Radio ban: Ferrari absolved, Merc’s menu?

I was asked about the ability to use pit boards for messaging to the driver about car settings and other elements that would have been previously radioed to him but can no longer due to the radio restrictions the FIA have placed on teams in 2016.

It was a great question and the answer is no, they can’t use the pit board to relay car settings etc. This came to light in Australia as Ferrari had a message that was seemingly coded and it was reported to the FIA by a competitor.

The message said, “-3.2 LFS6 P1” and while that may very well have been instructions for a setting on the car, the FIA have cleared Ferrari of any wrongdoing as AUTOSPORT explains:

“During the race a number of teams had problems with fuel recalculations in the wake of the 20-minute red flag stoppage following McLaren driver Fernando Alonso’s violent accident on lap 17.

Whiting confirmed to Autosport after the race the red flag and restart raised “a number of glitches” that needed to be solved.

For Ferrari, and Vettel in particular, it led to a problem with how the SECU (standard electronics control unit) software handled the stoppage, necessitating the pitboard message at the time.

The FIA therefore concluded the message was permissible and will not take any action.”

So this was an acceptable use of the pit board. It does also bring up a question over text messaging to the driver’s steering wheel and there were some interesting tweets regarding a video of Lewis Hamilton’s car during the Bahrain Grand Prix seen here just after the upshift from 4th gear:

If pit board messaging isn’t allowed, it’s a sure bet that having messages on a steering wheel is not allowed. I’m not sure what the message on the wheel is but the tweet thread said that the team explained this as a multi-menu setting which very well could be the case. A sort of menu that has multiple modes you can select. I would tend to believe that but it is up for the briefest of time. Draw your own conclusions. Here is a closeup by Frank T. on Twitter:

Hamilton wheel message

Regardless, the teams will be looking for ways to relay critical information for sure. The radio ban hasn’t manifest itself in a tangible way that fans can see at home but it was revealed that in Australia, Nico Rosberg’s brakes were at critical temperature at one point in the race. I wondered in Bahrain would see failure and to be honest, perhaps the teams could have caught Palmer or Vettel’s issues had they been allowed to radio the driver but I have not read any comment to that point.

IF the radio ban is working and improving the racing, the teams probably won’t be bragging about it because they’d like to be able to radio so they will most likely play it down but the FIA should be letting us know that their ban on radio messages is a success…if it truly is impacting racing.