Top ten… Team radio moments (Video)

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Melbourne, 2010

Guest writer Tim Ferrone picks his ten favourite pit-to-car radio moments.

F1 coverage may be severely lagging behind in at least one significant way – the lack of a high-definition broadcast – but we’ve also enjoyed some changes for the better.

Gone are the static cameras and poor on screen graphics that plagued the presentation right through the ’70s and ’80s.

Best of all is the increasingly widespread use of pit-to-car radio during F1 races. Here are ten of the best moments it’s given F1 fans.

Today, the chances are that we will know of Sebastian Vettel’s tyre vibration, loss of downforce or traction problems, long before Ted Kravitz or Lee MacKenzie have tracked down said driver on their disgruntled stroll back through the pit lane.

We viewers (and rival teams, of course) are now largely welcome to ??peek? into the cockpit and pit lane conversations that flow throughout the course of an F1 weekend. And what a welcome addition it has been, especially now that all the teams have opened up their radios to be broadcast – something which only happened recently when Ferrari and McLaren finally gave their consent.

What we now know about the personalities of the key players in F1 is more informed than we had before radio broadcasts. All of the stereotypes and perceived perceptions of drivers would still have been there, but not painted in such fine detail for us F1 fans to pick-apart and analyse.

Of course, much of what is transmitted between parties is dull, or predominantly technical and so needs editing prior to broadcast; but it’s worth the wait because just every now and then we get a truly revealing moment. The fact that the teams appear to have embraced it is a pleasant surprise when you consider the competitive edge or PR embarrassments that are likely to result.

We can assume that someone at Formula One Management decides which transmissions are suitable for broadcast. Yet how closely are these analysed for likelihood of disadvantaging one competitor in favour of another by having the information made public?

In one interesting case at Istanbul this year the real extent of the goings-on at McLaren did not become apparent until days after the race when new excerpts from the radio transmission appeared on FOM’s website. What other juicy details have been captured but never revealed?

The days of scrambling transmissions to prevent one team from ??spying? on another?s activities in seeking a competitive edge are gone. F1 communication is pretty public in 2010, and I for one, I?m quite happy for it.

With that in mind, here are ten great moment from F1 pit-to-car radio I’ve picked. It’s by no means exhaustive, so please point out any more I could or should have included in the comments.

“Sorry mate, I vomited”

Mark Webber, 2007 Japanese Grand Prix, Fuji Speedway

When Nelson Piquet threw up while racing at Las Vegas in 1981 en route to winning his first world championship, the lack of team radio meant we were spared hearing it happen. But that’s not the case any longer.

Mark Webber was suffering from food poisoning during the 2007 Japanese Grand Prix and threw up while driving behind the safety car. Thankfully we didn?t hear too much of the moment itself, but the raw quality of his message back to the pits just moments after, conveys how he was feeling in a way that is quite graphic enough.

The mind boggles at how one can vomit in a crash helmet and still breathe, let alone keep driving, and talk on the radio.

Despite his condition he worked his way up to second place until he was later taken out of the race by – who else – Sebastian Vettel.

“Fricking terrible idea!”

Lewis Hamilton, 2010 Australian Grand Prix, Melbourne

Lewis Hamilton had stormed through the field in Melbourne to hold third place. But, unsure of whether his tyres would last, and expecting other drivers behind him to pit for fresh rubber, McLaren called Hamilton into the pits.

Yet within five laps it was apparent that they?d made an error. Not only were the drivers who?d leap-frogged him not pitting, but their lap times were consistent enough to mean that Hamilton?s chance of catching and overtaking were slim.

Hamilton was distinctly unimpressed in his response, issued while he lapped the Albert Park track at a furious pace to recover the time lost to the two Ferraris. Not only did he demand to know why they had brought him in, but also whose decision it had been to do so.

Call it petulance, call it ambition, this mid-race compulsion to play the blame game momentarily revealed the raw frustration of the man normally quick to praise his team’s effort when out of the car.

