In the closing moments of the British Grand Prix two weeks ago Nico Rosberg lost seventh gear. In an attempt to stay ahead of the closing Max Verstappen there was some frantic messages going back and forth between he car and the pit wall as they came up with a solution of settings and shifting through. If the aftermath of the race Race Stewards found that one message in particular – the confirmation that Rosberg should shift through seventh – went beyond the current rules on radio communication. They gave him a 10 second penalty which promoted Max Verstappen to second place.
After that race director Charlie Whiting said that “the honeymoon period was over” with these radio regulations that were new for this season, and he wasn’t kidding.
Today the FIA confirmed that they had tightened up the rules around information about problems or failures during the race.
The biggest change was highlighted in a statement made by the FIA ahead of this weekend Hungarian Grand Prix: “With the indication of a problem with the car, any message of this sort must include an irreversible instruction to enter the pits to rectify the problem or to retire the car.”
With this rule a situation like Rosberg’s at Silverstone would have meant he had to pit in the dying stages of the race and probably would have lost 3rd place as well.
The radio restrictions have already been called dangerous by Lewis Hamilton, who had to spend a lot of time during the European Grand Prix changing dials and switches on his steering wheel to fix a problem that last year his engineers could have talked him through immediately. In Austria Force India did not inform their drivers of a brake failure for fear of breaching the rules and Nico Hulkenberg ended up deep in a gravel trap because of it.
“Instructions to select driver defaults, this must be for the sole purpose of mitigating loss of function of a sensor, actuator or controller whose degradation or failure was not detected and handled by the onboard software,” said the FIA.
“It will be the responsibility of any team giving any such instruction to satisfy the FIA technical delegate that this was the case and that any new setting chosen in this way did not enhance the performance of the car beyond that prior to the loss of function (see Article 8.2.4 of the Technical Regulations).”
As a result of these further restrictions it is likely we will hear a number of frustrated radio messages in Hungary from drivers and engineers a like.