One thing that was made clear when Formula One banned teams from relaying certain kinds of information to their drivers was that comparative information about a teammate was not to be shared. “Lewis, Nico is safe on fuel—safe on fuel—but a little bit more critical on brakes,” seems like it might bend this rule, no?
Mercedes won a decisive 1-2 finish at the Canadian Grand Prix with drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg on top yet again. Their lead was so comfortable towards the end that when they were instructed to lift and coast to save fuel, it didn’t even hardly matter. Williams’ Valtteri Bottas couldn’t catch them. In fact, you had to look further down the grid for a spectacular race. Sebastian Vettel started from 18th place after a lousy qualifying session and a grid penalty assigned for passing under red flag conditions, but ultimately clawed his way back up to fifth place.
Regardless, it’s what Mercedes told their drivers over the radio that caused some controversy with this race. On lap 41, Lewis Hamilton’s engineer said the eyebrow-raising line, “Lewis, Nico is safe on fuel—safe on fuel—but a little bit more critical on brakes.” We know that wasn’t just pulled out of thin air, as the team had also radioed over to Rosberg to watch his brake temperatures.
Some also wonder if the team’s radio commands to Hamilton for him to lift and coast possibly violated the provisions against discussing driving technique and/or throttle application over the team radio. Lewis was also instructed to make his lift and coast last for about 50 meters (and later, 100 meters) by his engineer, while Nico’s engineer was not as specific with his lift and coast command. Others say that these distances given to Hamilton related to fuel management strategy, though, and were allowable, as the team was not coaching Lewis on how to pick up speed. Either way, those comments didn’t seem to merit any immediate action against Mercedes.
Nico Rosberg asked a similar question about Hamilton’s car on lap 65, towards the end of the race. “How is the other car on fuel?” he radioed in. His engineer responded, “Can’t comment.”
So, with Hamilton being allowed to hear a vague comment on Rosberg’s fuel and brakes, but Rosberg being unable to find out any information about Hamilton’s fuel load, fans are understandably confused as to what is allowed and what is prohibited under the new rules regarding radio communication.
One reporter asked about this difference in the post-race press conference.
“Nico, we heard you ask over the radio about Lewis’s fuel levels and were told that you couldn’t be told about that while Lewis was being told when he was able to lift and coast,” asked Collin Hunt of FormulaSpy.com. “Can both of you shed some light on how that strategy call worked from the garage?”
Rosberg responded first:
Yeah, I can just say my part because I wasn’t to know if Lewis would run into trouble at the end of the race or not because that could help me judge how much fuel I would need to save at that point in time and when I should try and put the pressure on but unfortunately that’s been banned, to give that information, so I wasn’t able to get that, which is a pity, because it would have helped me judge, maybe put on a better attack if I had that information but it’s the way it is, it’s what they decided to do so OK.
Rosberg’s understanding was that the information about Hamilton’s fuel load was banned. However, Hamilton’s answer tells the other side of the story:
I don’t really know what I need to say. At the end I had fuel. I think the team was just... they wanted us to come home. I knew I had plenty of fuel at the end. There was a point where – I think about 15 laps from the end – I had enough fuel to make it to the end, even if I pushed flat out so that was good.
It almost felt as if Hamilton was perplexed at the thought that information on Rosberg’s fuel load might have been prohibited radio chatter. Either way, the detailed instructions he received led him to a win with Rosberg in tow behind him.
Thus far, no penalties have been lodged against Mercedes, so perhaps Hamilton is right, or perhaps we’ll find out this week if they misinterpreted this rule on one side of the garage. In the meantime, let the wild conspiracy theories fly! Is the team trying to keep a Rosberg down? Sabotage Hamilton? C’mon, fans, do what you do best and whip out those tin-foil hats.
(Honestly, though, I think the different interpretations of what counts as acceptable radio chatter just mean that someone may have misread a rule, with no ill intentions towards the other half of the garage. That’s a thing that happens sometimes, you know.)
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