Formula 1

Mercedes & Red Bull questioning safety over radio limits

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F1's two top teams, Mercedes and Red Bull, are questioning whether new limits on radio messages could pose a safety risk to the drivers.

During the Singapore Grand Prix this past weekend, both Nico Rosberg and Daniel Ricciardo were dealing with issues within the car as the German dealt with a loss of key mechanical parts due to a wiring problem while the Australian had a battery fault.

Eventually Rosberg was forced to retire as he was unable to pull away from his first pit-stop while Ricciardo was given suggestions on how best to cope with his issue.


Last weekend's race saw the introduction of limits as to what an engineer can say to a driver over the radio.

Advice on how to drive as well as information about sector times from other drivers were among the list of items banned, however, it was a watered down version of the original plan which will now come into effect next year.

This list includes a ban on advice regarding the performance of the car so the power unit, brakes, tyres etc..


Asked how the team dealt with Rosberg's problems during the race, Mercedes' Commercial Director Toto Wolff was blunt in his response.

"A nightmare! Can you imagine not being able to give any messages to the driver?" he was quoted by Autosport.

"It is also a concern for safety. How do you not want to communicate with a driver whose steering wheel doesn't show anything anymore?

"Maybe the Singapore race, with all its ingredients, needs to flow in to any future direction on radio messages."


As for Red Bull, their issue with Ricciardo centred around the still very new and very complex ERS, and their team boss Christian Horner agreed with Wolff's sentiment that when problems hit the team should be allowed to help.

"I think these cars are so bloody complicated and there's an awful amount going on," he said.

"I completely support getting rid of driver coaching through the radio. It's not the engineers' job to tell them where they need to brake later, or whatever.

"But in terms of managing the actual power unit; they're so complicated that from a reliability and safety point of view, I think it's important.

"And I think for the show it's good [to speak to them]. At least we can tell them their brakes are getting hot and that they have to pull out of the slipstream, for example."

Related articles

- Hamilton in control of Rosberg after Singapore swing?
- Radio restrictions adding extra pitfalls for teams
- F1 bosses speak out as sport addresses popularity crisis

Minimal impact

Its hard not to disagree with Horner's comments, while some of the drivers may have an in-depth knowledge of how the cars work, most, particularly the younger drivers, only know how to drive these incredible machines as fast as possible.

There was a lot of debate prior to the weekend in Singapore over whether the radio limits would have much of an effect and whether it would benefit those who have greater experience and are more 'thinking' drivers.

In reality the impact was very minimal as the pecking order was pretty much unchanged and the effect on the racing was almost non-existent.

Striking a balance

With any reversal on the plan unlikely despite the lack of effect, it is all about striking that balance between what a driver should be able to do by themselves and ensuring the 'team' aspect to Formula 1 doesn't just go as far as pit-stops.

There is also the likelihood that if teams are unable to assist in helping a driver deal with an issue inside the car, number one it could pose a safety risk if a driver is not able to keep 100% concentration on the track and those around them and number two it could cause more retirements and potentially, if a problem is more serious than appears, more dangerous mechanical failures.

If the aim is to make F1 cars harder to drive then much of what is proposed doesn't really do that, instead its more about trying to make the drivers seem greater by not having them constantly asking for advice.

The problem with that, however, is while it may appear attractive to the casual fan, those who intently follow the sport are left wondering what the possible consequences might be.

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