FIA outlaws undue team radio chat

MELBOURNE • It was the one message of significance at the Albert Park circuit yesterday as Nico Rosberg ruined his preparations for the first Grand Prix of the new Formula One season.

"Pull over. Stop, stop, stop," barked Tony Ross, the race engineer, over the radio to his driver as the German tried to steer his broken Mercedes to safety.

On the first day of the new regulations that ban excessive car-to-team radio chatter, Mercedes were allowed the call to tell Rosberg not to cause any more damage to his car after slithering into the wall on the drenched track in Melbourne ahead of the Australian GP.

At least the message was clear and not coded, as the cynics in F1 had feared.

A morning edict from the International Automobile Federation (FIA) listed what can and cannot be transmitted via radio this season and it amounted to an instruction to let the drivers drive instead of coaching them from the pitwall.

The critics of excessive coaching, led by F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone, will be delighted, but Charlie Whiting, F1's race director, is ready for any canny words or phrases that might demand a code cracker.

He has a team of 10 continuously sifting radio transmissions to ensure rules are not broken.

"We will hear every single message, I am absolutely sure of that," he said. "With coded messages, we have to be a little bit careful. If we have some suspicion that a message is rather odd, we could then look at the data from the car to see if the driver did anything in response to that message."

Perhaps the narrative of the season started under grey skies yesterday: Rosberg missing the best part of practice, while Hamilton topped both sessions, 0.421 seconds quicker than Daniil Kvyat of Red Bull.

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 19, 2016, with the headline 'FIA outlaws undue team radio chat'. Print Edition | Subscribe