Even though the FIA and teams are still, as I write this, negotiating on exactly what the detail of the radio communications ban will be – some concessions appear to be being offered on ERS batteries and rear brakes – it is certainly the biggest FIA-inspired curve-ball of the season so far. How teams deal with this after becoming reliant over many years (and with no hint earlier that it was in the FIA’s cross-hairs) it will be a significant challenge.
Radios & reliability
Of greatest interest to me – depending upon the concessions mentioned – will be whether reliability takes a hit this weekend. Singapore is a tough track for cars and drivers anyway; restricting the ability of teams to communicate solutions to emerging technical gremlins makes it even harder. Secondly, one of the issues that we anticipated being significant this year – fuel consumption – could suddenly become very relevant.
Teams will still be able to communicate via in-car displays a set target delta time for drivers but no longer will they be able to ‘coach’ drivers on where they stand on fuel relative to rivals. Drivers with particularly heavy right feet, of which Nico Rosberg is perhaps the highest profile/most at risk, may struggle to maintain pace in the heat of battle this Sunday.
The best of enemies
Which is a nice link in to round 14 of Rosberg versus Hamilton. For me, this is the first proper head-to-head between the two ‘enemies’ – as Toto Wolff described them – since Spa. Monza felt a little staged managed – though Hamilton did perform very well – and left many wondering if Rosberg’s ‘punishment’ was to finish behind Lewis.
The lack of fury and urgency in his turn 1 lock-up and subsequent chicanery did little quell that feeling. It is somewhat ironic that there was so much scrutiny of Rosberg’s Monaco ‘lock-up’ and so little in Italy. At any rate it is game on this Sunday. Rosberg was smart enough to lay low during the Monza race and let the media scrum quieten, which leaves him free to go toe-to-toe/wing-to-tyre with Hamilton. Both will struggle with the radio ban but for different reasons: Hamilton will lose the calming influence and Nico’s analytical mind will lose valuable data.
All to play for
There has been some hopeful chat about Red Bull being able to take the fight to Mercedes. Based on form from Monaco and other tight and twisting circuits this season, they will be back challenging for best of the rest but won’t have enough to win. Unless…
Behind the battle for the win/title, there is plenty to entertain this weekend. We are at the business end of the season now and several teams have opportunities and problems a plenty. Sauber – having a nightmare season – have zero constructors points. For a team solidly top 10 in recent years this is more than just an embarrassment- it could come with a hefty financial penalty in terms of transportation payments for next season. Elsewhere Force India are nip and tuck with McLaren for fifth place in the constructors and the battle for third between Williams and Ferrari will go to the final race of the season.
So whilst the Nico and Lewis show will likely dominate proceedings, thanks to some FIA interference and battles up and down the grid, there is plenty to entertain in Singapore.