Formula 1

F1 radio restrictions adding extra pitfalls for teams in Singapore

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With Friday practice less than 24 hours away, this weekend's Singapore Grand Prix is set to be dominated by one subject: team radio.

It was confirmed earlier this week that restrictions on the type of messages that are transmitted between pit wall and drivers over the radio would be implemented from this weekend, at one of the most complex Grand Prix's of the year.

Aiding the driver

The move comes as the sport looks to increase the profile of its drivers who are losing much of their star appeal thanks to the messages being broadcast on TV.

The complaining to the stewards over track limits during Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel's epic duel at Silverstone allied to the consistent information being given. Questions from drivers asking for advice on how to drive the cars have all created the feeling as to who actually is doing more of the work, those behind the wheel or those in the garage.

There is also an official regulation which states the driver must be 'unaided' in the act of driving and it is believed some of the information shared between car and engineer may breach that rule.

Limits

The big issue heading into the Singapore weekend is determining what the limits are in relation to what kind of information can be given to the driver.

On Tuesday, the governing body, the FIA, issued a technical directive to all the teams outlining what would and what wouldn't be allowed.

While some of the potentially more critical information that will be banned will only come into effect from the next race in Suzuka, key details that will not be allowed to be given to the drivers include: the level of fuel saving they must do, information regarding a competitor's sector times, however, full lap differences are permissible and general car settings i.e. the output of the power unit, brake balance and fuel flow etc..

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Code

One of the more interestingly worded restrictions was a ban on "any message that appears to be coded".

This is a key point because it was thought that teams would attempt to get around some of the rules by using carefully choreographed messages that only the driver would understand.

This has been used before with such things as the 'magic button' or the 'overtake button' which are basically modes that increase the engine output and give more power.

What will be keenly watched upon is how the stewards interpret such a rule and what they consider a code compared to a figure of speech.

Hammer time

Perhaps the most well-known radio message over the course of the year has been 'hammer time', a call from Lewis Hamilton's engineer which basically means push now, this is normally used around the pit-stops depending on which car is leading or coming in for tyres first.

Under the new guidelines telling a driver to push or back off is still allowed, however, whether the stewards deem 'hammer time' to include changes to car settings would be a question that needs answering.

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Pitfalls

While the move has largely been welcomed by fans and drivers, the new restrictions open up a large number of potential pitfalls.

Despite heading to the 14th race of the new V6 era, the sport is still adapting to the very complex power units and for drivers, without assistance from the garage, the chances of putting the power unit into a wrong mode or a setting that could potentially damage what are already well-used units is increased.

Also, while it hasn't been an issue so far this year, a driver having to look his own fuel and, from Japan, tyres without assistance opens up the possibility for the 100kg limit of fuel to perhaps come back into play as does the risk of a driver pushing too hard on the tyres.

Right move?

The move has caused controversy and the impact it has on the racing could be very interesting indeed, therefore I would say it is the right decision to make the drivers think a bit more about how they drive and put less emphasis on the data coming from the garage.

The only argument possibly against it is whether it increases the potential for something serious to go wrong as warnings on such things as brake and engine failures, however, as Kimi Raikkonen famously said en route to his win in Abu Dhabi in 2012 maybe its right to leave them alone, because they know what they're doing.

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Formula 1

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