McLaren want more openness in F1 – they should start with their own pit wall

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Martin Whitmarsh been banging the drum for more open communication between F1 and its fans:

I think for us to maintain and develop our fanbase we have to make better use of Formula One as an asset. Those of us that are involved in it have not yet done a good enough job to provide the fanbase with the information and insight to the complexities of our sport.

I certainly agree with the sentiment but the fact is McLaren along with Ferrari are one of the teams that are most guilty of putting up barriers between themselves and F1 fans – by not allowing their radio communications to be broadcast.

Mark Webber mentioned last month the reason radio broadcasts are only available from some teams is because some teams refuse to allow their communications to be used. Max Mosley has said the same.

McLaren are one of the teams that encrypt their broadcasts. As I mentioned in my F1 Pitlane column today, this caused them all kinds of problems at the Hungaroring last year.

Whitmarsh went on to say:

We have to overcome some of the delight that the technicians have in this secrecy. Inevitably we are right to try to retain some of this, but we are in the entertainment business and we have to credit our fanbase that they are interested.

I think what F1 has to get better at is providing the proportion of the fanbase that wants it with that extra data and information. Year by year you have to try to create more interest, and the more insight they have, the more they are intrigued, and the more they’re likely to come back next time.

Again this is a fine sentiment and I applaud it. But Whitmarsh should practice what he preaches and make McLaren’s team radio broadcasts open for fans to listen to at the track and on TV – and encourage the other teams that aren’t (which I suspect may only be Ferrari) to do likewise for the good of the sport.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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36 comments on “McLaren want more openness in F1 – they should start with their own pit wall”

  1. But Keith, I find this odd: Ferrari and McLaren are the two teams that have kept their radio broadcasts encrypted…

    … and yet it’s these 2 teams that are the most supported by F1 fans. What’s with the disparity? :-/

  2. @1:

    You are wrong. Ferrari by far dominates the fan support. BMW comes second and McLaren third. Ferrari/Kimi fans disklike McLaren since they are closest to Ferrari. Kubica/BMW fans dislike McLaren since they are closest to BMW. Alonso fans dislike McLaren because of the alleged bad treatment of Alonso last year. McLaren has only a few supporters at the moment.

  3. Where’d you get that info from, Internet? I’m sure much of Britain (and even certain sections of Lapland up in Finland) would disagree with you. Also, it’s Ferrari and McLaren that tend to have the most fan forums and fanclubs.

    But even if your point is correct, the 2 encrypting teams are right up in the top 3 supported teams. Again, what’s with the disparity?

  4. Journeyer – it’s probably because they do most of the winning!

  5. @Internet: I second Journeyer’s request to know where that information came from; it is interesting.

    I have to agree with Keith in that McLaren should practice what they preach. It’s all well and good saying things to the press (and it’s worth noting that these words were apparently spoken to the winners of Autosport’s KangarooTV competition) but they have to back them up and offer the information in the first place.

    1. Mclaren will do it when ferrari does it.

  6. its quite clear since Whitmarsh got promoted and Dennis “kind of” stepped down that there is a conflict of interest in the upper echelons of Mclaren.

    Dennis would have gagged whitmarsh last year for even thinking that out loud.

  7. Robert McKay
    2nd July 2008, 15:05

    I’m not sure I understand your point, Journeyer. Are you suggesting Mclaren and Ferrari are most well-supported because they are most secretive, and the others are less well supported because they are most open?

    That’s a red herring. Mclaren and Ferrari are most well supported because they’ve been most successful, have most personality and have long histories in the sport. I think closing off their radio transmissions neither helps nor hinders their popularity as an individual team.

    Having said that, for the good of the sport, these transmissions should be open as a matter of course. As much data and info as possible should be open to the commentators and fans alike.

  8. “…McLaren has only a few supporters at the moment…”

    Man, how can you say a insanity like that. I hope you have any data to support this assertive.

