Tracking airwaves a hurdle for some

Despite team radio restrictions being lifted, Rosberg and Vettel frustrated by instructions

HOCKENHEIM • In Sunday's German Grand Prix, Formula One's first race since the series returned to unfettered radio communication between teams and drivers, the winner was the driver who required the least help from his team.

And two of his main competitors might have been better off without the advice proffered over the airwaves.

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton, who revealed the day before the race that he had told his team not to bother him with unnecessary radio messages, jumped from second on the grid to take the lead by the first corner, and was never overtaken.

With the Briton dominating, the race's main source of entertainment was the flurry of radio conversations between the teams and their drivers.

On Thursday, F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone announced the reversal of a 2014 decision to limit what a team could say to a driver over the radio.

The restrictions, which were introduced this year, were intended to prevent it from appearing as though engineers, rather than drivers, were in charge of cars.

But the freer communications on Sunday certainly did not give the impression that teams are taking over the driving. In fact, spectators learnt that sometimes the advice is not even all that great.

With the help of his team over the radio, Mercedes' Nico Rosberg, who started in pole but lost his lead by the first corner, managed to climb back into second place.

But, as his team pressured him, the German was penalised for an aggressive passing manoeuvre that was judged to have forced Red Bull's Max Verstappen off the track.

"Push hard now; push hard now," Rosberg's team told him on lap 28, just after Verstappen had returned to the track following a pit stop.

"Explain to them I was full lock on the steering wheel and he moved under braking; that was the problem," Rosberg told his team over the radio. But the decision had already been made.

Rosberg took the five-second penalty, dropped to fourth and could never catch up.

Another interesting exchange involved Sebastian Vettel, who did not want to follow his Ferrari team's advice.

With just over 20 laps left in the 67-lap race, the team instructed him to make a pit stop.

"Negative," Vettel said. "I'm going to take a couple more laps. The tyres are still good."

The team then told him that it had called him in to undercut, or pass another driver via pit strategy.

"Who do you think you want to undercut?" an incredulous Vettel said when there seemed to be no cars near him.

Maurizio Arrivabene, the Ferrari director, rejected the suggestion that the exchange showed Vettel was losing confidence in the team's decisions.

"Normally, we are using words between us to understand the condition of the track, and the driver is giving us some answers that are information for us," he said.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 02, 2016, with the headline 'Tracking airwaves a hurdle for some'. Print Edition | Subscribe