Rosberg's penalty invites criticism on radio rules

Nico Rosberg's lead over his team-mate Lewis Hamilton hangs by a one-point thread, after he fell foul of FIA rules restricting radio transmissions during the British Grand Prix.
Nico Rosberg's lead over his team-mate Lewis Hamilton hangs by a one-point thread, after he fell foul of FIA rules restricting radio transmissions during the British Grand Prix.PHOTO: ACTION IMAGES

LONDON • Nico Rosberg's hopes of clawing back three crucial points in the Formula One world championship were dashed after his Mercedes team decided not to appeal against his penalty at the British Grand Prix.

If this season remains nip-and-tuck between Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton to the last race, those three points could make the difference with regard to the German becoming world champion or missing out for the third consecutive season.

As F1 descended into yet another internal row over the rules, Mercedes decided not to plunge into a legal tangle with the FIA, the sport's ruling body, over complex new regulations governing radio transmissions between teams and drivers.

Designed to prevent "coaching" of drivers, teams now claim they have become a costly and potentially dangerous block.

On Sunday at Silverstone, Rosberg reported that his Mercedes was locked in seventh gear.

Fearing that his car would fail completely, Tony Ross, his race engineer, issued instructions to change settings, but then said: "Avoid seventh gear, Nico. Avoid seventh gear."

NOT JUST WRONG, IT IS NEGLIGENT

You are going to do tens of thousands of pounds worth of damage to the car because you can't tell a guy his brakes are about to fail.

PAT SYMONDS, Williams technical director, on the consequences of teams banned from giving drivers advice over the radio.

Rosberg replied: "What does that mean? I have to shift through it?" Ross came back with: "Affirm, Nico. You need to shift through it. Affirm, you need to shift through it."

It was that final guidance to avoid seventh gear that was interpreted by the Silverstone race stewards, including Nigel Mansell, the 1992 world champion, as guidance outlawed in the new rules.

As a result, Rosberg was demoted from second to third place and his lead over Hamilton in the drivers' standings was slashed to a single point instead of four, if the German had maintained his finishing position.

Five races ago, Rosberg's lead was 43 points.

Rosberg's penalty was seen as a test case of the new regulations but it seems teams will push for changes as dissatisfaction grows.

Pat Symonds, Williams' highly-experienced technical director, called the regulations "negligent", while Christian Horner, the Red Bull team principal, called for a rethink.

In Austria, Sergio Perez crashed with brake failure because his Force India team were restricted from telling him over the radio that he had a potential problem.

"Poor old Perez in Austria. How ridiculous," Symonds told Motorsport.com. "You are going to do tens of thousands of pounds worth of damage to the car because you can't tell a guy his brakes are about to fail. It is not just wrong, it is negligent."

Horner said: "The cars are technically very complex and you can understand why Mercedes would want to give that message to keep their driver running.

"It is a team sport at the end of the day and the cars are a lot more complicated than they were for the drivers to work out what they should or shouldn't be doing."

THE TIMES, LONDON, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 13, 2016, with the headline 'Rosberg's penalty invites criticism on radio rules'. Print Edition | Subscribe