‘It’s like being in driving school’: Helmut Marko calls for rule change

The radio rule change in 2016 did not exactly go to plan.

Red Bull adviser Dr Helmut Marko believes that race engineers are making life too easy for their drivers at the moment, and he has called for the regulations to be altered.

During the race, there are dozens of radio messages exchanged between drivers, engineers and team principals that entail all sorts of different things.

The engineers can tell their drivers to switch settings on the wheel, notify them of traffic, give them information on where they are losing time compared to other drivers, and much more.

The FIA tried to limit the amount of information teams could give to their drivers over the radio in 2016, and it caused a lot of confusion.

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Sir Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen spent large periods of the European Grand Prix trying to figure out how to fix certain issues on the car, and were unable to receive confirmation from their engineers as to whether they were changing the right settings.

Nico Rosberg was then penalised in Silverstone that year when his engineer, Tony Ross, told him what settings to change when he had a gearbox issue, and suggested shifting through seventh gear, which was considered driver coaching.

However, Jenson Button was given a penalty in Hungary that year for changing a brake setting that, if left unchecked, could potentially have posed a safety risk, so communications for that reason were still allowed, but he was punished anyway.

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In the end, that rule was abandoned, and engineers once again have the freedom to tell their drivers whatever they want, but Dr Marko has indicated that the radio should be a one-way system.

“It’s partly like being in driving school, you could limit it so that it only goes in one direction, that you only let the driver do it, but don’t let him get technical support,” he said.

“It’s like: ‘You lose five meters in turn ten when braking and in turn three the other driver takes it a little more slowly.’

“So a driver gets all this information and that makes it easier for him.”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda have become known for their explosive team radio messages to their team, and Dr Marko has given the young Japanese a psychologist to work with in a bid to calm him down and improve his focus.