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.”

Jimmie Johnson won’t race full time in 2023; leaves open possibility of returning at Ganassi

Jimmie Johnson race 2023
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Though he remains uncertain of his plans for next year, Jimmie Johnson won’t race full time in 2023, scaling back his schedule after running a full 17-race NTT IndyCar Series season.

“This was a difficult choice for me, but in my heart, I know it’s the right one,” Johnson said in a statement Monday morning. “I’m not exactly sure what the next chapter holds, but if an opportunity comes along that makes sense, I will consider it. I still have a bucket list of racing events I would like to take part in. Competing at this level in IndyCar has been such a great experience.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better team to race for than Chip Ganassi and Chip Ganassi Racing. Everyone worked extremely hard for the last two seasons, pushing to get the best performances out of me every single week. The support from my crew and teammates Dario (Franchitti), Scott (Dixon), Tony (Kanaan), Marcus (Ericsson) and Alex (Palou) went above and beyond anything I could have ever asked for.”

WHAT’S NEXT FOR JIMMIE JOHNSON: An analysis of his racing options for the 2023 season

Driving the No. 48 Dallara-Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing, Johnson ranked 21st in the 2022 points standings with a career-best fifth place July 24 at Iowa Speedway.

After running only road and street courses for Ganassi in 2021, the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion added ovals this year. In his Indy 500 debut, he qualified 12th and finished 28th after a late crash.

“I do have a desire to go back (to IndyCar), it’s just at this point, I know what’s required to do a full schedule, and I don’t have that in me,” Johnson told AP. “I don’t have that passion that I need for myself to commit myself to a full season.”

That leaves open the concept of Johnson returning part time with Ganassi, perhaps exclusively on ovals.

“We are fully supportive of Jimmie,” team owner Chip Ganassi said in a statement. “He has been a valued member of our team and if we can find a way to continue working together, we would like to do so.”

During IndyCar’s season finale race weekend, Johnson told reporters Sept. 9 that he planned to explore his options with wife Chandra and daughters Evie and Lydia. Johnson told the Associated Press that his family is considering living abroad for a year or two, and he has toyed with the idea of running in the World Endurance Championship sports car series because of its international locales.

Johnson hasn’t ruled out IndyCar, IMSA sports cars or even a cameo in NASCAR next year. Since retiring from full-time NASCAR after the 2020 season, he has entered the endurance races of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac (including Saturday’s Petit Le Mans season finale). Johnson also wants to race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and is a prime candidate for the Garage 56 entry (a joint project of NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports).

Johnson told the AP he is interested in becoming the latest driver to try “The Double” and run both the Coca-Cola 600 and Indy 500 on the same day (the most recent was Kurt Busch in 2014).

“You know me and endurance sports, and ‘The Double’ sounds awesome,” Johnson, a four-time Coke 600 winner, told AP. “I’ve always had this respect for the guys who have done ‘The Double.’ I would say it is more of a respect thing than a bucket-list item, and I’d love to put some energy into that idea and see if I can pull it off.”

It is less likely that he would return to IMSA’s endurance events because its top prototype series is being overhauled, limiting the amount of inventory available for the new LMDh cars in the rebranded GTP division.

Johnson has confirmed that he would retain primary sponsor Carvana, which has backed him in IndyCar the past two years. He revealed his decision Monday during the last episode of “Reinventing the Wheel,” Carvana Racing’s eight-part docuseries about his 2023 season.

“I’m thankful for the partnership with a company like Carvana for allowing me to take this journey in IndyCar, for seeing the value in our partnership and being open to future opportunities together,” Johnson said. “They have truly showed me that there are no finish lines in life. Along with Carvana, The American Legion, Ally, cbdMD and Frank August were there every step of the way, and I couldn’t have done it without all of them. Most importantly — and the true rockstars in all of this –my family, Chani, Evie and Lydia. They have always allowed me to chase my dreams, and we are all just really excited about what the future holds for all of us. I have enjoyed every minute of these last two years.”

Said Carvana co-founder Ryan Keeton: “During the past two years, Jimmie Johnson has been so amazing to collaborate with. Our team admires his passion, hard work and commitment to continuous improvement while also having fun, and we look forward to continuing to support him next year in this new chapter.”