During the weekend of the British GP 2015, the FIA released a statement outlining imminent changes agreed by the F1 strategy group. These will start at the Belgium GP after the summer break.
One of the most significant items appeared to be further restrictions on “driver aids and coaching”. The FIA concluded, “These measures will bring back the driver in full control of the car, enhancing races excitement and unpredictability”.
The reality of this intention has now been revealed by another technical directive issued by Charlie Whiting and the reality is the clamp down is rather limited.
Communication and setting changes regarding the clutch are now banned for drivers on the way to the grid and during the formation lap. The cars have an automatic clutch bite point finder and this must now be disabled. During the race a manual clutch bite point adjuster will be allowed
Again the communication restrictions are restricted to pre-grid reconnaissance laps and the formation lap. Conversations are now limited to matters of safety, including notifications of ‘critical’ problems with the car, punctures, problems evident with a competitor car.
The governing body has also outlined its clampdown on radio communications with the driver during reconnaissance or formation laps.
Marshalling information and notification of debris or a slippery track are also allowed.
Should teams exceed these limits on information exchanges they will breach article 20.1 of the sporting regulations and would result in a penalty.
These measures fall some way short of the expected, “bring back the in full control of the car” – as the FIA promised. However, there is the opportunity for drivers to again mess up the race starts.
This move is interesting in that safety is being compromised – whether rightly or wrongly – as we could see a return to high speed collisions at the start or a race, where an unsighted driver towards the back of the grid piles into the rear of a car that has stalled 100 metres ahead on the starting grid.