Mercedes deserves credit for helping F1 – Lauda

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In the round-up: Niki Lauda says Mercedes have made sacrifices for the benefit of Formula One.

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The amount of radio communication to the drivers is being restricted this year, but @Faulty wants it to go further:

Change the data transmission rules. Impose restrictions on the amount of information that can travel from the car to the garage and greatly reduce the amount of data that can be transmitted offsite during the race weekend.

The constructors’ championship should be a reflection of actual team work, rehearsal, practice and imagination. The way it works now smaller teams are at a disadvantage because they can’t afford to have staff (hired, trained and equipped) assisting their managers in the same way the bigger teams do. The sport is made unfair not by the things said to a driver over the radio, but by how easy the decision-making process has become for race day operations directors once their assistants have crunched all the numbers and radioed them the results.

In the past, they had to rely on the driver’s perceptions to make decisions, that was a in itself limited source of information, so there was no point to radio to the drivers “Drive your hands off, mate!” or “Make sure we finish the race”; but now they have access to huge amounts of sensor activity that they can anticipate small changes and start telling the driver how to drive.

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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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47 comments on “Mercedes deserves credit for helping F1 – Lauda”

  1. Agree with @Faulty COTD

    1. ColdFly F1 (@)
      14th March 2016, 5:32

      Whilst I understand the romantic view of the COTD, it’s like saying let’s go back to the times before Google and Wikipedia.
      Next we say we want to go back to naturally aspirated engines because we love the sound ;-)

      1. Not at all. It’s about setting which individual(s) is/are in control, regardless of technology and who has the most information.

        We could build AI to drive an F1 car I dare say faster than most drivers, but do you think we should do that just because we now can?

        1. ColdFly F1 (@)
          14th March 2016, 8:20

          No @john-h!
          Limiting radio from the pit will put the driver back in control (remote driving/adjusting of the car has long been banned).
          The COTD wants to go further and stifle the teams of all kinds of data transmissions to pit/factory. Even my ‘daily commute’ sends data back to base on a regular basis; but I am still squarely in control.

          1. I do agree that the COTD goes too far @coldfly. The general gist of my reply is the same though. It’s not ‘going backwards’ to limit the amount of information that is transferred between parties, it’s just changing the rules of the game.

        2. Not just control @john-h, give the driver a bigger influence on the outcome of the race. He is the one risking his life after all! I hate it when Hulkenberg, for example, radios in a problem with his car and the wall responds with “everything looks fine”, if the man driving’s telling you that something’s off, something is off.

          It’s almost like teams want a robot in their cars already, a 2 pound robot. With the lowest center of gravity, too.

          1. Indeed. By the way, that’s also my argument against DRS that it essentially turns F1 into a time trial with dumb robots at the wheel. But hey, look at the number of overtakes! F1 must be healthy, the statistics say so.

      2. I tend to agree with you. No matter where you draw a line, someone will find some grey area that allows teams to sneak over that line. Saying teams can’t use particular data rates is bound to be defeated. It’s like when they weren’t allowed to have team orders: it was obvious that team orders were still being used, only that mostly no one was prepared to admit to it. An F1 car is phenomenally expensive, so the team should have the right to monitor its health during a race.
        The fact is you don’t actually need to use the VHF radio for a team to communicate with the driver, they could install some other system which simply bypasses the VHF radio, e.g. they could use a voice messaging system, something akin to the messaging apps like WeChat and WhatsApp, so a driver gets a voicemail message telling them what to do, and they reply with a similar voicemail message. Once the voicemail message is encoded, it could be transmitted in a microsecond or a minute, the meaning won’t get lost.
        About 10 years ago Inmarsat patented a system that allows them to receive data packets from mulitple customers at the same instant on the same frequency. So an F1 team could be sending a message to their driver, and hidden in the background is other data.
        We see teams hanging out message boards for their drivers to look at as they pass the pitlane, but they could just as easily be using something akin to a QR code, and the car uses the “racecam” to pick up the code and translate it into a message for the driver.

      3. petebaldwin (@)
        14th March 2016, 10:43

        @coldfly – Good point – next you’ll say F1 should go back to an antiquated media platform and remove any presence from social med…… oh…. Oh! Wow…..

    2. I understand the view expressed in the COTD @faulty, @jorge-lardone, but it is just not true that making strategy is “The sport is made unfair not by the things said to a driver over the radio, but by how easy the decision-making process has become”.

