Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Monza, 2019

Analysis: Drivers’ team radio transcripts reveal how F1’s qualifying shambles unfolded

2019 Italian Grand Prix

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The final phase of qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix descended into farce as only one of the nine drivers on track managed to set a time. The rest held each other up so badly none of them managed to set a time.

The team radio messages from all nine cars reveals much about what happened.

The key to the situation was the slipstream. Each driver want to run behind another car to boost their top speed on the straight. That meant no one wanted to be the first driver running.

A similar situation unfolded in Baku five months ago. On that occasion Mercedes sent their cars out first, then cleverly had them stop at the pit lane exit, ostensibly to perform ‘practice starts’, but actually duping their rivals into moving ahead.

It seems Renault attempted something similar. As Nico Hulkenberg joined the track, he was told to “remember the plan”, then immediately drove through the first chicane, apparently hoping other cars would pass him.

But the next driver in the queue, Lance Stroll, noticed what Hulkenberg was up to, and backed off. That prompted other drivers to slow down, and soon all of them were at risk of failing to start a time at all.

Another important detail concerned the Ferraris. Charles Leclerc was supposed to run in front of Sebastian Vettel. However Vettel passed Leclerc shortly after they left the pits. After Vettel moved to the front of the queue he dawdled, waiting for Leclerc to pass him, and holding the queue up even more. Ahead of him was Carlos Sainz Jnr, who turned out to be the only driver to get a lap time done.

Meanwhile Lewis Hamilton eyes what the Ferrari drivers were doing and concluded their real motive was to hold up Mercedes and stop them beating Leclerc’s time.

Here’s how the farcical end to qualifying unfolded, as told by the drivers’ team radios, listed in the order of how they left the pits.


Nico Hulkenberg led the field out, then immediately drove across the first corner. His first message seems to indicate this was pre-planned. Despite being told he was at risk of not making it to the line he was passed by several other cars.

To HulkenbergOK Nico remember the plan, please, remember the plan.
To HulkenbergYou’ve got Stroll right behind you.
To HulkenbergHe drives through the run-off at turn one
Stroll three seconds behind.
To HulkenbergCarlos right behind you.
To HulkenbergNico there’s a good chance cars are not going to make the cut-off at the moment, there’s only one minute to go.
To HulkenbergSainz passes him and he accelerates
It’s time to go.
To HulkenbergVettel passes him
It’s time to go mate, time to go.
To HulkenbergLeclerc passes him
Watch out for Hamilton, he’s going to be in a hurry to get past you.
To HulkenbergOK Nico we’re right on the limit there is no time for slowing down at all. Recharge off.
To HulkenbergWe did not make the flag, Nico, we did not make the flag. Recharge on.
HulkenbergThat was crazy. Dangerous.
To HulkenbergVery. Very dangerous.
To HulkenbergOK so that means you are P6, Nico.
To HulkenbergActually that’s not necessarily the case, Sainz is trying for a lap.
To HulkenbergHe’s 0.25 down in sector one. And another tenth down in sector two.
To HulkenbergOK Carlos missed your time by four-tenths Nico. You are P6.
To HulkenbergCopy that, Nico.
To HulkenbergSo come to a stop, normal story place. P2 to P1 and then five second hold, then P0.

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Racing Point were well aware when Renault was up to. However they seemed to realise too late how much danger Stroll was in of not making it to the line. Unlike most of the other drivers, Stroll wasn’t getting a regular countdown.

To Stroll:So watch Hulkenberg he may play games. He won’t want to tow you.
To Stroll:Hulkenberg goes off at turn one
Don’t overtake Hulkenberg. Do not overtake Hulkenberg.
To Stroll:Sainz passes him
Go behind Sainz if you can do.
Stroll:Vettel and Leclerc pass him
We’re in the quicker cars now, they don’t care.
To Stroll:Ferrari are going by now, follow a Ferrari.
To Stroll:Hamilton passes him
Follow the Ferraris if you can.
To Stroll:Don’t drop any more, go now, keep up with that group.
To Stroll:Tyres are good. make sure you keep up with that group. Do not drop any more places. You’ll want some braking.
To Stroll:So push on you need to go faster now, push on. You don’t have enough margin, need to push on.
To Stroll:You’re in a good position now. Brakes look good, tyres look good.
To Stroll:Keep pushing, keep pushing now. You need to go, you need to go.
To Stroll:You need to go.
Stroll:No one made it.
To Stroll:Go to ‘cool’.

