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. SoLiDG (@solidg) said on 17th July 2010, 12:42

    I always loved the pit communications from Renault in the Symonds times. Couldn’t find one directly.

  2. Ryan said on 17th July 2010, 12:51

    My favorite isn’t on here. I think it might have been Spa 09? Rubens Barichello is informed over the radio following the race that he is “properly on fire.”

    Couldn’t find it on youtube, if anyone has a link I’d appreciate it. I laugh every time I hear it.

  3. PJA said on 17th July 2010, 13:24

    The most memorable for me is defiantly “Felipe baby, stay cool”, and Webber’s “Not bad for a No. 2 driver” from the last race is one I think will be remembered as well.

  4. BasCB (@bascb) said on 17th July 2010, 14:31

    Thank you Tim for this wonderfull article. And it got out online at exactly the right time. The season has been really coloured in with those transmissions.

    A shame we lost the opportunity for more nice messages from Montoya, quite a character. Some of the older one’s i did not even remember. What if we would have some messages from the years with Senna and Prost in the McLarens, or Mansell in the Ferrari etc.

    And i love the magic between Smedley and Massa, or those nice moments of RBR communication we heard this year (don’t even think of it, not bad for the no. 2 driver). Or Alonso to his engineers in Australi, Valencia and in Britain. So many great moments.

  5. Skett said on 17th July 2010, 15:01

    I quite liked Kovalainen after Webber hit him at valencia, “I’m ok, I mean I hope he’s ok, he had a hardcore flight!”

  6. sumedh said on 17th July 2010, 16:25

    Great article. I loved Montoya describing Kimi as a f**in idiot :D :D

    Even Schumi’s elation after the Japanese GP was moving. Although, as Time rightly described, it was more relief than elation, and not just on Schumi’s face, but on everyone’s Ross Brawn, Jean Todt, they REALLY wanted it that year, didn’t they?

    I would also add Alonso’s “I don’t want to know” at the Australian GP and his whinings at Valencia against Hamilton to the list.

  7. Bleu said on 17th July 2010, 17:01

    One of my favourites is before 2006 Canadian Grand Prix.

    Scott Speed: “Is my engine nice and cool or what?”
    Engineer: “Yeah, Cosworth is looking after them quite well and they are all smiling.
    Speed: “I just say when I come off the track, we start going after data and find out that Tonio’s engine is five degrees cooler than mine again, some heads are gonna roll.”

  8. RobR (@robr) said on 17th July 2010, 17:20

    “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.”

    They don’t really have a choice but to embrace it, do they?

    If I recall correctly, some teams (such as Ferrari) previously opted out of the FOM feed and kept their transmissions to themselves, but then they made them mandatory for all teams at some point (not sure when, may have been 2007 or 08).

    On a different point, does anyone else find it funny that Hamilton, who is supposedly the “coolest” driver in F1, is the only person anywhere in the world over the age of 13 who says “frickin”?

  9. F1iLike said on 17th July 2010, 17:55

    Kimi Räikönen is so funny! ;D

    And couldn’t find the other video i thought of but it goes something like this:
    engineer – “still no KERS Kimi, still no KERS…”
    Kimi – “yeah, you don’t need to tell me every lap and every corner, I can see it on the lights..”
    A bit frustrated :P

    • Stubie said on 17th July 2010, 18:22

      That’s another one I remember very well.

      It is interesting that Alonso made a similar comment this year also to his Ferrari engineers (along with the “I don’t want to know” in Australia and Silverstone)

      It seems that Smedley has a very cool, calming effect on Massa, where as the other dude (forget his name) seems to sometimes say the wrong things to irritate, or distract the drivers.

      This year there was also the pitwall at Mercedes telling Michael Schumacher to mind the curbs because of the rain… they might be slippery… can you imagine Schumacher thinking “slippery? really? I hadn’t frikkin’ thought of that!”

      • F1iLike said on 17th July 2010, 19:42

        Andrea Stella! Just remembered…
        Yeah Rob seems better that way.

        lol yeah, “wth, I’ve won 7 titles but what’s this? wet? never heard of it! arbeit un sheise kartofel..”

        • F1iLike said on 17th July 2010, 19:45

          Got to love Andrea Stellas accent though! Thats true Ferrari racing! Always make me smile and feel like I’m watching some old F1 race or something

  10. Wallbreaker said on 17th July 2010, 18:19

    Hey, what about Alonso´s “Okay, I don´t want to know” after Andrea Stella is telling him the gap between him and Hamilton in Australia this year? ;) The reaction of the commentary tells the whole story :D

    • Tim Ferrone said on 18th July 2010, 11:18

      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.

  11. Carlos M said on 17th July 2010, 18:28

    I seem to remember Hockenheim 2004 or 2005 maybe…
    Alonso complaining about his car.

    Briatore: SHUT UP AND DRIVE !!!!

    Alonso had ran into a kerb, breaking a barge board and he thought we had a puncture. Later he said that he came over a kerb (once again) and the car “fixed” itself.

  12. James said on 17th July 2010, 19:38

    British GP 2010, Alonso and Malayasia Practice 2009, Kimi both telling the same engineer (I believe) to shut up and let them concentrate.

  13. SoLiDG (@solidg) said on 17th July 2010, 20:10

    Fisico being told he can’t be 2 seconds slower than Fernando in the same car and fuel load :)

  14. f1yankee said on 17th July 2010, 20:15

    nice article, thanks tim.

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