do is complain about how dark it is.

  4. “What do you think’s going to happen if they don’t tell me about tyres? – I’m still going to drive the same.”

    This statement shows the level of Mr Hamilton’s intellect.

    “And if they don’t tell us about fuel, maybe more cars won’t finish. If that’s more exciting then we can do that”.

    It would almost be as exciting as witnessing a driver second guess his team into making an incorrect pit call. Almost.

  5. Max sounds like a true teenager. Again the only reason why this is such a big talking point, is because FOM are now releasing more radio transmissions. Had this not happen, we’d all be none the wiser as to what’s going on.

    People act as if this only happens in F1. Did you all hear the amount of radio chatter during the Le Mans 24HR race? Or how about in GP2, Formula E, NASCAR, FIA GT championship etc? different to what we hear every race weekend, this has been happening for decades now, so I can’t understand what’s big problem.

    Personally I think this has Bernie’s finger prints all over it, after all controls what we see and hear.

    • @Fortis
      I think this has Bernie’s finger prints all over it, after all controls what we see and hear.

      While I agree that this has all the hallmarks of the dwarf, the chatter on radio bans began well before this year. This is what Autosport ran in Dec 2013:
      Radio silence would transform F1
      http://plus.autosport.com/premium/feature/5752/radio-silence-would-transform-f1/

      It is very likely they ran this feature following a nudge from Grandpa Bernie… I think the dwarf is sick and tired of his most hated team winning, Merc, and he hates predictability (unless it’s Red Bull doing the winning), so he is trying to induce all the more unpredictability into the proceedings. Last year he started with the ban on FRIC, followed by the ban on (some) radio, and now the offensive keeps rolling on more radio bans…

      • “he hates predictability (unless it’s Red Bull doing the winning)”
        Good Grief Charlie Brown – Give it a rest.

        • During 4 years of Red Bull domination we have never heard Bernie complain that too much Vettel winning was bad for business. And it’s fairly well documented how Horner has Bernie’s ear… After less than one year, however, Bernie was all up in arms against Merc’s domination campaign…

    • But in le mans they don’t get messages like your team mate breaks 5m later in to that corner and gains 0.05 seconds there on you.

      • And they don’t get that info anymore Bruznic, that’s driver coaching.

        What you are doing is being selective. The point is, there is still a lot of radio traffic from pit to car and vice versa, so people should stop with the b!tching about something that’s been apart of the sport the moment they first came up with the technology.

        It’s really not that different to when you’d see the pit boards being put out almost every single lap with instructions and coded messages.

        • I agree to a certain point. But as to the pit board, you get that once a lap. At one point of the track. That’s not the same. But I am however not against pit radio. There are certain messages, I think, a driver should get ( your tires are to cold, your brakes are to hot etc.) But I do not like the fact that they tell the driver how to race. It’s like in football. Its great for the man on the side to have a game plan. But if he’d be telling the player trough a head set which foot he should use to kick the ball then there is something wrong.

  6. “With the tyres, sometimes as they start to lose rubber it’s difficult to feel it, it’s very subtle changes.”

    Isn’t this what these guys are paid millions for: detect subtle things and act upon them? Sounds like an overly convenient thing to complain about…

    “And if they don’t tell us about fuel, maybe more cars won’t finish. If that’s more exciting then we can do that”.

    Yes, that would be more exciting, and bring back a much needed dose of unpredictability in modern F1, away from pitwall micromanagement and babysitting. These guys should be put in a position where they make judgement calls themselves, like in the ol’ days, and can run out of fuel, jam the gearbox or fall off the Pirelli cliff…

  7. I’ve said it before so I’ll say it again, it’s time to get rid of pit to car radio.
    Let the drivers have a one way link so they can tell the pit if they’re coming in etc. and let Charlie have a one to many broadcast to let all the drivers know where yellows are etc. to cover the safety aspect. Job done.
    Any other info the driver needs (like a fuel gauge!) can be on the steering wheel display, generated by the car.

    • Whilst the devil, as ever, is in the details of how such a revision could be implemented, this is essentially what’s needed. Hamilton’s comments are laughable – but no surprises there.
      Much of the data, fuel consumption being an obvious example, is being transmitted from the car to the engineers and the interpretation fed back via radio. So let the driver do his own interpretation of the same data displayed in the car in basic form. Drivers making this sort of judgement has always been such a basic component of motor racing that it’s amazing that we’ve come to accept the ridiculous micro-coaching as currently allowed. It would be pretty easy to restrict what could be shown on pit boards.
      As usual, I refer the community to motorbike racing for a comparison which shows up F1 in a bad light.

  8. To me, the cure to all of this nonsense is to significantly reduce the the flood of information poring from the car to the pits during the race. Reduce not ban.
    That would end this debate.
    Have it available through P3 or even qualifying, but switch from real-time telemetry to on-board data collection for the race.
    It could be standard piece of electronics that the FIA can verify.
    That could also reduce costs as there would not be the need for the dozen or so data analysts during the race.

  9. I suspect the rock has met the hard place with this current generation of PU. I’m not convinced they can be successfully raced without the engineer’s input, regardless of what young Max says. For example, according to Tourdog, his teammate has been through only 3 PU’s to Max’s 5. Perhaps that can be explained by VES unwillingness to listen to his engineer from time to time.

    • …and Kvyat and Ricciardo are also refusing to listen of course. All three of them were prior to the Canadian GP on their fourth engine, but with Toro Rosso they decided to bite the bullet on the Canadian GP because they saw a better change to pick up points in the Austrian GP (a good call). So it had nothing to do with not willing to listen to his engineers.

      • RB running different chassis to TR. Much more cooling issues than TR. Also possible RB trick code not helping as much as they thought. Apples and oranges (or pears if you prefer).

    • I’m old, and this may explain a lot, but I seriously believe that if the car cannot be raced without the constant monitoring and input from the engineers, then maybe they are too complex.
      I am all for advanced tech, but I firmly believe that on race day it should be the driver communicating to the pit what he feels and needs.

  10. My solution would be simple, remove the internet line between the team on track and the team at the base. Better yet disallow any communication with the factory. Not only would this make F1 cheaper it also gives more control back to the drivers. The teams can still help the driver on track but since the ability to analyse the data has been taken away mechanics and engineers have to rely far more on what the drivers says instead of what the factory says.

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