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The only driver who made it to the start/finish line in time to set a lap was Carlos Sainz Jnr. However like Hulkenberg and Stroll he was given a reprimand:

Sainz:Keep me updated.
To Sainz:Copy.
To Sainz:OK you’re the third car. Hulkenberg first, Stroll second, then yourself.
To Sainz:Carlos there is not a lot of margin to the flag. At the moment the flag is 30 seconds behind.
To Sainz:He passes Stroll, draws alongside Hulkenberg, and slows
OK Carlos 10 seconds margin.
To Sainz:He passes Hulkenberg, the Ferraris pass him
Not everyone will get laps.
To Sainz:He passes Leclerc
Five seconds to the flag, you need good pace now.
To Sainz:You need to defend the position. Four or five seconds to the flag. Most cars will not get it.
Sainz:He passes Vettel
Am I going to get it.
To Sainz:Yeah, two seconds margin Carlos.
To Sainz:Recharge off, let’s go, should be close.
To Sainz:OK Carlos P7. Good job mate, we tried. Well done getting the flag. Recharge on. Box this lap.
To Sainz:Delta negative. No one else got the flag, No one else got a lap.
Sainz:I think it was a pretty good lap. You see the speed trace.
To Sainz:OK Carlos so box now. When you get to the FIA remember we turn the car fully off. P1, wait five seconds, then P0. Good job today mate P7.

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Although Valtteri Bottas left the pits near the front of the queue he was almost immediately passed by the Ferraris, and then Alexander Albon too.

To Bottas:So Ferrari pushing the front.
To Bottas:Be careful on the delta.
To Bottas:Albon passes him
You’ve got very little time in hand. Try to get forward.
To Bottas:Only five seconds safe.
To Bottas:Five seconds behind schedule.
To Bottas:So you’re not safe at the moment, try to get forward. Strat two.
To Bottas:We are not safe.
To Bottas:So Leclerc missed the flag, you missed the flag. We will be boxing.
To Bottas:Watch your delta, keep delta negative.
To Bottas:So Sainz the only one that made flag.
To Bottas:You’re going to the grid in P3.
To Bottas:So with that DRS and the yellow flag could’ve been pole. But good job. Going to the grid.


Ferrari sent Charles Leclerc out in front of Sebastian Vettel and the pair were supposed to run in that order. However the situation became confused when Vettel passed his team mate at the exit of the Rettifilio.

To Leclerc:We go, we go.
To Leclerc:He leaves the pits, then Vettel passes him
We are tight with the gap. We have 10 second margin.
To Leclerc:We need to push, six seconds.
To Leclerc:It’s tight, you need to go, push.
To Leclerc:He passes Hulkenberg and Sainz, then slows behind Vettel and is re-passed by Sainz
Three seconds margin, you need to push.
To Leclerc:You need to push. Zero margin. You need to push. With a normal out-lap.
To Leclerc:Zero margin.
To Leclerc:Zero margin. Zero margin.
To Leclerc:And you can overtake Sebastian. Overtake Sebastian.
To Leclerc:One second margin.
To Leclerc:Mode push for last corner. Push, push, push.
Leclerc:He crosses the line
Let me do the lap.
To Leclerc:You cannot do the lap. Chequered flag. You are P1. Slow button on.
Leclerc:What a mess. Pole position anyway guys. Thanks for everything. Sorry for the mess in the last lap but I believe there is not much more we could have done. Because the problem is that at the beginning of the lap the Renault and the McLaren just [went] in the middle of the track and went right and left and just stopped us completely from going quicker.
To Leclerc:Understood. Go to the grid. Congratulations and go to the grid.
Leclerc:What happened with Seb? Where is he?
To Leclerc:He is P4. You are P1, Hamilton P2, Bottas P3, Sebastian P4.
Leclerc:Fuck. Can I get out?
To Leclerc:The only one doing the one lap at the end was Sainz, no one else.


After passing Stroll and Hulkenberg, Vettel repeatedly asked why Leclerc hadn’t retaken his position in front of him. Leclerc eventually did so when he was advised, but only at the end of the lap. Ironically had Vettel pressed on in Sainz’s wake, he might have been able to set a time.

