MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) This weekend’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix will be the first under strict new rules limiting how much technical advice and strategic information can be given to drivers during the race and qualifying, and Formula One officials are confident they can prevent teams finding loopholes.
The FIA, the governing body of the sport, has produced a strictly limited list of allowable information that can be communicated to the driver via radio, data and pitboard display, and anything outside that list will be liable to penalties.
There will be no more advice to drivers on topics such as how to manage tire strategy or what other strategies rivals are using, driving technique in different sections of the track, altering engine and wing settings, and other such areas that the FIA believes should be up to the driver’s racing intelligence.
“We are trying to make sure the driver is driving the car on his own, and the car is not being driven for him,” the FIA’s F1 director Charlie Whiting said Friday. “The better drivers will inevitably do a better job.
“Once it gets to the race, there will not be too much they can say that will be of any value.”
In the lead-up to the introduction of the new rules, many drivers had suggested the rules could be subverted through use of code, with teams and drivers colluding pre-race to assign hidden meanings to apparently innocent communication, right down to coughs and stutters.
Whiting said every radio message would be monitored by stewards and engineers, as would other communications right down to the color of letters and numbers used on pitboards, which would be compared against technical data to reveal if secret codes are being used.
“We will hear every single message, I am sure of that,” Whiting said. “If we have some suspicion that a message is rather odd, we will look at the data and see if there has been any difference to the car’s performance.
“They will do their very best to get as much information to the drivers as they can. We just hope they continue to do it in a legal way.”
The new rules govern only pit to driver communication, and there is no restriction on what the drivers can say. Whiting said that ensures there will be no loss of the fan-friendly “juicy content” when drivers complain to their team about strategy, or about interference caused by rivals.
One criticism levelled at the regulations is that drivers will not be able to drive the car to its fullest and will hold back in case they need to go longer than planned in a particular on-track stint.
“They will talk these things to death before the race and they will know what they are going to do,” Whiting said. “If circumstances change and they want to alter strategy they can, it’s just that they can’t discuss it in detail with the driver.”