Team radio and another knee jerk reaction

Here we are again – an F1 issue that the FIA overreact to and consequently create more issues than solutions. Team radio.

Team radio in 2014 has ostensibly been bad for F1. While it gave us some classic moments in the past (“Yes, yes. I know what I’m doing”) this year has plumbed the depths of Alonso and Vettel whinging about track limits, and drivers grassing on each other about everything and anything. It has not been pretty. The erosion of the mystique of F1 drivers as heroes was accentuated by it and the FIA has felt the need to react.

Current drivers are maligned for being “told” how to drive their cars. Where to make up time on a team mate, a brake needing cooling, a battery not charging properly. But none of that takes away from the fact, critically, that the driver still needs to do something. If the radio messages were effectively changing settings on the car to make it easier then I could understand the need for the FIA to intervene, but they are not.

Driver skill – the ability to adjust and adapt – is still essential to make the messages useful in context. Telling a driver to look after his brakes is only half the battle; it is their skill in using that information to adapt their technique in order to stay in the lead and make it home. The circumstances differ but in principle it doesn’t change from the ‘good old days’ when drivers had to nurse a car home minus a gear or deal with a long brake peddle. Yes, something has been lost in that driver ‘feel’ isn’t telling them what is wrong but F1 machines are so complex now it could be argued that is now impossible to do.

As usual with the FIA they have missed the point with a knee jerk reaction. By switching off the team radio feeds to the TV and media outlets, they could have reduced the perception of drivers being told how to drive and put back some of the drama of the sport. From there a more well thought out approach could have been considered to allow essential communications but return some of the mystery to the sport and allow the drivers to feel and, ultimately, drive.

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