To Vettel:We are tight with timing.
Vettel:Tell Charles to go.
To Vettel:He passes Leclerc, then shakes his fist at Sainz and Hulkenberg ahead, then backs off
Need to push now.
Vettel:Tell him to come in front, then.
Vettel:How much margin we have?
To Vettel:Zero margin at the moment. It’s a normal out so we say to Charles to come.
Vettel:How much margin?
To Vettel:Zero margin.
To Vettel:Leclerc passes him
Three seconds. Push, push.
Vettel:He crosses the line
Thank you, thank you.
Vettel:Anyway the car was good. I think we were the fastest today but not on the scoreboard.
To Vettel:OK good. You’re right. Go in the pit lane.
To Vettel:P zero.
Vettel:Copy, P zero.


The remaining drivers left the pits near the end of the queue and lost so much time early on they were never likely to start their laps on time.

Can I drop back?
You have eight seconds margin. Hold position if you can, stay in front of cars if you can. It will be very tight in the end.
You will be very tight on time. If you can gain a few places then do so.
Four seconds short, Alex, let’s go. You need to overtake cars. Four seconds short.
So overtake cars if you can. Overtake cars.
Five seconds short. You need to gain five seconds if you are to get a lap. You need to push on, Alex. B-bal 3. Push toggle.
You need to go. Recharge off.
So you’ve got the chequered flag. Recharge on and box Alex, box.
So Leclerc’s back out so it’s only Sainz doing a lap.
So follow instructions and you can leave the car in P1.


Lewis Hamilton suspected the hold-up had been Ferrari’s game plan all along. He also had a near miss with Hulkenberg.

Hamilton:How pushed for time are we?
To Hamilton:We are tight on time, We are tight.
To Hamilton:Looks like Hulk’s backing everyone up. We are tight.
To Hamilton:Cut-off’s on us.
To Hamilton:Hamilton has to back off as Hulkenberg pulls out from behind Sainz to follow the Ferraris.
If you can move up the field that’ll be good.
Hamilton:I’m trying.
To Hamilton:So we are behind schedule.
To Hamilton:He takes the chequered flag.
OK Lewis so that is it. Leclerc, Vettel missed the flag. Only Sainz has got the run.
Hamilton:They kept us all behind so we couldn’t get a lap.
To Hamilton:OK Lewis that still stands so P2. Valtteri P3.
To Hamilton:And you’ll be going to the grid.
To Hamilton:So to the grid.
Hamilton:That’s an interesting tactic to keep pole position. You just don’t need to do the lap.
To Hamilton:Yeah copy Lewis. Not the first time, mate.


Renault sent one car out first and the other last. A mystified Daniel Ricciardo couldn’t understand why he’d been unable to set a time.

To Ricciardo:You’ve got Hamilton in front of you. Vettel in front of him two seconds. You’re on the margin.
To Ricciardo:People bunching up there. Let’s not lose too much time Daniel, you’re at the back of the pack.
To Ricciardo:Right on a normal out-lap, not much margin.
To Ricciardo:Bottas in front of you. Bottas, Albon. You’re the last car so let’s make sure we don’t miss this one.
To Ricciardo:Go a bit faster, we’re a bit behind on a normal out-lap.
To Ricciardo:No time to slow down Daniel.
To Ricciardo:Don’t forget recharge off.
To Ricciardo:No spare time.
To Ricciardo:Let’s go for it, let’s go.
To Ricciardo:OK Daniel we missed the flag there, we missed the flag.
To Ricciardo:Only two cars made the flag. Recharge on and normal in-lap please.
To Ricciardo:Nobody in front of you made the cut-off. Only Sainz.
To Ricciardo:So Leclerc has bailed out, just Sainz going for a lap.
To Ricciardo:Sainz well down on you. That will be P5.
Ricciardo:OK. Yep. Bit of an anti-climax.
To Ricciardo:Boxing this lap.
Ricciardo:OK. I’m still a bit confused but anyway obviously the position’s good so well done.
To Ricciardo:Nice job, mate.
Ricciardo:A good day.
To Ricciardo:We’ll go over that, make sure that doesn’t happen again.
Ricciardo:We’ll be happy with that thank you.

2019 F1 season

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Author information

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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44 comments on “Analysis: Drivers’ team radio transcripts reveal how F1’s qualifying shambles unfolded”

  1. Nice summary, Keith, thanks for transcribing and putting this together.

    1. Yes, very interesting. Totally bizarre day. The F3 qualifying was even more ridiculous. Race Control actually red flagged the session after losing patience with everyone’s behaviour. It looks like not one F1 driver heeded the new rule to not slow and keep within the prescribed max lap time. Good that no-one got hurt (in F3) and now something will be done to clamp down on this nonsense, so in the end a good day for making motorsport a little safer.

