Whiting again fails to act in the interests of Formula One


The problem for Charlie Whiting is despite being employed by the FIA as Formula One Race Director, Safety Delegate, Permanent Starter and head of the F1 Technical Department, he in fact serves two masters.

The top brass at the FIA care not one jot as to whether F1 drivers are told how to save their ailing cars or even instructed how to save fuel. After all, most of them can’t operate a computer, use pigeon post instead of email and on days that end in ‘day’ are away from their Parisian antique rosewood desks from 11:30 onward, quaffing red wine and quail.

F1 fans may not realise that Charlie has a second master, whom he depended upon directly for his living for almost a decade in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Bernie Ecclestone was then the team owner of Brabham and Charlie was his chief mechanic. In those halcyon days, an F1 team consisted of around 20 employees and a couple of drivers and so Charlie was more than just a chief mechanic to Bernie – he created reality from the will of the soon to be F1 supremo.

As it was with Max Moseley’s move to the FIA, Charlie Whiting’s new job in 1988 as FIA technical delegate, meant Bernie had another man on the inside of the corridors of power in the Place de Concorde. For those who’ve observed closely over the decades, it is as clear as the difference between night from day that Charlie speaks with more tongues than the three which communicate from his three official FIA roles.

Race day, Suzuka 2014. The Bianchi legal team will seek to prove Charlie Whiting acted against his better judgement by not rescheduling and/or cancelling the Japanese GP. Adam Cooper had been briefed by Whiting of the disastrous potential for the impending tropical storm and Cooper in the days preceding Sunday did his dutiful best to broadcast an argument that the race should be rescheduled.

The problem. This would be a breach of contract between Ecclestone’s FOM and the race promoters, and thus open the door for Honda to refuse to pay the $30m hosting fee.

The result. Charlie buckled.

Whiting failed his duty to his FIA safety mandate and opened the door to a sequence of events which ultimately led to the death of Jules Bianchi.

And so to the radio ban. Yes it was lunch time in Paris – as it is each and every day – and Charlie was beavering away on his laptop, writing technical directives about radio bans. Of course this was not a Todt inspired move, but one his old boss Bernie Ecclestone had demanded.

Stop the drivers from receiving information about the imminent failure of their 21st century, technology laden rocket ships and – hey Presto – a Mercedes will eventually conk out.

Result. The F1 Sunday show is vastly improved, isn’t it?

A side benefit for Ecclestone is of course a blow in Stuttgart midriff. Bernie and Mercedes top boss Dieter Zetsche have history.

In an alternative universe the opinion is that the stupidity of this ruling is plain for all to see. Nobody watches the movie Apollo 13, wishing Tom Hanks to fail for lack of some information.

Nobody wants to see a hard fought F1 victory – Mercedes or not – lost in a contrived fashion due to petty rules.

Mercedes have had enough of the silliness – and are taking on Charlie and Bernie. Given the previous back down by the FIA and Ecclestone over the ‘innovative’ qualifying format for 2016, the almost unanimous condemnation in the paddock for Charlie’s latest handiwork will surely see movement on this matter.

Christian Horner called the radio ban rules “Rubbish”.

Williams F1 technical director, Pat Symonds, believes Whiting’s handiwork is shoddy at best.

“Charlie [Whiting] has written that technical directive and said ‘this is what you can say everything else is illegal.’” Symonds concludes, “Well, that’s his interpretation of a very, very vague rule about the driver driving the car alone and unaided”.

The result? After each and every race the hot topics will not be Max Verstappen passing around the outside of Beckets or Blanchimont – he likes corners whose names begin with B.

We WILL be endlessly discussing the obvious that Sergio Perez should have been prevented from a head on collision with a wall,

As with all vested interests, the relationship and history between Whiting and Ecclestone is detrimental for Formula One. So as Charlie’s number two retires at the end of the year, he should take the hand of his old friend Charlie and persuade him it’s time for the curtain to fall on the tired and outdated Herbie and Charlie show.

Whatever the result of the Mercedes appeal, one thing changed yesterday. The lack of thought behind a silly rule will see a wave of breaches of the same rule as teams realise a 10 second penalty is way better than a DNF.

14 responses to “Whiting again fails to act in the interests of Formula One

  1. I have made various comments here saying exactly that. These radio bans are dangerous. If someone gets hurt because of them then they should have the right to sue Bernie and Charlie and Todt.

  2. And all the lapping behind the safety car because… well, i don’t know why. I’ve been having the impression for some time now that Pirelli’s wet tyres don’t clear the amount of water they say they do. Considering they can’t build slick tires, maybe their wet tires aren’t safe, otherwise why to keep the safety car for so long as it has been happening in the last years.

