We can fight for a podium, says Alonso

Fernando Alonso qualified in a familiar fifth place in Singapore, but the Ferrari star is in upbeat mood since in terms of time he was much closer to the front than usual – and he is confident of enjoying a good race.

Alonso, who was second in Q1 and third in Q3, was only 0.226s from pole man Lewis Hamilton in the final session.

“Normally in qualifying we lose ground,” he said. “But it didn’t happen today, we remained competitive also qualifying, two-tenths from pole position, which is quite a big news for us. I’m very happy, and hopefully tomorrow we have an opportunity to race with the leaders, something we are not used to do this year.”

Despite retiring in the last race Alonso is not worried about reliability: “No, not really. Obviously problems are always there, and we are at the limit in many things. But tomorrow is a demanding race, here in Singapore for the mechanical side it’s quite demanding, so we need to make sure we cross that line. If we do that I think the podium’s possible, because we have the pace, we have probably the good tyre degradation. If we do a good start, good strategy, we can be there.”

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Charlie Whiting: “We believe a driver should drive the car alone and unaided…”

DSC04016The FIA’s Charlie Whiting has emphasised that the climbdown on radio restrictions was done in the interests of fairness, because some teams would be more affected than others by a short term change.

For this year the FIA will focus on driver coaching, and postpone restrictions on techncial discussions until next year.

The main problem is that teams use one of two dashboards, one of which carries less information than the other. The teams affected can ‘upgrade’ for 2015.

“We believe a driver should drive the car alone and unaided,” said Whiting when explaining the restrictions. “He shouldn’t be told that he’s going a bit too deep into this corner, should take a tighter apex on that corner. It’s for him to decide, not for his team to tell him how he’s comparing to his team mate, for example, so that’s the basis of it.

“It was becoming apparent that more or more was being done for the drivers, and quite simply that is at odds with article 20.1 of the regulations. We felt that this should extend to both car performance and driver performance related parameters, but when one looks into it in more detail it became quite clear that some teams will be at a disadvantage compared to the others, not just in their know how or ability to react in the short term, but also with hardware choices that were made a year ago, for example.

“I think you are familiar with the two types of dashboard that are available to the teams, one would simply show a great deal more than the other. In the interest of fairness we felt with the benefit of hindsight it would be have been better to introduce it in two stages, which is what we’ve done.

“The plan is to make it more far-reaching, to take in the technical elements of it as well, the technical assistance that drivers are getting about the performance of the car as well. It will inevitably be more complex, but I think that is how the sport is. I think it is going to be very hard to make it simpler, unless one was to remove radios from the car. Very simple. But I think that might not be very well received.”

Whiting said that eight people are listening to radio when the cars are running. Regarding possible penalties he said: “It’s not for me to say what the penalty will be, because it’s a matter for the stewards of course.

“What I would do is report to the stewards a possible contravention of Article 20.1, who would then decide what the penalty would be. I think it would have to be a sporting penalty, as opposed to a monetary one. If it happened it might be, I emphasise might be, a 5s time penalty for example if it happened in practice it might be a grid position or something like that.”


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FIA switches radio ban focus to driver ‘coaching’

As expected Thursday’s meeting of the sporting regulations group has led to an easing of the restrictions given by the FIA to the teams earlier is week.

The meeting, which covered other future rules as well, gave the 11 team managers a chance to air their views to Charlie Whiting.

It was agreed that the restrictions on technical conversation and ‘routine’ running of the cars would be difficult to implement at such short notice, so the focus has moved to any chat which directly relates to driver performance, such as advice on gears, lines, and braking points, and comparisons with other drivers.

That still addresses the main reason for the ban, which was to counter the widespread feeling that modern drivers get too much help.

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Lewis Hamilton on radio ban: “It’s like going back to karting days…”

Lewis Hamilton says he’s looking forward to the radio restrictions that will be imposed from this weekend, but he stopped short of saying that he sees the change as a personal advantage for him.

“On one side over my F1 career it’s been a real battle making sure you say the right things on the radio,” said Hamilton. “And I’ve not always got it right, so on one side I think it’s a great thing. But the way F1 has gone, it’s really been an assistance. We still have to do the job out there, we just get help in terms of guidance. But it feels like I’m going back to karting days, which I like.”

In a reference to information being available between the two Mercedes drivers he said: “In terms of sharing the settings an individual has on their steering, or in their braking, or cornering and those kids of things, I’m quite happy that that disappears.”

However he admitted that information can be valuable.

“When you’re out there, if you don’t have any radio communication, you really feel that you’re on your own. You always want to improve, and you’re not sure… You’re trying to do all you can, and sometimes you’re not always improving, and sometimes you go slower. So you kind of go, where is that time? That’s where really the team helps, ‘You’re down in sector one and up in sector three.’

