Formula 1 has clarified the rules on radio communication between teams and drivers in the wake of incidents that have cost competitors points this season.
The clarification from the International Automobile Federation (FIA), the sport’s governing body, makes clear that a team can inform a driver of a problem with his car but must order him to enter the pits for a decision on what to do.
The technical directive, from Formula One race director Charlie Whiting ahead of Hungarian Grand Prix, defines more clearly what teams can tell drivers during a race.
The document, dated July 20 and seen by Reuters, says “any message of this sort must include an irreversible instruction to enter the pits to rectify the problem or to retire the car”.
The FIA has acted following some high-profile incidents relating to instructions from teams to drivers on the track.
At the British Grand Prix on July 10 Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg was found to be in breach of the rules restricting what information can be conveyed.
The German, nursing a potentially terminal gearbox problem, was hit with a 10-second time penalty that demoted him from second to third after the team gave him instructions on how to get around it.
At the time Mercedes, which decided not to challenge Rosberg’s penalty, argued the messages were legal as the rules permitted communication regarding a terminal problem.
Force India’s Sergio Perez crashed out on the last lap of the Austrian Grand Prix a week earlier with brake problems after the team felt the rules prevented them from informing the Mexican of the issue.
Following the clarification, teams will be forced to bring a driver into the pits if they inform him of a critical problem where they will then be free to either help him fix it or retire the car.
Coming into the pits will, however, cost the driver a significant chunk of time.
The fresh directive also clarified that the radio restrictions will not apply if a car is in the pit lane, whereas earlier they kicked in as soon as the car left the garage.
“The rule is now clearer than before,” a Mercedes source told Auto Motor und Sport.
But Williams’ Valtteri Bottas isn’t sure, arguing that some teams may choose to ignore the pitlane instruction and instead push for a Rosberg-like post-race time penalty, “At the moment it looks like it’s better to take the penalty.”
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel pulled no punches at all, blasting the “bullshit” radio rules.
Force India team manager Andy Stevenson is also confused, revealing: “We checked all the radio messages after Silverstone and there were more than 15 cases that should have been punished too.”
He also warned that the new clampdown will drive up costs, with engineers now having to rewrite some software.
And Williams technical chief Pat Symonds is also surprised with the FIA’s latest rule tweak, declaring: “We wanted the radio ban to be somewhat relaxed, so what does the FIA do? They make the rules even more strict.”