    • JRM, please back that up, because for the last two years tyre failures have been due to debris or excessively exceeding track limits. If anything, Pirelli are guilty of being too conservative. This is a direct result of ill-informed people criticizing their tyre for lack of life.

      • of course, you correct Bill. but I do not feel JRM is incorrect.
        I have never owned a set of Pirelli tires for street nor race.
        BUT, I sure do remember the CN-36 hi perf tire of the early ’70’s. fast, but pretty much wore to the cord after 10 laps (in 2 lap stints) of autocrossing in a BMW 2002 TIi on a very short go-cart track with only 5 turns per lap…
        4 years ago, my landlord insisted on Pirelli street tires on her Avalanche against my advice. she watched the tread melt away from the carcass in merely 12 months.
        no Pirelli’s for me, thank you… her Khumo street tires still look GREAT after 3 years and still perform as good as the new Pirellis on every other street tire benchmark.

  3. As self appointed guardians of road safety, the FIA are eventually going conclude that letting people race cars and risk accidental injury is unconsionable and it will be stopped. If you fast forward another 10 years or so that is my conclusion. The FIA will by then be promoting motor ‘sport’ involving autonomously guided cars. Charlie won’t have to worry about radio nessages at the robots controlling the cars should be smarter than Nico Rosberg. My view is that the FIA is a QUANGO that should be dispensed with now and replaced by a body interested only in motor sport.

    • FIA is already working on testing out Robo-cup as a support race for Formula E. I think the concept is cool and watchable, but its not the same thing and I agree, FIA doesn’t seem to care about racing at all.

  4. “We WILL be endlessly discussing the obvious that Sergio Perez should have been prevented from a head on collision with a wall”

    While I agree that Charlie had a part in that, it was not his fault. At the end, it was the team that saw that the brakes were not going to make it and it was the team who in the end preferred to adhere to rules and Whiting’s advice not to instruct the driver. They utterly failed to protect their driver against this colission and the rules. They could have chosen to instruct Perez and just take any penalty you get for that. They could have given a simple instruction “Checo, retire the car this lap.” The latter is what I heard several times from other teams.
    As an anology, my younger brother has hydrocephalus with a pump in his brain. The pump failed one day, got infected and he needed immediate surgery. Every second counts (like F1). My father took my brother in the car, ran @220kmh, passed a traffic jam at speed on the safety lane, ignored red lights and drove straight into the ambulance entry of the univerity hospital. Or should he have stuck to the traffic rules and risk vital minutes? (In the end the police stopped him, saw the situation and started a motorcycle escort, surgery went well etc).

    So, everyone in the paddock cries about Bianchi, We are about to get this ridiculous and hideous HALO, endless discussion about pit entry lines, forcing people of the track, dangerous behaviour and what not. But a team decided to not tell their driver that he was about to have a possible fatal brake failure just because of rules that forbid them to instruct the driver. Fuck that. That is not only Charlie, that is rotten corporate culture troughout the paddock. A team principal should be fired for that.

  5. for the life of me why with such ridiculously equipped LCD laden steering wheels why the software people dont add a menu page with a “faults” display or a simple lights for critical systems. some pragmatism from the techies is in order here.

    • I would go MUCH farther.
      long lost is the driver/team skill to compromise the chassis setup, brake bias, gear ratios, engine mapping (and later, the diff and wing settings) to what they felt would yield the best overall race result. I am open to allowing a herd of engineers/wind tunnel/simulator and a super computer to assist in that decision. I am even willing to allow up to TWO changes per race to brake bias/anti-sway bar/engine mapping/diff and wing settings to adjust for fuel burn-off/changing conditions, tire selection and circumstances. all STRICTLY decided by driver seat of the pants, of course!
      I would allow all the sensors, but ONLY a few channels for safety or unit preservation to be streamed live. all the rest would have to be d/l AFTER the practice/quali/race… no radio ban needed.
      I want to see a gas man, a wheel man, an iron man racing a bad – assed machine.
      these days of “finger boi racers flipping dials” needs to end immediately!!!
      ya wanna flip something, go work at McDonald’s…

      rant over 🙂

  6. Why all this noise about 5 laps, most were only disappointed that Lewis couldn’t get challenged off the mark, but that’s racing..deal with it. We saw what happened on the first lap in 2014 in dry conditions, we had to wait one hour to see some racing, so CW done the most sensible thing to wait 5 laps.

    • I DO understand your argument. I really do.
      please do not throw a hissy fit when some of us may tend to disagree.
      just continue to participate!!

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