Esteban Ocon, Alpine, Imola, 2021

“Serious” radio and data system failure left F1 teams “blind on the pit wall”

2021 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix

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Formula 1 teams were left “blind” when a major systems failure struck during the first practice session.

Television viewers were also affected by the fault, which left them briefly without live pictures from the circuit, and limited coverage during the rest of the first practice session at Imola.

“Everybody had issues,” Haas team principal Guenther Steiner confirmed. “I think it was communicated quite quickly that everybody’s radio wasn’t working.”

The problems extended to the teams’ GPS data, which combined with their radio problems meant they couldn’t warn drivers when a quicker car was about to catch them.

“Everybody knew that nobody could see, so even the people which were behind cars knew that the guy in front of him didn’t get advice, so that helped a little bit,” Steiner added. “But it shows how important it is to have this communication.”

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Aston Martin CEO Otmar Szafnauer admitted the problem had taken them by surprise. “Until you lose that kind of data I think you don’t realise how much you rely on it,” he said.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Imola, 2021
Ferrari had to abandon one of Leclerc’s runs
“It was like we were blind at the pit wall. Even driver communication wasn’t working and it made things much more difficult.”

The glitch contributed to a collision between Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon, the stewards confirmed. Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto said the loss of data and communication was “a big problem” for his team.

“Communicating with drivers from the pits is always very important for safety, functionality, reliability,” he said. “It’s not only performance it is really making sure that everything is running smoothly.”

“For us it was very difficult, especially Charles [Leclerc], no way of communicating to him,” Binotto added.

“We aborted the first run because we had a small issue. It’s difficult because you cannot give him advice on car following, so that means there can be impeding situations which are not [desirable] at all, but very difficult for the drivers as well to know who is coming behind.”

Ferrari had to take extra caution with their car, Binotto explained, as at this early stage in the season teams are still running parts in practice which will be used during the race.

“We are running our race power unit because the power units are the ones we fit in Bahrain and are used for the entire weekend,” he said. “So if you’ve got any problems, you don’t know how to react and to communicate. So those types of problems are serious.”

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2021 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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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8 comments on ““Serious” radio and data system failure left F1 teams “blind on the pit wall””

  1. I know I keep banging on about the safety aspect, but it’s a good job that none of the cars had any imminent component failures for the teams to not be able to warn their drivers about. A high speed failure avoidable with radio comms? Would have been a little uncomfortable for Masi to say the least.

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  2. We’re told they can’t reduce team to car radio because of safety reasons and yet they let them drive around without radio or GPS…? Seems a bit odd.

    1. @petebaldwin No one deliberately switched off radio and GPS data universally. The FP1 coverage issues had a reason.

      1. @jerejj Deliberate or not it’s a conscious decision by Masi to allow the drivers to circulate without radio comms, despite the inherent increase in safety risks (imagine a high-speed collision due to a component failure that a team could not warn its driver about). Yet another example of poor leadership by the lead safety delegate.

        1. Yeah, this is yet another case of Masi playing chance – we all know the drivers are (for the most part) sensible and the teams can relay very important messages via the pit boards if needs be, but if there is a regulation in place that says communication between pitwall and driver must be maintained for safety reasons, enforce it when something goes wrong.

    2. But it proves that it can be done ;)
      Radio ban please. It’s time to get F1 drivers driving alone and unaided at all times.

        1. How many, in that 1 hour session? 1 (very) minor contact?
          I’d suggest that was more about drivers not paying attention and driving too slowly.

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