The F1 Strategy Group known arguably for being able to agree on literally nothing, met today ahead of the German GP to discuss a range of pressing matters within the sport, the outcome this evening appearing to be a few interesting changes.
The expected 2017 introduction of the Halo head protection system has been scrapped, with teams instead looking towards alternative measures to protect the drivers head, the strategy group have however said that head protection is set to be introduced in 2018 but the general reaction seems to be positive with many fans as well as some drivers and clearly the teams suggesting that it would have been a step in the wrong direction, for more on the Halo issue, check out a previous post I did here where I explain my thoughts on whether F1 needs to introduce a halo system, for me it is the right step to delay the introduction simply because I feel it was all a bit rash and hastily arranged, I believe that with more time, better ideas could be discussed.
The next big talking point from the Strategy Group meeting is the apparent end of the controversial radio rules, which have been heavily criticised in recent races following incidents with Nico Rosberg and Jenson Button, it is a strange step for the SG to take, removing the rule on radio discussions in race entirely appears to be how they have gone about it, which now means that whilst it brings an end to ludicrous events where teams can’t tell drivers how to fix their brake pedal if it is broken, it also marks the potential return of so-called “driver coaching” which many fans, including myself, see as something which should be limited, after all these drivers are supposed to be up there with the best in the world, that being said, I think they need some degree of help with certain aspects as they are no longer racing drivers but computer specialists as well, with a whole host of settings and menus on their screen on the steering wheel as well as so many dials and switches, they shouldn’t need to remember what each one does all by themselves.
All in all then regarding the end of the radio restrictions, I see it as a good thing, firstly for safety, secondly it allows a driver to perform to the best of their abilities without needing to know every detail within buttons, dials and menus whilst trying to race, but finally for the fans it is a good thing, one thing I know I have missed this year is the team radio during the race, (partly to get away from listening to certain commentators babble on about a potential overtake when they’re clearly too far behind) but the whole idea of getting to hear from the driver during the race has always provided interest for strategy and informational purpose.
The final major talking point of the meeting is that the FIA are set to relax their attitudes on track limits, in the past two races at Britain and Hungary, the FIA have been very strong in enforcing it, albeit only at certain points on the race-track and not others, even strangely allowing 20cm of a window for drivers to legally track extend in Hungary, it was baffling and equally as baffling is the fact they’ve curtailed their efforts to stop drivers taking advantage of the bits outside the white lines.
If anything, the drivers were always going to be hard to police on track limits, after all they are pretty much programmed to get a car from A to B in the fastest time possible, slight extensions or cuts of the track mean little to them and it almost becomes second nature to try to gain an advantage on competitors, however an open admission that they can do this legally creates a bad precedent, there is no longer a problem with going off track to gain an advantage, it is allowed, and if they aren’t being punished they will abuse the limits of the circuit it over and over again without fail because it is faster and whilst they want to go fast, it all just looks a little silly.
What I would suggest is if they are going to not enforce penalties on the drivers, they should instead make it slower to go off the track, get rid of all these kerbs that are the drivers best friend as they run all over them each lap, kerbs shouldn’t be appealing, they should punish the driver for not taking an optimum line, as well as this.. what ever happened to gravel? Back in the days where gravel and proper kerbs were a thing, we didn’t see this much track limits abuse, because if you tried to do that, you’d end up out of the race having either spun and got beached in a gravel trap, or other wise. We need deterrents and whether it be kerbing, gravel or any other type, it needs to be introduced to combat this or soon enough we may as well not have white lines at either side of the track.
Other more minor points to take from the strategy group meeting is the potential for more wet weather standing starts, welcome news following the shambles of the British GP. As well as the ruling which means teams cannot work on cars during red flag periods.
Basically how I would summarise the Strategy Group meeting is that lifting the radio ban is a positive deal, as for the halos, there is still an awful long way to go in that discussion and I am glad there has been no hasty rush to get it done for 2017, but the relaxation on track limits is confusing, especially in a time where drivers go off the track more than ever, but combined with the other minor changes I would have to say the Strategy Group look set to have pleased the fans and done something right for the sport.