“Then you know, ‘Sector one, there’s four corners there, it’s going to be somewhere there,’ which helps a lot. But of course as F1 goes on, there’s more and more detail you can get into, diff map setting for Turn 8, or brake balance, there’s all these different things that you can start taking advantage of. It’s neat that kind of gets chucked out. It’s going to be hard, because there are going to be a lot of things such as brakes overhanging, using too much fuel those kind of things, that could come into play. Fortunately fuel-wise I’ve never had a problem, so it should be good.”

“I’m really excited to see whether we can tackle it. It’s almost like putting more balls in the air for us to catch, and we’re already catching quite a lot.”

Asked by this writer if he felt he could cope better with less information – and might thus have an advantage over other drivers – he said: “I don’t feel that… I have absolutely no idea whether it’s going to be better for me or worse for me. After the race I will know whether the other car did better than me, and I’ll just try to work on it and do better for next time. The hope is that you handle it the best, and you get the most out of it, and that’s going to be the challenge.”

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F1’s radio ban won’t change anything, say drivers

The consensus among the drivers is that the new FIA restrictions on radio usage will not have a major impact.

While acknowledging that they would now be busier, in that they will take more responsibility for things like monitoring fuel usage, they don’t expect it to affect performance.

“I don’t expect it to have a huge impact on the race itself and the weekend preparations,” said Fernando Alonso. “In our case at Ferrari we never used the radio for any performance reasons, or something like that, just to control temperatures, to talk about traffic, decide strategy, so as I said it won’t have a big impact. The other teams, I don’t know exactly how they use the radio. Talking about the general rule itself, there’s a lot of media attention, like the FRIC ban, but then the final impact on the race results was not anything special, and I think here it will be similar.”

“Well, obviously we don’t speak a lot on the radio in my case usually, when there are no issues,” said Kimi Raikkonen. “But obviously it might get quite complicated if there are some problems with the car, and you have to change certain things to try to finish the race. I don’t know how the rule goes at those times. Obviously it makes it more complicated for us, but it’s part of the game so it’s OK.”

“I don’t think it’s ideal that they, suddenly from one race to another, they change it dramatically that you cannot get certain calls,” said Sergio Perez. “But it doesn’t influence it much. I don’t see it as a big deal, it’s something that we as drivers need to get more used to. We will have, definitely, more information and we’re going to be a bit more busy throughout the race to basically try to keep everything under control – fuel loads and engine modes, all that kind of stuff. I don’t see a problem to get used to, it’s just a dramatic change from the last race to this one.”
“I don’t mind it,” said Jean-Eric Vergne. “I think it will be more or less the same as before. I like to do things by my own and many times this year I changed the settings before my engineer told me, so yeah, I will be a bit more lonely on the radio – but it should be fine.”

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Power unit grid penalties – will Alonso or Vettel be next?

Several drivers face an inevitable penalty

Several drivers face an inevitable penalty

In Italy Daniil Kvyat became the first driver to take a 10-place grid penalty for using a sixth power unit element, in his case an ICE, or internal combustion engine.

The Russian’s troubles are not over, as he will now face a five-place penalty as soon as he uses a sixth example of any other element, and he will get 10 places if uses a seventh ICE.

Meanwhile with six races to go (including Singapore) several other drivers are on the bubble, and face an inevitable penalty. Here’s the full list of those who have reached five, listed in race number order:

Sebastian Vettel: ICE

Fernando Alonso: ICE, CE

Kimi Raikkonen: ICE, MGU-H, CE

Romain Grosjean: TC

Pastor Maldonado: ICE, TC, MGU-K, MGU-H

Adrian Sutil: ICE, TC, MGU-H

Esteban Gutierrez: CE

Jean-Eric Vergne: MGU-K

Daniil Kvyat: ICE (6), MGU-K (5)

Jules Bianchi: ICE, TC, MGU-H, CE

Max Chilton: ICE, TC, MGU-H


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Teams worried that radio ban will make starts difficult

The F1 teams are still coming to terms with the full meaning of the FIA clampdown on radio transmissions, after Charlie Whiting issued more details today (see previous story).

The subject will be discussed further at a meeting of the semi-formal sporting regulations committee – the 11 team managers and the FIA – in Singapore on Thursday. That has been scheduled in addition to the regular Thursday team managers’ meeting, where topical issues are usually discussed.

One area which has given teams particular cause for concern is that the ban covers complex pre-race procedures. The FIA has specifically targeted discussion of such areas as “start maps related to clutch position, for race start and pit stops,” “information on clutch maps or settings, eg bite point,”, and “burn-outs prior to race starts.” Usually there is a lot of radio traffic as the drivers head to the grid.

“The really big headache is the parade lap,” one insider told this writer. “Engine, tyres, brakes and clutch management during this lap require a lot of engineering input if the car is going to arrive on the grid in optimal condition.

“The driver workload during this time is huge. Driver intelligence doesn’t even come into play, as the settings are all ‘calculated’ live during the lap. At best we will end up with some seriously botched starts, and at worst a stall on the grid. It potentially mixes it up a bit if it’s the former. But the latter has the potential for things to go really seriously wrong.

“I think we are all happy to stop ‘coaching’ the driver but this is a much bigger step.”


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