Under pressure from the F1 teams, Charlie Whiting and the FIA have relented over the pit to car radio regulations. Pat Symonds had gone as far as describing them as ‘negligent’, a term always likely to wake up those snoozing in the Place de Concorde.
Last time out at the British GP, Nico Rosberg lost a sure-fire second place when gearbox trouble forced the Mercedes team to break communication guidelines and give their driver the secret fix. This contravened communication rules as a message to “shift through 7th gear”, was deemed to be driver coaching.
When Nico received a 10 second time penalty, most of the pit lane was somewhat excited! Excited because a 10” penalty is a small price to pay for breaching Whiting’s new flag ship regulation for 2016.
From this weekend though Whiting will attempt to clarify his technical directive on the matter further, offering fresh guidelines to teams ahead of the race in Budapest. This response is clearly an attempt to prevent abuse of the rules on grounds of ‘safety’.
A new FIA manuscript states: “Indication of a problem with the car, any message of this sort must include an irreversible instruction to enter the pits to rectify the problem or to retire the car.”
Further, “Instructions to select driver defaults, this must be for the sole purpose of mitigating loss of function of a sensor, actuator or controller whose degradation or failure was not detected and handled by the onboard software.
“It will be the responsibility of any team giving any such instruction to satisfy the FIA technical delegate that this was the case and that any new setting chosen in this way did not enhance the performance of the car beyond that prior to the loss of function (see Article 8.2.4 of the Technical Regulations).”
The FIA have also moved to correct any discrepancies around car damage, also possibly instigated by Nico’s decision to coast a ‘surf board’ front wing home in Austria. The teams will be now allowed to instruct their drivers of bodywork damage as opposed to other components.
The final change seen for Hungary, is that the radio restrictions will only count when the car is out of the pit lane. Previously the rules stated ‘out of the garage’. This theoretically means that drivers coming down the pit lane can receive all the tech information that the team deem necessary to benefit their race – and may prevent them having to actually stop in their pit box.
The solution appears to mean that in Silverstone, Nico Rosberg would have in effect been handed a 20 second penalty, as he drove through the pits to receive ‘coaching’ information. The teams still face the same decision as Mercedes took in Britain. Is the time penalty worth breaking the regulation?
Saving face on this issue has simply resulted in even more ridiculous dancing on the head of a pin from Whiting and the consequences will soon be seen by all.