Revised radio communication rules have been put in place by the FIA ahead of the 2016 Hungarian Grand Prix on Sunday, following the recent incident that saw Mercedes AMG PETRONAS driver Nico Rosberg, penalised for breaching them at the British Grand Prix.
The German was given a ten second time penalty which dropped him from second place to third, after the team were deemed to have given the current championship leader more advice than is currently authorised over team radio, when a gearbox issue occurred on the W07.
Mercedes first of all appealed this decision believing that they had remained within the rules, which they were under the impression stated that assistance was allowed if a critical failure was imminent, which the German marque felt was the case. They subsequently dropped the appeal however, and accepted the stewards decision.
It was also felt a re-adjustment of the rules was required now that teams were aware of what the penalty for giving their drivers assistance over team radio would be, and could see some risking the chance of breaking the regulations, if they felt it would reduce the time they would lose resolving it another way.
In light of this, the FIA have issued new and clear guidelines on what can and cannot be said during this weekend’s race, which should rule out teams using the penalty taking option as a helpful aid and also clears up the protocol for when a driver finds himself in the sort of situation Rosberg experienced at Silverstone.
The FIA ruling on this previously grey area is as follows:
“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.”
Therefore, if a team realises during the race that there is an issue with one of their cars and wishes to relay this to the driver, they must now include an instruction telling the driver to make his way to the pits to resolve the problem. Doing this will of course cost the team a huge amount of time, and it is hoped it will deter squads from issuing advise across the airwaves when it is not absolutely necessary.
The sport’s governing body have also made amendments to the rules on messages relating to settings changes, the issue that hindered Rosberg at the British Grand Prix, stipulating that teams must ensure any advice they give does not aid car performance.
“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.”
The technical area it relates to is covered in Article 8.2.4 of the Technical Regulations, which reads as follows:
“If sensor faults or errors are detected by the driver or by the on-board software, back-up sensors may be used and different settings may be manually or automatically selected. However, any back-up sensor or new setting chosen in this way must not enhance the performance of the car.
“Any driver default turned on during the start lockout period may not be turned off before the end of that period.”
Other areas have also been clarified, including how much information can be passed on to the driver in regards to damage on the car. The new guideline states that if a driver sustains car damage during the race, teams are only allowed to advise them of broken bodywork, and not of damage to any other component.
The radio restrictions will also now only be in place from when the driver has left the pit lane, where as previously they were under the restrictions as soon as the car had left the garage. This will give some scope for teams to be able to instruct their drivers on any critical problems whilst coasting down the pit lane, instead of having to return to the garage for a fix, but it is hoped the newly set out mandate will now stop any confusion over what is permitted over team radio, and what is prohibited, whilst at the same time stopping teams from taking advantage of the ruling.