F1 officials confident teams won’t dodge radio silence rules

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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.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay hired as replacement for Conor Daly at Ed Carpenter Racing

Ryan Hunter-Reay Carpenter
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Ryan Hunter-Reay was named to replace Conor Daly in Ed Carpenter Racing’s No. 20 Dallara-Chevrolet, starting in the NTT IndyCar Series event next week at Road America.

Hunter-Reay is the 2012 series champion and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner. He finished 11th for Dreyer & Reinbold last month in the 107th Indy 500, his first start since the 2021 season finale. He drove full time for Andretti Autosport from 2010-21.

“We need to improve our competitiveness and I wanted to add a fresh perspective from a driver like Ryan who has a massive amount of experience and success as well as a reputation as a team leader. I am excited to welcome Ryan to the team,” team owner Ed Carpenter said in a team release. “We have worked together in the past as teammates and he tested for ECR at Barber Motorsports Park in October 2021, where he made an immediate impact as we were able to qualify one of our cars on the pole following that test. I am confident that his experience and technical abilities will be an asset to ECR as we move forward toward our goals as a team.”

Hunter-Reay has 18 IndyCar victories, most recently in 2018. He also is a winner in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, having been a part of winning entries in the 2020 Twelve Hours of Sebring and 2018 Petit Le Mans. Last year, he was an endurance driver for Cadillac Racing while being on standby for Chip Ganassi Racing.

He replaces Daly, whose departure was announced a day earlier in what the driver and team said was a mutual decision.

“I was surprised when I got the call from Ed,” Hunter-Reay said in a team release. “He described how frustrated he was that his team has not been able to realize its potential despite their efforts, investments, as well as technical and personnel changes over the past few years and asked for my help. Ed and I are very close friends and have been for a long time. I’ve worked with the team in the past and they are a very talented group with high expectations and a committed partner in BITNILE.COM.

“This will certainly be a challenge for me as well. It’s a tough situation jumping in a car in the middle of the season without any testing in what I believe to be the most competitive series in the world. Certainly, part of my motivation in saying ‘yes’ to Ed is the great challenge ahead. The last time I turned right driving an NTT IndyCar Series car was in October of 2021 with this team at Barber. However, I remain very confident in both my driving and technical abilities and believe by working with the talented people at ECR and Team Chevy, while representing BITNILE.COM, we will make progress. I am going to do everything I can do to help the team achieve its long-term objectives.”

Said Milton “Todd” Ault, the chairman of sponsor BitNile.com: “It is great for BitNile.com to be aligned with an Indy 500 Winner and an NTT IndyCar Series champion. I have followed Ryan’s career for years and I am confident he will challenge the entire ECR team to perform at higher levels. I wish everyone luck at Road America.”