  9. I’ve always thought it would be interesting to hear what ferrari say to their drivers when pit stops will make a difference to who of the beats the other.

    remember the Barrichelo Schumacher incident, i’d reall love to have heard what was said.

    but if us as fans hear what goes on on the inter-team airwaves so does everyone else. and that would compromise their tactics and strategy. i think a mute trasmission button should be applied with Ferrari and McLaren when sensitive communication is being passed on, and for normal stuff just keep the tunes coming.

    i have a question, do you know if drivers listen to music while racing? i’m sure it would be cool.

    what song would you want to be listening to while charging forward through the field with a Ferrari after having started from the pitlane, in Monaco lets say?

  10. @Internet

    I’m a Kimi/Ferrari fan, and my distaste for Maclaren comes from partially the car they gave Kimi in 2006, and secondly Hamilton.

    For information, I’m English.

  11. @Journeyer, Ollie: Just go to any forum like pf1 or autosport and you can see that the level of distaste for McLaren is pretty evident. For example on this poll

    Kimi, Alonso, Kubica all have more votes than Lewis.

  12. In the last FIA survey (2006) the most popular teams were Ferrari (30%) and McLaren (21%):

    What the FIA’s F1 survey really tells us

  13. @Keith: That was 2006. A lot has changed since then. Kimi has moved to Ferrari taking a lot of support with him. BMW has improved meaning a lot of Poles support them and dislike the closest team to them, i.e McLaren. McLaren-Alonso saga happened. At the moment there are only a few McLaren supporters. If I was to hazard a guess it would be Ferrari 50%, BMW 20%, McLaren 15%, Renault 10%.

  14. For every Ferrari lover, there is a Ferrari hater which is by default, a Mclaren fan. They have the best chance to rain on the Red’s parade.

  15. Internet – Does that 15% include the whole population of Woking (bar the one photocopier person) :D?

    I do not see why teams have to be secretive over the radio. Team strategy can be discussed and agreed prior to the race. Call signs can be used during the race. Then the fans can discuss what each call sign means if they want to get into that sort of stuff.
    Watching the racing this year with a few teams allowing their radio transmissions has brought a new dimension to F1 this year for me. Bring more of it on. It not only helps the dedicated fans but also really helps the newcomers too.

    Fan base is related to success. People like to follow successful teams. Man United are a perfect example with Football, so are Ferrari \ McLaren with F1.

  16. How can you have a rule that states “team order are not allowed” if the FiA cant even listen in to the “team orders”?

  17. Scott Joslin
    2nd July 2008, 16:45

    I think this is a contradictory statement from Mclaren as they are super secretive as well as Ferrari, however this could be a sign that Whitmarsh would be more open to allowing communication from Mclaren to be published once he has taken over properly from Ron Dennis.

    On the whole I am very disapointed by the radio communications that we get to her and cannot say that it actually gives anyone any real forward information.

    We must only here about 5% of what actually is going on and only then is it stating the obvious e.g. – Alonso’s mechanic telling him Kimi has a problem – we already knew “Come on Nelson you are slower than…” We can already see that. It is just suplementary information.

    I am prepared to admit the level of communication that we get on free practice is better, but still not great.

    I remember hearing the radio in the unscreened days of 2002 and hearing Montoya expressing what he thought about Schumacher taking his nose off in Sepang “F**King Idiot” That’s better but not professional or family friendly.

    Anyway, I don’t think opening up the radio is giving more back to the Fans, it is a bit of a gimick. Cheaper ticket prices for races and opening up the drivers to meet the fans is more substantial and that involves race organisers not the teams.


    I really don’t know where you are, man, but here in Brazil, the fans doesn’t care about Alonso 2007 saga. In fact, Alonso has not the same image that the Spanish fanbase think. Here he is seen as “big crier” because of his hispid discussion with Massa in Germany 2007 and the “FIRST DRIVER saga”. That was not good for his image here!

    In fact, Lewis has a sympathy image to the Brazilian fans and the Senna´s family, specially Ayrton´s sister Viviane, who is a Lewis´s fan (and praised him some months ago in a award party) has contributed for that.

    Here, historically, McLaren is always attached with Senna´s championship wins image. Here in Brazil, I can assure you McLaren is the second team for an insignificant difference and just because of Massa not because of Ferrari´s spirit.

