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.
“Räikkönen, 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 Räikkönen 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.
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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