      1. Having just watched footage from Hamilton’s car @shminks, I think he might have been the only one not slowing a lot, bc. he was told from the off that he had very little time, though I am not sure about Ricciardo, he was behind and stayed behind, mostly, he ended up far behind, so not sure what happened there. And Sainz timed it ok, though I wonder whether a cleaner outlap might have helped him make something useful out of the lap he managed, instead of keeping him solidly behind Hulk.

        Nice work @keithcollantine , as you maybe saw I also tried to make sense of what happened, but I mixed up at least BOT and HAM for part of the lap! Thanks for giving us context to go with what we saw flashing past in that frantic two minutes!

        1. What was ricciardo supposed to do there was like 10 cars ahead of him

          1. How can there be 10 cars ahead of him when there was only 9 cars racing, and there were cars behind him….think about it…

      2. @shimks ”It looks like not one F1 driver heeded the new rule to not slow and keep within the prescribed max lap time.”
        – That isn’t new actually, but instead, something that has been in place for a while already. Following FP2 of each GP-weekend, the FIA informs the maximum time for the remainder of the event within which drivers have to complete in and out-laps, and laps onto the grid before the race, so nothing new here.

  2. I really enjoyed this. I like a good comedy farse. Its like we’ve been saying it was gonna happen all season, yet somehow people are surprised.

    They complained after China, after Spa, but did any of them do anything about it?

    Same as Formula E all season. Why risk leaving it so late? What is worse? The tyres not being 100% perfect, not getting a slipstream, or not even starting the lap??
    I know what I would do!

    NASCAR and WTCC fined drivers for bringing the sport into disrepute when the same happened in those series. F1 is happy with reprimands.

    1. @eurobrun ”They complained after China, after Spa, but did any of them do anything about it?” – IKR.

  3. Leclerc could’ve finished his final run, though, as he had managed to cross the timing line before the time ran out as well.

    1. He could have taken pole even… ehm

  4. The quick fix would be to require a minimal speed that must be kept during the most of the outlap, and then the second part, and my favourite, cutting down on those overblown, pathetic and ridiculous teams of strategists both on and off the track that are slowly making monkeys out of their drivers. Kick them out of Maranello, kick them out of Brackley, otherwise these egoists won’t learn.

    1. No way they can kick the strategist out unless you bring back the ban on driver coaching

  5. Albon’s messages’ formatting is screwed up.

    1. Keith ran out of time ;)

  6. Hamilton: That’s an interesting tactic to keep pole position. You just don’t need to do the lap.

    That’s just classy HAM.

    1. Yea, Vettel was much more classy when he basically said the same; but his barb was aimed at Leclerc so he had to be.

    2. Yep, Ferrari and Leclerc had it right. Hamilton was very close on his banker lap, even with Rikkianon sliding off in front of him. Why give a Merc a slipstream? Vettel night have beat him to pole. Why give him a slipstream.

      Only disappointed the drivers seem to not have been briefed on why they where being held to the end anyway. The attitude from everyone should have been, ” I’m fine none of us make it…”.

      Leclerc got it perfect.

      1. Leclerc got it perfect.

        he screwed VET for sure. And still managed to keep the schoolboy look.

    3. To be fair @danseb @slotopen that’s how it must have seemed from that perspective with only a certain amount of information in the car. There wasn’t a lot of time before the interviews to analyse and put them right

  7. F1 isn’t about great drivers racing any more. It is a strategy game.
    Personally I enjoy it even though it isn’t honest racing.
    The strategists messed up today and I welcome that. It adds spice to the game.

    If you want to see pure honest racing go watch WRC – Touring Cars or the bikes.
    F1 is a team game and sometimes the teams get it wrong ;)

    1. F1 is a team game and sometimes the teams get it wrong

      @nullapax – and yet we have people asking why a driver is penalized for a pit error or engine penalty. :-)

  8. It might be a bit simplistic but to stop shenanigans like this,perhaps slipstreaming should be banned for quali.
    Have 2 or 3 cars on track at a time with good spacing between each.