    Michael Schumacher never had in any of his Ferraris years the Brazilian fans sympathy because of Rubens´s shenanigans’. In fact Ferrari has not A CLEAN image to the Brazilians fans. And when there´s a problem with Massa´s car there are always some kind of suspicious…

    When Rubens ALLOW Michael to pass and win the Austrian GP this was one of the worst bashes in the Ferrari´s image here in Brazil and the Brazilian TV commentator said that FIAT has a commitment with the Brazilian consumers and never could allow the team to do that with Rubens and even the Brazilian President said a word in the matter. Ferrari gained too much antifans, including myself for that.

    Obviously you have a data in your pocket to prove you´re right…

  19. Dan – the stewards can demand teams turn over their radio recordings for analysis even if they are encrypted. McLaren had to do it at Hungary last year.

  20. I think we are just reading too much into his statements. I don’t see how you guys relate it to the drive/pit radios. I believe he is talking more about what goes on within the team on a regular bases, than what the drivers are telling the engineers during a race. The Alonso Hamilton fiasco, must be at the back of his mind when he made these comments because Mclaren basically didn’t admit or deny much of what was supposedly going on until it was too late.

    Alonso said much of what the press wrote didn’t happen. As he put it, not even 10% of what the press wrote about last year happened. But the reputation of the drivers and the team as a whole suffered from too much secrecy. So lets appreciate that he means access to the team and not access to team strategies.

  21. Oliver – He said: “I think what F1 has to get better at is providing the proportion of the fanbase that wants it with that extra data and information.” One of the very best ways they could do that would be to let us hear the discussions between the drivers and their teams during the race – the fuel strategies, engine maps, changes of condition on the track and everything else.

    If you watch an Indy Car or NASCAR race you can hear a constant stream of chatter between the drivers and their pit walls and you know exactly what’s going on. It would be a massive benefit to F1 fans if we had the same and McLaren are one of the teams preventing it.

  22. I must add also that lots of fans do not appreciate the real workings of an F1 car and a lot of the technical aspects of F1 is often lost on these fans. So opening up on how the team operates and how these actions affect the performance of the cars will go some way to help some people appreciate why some things are done in certain ways.

  23. The secrecy in F1 is one of those odd animals, an arms race that isn’t easily corrected. Like the title says, McLaren are asking for openness but want the other teams to open up first.

    I haven’t heard a BMW broadcast during an F1 race and the only radio I remember in McLaren’s camp last year was Lewis and Ron shortly after winning races, Hamilton showing all the emotion, and Dennis showing none.

  24. Well I quite agree with you Keith, but in a situation where Ferrari are already guaranteed more money than other teams even if they do not win the constructors championship, a team like Mclaren cannot afford to give away any competitive edge they may have, especially when Ferrari also does the same, encrypt pit/driver radio.

    I would love to hear what information the drivers exchange with the pits. But realistically, F1 as a whole must become a more accessible sport.

  25. I’m all for it,I like to hear the radio transmissions it adds to the excitement of the race and puts you IN the race.As far as the driver’s conduct on the radio,fine the hell out of them for rude language and they will stop.

    Racing is for us fans,right?…so put us into the action!

  26. They should make the radio communication open for all.
    Because McLaren aint giving Ferrari free information when they aint getting it! That’s pretty normal.

    But I love the Renault radio communication! Hope they make it fully open!

  27. “I think closing off their radio transmissions neither helps nor hinders their popularity as an individual team.”

    Exactly the point I’m making, Robert. If it doesn’t hinder the teams’ popularity at all, why force them to do it? There’s no real incentive for the 2 teams to do it.

    I agree with Scott that:

    “Anyway, I don’t think opening up the radio is giving more back to the Fans, it is a bit of a gimmick. Cheaper ticket prices for races and opening up the drivers to meet the fans is more substantial and that involves race organisers not the teams.”

