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HOW MUCH CAN WE TELL OUR DRIVERS?
Singapore, 19 Sep 2014 – That may be the most-asked question on team personnel’s lips as the 2014 FORMULA 1 SINGAPORE AIRLINES SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX gets into top gear at the Marina Bay Street Circuit this weekend.
While Lewis Hamilton put down a marker with the fastest time of the day in the second free practice session, it was happenings off track that captured most of the attention as teams and fans debated the pros and cons of the FIA’s decision to ban certain forms of radio communication between team personnel in pit lane and drivers in their cockpits.
The FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting explained the ban by saying the authorities felt “more and more was being done for the drivers” when in fact the regulations stipulate that each driver must drive the car alone and unaided.
“If you see something you are uncomfortable with you have to do something about it,” added Whiting in response to questions about why the changes had been implemented from one race to the next.
He went on to distinguish between radio messages legitimately seeking to share information on the state of the car, especially its safety and reliability, and others that might be interpreted as coaching the driver or influencing his performance.
“When a driver’s on track he should be driving the car himself,” Whiting insisted.
“Absolutely nonsense,” said Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Franz Tost in the team principals’ press conference that brought an intriguing day to a close. “These changes are absolutely not necessary.”
Tost’s objection stemmed in large part from the youthfulness of his driver line-up, especially as Max Verstappen will be just 17 when he replaces Jean-Eric Vergne alongside Toro Rosso’s current teenager Daniil Kvyat next season.
“For us it’s a big disadvantage,” he added, “because the more inexperienced the driver the more information you have to give him.”
On a day when Historic Formula One™ cars also appeared on track for the first time in Singapore, Caterham’s Manfredi Ravetto took the opposite stance. “This is a reminder of the good old days,” he said. “I think so many nice pages of motor sport’s history have been written without any pit to car communication.”
Somewhere in the middle, Force India’s Dr. Vijay Mallya was keen, first of all, to dispel suggestions that teams had been abusing the regulation. “This is not PlayStation,” he said. “Whatever you may say from pit wall, the amount of influence it actually has on the driver, the excitement of the race and the race result is highly debatable.”
Returning to the present, while Hamilton and his Mercedes teammate – and chief World Championship adversary – Nico Rosberg will do battle in Saturday’s qualifying hour, pole position for the first of two Historic Formula One™ races has already been claimed.
It went to Ollie Hancock at the wheel of a Fittipaldi F5A, with Mike Lyons alongside him on the front row – even though his Hesketh 308E ground to a halt as a series of quick-fire incidents brought the 20-minute session to a premature close.
Defending Singapore champion Earl Bamber again stamped his authority on proceedings in the Porsche Carrera Cup, half a second faster than Chinese former F1 test and reserve driver Ho Pin Tung ahead of Saturday’s half-hour qualifying session for the field of 28 911 GT3 Cup cars.