Be not mistaken, Charlie Whiting alone is responsible for the current F1 radio ban. His technical directive interprets an actual regulation stating merely that cars should be driven ‘unaided’.
When asked if the FIA need to readdress this issues after Nico’s gearbox-gate during the Silverstone race, Haas F1 team boss Gunther Steiner said: “Absolutely, and we all just want that for the benefit of the sport, not to do anything wrong. It would not be nice to be penalised 10 seconds and to say ‘Actually I didn’t do anything’, and you cannot put in a protest because you have no leg to stand on. It’s not black and white this rule.”
Steiner believes the teams may start getting the better of Whiting and the FIA if something doesn’t change. “The biggest difficulty is making a judgment on what is legal and what’s not. The line is not clear. How you can write a clear line on what you say, if you talk in a code, if somebody suggests what you say was a code and it wasn’t?
“It comes down to the pit wall and asking ‘Can we say this?’ I don’t really know if we can say this, but I think you can. It’s the uncertainty. We need to define it better, but how easy that is, I wouldn’t like to write that rule because how long is a piece of string?
“It’s not easy to control. But not talking like it was suggested is not good because [too many radio messages] takes something away from the fans in my opinion. If the team cannot influence the strategy, and it’s just down to the driver, it’s not really fair, I would say. It’s part of the sport. But telling them how to start is also not right. The car becomes a PlayStation car in saying, you do this, you do this, get to this value. It’s a fine line.”
The radio rules were intended to eliminate driver coaching during the race, but most F1 observers think the rules have gone too far. Radio chat is few and far between these days which ultimately impacts the TV viewers entertainment, as the often colourful airways brought the action closer to the living room for the viewer!
Messages are only intended for safety reasons to prevent imminent failures. As Steiner points out, the uncertainty around the rules make it difficult to know whether the punishment that car 6 received was acceptable or not: “With Rosberg, he had a problem with the gearbox and they told him not to go in that gear. In the end I could say that could be dangerous going into that gear because all of a sudden you are in neutral and you fly off. That’s what I think. The definition of it is difficult, to rule on what is right and what is wrong.”
Red Bull led by Christian Horner, saw things differently however and questioned the rules in a more direct manner referring to them as “rubbish”. Christian also suggested that a time penalty would not prevent teams from ‘doing a Merc’ in forthcoming races. Setting a precedent for the rest of the season.
Charlie Whiting who issued the technical directive on this one has created himself a hornets nest of trouble. At best, the regulations clarification. And was Lewis or Kimi about to suffer an “imminent failure” in Baku for being in the wrong engine mode(s)?
And if they weren’t, how would we know?
A failure isn’t terminal until it is.