Analysis: Did Formula 1's team radio clampdown pay off?

"Intolerable" was the word used by FIA Formula 1 race director Charlie Whiting to describe the level of radio traffic proliferating in grands prix in recent times

Analysis: Did Formula 1's team radio clampdown pay off?

Without doubt Whiting had a point. Article 27.1 of the FIA's sporting regulations states "the driver must drive the car alone and unaided". While the 'driver aids' many would associate with that rule were long gone, it was now being flagrantly disregarded, to the point of virtual redundancy, via radio coaching.

F1 cars have naturally become more complex given the advances in technology, with management of the power unit and energy recovery systems, in particular, difficult to manage on occasion.

Whiting felt the level of coaching from the sidelines had reached such a crescendo he chose to put his foot down and strictly enforce 27.1.

He had become fed up of listening to radio traffic from the pits informing a driver of engine deployment, various strat modes and - the pet hate of many a fan - to lift and coast in order to save fuel.

In response, in August of last year, Whiting and the FIA produced a 31-point list of permitted communications - an easier option than highlighting the magnitude of messages to be eradicated.

At the time drivers such as double world champion Fernando Alonso claimed the transmission clampdown would "not make a huge change".

Alonso further suggested any driver worth his salt would be able to rely on "the reactions of the car" and "instinct", rather than instruction from the pitwall.

Even Max Verstappen, then just five months into his rookie season at the age of 17, welcomed the ban as it meant considerably less talking on the radio.

Fast forward to the build up to the 2016 Australian Grand Prix and - surprise, surprise - we had a difference of opinion on the nature of the ban between Red Bull team principal Christian Horner and Mercedes counterpart Toto Wolff.

Horner questioned whether such an enforcement had gone too far, "taking away an element of dialogue between the race engineer and the driver" which he felt was "entertaining" for the fans.

Wolff, in contrast, claimed the emphasis was being placed back on the driver who would no longer "be remote controlled from the garage" and that it would "give room for error".

Alonso waded back in again, claiming in an era of communication and technology it was a "strange" direction for F1 to be heading.

Jenson Button went so far as to suggest the new limits would be "pretty much impossible" for the FIA to police as Whiting and race control would be unable to listen to every single message.

It was a point countered by Whiting during a media briefing at Melbourne's Albert Park as he stated four people in race control would listen to three drivers each, with a further four to five software engineers taking on another two to three drivers apiece.

As Whiting added: "It's relatively straightforward. Quite honestly, they're not saying much."

That was obvious following a relatively quiet Friday of practice. Just 12 radio messages unfolded across the three hours, although in fairness the inclement weather played its part, resulting in a lack of running.

Come the race, and following a last-minute tinkering with the new rules as teams got Whiting to ease off with regard to strategy, a total of 87 messages were broadcast.

Importantly, we still had what Whiting promised would be delivered in terms of "juicy content".

Verstappen, in particular, was guilty of turning the airwaves blue, swearing on three separate occasions as he allowed his frustrations to get the better of him.

That was in response to Toro Rosso team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr pitting first, despite him being behind Verstappen at the time, with the young Dutchman then emerging behind the Spaniard after the stop.

For Mercedes, and bearing in mind Wolff's earlier remarks, the radio ban almost cost Nico Rosberg victory as it was not allowed to inform him of an overheating brake caliper and then a worn left-rear tyre.

Both issues managed to rectify themselves, but on another day the team may not be so fortunate.

While there were a few glitches on the day, which Whiting was able to nursemaid the teams through, overall he felt "the right balance" had been struck.

It is precisely for these reasons the radio ban worked, and almost certainly there will be scalps taken because of it as the season unfolds.

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