If you’re a Formula One fan you would undoubtedly have heard some of the pit-to-driver messages that are aired during a race. To most of us, and I am sure to other F1 teams, the messages sound like gobbledygook.
“Strat five for blue diff A. Warm mix and pour into bowl with setting X9 left. Red leader you are cleared for take-off”, is an example of what you may hear during a race.
But the sport’s ruling body has deemed that there is too much intervention from engineers sitting on the pit-wall and have decided to place a ban on all coded messages especially those pertaining to driver and car performance.
Below is a list of messages that will not be allowed from this weekend’s race in Singapore:
– Sector time detail of a competitor and where a competitor is faster or slower
– Adjustment of power unit settings
– Adjustment of power unit setting to de-rate the systems
– Adjustment of gearbox settings
– Learning of gears of the gearbox (will only be enforced from the Japanese Grand Prix onwards)
– Balancing the SOC [state-of-charge of batteries] or adjusting for performance
– Information on fuel flow settings (except if requested to do so by race control)
– Information on level of fuel saving needed
– Information on tyre pressures or temperatures (will only be enforced from the Japanese Grand Prix onwards)
– Information on differential settings
– Start maps related to clutch position, for race start and pit stops
– Information on clutch maps or settings, e.g. bite point
– Burn-outs prior to race starts
– Information on brake balance or BBW (brake-by-wire) settings
– Warning on brake wear or temperatures (will only be enforced from the Japanese Grand Prix onwards)
– Selection of driver default settings (other than in the case of a clearly identified problem with the car)
– Answering a direct question from a driver, e.g. “Am I using the right torque map”?
– Any message that appears to be coded
Clampdown on pit boards, too
Teams may not broadcast any of the messages via electronic communication or via pit boards displayed trackside. Such acts will be in contravention of Article 20.1 of the sporting regulations, which states “the driver must drive the car alone and unaided”.
Certain messages that pertain to the car especially those regarding safety, ie tyre pressures and condition of the braking systems are still allowed (as are those listed below), but will be banned from the next round of the series in Japan.
Types of message types allowed
– Acknowledgement that a driver message has been heard.
– Lap or sector time detail.
– Lap time detail of a competitor.
– Gaps to a competitor during a practice session or race.
– “Push hard”, “push now”, “you will be racing xx” or similar
– Helping with warning of traffic during a practice session or race
– Giving the gaps between cars in qualifying so as to better position the car for a clear lap
– Puncture warning
– Tyre choice at the next pit stop
– Number of laps a competitor has done on a set of tyres during a race
– Tyre specification of a competitor
– Indication of a potential problem with a competitor’s car during a race
– Information concerning a competitors likely race strategy
– Yellow flags, blue flags, safety car deployment or other cautions.
Big brother is listening
How exactly the FIA plans to police this is not clear. Perhaps it is on a job creation initiative and new jobs will be created for eagle-eared (?) persons looking to work in the Formula One circus.
The current crop of Formula One cars are complex and sophisticated machines that require a great deal of input from several engineers, not to mention a driver to hustle it around a racetrack as quick as is humanly possible.
On more than one occasion this year we have heard teams help a driver to reset a malfunctioning system allowing him to continue racing. Perhaps this new rule will force a few more retirements than we have seen to date.
One thing is certain; Formula One teams have a way of getting around rules so this ban may just prove a small bump in the process. When we hear drivers start to order take-out and the teams ask what they’d like from the menu then we know something is up.
Article written by Sudhir Matai
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