      Just remember how Mercedes started making mistake after mistake in the few races where they found themselves on the backfoot in the last few years. Or how Williams failed to make the right desicions numerous times last year. Sure, if everything goes to plan, they have the strategy ironed out from the simulator way before the weekend even begins and fine tune it to match exact FP results, but luckily that is not always the case.

      1. To be clear, I think teams should use the radio as much as they want and tell their driver whatever they want.

        I think it is unfair that some teams have dedicated budgets for data processing. Just as a maximum number of mechanics can work in the car during a pitstop a maximum number of people should be allowed to work for the team during a race weekend; and the only way to police that would be capping the data transmissions.

        Sure, teams can harvest hard drives full of information out of the car after every session, and they should. But the most exciting races we’ve had were when an unexpected variable threw the teams off guard; Canada ’11 and US ’15 spring to mind. So instead of going all Bernie and proposing sprinklers or other gimmicks to spice things up, why not just limit the teams’ ability of prediction and forecast? As they can’t unlearn what they already know, just limit the amount of parameters they can input their computer simulators to model a race.

        What would you say is more sportsmanlike, that the Red Bull crew get their pitstops fast and right more often than the Williams guys or that there are no rules preventing Red Bull Racing to offload calculation work to a data center so they can keep their engineers fresher than their rivals?

        1. I think the offsite processing is a marginal benefit, personally @faulty, compared with just having the right human being on the pitwall. Money always helps, you can’t prevent it, and offsite data seems as much subject to the law of diminishing returns as anything. We see year after year that what low-budget teams typically lack is downforce, while big-budget teams cock up their strategy as much as anyone.

          the most exciting races we’ve had were when an unexpected variable threw the teams off guard; Canada ’11 and US ’15 spring to mind. So instead of going all Bernie and proposing sprinklers or other gimmicks to spice things up

          These two races are an advert for sprinklers, surely? :) How is that not an unexpected variable? The only problem is persuading us that the switching on and off is truly random.

    3. Why not just fire all the engineers? Oh right, then the cars wouldn’t make it around the first lap.

      I understand the sentiment, but it’s someone who’s obviously outside the F1 paddock, looking in with rose-tinted Nostalgia(tm) branded eyeglasses.

      Even the V8 era cars were sophisticated enough that an engineer was needed to keep an eye on the status of the car, because it’s simply too damned much information for the driver. Somewhere, this idea of the driver-as-engineer came about, and I don’t get it. The only way it works is if you raise the level of automation in the car, which is also an anathema to the same people who want to eliminate the engineers.

      Now– If you want to get rid of the so-called mission control setups back in England and Italy, where teams of engineers analyze data coming off the cars in real-time, and make strategy decisions about what a driver in a different time-zone should do, I’m all for that. But let’s keep the engineer + driver as an essential combination in getting an F1 car around the track in the fastest possible time.

      1. Yeah, that @grat. Which senior figure at Ferrari had his pensioner pad in Thailand bling’d up with a state of the art workstation and a wide band connection so he could still work for the team?

  2. I’d like to see Kevmag out-qualifying both Button and Alonso in Melbourne. Danish bonbon!

    1. They are both world champions. They have literally achieved their biggest life goal, and now, everything else is just a bonus. It might be slightly annoying for them, but if Magnussen never wins a title, every glance at either of them will remind him what he never achieved.

      1. Lol, he might just do it.

      2. Why would looking at them make Magnussen believe he failed? He didn’t have the same opportunities, so he doesn’t know if he would have failed if he had followed in their footsteps. In fact, looking at them may make him believe they held him back. Maybe they are World Champions, but neither of them are the current World Champion, and neither of them will be again. Magnussen, on the other hand, still has a better chance of achieving that.

  3. Wonder if Arnie doing post race interviews again?

    1. Looks that way. Good spot.

  4. Anyone know what Webber’s role at Ch 4 will be? I am hoping he will be on commentary duty (but not likely with DC there).

    For the last 2 years he was on hand in Melbourne for Ten (local Australian GP broadcasters) and was excellent. 2014 he did a post-qualifying analysis (he left Melbourne after that – didn’t want to look like a hanger on for his first race out of F1) and last year he was in the comms box for the race. He brings a level of knowledge that you do not get from someone who hasn’t raced in 20 years (like Brundle) or 9 years (DC), no matter how embedded they feel they are in the teams.