“R??ikk??nen, what a ******* idiot”

Juan Pablo Montoya, 2002 Belgian Grand Prix, Spa-Francorchamps

On a hot lap of Spa-Francorchamps that he felt was certain to better his previous effort, Juan Pablo Montoya was approaching the final bus stop chicane.

Unfortunately for the Williams driver his future team mate Kimi R??ikk??nen failed to allow him to pass unimpeded.

Montoya?s fury was impossible to miss in his expletive-ridden reaction.

Felipe baby, stay cool

Rob Smedley, 2009 Malaysian Grand Prix, Sepang International Circuit

It’s not just drivers who are becoming more known by F1 fans these days. Even their engineers are coming to the fore, and the ebullient character of Ferrari?s Rob Smedley, and his affectionate relationship with Felipe Massa, surely stands him out as the pick of the bunch.

On many occasions we’re heard him give specific instruction to Massa on where to find more time during a lap, and urge him on to overtake other cars. But his most infamous comment was made to Massa in Sepang when responding to what he felt was an air of panic inside the cockpit.

It’s hard to imagine this exchange occurring between any other driver-engineer combination.

“I’m having lots of fun”

David Coulthard, 2007 Canadian Grand Prix, Montreal

In David Coulthard?s penultimate season in F1 with then mid-fielders Red Bull, his engineer asked him the apparently straight-forward question ??how is the car??

Coutlhard?s reply was not positive: “Not good, it doesn?t kerb, it doesn?t turn, there’s no traction.” There then followed a brief pause, before he continued: “Apart from that its great, I?m having lots of fun!”

“We are the champions”

Jenson Button, 2009 Brazilian Grand Prix, Interlagos

Jenson Button crossed the line in fifth place in last year’s Brazililan Grand Prix, enough to secure him the F1 driver?s crown.

Understandably, Button appears to be paying little notice to the instruction to “switch his engine to mix one and pick up rubber”, preferring instead to croon a rendition of “We Are The Champions” to his crew instead, as the realisation that he has just been crowned world champion begins to dawn on him.

Jenson always comes across as a pretty open bloke on camera, but its priceless to hear this moment of inhibition as a man achieves his lifetime?s ambition.

“Oh dear…”

Juan Pablo Montoya, 2001 Austrian Grand Prix, A1-Ring

If Juan Pablo Montoya hadn’t strode off to NASCAR four years ago this top ten might feature more gems from the mouth of the straight-talking Colombian.

There’s nothing unusual about a driver being asked to pit, but in this instance, at least part of the reason seems to be that the crew in question have spotted a deer on track, and understandably would prefer it if their expensive F1 toy and the local wildlife can avoid a coming together.

But Montoya’s joking response “oh dear” causes some confusion, leading to a bizarre moment where the driver is warned to look out for “a horse with horns”.

“Let’s just do it by the book”

Lewis Hamilton, 2009 Australian Grand Prix, Melbourne

One of the most notorious episodes involving team radio in recent years.

McLaren’s confusion over whether or not Hamilton was allowed to keep the position he’d taken off Jarno Trulli was understandable.

But their efforts to deny it to the stewards despite their communications being recorded – and later published – were not.

“Don?t even think about it”

Sebastian Vettel and Christian Horner, 2010 Canadian Grand Prix, Montreal

Vettel provided us with two interesting team radio moments in the Canadian Grand Prix this year. The first was his engineer breaking the news to him that, no, strategy was not going to win him this race, he was actually going to have to pass the cars in front of him.

Later Vettel appeared to get a little bored sitting in fifth so instead he asked his pit crew for the fastest lap set so far in the race, with an eye on beating it.

Wary of tyres and a dodgy gearbox team principal Christian Horner was quick to assert his authority, heading off Vettel before he can complete his own thought by warning: “Don?t even think about it”.

“Give Corinna a big kiss for me”

Michael Schumacher, 2000 Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka

Stereotypes tell us Germans are unemotional – an idea Michael Schumacher seldom contradicts. But his tears after the Italian Grand Prix in 2000 were a clear exception and a few weeks later we saw another, albeit more positive.