  28. Some of my favourite moments during a grands prix is hearing some of the radio communications between the teams and their drivers.
    The true insight it gives fans into the innermost workings of a Formula One team are huge, and only adds to the spectacle and excitement of grands prix racing.
    As for the most popular teams, Internet forgets how unpopular Ferrari have been down the years through some of their decisions. The Austrian GP of 2002 springs to mind, a race that did more to damage the integrity of F1 than any spy scandal.
    Not to mention the pathetic grid penalty at Monza in 2006 for Fernando Alonzo’s ‘mystery’ block on Felipe Massa, which was obviously orchestrated by Ferrari.
    The revealing in 2005 of Renault’s ‘mass damper’ system, at a time when Ferrari were losing their edge compared to their rivals.
    Now, I am sure that other teams are guilty of simular crimes. McLaren and Ron Dennis are certainly no angels, and can be every bit as ruthless as their Italian counterparts, but one mustnot forget that Ferrari do have their distractors.
    Abit like a football team that wins year in year out, and always gets the best players and the big decisions in the big games.

  29. Remember the Ferrari/McLaren rivalry goes way back before last year and the year before that. They have encripted their radio broadcasts to stop the other team listening in and anticipating each others moves, not for any reason against the fanbase. I think McLaren (Whitmarsh certainly) have realised that the modern fans like to know more about whats going on (and the introduction of the Kangaroo system must be part of that).
    So far most posts here have been calling on McLaren to be more open – what about Ferrari to do the same? They are even more secretive than McLaren I think – remember back to the days when the teams used to hide all the new wings until the last possible minute before Qualifying? I seem to recall it took a strong word from either Bernie or Max to force Ferrari to comply with the new ‘open’ rules.
    I think it would be good to hear all that goes on between the teams and the drivers during a race, but then I think teams like McLaren and Ferrari would start using code words (as some NASCAR teams do) and the fans would be as lost as ever (Whats the code word for ‘Park it at the last corner’?)

  30. teams like McLaren and Ferrari would start using code words (as some NASCAR teams do) and the fans would be as lost as ever (Whats the code word for ‘Park it at the last corner’?)


    Some of my favourite moments during a grands prix is hearing some of the radio communications between the teams and their drivers.

    Agreed – Nigel Roebuck often relates this story:

    Mid-race at Monza in 1987, for example, Ayrton Senna was discussing tyre wear with Lotus’s Peter Warr.

    The intention had been to stop for a new set, at half-distance, and Senna’s main rival, Nelson Piquet, had already done that. Given that Piquet’s Williams-Honda was way quicker than Senna’s similarly-powered Lotus, Ayrton’s only hope of winning was to stay out – but, he wanted to know, would his tyres go the distance?

    After a short period of radio silence, Warr was back on the line: “Ayrton, we’ve spoken to Goodyear, and they say it’s possible – but very marginal…” Silence from Senna, for a good 15 seconds or so. Then, “Okay, we go for it…”

    Source (sub. req.)

  31. The titbits of radio communication we get to here , creates more of a conundrum than if we heard nothing at all , therefore it is done for PR show and maybe some of the teams hope the top teams will follow to a point where their race strategy becomes public. I regard conversations between driver and pit during a race as highly strategic , and should be kept private at all times. The excitement for viewers , is (or should be)partly also through trying to guess what strategy the team will decide , at times you may find they do exactly what you had in mind , which makes you feel good. And when they don’t , the results afterwards show what they were trying to achieve anyway , or with all the press conferences thereafter , the stories come out. If that’s allowed , I beg to ask , will teams start to be expected to also divulge their fuel strategies , tyre pressures , brake bias , wing settings , camber settings etc . to afford “better communication” with it’s fans

  32. Well if the radios are open no one said they have to speak in English.

  33. I couldn’t agree more keith, that’s a mighty fine statement from martin, fine words indeed – but given that they don’t allow any of their communications broadcast, or that they insist on their drivers to have proper haircuts and be clean-shaven is ridiculous. Let’s see if Martin can practice what he preaches.

  34. In response to Ronald’s post (way back at #9). If I were starting from the pitlane at Monaco in a Ferrari I would, without a doubt listen to “The Wizzard” by Black Sabbath. After that I would probably switch to something a little bit more hypnotic for the duration of the race once I got into a groove maybe Can or Spiritualized with some prime selections from the Stax records catalog peppering the mix to keep me awake.

  35. Pink Floyd’s The Wall, for Montreal.

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