    1. @kazinho Almost the entire team works part time I’m guessing as quite a few weekends clash with their own series, most notably Le Mans and Baku of course.

    2. His role will most likely be to moan about things and preach how WEC is so much better than F1.

      1. And to trash Seb and talk up Ricciardo

      2. So when was the last time he trashed Seb? He has nothing but praised him. He also does not begin about the WEC unless asked so why don’t you two go shove it up your own bottoms.

    3. RaceProUK (@)
      14th March 2016, 12:33

      I think he’s going to be an analyst.

      Speaking of the C4 coverage, they’re advertising it on the radio, and I swear I heard ‘The Chain’ in the background…

      1. You are not mistaken; one of the TV ads I saw was definitely using it too.

        Also, see here:

  5. In Motorsport juan often gets what juan deserves…

    Also Scott Dixon is like ALO, relentless :-)

  6. socksolid123
    14th March 2016, 6:54

    I kinda disagree with the cotd. It would be better if F1 limited the amount of sensors you can put on the car instead of limiting how much data can be send. No matter how much data is transmitted doesn’t change much when all of it is stored and accessible. But if you can’t collect as much data you have less to analyze which can point different people towards different strategies. Reducing the amount of data could also save some money as the teams would need less people to handle the vast amounts of data

  7. If di resta is reserve driver he needs a superlicence in case his service is required, however, he hasn’t competed for 3 years, does he qualify for one?

    The FIA obviously provide exemptions for anyone who needs one, so why have the system? Wouldn’t surprise me if it’s scrapped after this year.

    1. Yeah why… To have resonable grounds against pay drivers? But in general there is no reason to have the superliscence in current form. To artificial and GP2 weighted.

      Obviously Di Resta was fit for duty. Passing physical exam, and if team trusts him with multi milion gear… He should be allowed.

  8. Unfortunately fans seem to care less and less about the feud between engine manufacturers and Red Bull / Ecclestone. And they seem to care less and less about F1, too.

    Lauda is right by saying that Mercedes are being victimized by others. Everyone read the new engine rules and signed up for them. I did not hear Red Bull complain about the evil manufacturers before 2014 because they obviously thought Renault would build competitive power units. Now Mercedes have agreed to open up engine development and reduce the prices even though originally everyone agreed on something else.

    On the other hand, the current situation is not good for F1 as engine manufacturers should be able to catch each other and a big team should be able to choose between more than one manufacturer. Red Bull should sell their team(s) to real racers and Ecclestone / CVC should be replaced by people, who care about the long term future of F1. Then engine regulations could be simplified to attract more engine manufacturers to the sport and encourage competition as the current battle is just about power games and “making Red Bull great again”.

    1. if Mercedes were so nice, they would have agreed to open up engine development straight after the Melbourne gp of 2014. they started their development before the new rules were signed – they had the advantage because of that, and that is why Hamilton signed for them I believe. they are all just playing poletics, Mercedes talks about road car relevance, and at the same time they say they looked at their truck division to get engine technology for their f1 car – it is all just marketing and poletics. now after milking 2 championships and possibly a third while teams play catch up (and they will catch up, just look at Ferrari), they want to come across as the nice guys by agreeing to open up engine development next season, by which time the engines would all be fairly close to parity anyway.

    2. I think the movement is already under way for engine makers to catch up to each other, but I’m not convinced simplified engine regs would attract more makers. I think F1 has many issues to resolve before entities such as engine makers will be attracted to the sport. And in spite of the power Merc and Ferrari have right now, gadget tires and drs remain a big problem, but even moreso the dirty air effect is what really prevents competition. I’d stabilize the rules, bring in real tires, get rid of drs, and emphasize mechanical grip a little more in relation to aero grip, and then let’s see some real racing and at the same time see if it really is an engine based formula these days. Additionally, we can no longer even isolate PU’s as being the guilty party here…it is about a PU/chassis marriage…otherwise Merc would have the top 6 or 8 spots occupied.

      I think RBR are real racers, having won 4 double Championships in a row, but I think they have only themselves to blame for assuming Renault would nail their new PU ahead of 2014, and therefore put off it’s development in favour of the team’s fourth double in a row. They just need the same patience that many many teams have had to have throughout the years, and not just act like it is their god-given right to a competitor’s top pu equipment. They’ve shown themselves to be ready willing and able to dump on a partner at the drop of a hat, no matter the success of the recent past. Hardly inspiring for PU makers.