Just listen to the unadulterated joy and relief in Schumacher?s voice as he is crowned Ferrari?s first world champion in two decades and the massive burden of expectation placed on both him and the team is lifted from his shoulders.

Have you got any other favourite F1 pit-to-car radio moments? Are there any from other racing series you’d like to share? Post them in the comments.

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117 comments on Top ten… Team radio moments (Video)

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  1. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 17th July 2010, 9:06

    You’ve got to love JPM’s maniacal giggling at the deer comment.

    • James_mc (@james_mc) said on 17th July 2010, 10:20

      “Oh Deer” is a classic! :-D

      • Oli said on 17th July 2010, 11:28

        It would be a bit deer if he had hit the horse
        With horns

        • Casanova said on 17th July 2010, 13:44

          Makes a good haiku…

        • BasCB (@bascb) said on 17th July 2010, 14:11

          Nice one Oli !

          I am sure the team fear, that Montoya would have deered to drive on

          • Tim Ferrone said on 18th July 2010, 18:48

            Thanks everyone for the additional suggestions – there are some crackers in there; all of which add weight to the idea of conveying a greater human element to such a technical sport. I think the beauty of the top tens idea is as much in the thoughts and comments provoked as the article itself.

            Just to clear up one recurring theme, I wrote the piece a few weeks back, hence some great recent transmissions (particularly Mr Webber at Silverstone) not being included.

            Many thanks to Keith for encouraging guest writers, and then again for publishing.

  2. Kate said on 17th July 2010, 9:24

    I thought it was Vettel’s engineer who said “don’t even think about it”? I know his radio had broken by then but I think he must have borrowed Horner’s because I’m certain it was him.

    Good selection, the only one I can think of that really should be here is Buemi’s “in ze gravel….nooooooo” one from China (?) last year.

    Webber’s first victory radio was awesome too but you’ve already got a couple of celebration ones in there.

    I think Felipe Baby will be the one that people will still remember 10 years from now!

    • Correct, it was Rocky, his radio fixed by then, not Horner, who said “don’t even think about it”

      I also enjoyed his “we don’t need this” trying to get a brakeless Vettel to the line in Spain.

      Guillaume “Rocky” Rocquelin has one of my favorite radio voices.

  3. Macca (@macca) said on 17th July 2010, 9:27

    I can’t belive you have left out Webbers victory celebration at Germany last year.

    • Stealthman said on 17th July 2010, 10:43

      Yes, I may be a bit patriotic but that deserves to be on this list… :)

    • Lachie said on 17th July 2010, 11:23

      Definitely. If you want unbridled exuberance from a driver it’s that or nothing.

    • Mal Ross said on 25th November 2010, 12:53

      Amen to that. Best thing I’ve heard over the radio in years; maybe ever. :)

      Mind you, Vettel crying like a little girl at Abu Dhabi this year was amusing in its own way too. ;)

  4. Sean Newman said on 17th July 2010, 9:36

    There’s no doubt F1 TV coverage has improved imeasurably over the years but there is always room for improvement. I loved those static cameras, those that didn’t pan. When used carefully they really used to convey a sense of speed that is is sometimes hard to see these days.
    As for the graphics yes technically they are much better but they seem to be more and more invasive. Martin Brundle commented during the commentary of the Britsh GP that when the in car footage is shown there is an annoying graphic just where the driver (and the viewers) should be looking. Also if you have a widescreen TV the left hand column of graphics is almost a third of the way across the screen! I suppose when we finally get a HD feed it will be excusively widescreen and this will be sorted out.
    My advice to anyone is have a look at the indycar graphics and camera work. There may be less cameras and the graphics may have less quaility but the planning and thought in the way are used is far superior.
    Oh and one last thing about the quality of the broadcasts…get rid of Johnathan Legard…bring in Charlie Cox! He might bring back the sort of excitement we had in Marray’s day.

    • Charlie said on 17th July 2010, 11:07

      The Martin Brundle / British GP comment was more down to the fact that for some reason the in car camera was tilted down for some reason, so the horizon and focus point for the racing line was right under the lap counter graphic. This was a one-off mistake, and on all the other in car camera shots at that race (and this season) that wasn’t a problem.

