As if Formula One’s prohibition on radio instructions wasn’t unpopular enough already, a penalty for violating that radio ban was given to one of the series’ most beloved drivers at the Hungarian Grand Prix: Jenson Button. That was the end of that ban. Today, the F1 Strategy Group voted to kill off the ban for good.
The ban was meant to discourage teams from telling drivers how to drive the cars, but it was too broad. As enforced at the Hungaroring, drivers were required to come into the pits to address any major problems on the car. Thus, instructions on how to safely drive into the pits in the case of a major systems failure invoked a nonsense garbage penalty.
Button experienced a a lack of hydraulic brake pressure, which caused the brake pedal of his No. 22 McLaren to go straight to the floor. When McLaren told him that it was a sensor failure and instructed him how to get into the pits safely without a properly functioning brake pedal, F1 stewards gave him a drive-through penalty since it involved changing a setting on the steering wheel.
The failure had already dropped him to last place, and some doubt that he would have been able to make it back had he not changed that setting at his team’s request.
Button wasn’t too happy with the whole ordeal, as he explained to Autosport:
[W]hen it’s a safety concern with the brake pedal going to the floor, you shouldn’t be penalized for stopping an accident, and that’s what we did today.
We’re told that if you’re told you have a problem you have to pit, and I’m guessing you have to pit earlier than we did.
When you have a power unit that is so complex, a driver can’t figure everything himself and when your brake pedal goes to the floor, I think of that as a safety concern.
I think it’s a joke really. Stopping an incident should be praised, not penalized.
Fortunately, this tightening of F1's radio ban was so egregiously stupid that even the Strategy Group (which consists of six major F1 teams, Jean Todt for the FIA and Bernie Ecclestone for Formula One Management) could see that it had to go—and they’re not exactly a group known for good decisions. The Strategy Group scrapped the radio ban during today’s meeting at Geneva, reports Autosport.
Effective immediately, drivers and teams will be able to say whatever during the course of the race. There will still be restrictions no information given during the formation lap as well as information related to engine mapping and clutch bite points for the start of the race, Autosport explains, but otherwise, it’s open season.
Ecclestone even admitted to Autosport that it was “not good for the show” to have so little radio chatter to air during the broadcast. He should’ve gone a bit farther with that line of thinking, though. Hard to follow garbage penalties after a car fails and drops into last place anyway aren’t fun to watch, either. It’s adding insult to injury at that point.