Radio communication rules relaxed ahead of German Grand Prix


World © Octane Photographic Ltd. Mercedes AMG Petronas pit wall. Saturday 14th May 2016, F1 Spanish GP - Qualifying, Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya, Spain. Digital Ref : 1546CB1D9816

Following a F1 Strategy Group meeting yesterday, the FIA have agreed to relax the rules in regards to radio communications at the 2016 German Grand Prix this weekend, amidst the recent controversy surrounding it.

The meeting, which was attended by F1 Chief Bernie Ecclestone, FIA President Jean Todt and the six front running teams, was arranged to clarify some of the areas that had caused confusion during the last couple of races.

One of the key points of consternation for F1 teams of late has been that of radio communication, and what can and cannot be said to a driver during a race, as well as what exactly constitutes a safety or critical issue, after McLaren-Honda driver Jenson Button was penalised with a drive-through penalty when instruction was given to him over team radio at the Hungarian Grand Prix, for what he and the team considered a serious brake failure and safety issue.

Following the discussion, it has been confirmed that the driver and team will now be free to converse over team radio in any regard, except for during the formation lap, when no conversation is allowed between the two parties. This is to ensure that the driver receives no assistance with pre-race settings.

The change has come about due to the backlash of complaints from teams and viewers that the current rules are not clear and are not really serving the required purpose at present. It is also hoped that allowing greater freedom over radio transference, will provide better insight for fans as they watch the race. Luckily, because the current rules were set following a technical directive from F1 Race Director Charlie Whiting, the change does not need to be approved by the World Motorsport Council or the F1 Commission, and can therefore be introduced with immediate effect.

A FIA statement was released to confirm the new mandate.

“At the request of the Teams and Commercial Rights Holder, the FIA has agreed to adopt a more liberal approach to the interpretation of Article 27.1 (that a driver must drive the car “alone and unaided”).

“With the exception of the period between the start of the formation lap and the start of the race, there will be no limitations on messages teams send to their drivers either by radio or pit board.

“This approach is aimed at providing improved content for fans and spectators, as teams will now be required to provide the Commercial Rights Holder with unrestricted access to their radio messages at all times that their cars are out of the garage.”

Track limits were also discussed by the Strategy Group during the same meeting, with teams asking for penalties to be scrapped, due to the difficulty stewards have ascertaining whether or not a driver has actually received an advantage by their off-track excursion.

This suggestion was not agreed at the time however, as the FIA are believed to want more time to fully understand the situation, before giving any sort of ruling on the matter. A decision could however still be made before Sunday’s German Grand Prix.