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SINGAPORE (AP) — Formula One has significantly altered its proposed ban on pit-car radio transmissions after teams raised concerns, with information on car performance allowed for the rest of the season.
F1 initially proposed drastic rules to prevent most radio messages due to fan disquiet that it was the teams rather than drivers that were effectively controlling the cars, with drivers altering settings at team behest and following instructions on fuel, tire and brake use.
The new rules were to have started at the Singapore Grand Prix this weekend, but following a meeting between the teams and the FIA late Thursday, the ban on car-performance information will be put off until 2015.
However, driver coaching messages via radio will be banned immediately. The includes advice on gear selection and braking points at corners, car set-up for particular parts of the track, racing lines, speed and acceleration rates, and how and when to use the drag-reduction system.
Part of the rationale for the dilution of the rule was that the ban would have had an uneven impact on teams. Teams that have high-tech steering wheels with enhanced data telemetry would be more able than others to provide drivers with information on car performance. Data telemetry is not part of the ban, only radio transmissions.
"It became quite clear some teams would be at a serious disadvantage compared to others," FIA race director Charlie Whiting said.
"With the benefit of hindsight, it would have been better to introduce it in two stages, and that is what we are doing now."
A delay until 2015 on car-performance messaging will give teams more time to prepare their telemetry, and also train drivers how to interpret it so they can make the requisite adjustments themselves in the absence of any instruction from the team.
F1 commercial chief Bernie Ecclestone hinted that telemetry, too, might be banned to make the racing more pure, but Whiting said the radio ban was "not planned as a step in that direction at all — it has not been discussed."
During practice sessions, qualifying and races, there are an average of eight officials listening to team radio transmissions, and they will pass on to race stewards any messages which they think may have breached the rules.
Any breaches upheld by stewards will be subject to 'sporting' penalties rather than fines. That would mean relegation down the starting grid if breaches occur in qualifying, or stop-go and drive-through penalties during the race.
Whiting acknowledged the difficulties of policing the breaches, with teams likely to try to skirt the rule using codes.
"It's going to be very hard to make it simple, unless one was to remove radios from the cars, but that might not be well received," Whiting said.
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