It’s fair to say that we’ve enjoyed the introduction of the FIA to team radio broadcast graphics. It’s given us some insight into the kind of conversations people on the pit wall have with Race Director Michael Masi, and more often than not, it’s given us a laugh or made us reach for some popcorn.
However, throughout the duration of the season, the soundbites we hear have gone from complaining about blue flags to yelling “NOOOO MICHAEL, NOOO, NOOO MICHAEL THAT WAS SO NOT RIGHT,” on the final lap of Abu Dhabi. Also, admit it, you read that in Toto’s voice, didn’t you.
With more and more people questioning the influence teams have over potential FIA decisions, or the need to constantly have Masi on the line in case something doesn’t go their way, we asked Katy and Tommy their thoughts!
I think teams having a line of communication with the FIA and its Race Director is essential for safety, like being able to notify the FIA of incidents that might have been missed and are worthy of punishment or driver feedback on track conditions.
It should also only be limited to one representative from each team, such as Jonathan Wheatley at Red Bull, and not Christian Horner when he feels like it.
However, even when driver radio is relayed to the Race Director, it’s not always actioned.
During the Belgian Grand Prix qualifying earlier this year, Sebastian Vettel told his team that the Q3 session should be red-flagged. “Too much water, there’s a lot of rain here in [Turn] 5,” he told his engineer. “We should red flag, in my opinion.” 90 seconds later, Lando Norris had crashed at the top of Eau Rouge.
It’s a great example of a driver giving additional detail that the FIA don’t have. However, even in this case, Vettel’s radio was played to Masi, who heard it and still decided against red-flagging the final part of qualifying.
When recording the WTF1 podcast for Abu Dhabi, one Team WTF1 Member suggested even having a ‘Hawk-Eye’ system as they use in tennis, and honestly, I think they could be on to something.
The rules of Hawk-Eye in tennis allow each player two challenges per set, which means they can question if a ball has been labelled as being “out” incorrectly. With so few opportunities, each use is important and needs to be used carefully.
Perhaps F1 could introduce something similar, like only getting three 15 second conversations with the Race Director if you wish to raise a point. It means that the time is precious, and you can’t just use it as a ranting session.
Overall, this whole situation is a mess. Conversations about limiting time spent on the radio to the Race Director shouldn’t even be necessary if teams respected the boundaries and used their line of communication appropriately. Masi should also be firmer with his instructions and orders if he’s to stay in his job next year.
While the FIA Team Radio graphic was a brilliant listen at first, for me, it got more and more problematic as the season went on as we could hear just how much say team bosses had in decisions.
Too much of this season has felt like Toto Wolff and Christian Horner are making the calls and not the Race Director. I’d even go as far as saying the whole Abu Dhabi safety car controversy could have been avoided if Masi had just been left to his own devices and not had Wolff shouting at him not to restart the race and Horner unsurprisingly doing the exact opposite.
You could even hear Masi telling Horner just to let him sort the situation out, but he should have been much sterner with it. All that would take is not allowing the teams to speak to him in the first place.
While F1 is very different to other sports, in football, if a bad tackle is made, they don’t allow the managers onto the pitch to argue why it shouldn’t have been a foul because, of course, they’re always going to be biased to their own team and try to manipulate the referee.
So why are Team Principals allowed to have so much influence in the decision making when they’re always going to back their driver no matter what the situation? It adds nothing.
To cover off the safety aspect, I get the need sometimes for the teams to be able to speak to the officials to warn about certain situations. Why not employ a race’ fourth official’ who can pass on relevant information to the Race Director and ONLY relevant information? Not aggressive ranting to do anything to help their driver escape from any wrongdoing.
Should teams be allowed to speak to the Race Director? Let us know in the comments.