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)

  1. Stealthman said on 17th July 2010, 10:42

    “But his tears after the Italian Grand Prix in 2000 were a clear exception[...]”

    I do believe it’s the Japanese GP… ;)

    • glue (@glue) said on 17th July 2010, 10:45

      he said “and a few weeks later [Japanese GP] we saw another, albeit more positive.”..he was talking about the press conference at the Italian GP..41 wins, Ayrton Senna

  2. Dave said on 17th July 2010, 10:44

    I’m surprised this one hasn’t been brought up, possibly the most infamous example:

    (OK, its not strictly from the team radio feed, but it was said to his driver over the radio)

    • Well if you include that one, why not the radio order for Hakkinen to pit while comfortably leading the 1998 Australian GP. He lost the lead, but unfortunately the order didn’t come from the team, someone was using a radio scanner.
      Fortunately Coulthard was ordered to let Hakkinen back past, and the situation was cleared up somewhat.

  3. Namesis said on 17th July 2010, 10:49

    I so love jpm, at least he let loose with passion.

  4. Alex said on 17th July 2010, 10:51

    Does anyone have a link to Webber’s “Britney’s in the wall” from the ’06 Brazilian grandprix?

    • Stubie said on 17th July 2010, 12:12

      that’s the one I am looking for!!

      “I don’t think so mate, Britney’s in the wall”
      “Not bad for a number 2 driver”
      and a couple other priceless gems from Webber are some of my favorites…

      but can’t beat “Felipe baby, keep cool”

      • spanky the wonder monkey said on 19th July 2010, 12:44

        webber is a great source of quotes!

        was it japan a few years ago (safety car was out due to heavy rain) where he said “Well it’s kids, isn’t it. Kids with not enough experience, doing a good job then they f**k it all up.” after being rammed by vettel.
        ok, it wasn’t on the team radio but part of a live interview and great to hear ITV squirming as it was broadcast live on a sunday morning!

    • Another good one from Webber was in qualifying for the Turkish GP of 2005, where somehow (despite the single-lap system) Takuma Sato managed to get in Mark’s way during his flying lap. The conversation went something like this:

      Williams engineer: “Well done Mark, you are P4.”
      Mark: “What the f*** was Sato doing out there, for f***’s sake?”

      • Kate said on 18th July 2010, 0:26

        I remember that incident, you have to say that it was some commitment from Sato to manage to block someone with the one lap system! I suppose if anyone was going to somehow manage it, it was always going to be him!

    • RobR (@robr) said on 17th July 2010, 17:08

      Haha, me too, I’d love to hear that. But thinking back, I don’t think it was part of the race broadcast that day so you won’t get to hear any clips of it, unfortunately.

  5. David said on 17th July 2010, 10:59

    That Webber one was rubbish. Germany 2009 was the first thing that came to my head… In Australia, they’ve got that piece of radio in almost every advert sport/f1 related. lol

  6. What about Kubica being told to “go and pass Heidfeld” in Suzuka 2006?

    Here it is:

  7. Oli said on 17th July 2010, 11:29

    Schumi sounds Irish. Must be eddie Jordan and his funny irish ways

  8. Shimks said on 17th July 2010, 11:38


    Many thanks for that. :)

  9. LSL said on 17th July 2010, 11:56

    srsly, alonso 2010 australia? funniest ever, 100%

    part of a truly EPiC GP

    • Stubie said on 17th July 2010, 12:20

      I forgot about this already…
      Alonzo does leave us with some gems as well

      The interaction between him and his crew in Valencia was priceless. It really shows how he views the world and how he still feels aggravated after his year at McLaren w/ Hamilton. It continues to eat at him.

      Alonzo last weekend in Silverstone also released a gem partway through the race with him somewhere in the back and his crew telling him how far to the next cars ahead and he finally said something like, “look, I don’t really care, leave me a lone, no more radio”

    • iBlaze (@) said on 17th July 2010, 16:00

      I can’t find a video of it but I remember another classic Alonso moment from Melbourne 2006.

      He had a comfortable lead whilst all around him was descending into chaos and he comes on the radio saying:

      “I’m very relaxed.”

      To which his engineer replies:

      “I’m fairly chilled myself.”

      Brilliant article. Some classic moments there and I’m sure we’ll have many more to come!

  10. Steph90 (@steph90) said on 17th July 2010, 11:56

    I’ve found some more Jean Todt – “Rubens let Michael pass for the championchip…”

    Webber and Horner Silverstone 2010.

    Alonso “I don’t want to know!”

    I was looking for Vettel’s “we will show them” declaration but I can’t find it. Of course he did show us what we’ve knwon all along that the RBR is unreliable.

    • Patrickl said on 17th July 2010, 12:07

      Or Vettel’s “That’s what I’m talking about” which he copied directly from Hamilton.

      • glue (@glue) said on 17th July 2010, 16:10

        yeah, right, Vettel copied that from Hamilton, just like the gazillion other people who have it in their verbal reflex, among which would-be famous repugnant artists in the Hip-Hop “area”, Hamilton is the daddy of “that’s what I’m talking about”

  11. Scott Joslin said on 17th July 2010, 11:59

    Brilliant post! There have been some quality moments throughout the years broadcast over the years.

    One of my favourites is Montoya in 2002 after his first lap incident with Schumacher. The FIA deemed Montoya to be responsible so gave him a drive through penalty, and this was his reaction

    I am sure there are many more gems that the FIA hasn’t played to the public, I would love them to release a “best of” on DVD in a couple of years!

  12. Gerdoner said on 17th July 2010, 12:07

    Trulli – Pushing like a hell

    Verstappen – What do you think I’m doing Greg?

  13. Steph90 (@steph90) said on 17th July 2010, 12:17

    As Smedley is such a legend I’ve had a look for some of his too.

    I’ve just found this corker from Rob Smedley. I didn’t even know it existed. “Who is the daddy of Brazil?” :)

    Rob Smedley – Well done sunshine Loving the laugh at the end.

    Felipe Massa team radio 2010 Spain

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 17th July 2010, 14:23

      I really liked that last one at the time.

      But you must give it to them, Massa and Smedley are a great team giving us wonderfull interaction on radio.

    • Dan N said on 17th July 2010, 14:25

      He also had to make one of the hardest radio calls I’ve heard when he had to tell Massa he had lost the 2008 championship.

  14. Steph90 (@steph90) said on 17th July 2010, 12:18

    Kimi’s told he is WDC. It’s one I’ll never forget.

  15. A Singh said on 17th July 2010, 12:41

    I think the British GP just taken place with Mark Webber was quality and the German GP last year when he won – the raw release of emotion.

    But my favourite one not included was when Michael Schumacher cut up Fernando Alonso at the German GP in 2006 in qualifying as they were pitting and Alonso’s reaction was priceless: ‘You see what Michael did!!’.

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