  9. It’s just silly. Everybody wanted to use tow. It’s wrong to penalize (or reprimand) a racer out of a strategy call. If Vettel, Hamilton, Ricciardo or anybody else wanted to have a go, he could easily have gone out earlier. I don’t see the point of all this moaning. It’s just racing.
    Also, Vettel’s comment “Thank you! Thank you!” is priceless. He was the best performing driver today.

  10. I don’t see any problem with what happened.
    Odd as it was, it’s no different from when drivers had to start the race on the tyres they used in Q3 and will just put on the hards or mediums and cruise around just to set a time then start the race in 10th position.
    It needs no regulation because it doesn’t always happen and we should just take it as part of the imperfection of F1.
    Totally enjoyed it.

  11. Any chance of a Rate the Qualifying this weekend? I’d happily give that 10/10. Utterly hilarious watching the teams and drivers comically try to manipulate the session to their advantage.

  12. Great article accompanied with a great photo.

  13. F1 has finally morphed into NASCAR…

  14. The whole idea and fun part of Quali is to see who is on POLE!
    The real shambles is the group of grown ups who can’t find a solution to which there are many.
    Pole is not about slip streaming. Its about who plants their car best on track and gets the best result.
    Everything else is potluck and meaningless.
    I wasted 1 hr of my very precious time today.

    1. @macradar Actually pole is all about slip streaming, how else would Kimi be the record holder?

      1. @rethla, not to mention that it sounds like the poster above would have hated most of the races at Monza from the 50s through to the 70s, given that it was often all about slipstreaming other drivers.

    2. I wasted 1 hr of my very precious time today.

      plus another minute writing this comment :P

      1. Oh dear Coldfly!

        Anyway what I should have said is that a true pole position is one without any assistance of any kind be it slip streaming or otherwise.

        There now I have gone and wasted another one minute of my precious time!

  15. Follow the car, follow the car………lololol, its funny in fact.
    Great show and entertainment for F1.
    We need it sometimes. 😂

  16. It amazes me that these teams employ race engineers who are supposed to me masters of strategy but seem to be lacking basic game theory knowledge. All the teams waited until the last minute hoping to achieve the best possible outcome by getting both of their drivers into a slip stream and all ended up blocking each other by going for that outcome.
    A better team strategy would have been to go at about the 3 minutes remaining mark with their own two drivers and accept that only one of them is going to get the slip stream and leave all the others to all block each other.
    It was obvious this was going to happen and I was pulling my hair out at the 2.30 minutes remaining mark wondering why on earth the teams were not just going.

    1. Even at 3 minutes to go it was too late to get a better lap because you’d have just caught the train of cars blocking everyone through Ascari up to parabolica.

    2. Mercedes are at the far end. if they come out two thirds of the remaining teams would react; and in some cases come out in front. Mercedes; and to a certain extent, Ferrari are not going to get the space.

    3. I think this would have worked, but with more time. Ferrari or Merc would have been better off sending the lead car out on old tires just to tow the second car. If they can live with the results it reduces the number of cars running the last minute, increasing the chances a key rival will get gamed out of a hot lap.
      It also guarantees they can tow the lead car the last minute if they have too, with the 2nd driver already “paid” by the first. I think the only drawback is the second car sets it’s hot lap with 2 laps of fuel left, not sure.

  17. I’ll be honest, Nico is leaving Renault having been beaten by Ricciardo. He kept being told to push, but he didn’t. Ric gave him the tow at the begining of q3 but as a result of his actions he didn’t get to give Dan his tow. Not entirely sure what to think.

    1. Maybe the Hulk was slowing down to give Dan the tow, but Dan never slotted in behind him.

      1. @coldfly, given that Ricciardo was the last driver to leave the pits and therefore had multiple cars in front of him that were also slowing down and blocking much of the track, it would be rather difficult for Ricciardo to line up behind Hulkenberg in the first place.

  18. Everyone kept waiting a tow from other and no one started the carousel. First one would be screwed, everybody were well noticed. The only I could understand is CL being on temporary pole. But Charles betrayed Seb endeed, not offering him the tow and contravening previous agreement. CL actually got pole thanks to seb’s tow.
    Charles will be a champ, as he got the carrion attitude of last bigs (senna, shumi) and on the way of other actual great (max).

  19. Hehe nice. I hope Vettel is properly ticked off. Hope that he ups his game and repays Leclerc. Make it a nice team battle, sparks flying. I’ll bring popcorn

  20. Any chance you will be doing transcripts in 2020?

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