      • damonsmedley said on 17th July 2010, 13:21

        Was it on Alguersauri’s car? Because there seems to be one dud onboard camera circulating at the moment and one driver at each race will draw the short straw and have it mounted to their roll-over hoop. I think Jaime was the unlucky one on this occasion. They (FOM) really need to get some more cameras so every car can have one.

    • Mike said on 17th July 2010, 20:19

      What about the people who have normal tvs? That might want to see the on screen graphics as well. Btw, where I am, they are semi-cut off anyway…

  5. Great collection, but I would have felt the original rendition of “We are the Champions” by Alonso in 05 would have trumped Button’s.

    • Agreed. Button’s was a rather lousy imitation and meant so much less than Alonso’s, after ending years of Ferrari dominance.

      Two comments I thought should have made the cut were Alonso’s “I don’t want to know” and Webber’s “Not bad for the number two driver”, but whether that is because of how recent they are I don’t know. But for my money, I don’t think anything will ever beat “Felipe baby, stay cool” !

  6. Still these days I miss Haikkinen. The respect that both Michael & Mika had between them both on & off the track were sweet.I hope some day I be able to see some of the races they did in the tail end of 90’s

  7. ciaran said on 17th July 2010, 9:41

    What about Rubens Barrichello in Australia 2006 when he was ”struggling like a pig”
    Here’s the clip
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B59B5p7KrrM

  8. Ben said on 17th July 2010, 9:43

    I think the David Coulthard team radio was
    “Doesn’t turn, doesn’t stop, no traction.”

  9. Jarno Trulli in Turkey 2008 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zxNnyfSLTk

    Rubens Barrichello in Turkey 2007 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C9GuXsyqWD8

  10. Steph90 (@steph90) said on 17th July 2010, 10:14

    Button’s is one of the best for really showing the moment and victory but honestly, he sounds terrible.

    The Montoya ones are my favourites esp the ‘oh deer’ one. I ove JPM giggling away and his engineer explaining what a deer actually was. Mark should have received a medal for sheer grit of sticking with that race. Felipe and Rob show what a great relationship they have which is a joy and Schumi shows he isn’t just a robot. Too many greats.

    I love this article Tim Ferrone. It was a great idea and shows the rare side of F1 which is free from PR and is incredibly human. This, teammate crashes and the weirdest retirements are my favourites.

    One I’ve been bemused by was in 09 the Malaysian GP where it was a dry track and Kimi had been out on wets for ages so the tyres were wrecked and he asked where the rain was. That’s when I thought the year had to get better for Ferrari and it really didn’t.

  11. James_mc (@james_mc) said on 17th July 2010, 10:19

    I found Hamilton cutting off mid-sentence in Barcelona so shout “arrgh s**t!” when his wheel rim failed quite amusing!

  12. Maciek said on 17th July 2010, 10:23

    Gotta say that Button’s “We are the champions” only made me groan and roll my eyes.

    I think that Webber’s most recent and much discussed (“not bad for a number two driver”) definitely deserves to be there.

    Another one would be Barrichello at Ferrari not reacting quickly enough to Jean Todt’s instruction to let Schumacher pass “for the championship” – though it’s vague and I don’t remember which race it was.

    Montoya gets the entertainment vote, no question.

  13. Nice selection, I think years from know last weeks ”not too bad for no. 2 driver” will also be remembered.

    I know it was team mates involved in a radio transmission, Toyota maybe when racing engineer said: other team driver is behind you and he is saying he is 2s faster then you and wants you to let him through. The answer was – don’t make me laugh.

  14. Dan Thorn (@dan-thorn) said on 17th July 2010, 10:30

    At the 2005 Bahrain GP I remember hearing Fisi describe the car as “F*****G S**T”.

    Needless to say, radio transmissions were no longer broadcast live from this point.

    • That would be correct. I think the team were on the radio telling him to push, and he came back with “Yeah, but it’s f*****g s**t.”

  15. PushTheButton said on 17th July 2010, 10:37

    What about Mark Webber in Germany last year?

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