Colin Chapman is credited with the idea of radio communication with his F1 drivers though his headset system failed to take off due to a lack of circuit infrastructure. Eventually F1 pit wall to driver radio communication was successfully introduced in 1984 though it was not without teething difficulties.
Ayrton Senna reported strange messages in his ear during a British GP which was eventually traced to radio communications between catering outlets on the field of the circuit.
While the F1 radio technology developed rapidly it was initially exclusive between the teams and their drivers but eventually F1 realised the entertainment value of the messages and included them in the broadcasts to the fans.
F1 pit radio causes uproar
Of course hearing what the teams and drivers say to each other during races has caused controversy at times.
Rob Smedley’s now infamous message from the Ferrari pit wall at the 2010 German GP caused uproar in the paddock.
“Felipe, Fernando is faster than you,” the Brazilian driver was told while leading the race from his team mate. This of course was a coded instruction ton allow Alonso through for the win but at that time such team orders were banned I F1.
The FIA attempted to restrict driver coaching by the engineers in recent years though this was abandoned except for during the formation lap of a GP.
The insight the broadcast of team radio whilst adding to the entertainment value also provides insight to what the drivers are experiencing even during the most processional of F1 events.
Pit radio F1 regulation changes in 2021
For 2021 Formula One broadcast radio conversations between the teams and race control for the first time though this had unfortunate consequences.
The fans were repeatedly subject to hearing one team’s representative complaining about a competitor in an attempt to see them punished with a penalty.
The most infamous of these came during the 2021 season finale in Abu Dhabi in the closing laps of the race.The conversation took place as below between Michael Massi F1 race director, Jonathan Wheatley of Red Bull and the Mercedes and Red Bull team bosses.
Horner: Christian to Michael
Masi: Yes, go ahead Christian.
Horner: Why aren’t we getting these lapped cars out of the way?
Masi: Just give me… because Christian… just give me a second… OK, my main, big one is to get this incident clear.
Horner: You only need one racing lap.
Wheatley: Obviously, those lapped cars, you don’t need to let them go… right away round and catch up with the back of the pack.
Wheatley: You need to let them go….
Masi: Understood. Just give us a second.
Wheatley: …and then we’ve got a motor race on our hands.
Toto Wolff complains to Massi
On the following lap five lapped drivers were told they could overtake, clearing the cars between Verstappen and Hamilton, Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff then radioed Masi.
Wolff: Michael…Michael, this isn’t right. Michael, that is so not right. That is so not right.
Then immediately as the safety car returned to the pits, there was another message.
Wolff: He [VER] just overtook under safety car.
Of course the rest is history Verstappen overtook Hamilton on the final lap and after the chequered flag Toto Wolff complained:
Wolff: “We need to go back to the lap before.”
Massi: “Its called a motor race.”
All new F1 pit radio rules
For 2022 new FIA president Mohamed Ben Sulayem banned the broadcast of team communications with race control as well as introducing stricter protocols to prevent the F1 race director being badgered by team representatives.
Yet Formula one pit radio still proves to be controversial at times.
Both Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso have been forced to apologise after outbursts from their cockpits were broadcast to millions. Further Ferrari messages have revealed at times the mayhem in their tyre strategy decision making.
Yet something out fas would probably prefer not to hear and not to happen is the repeated complaints by the drivers about their racing competitors.
Whilst communications between the driver and race control are banned, the drivers regularly make pit radio statements designed to influence race control.
F1 drivers ‘whinging’ not attractive to fans
During the final laps of the United States Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton had been told Verstappen had been given his final warning for breaching track limits.
Once an F1 driver has been warned three times for this if he transgresses once more the stewards will award him a time penalty.
As Hamilton attempted to hunt down race leader Verstappen he repeatedly reported his rival had breached track limits in a clear attempt to influence the stewards to award Max with a time penalty. Now ex-F1 driver and 3 times Le Mans winner Hans-Joachim Stuck has indirectly called out the British driver for “snitching”.
Lewis Hamilton called out
Speaking to Servis TV, Stuck says: “I don’t agree with what they’re doing because of the track limits.
“I won’t name names, but I wouldn’t say over the radio that this driver or that driver has exceeded the track limits. That’s pure snitching. The boys should instead step on the gas. That’s my opinion. The drivers don’t have to go and have a coffee after the race – because they’re racing! And sometimes you just have to let the race be a race.”
Whether this kind of behaviour informs or influences race control is unclear, though it could have the effect of hardening the stewards attitudes towards a persistent complainer.
The irony in Austin Texas was as Hamilton made his final complaint over Verstappen exceeding track limits he too was informed he was on his third strike and would be penalised the next time he crossed the white line.