      Bottom line for me there are a handful of easily done things they can do to make for much closer racing and give us back gladiators duking it out on the track to create the show. It is far from being just about engine parity, and I say there’d be a lot less concern over PU’s if the racers were able to actually race, apples to apples, not drs to defenseless leader, nor briefly good tires vs. shot tires, nor artificially scrambled grid…all failing bandages to the real enemy being aero dependence.

    3. knoxploration
      14th March 2016, 15:33

      Must be nice to have a rules framework that guarantees you retain your huge advantage, but also be able to play the “poor little victimized me” card like Merc is doing. I’m pretty sure every other team on the grid would love to be victimized in the same way…

      1. Merc didn’t write the rules. All PU makers had the same chance to nail their package. Lauda is not lying with his stance which is from Merc’s point of view. What should Merc have done? Tried to not nail their package for the new chapter in F1? Also, there is no guarantee of some huge advantage given that Ferrari may be quite close to them by now, under the same rules Honda and Renault have had to play by. Rules by the way that weren’t meant to lock in any one team’s advantage, but rather to try to keep it from becoming a money game by limiting development. So let’s say there was no homologation concept, no tokens concept…would that have guaranteed Mercedes wouldn’t still be superior with their package? If it happens that Mercedes are the masters right now, how would allowing them unlimited development help? Other than escalating costs. Besides, it’s moot really. As Lauda points out, things that were agreed upon are changing as we speak, so the erosion of Mercedes well-earned advantage has begun anyway. Nothing new for F1 really…RBR had EBD curtailed when they were dominating. Even MS was moved away from Ferrari when enough had been enough.

      2. They all had the same rule book when making the engine, merc did a better job, why should success be punished.

    4. @girts, @memorable The sword cuts both ways; There was nobody complaining when the FIA banned every single invention year after year that made the RB chassis so great to increase competetivity..

      1. And I was against that too, Success should never be punished in a innovation and merit based sport like F1

        1. @memorablec Success should indeed never be punished but there is a difference between closing loopholes in the rules that have unintended consequences (F-Duct, double diffuser, blown diffuser etc.) and simply telling one team ‘You’re just too good so we will take your advantage away’ without any other reasoning. I know very little about the technical side of F1 but so far I have not read about any ‘loopholes’ exploited by the Mercedes engine department. I believe that even Horner and Marko have never mentioned anything like that.

          1. I agree that some loopholes should be closed, like the F-Duct that in some interpretations required a driver to remove his hands from the wheel and the blown diffuser that encouraged wasteful use of fuel to create down force in lower speed corners.

            There are just as many more that never should never have been banned let alone in the middle of a season, FRIC, inertial dampers, double drs, Lotus’ reactive ride height.

  9. About radio-using:
    I think teams collect as much information as they want and tell their drivers what they want during practises and qualifying.
    But during races drivers could be infromed only safety reasons. As a result drivers have to use their skills and brain much more. Drivers have to make their own decisions and their own strategies.

  10. Regarding radio usage that should either be totally free or totally banned (with the exception for safety stuff). Going somewhere in the middle will always be complicated and the possible infractions will be hard to judge.

  11. I strongly disagree with part of the COTD – “… greatly reduce the amount of data that can be transmitted offsite during the race weekend,” as this is the opposite of what should happen. Analysts/strategists should be at “home” and not required to travel around the world.
    I used to actively avoid supporting some overseas partners where I work, as the travelling meant being away from home for weeks at a time. Now we use video conferencing and associated data channels; it’s much easier to support people in remote locations.
    F1 should not be forcing truckloads of engineers to abandon their families for weeks at a time. It’s unnecessary and unfair. “We have the technology.”

    1. It’s great for business, but not for sports.

      Sports are nothing but romantic versions of games, and all games are limited versions of reality. Some games are simpler run faster, jump higher, et cetera. The game mechanics of formula one need certain strict boundaries to maintain close competition, the ban on in season testing, the ban on open PU development aimed to be those boundaries, but their unintended consequences have been disastrous to those goals.

      So instead of comedy tires, drs, radio bans, Kafkaesque qualifying, and all of those things, why not reduce the dependence on computer modeling? That’s where the bigger teams dominance over the privateers begins.

  12. I like your Alonso tweet Keith! It’s funny and sad at the same time. What a waste of talent. To bad Fred isn’t as good at making career moves as well as he is at driving.

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