Last weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku was such a bore that the only real talking point of the weekend was the radio communications ban after Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg were running in the wrong engine mode causing a drop in performance; while their race engineers on the pit wall were unable to help due to the ban on radio communication that was implemented in 2016.
The interesting thing is that Rosberg had an issue with incorrect engine settings at the Spanish Grand Prix, causing his car to go into harvesting mode which directly caused the crash that took both Mercedes drivers out of the race and nothing was really said about the radio communication ban. Now it affected Hamilton in Azerbaijan, suddenly Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff is calling for a rethink on the radio ban.
As someone that has no horse in this race between Hamilton and Rosberg, I think that Hamilton is being a whiny little bitch, especially after earlier in the weekend branding other drivers as moaners for their complaints about safety in Baku. Hamilton claims not being able to get advice from the pit wall is dangerous as he spent half the lap staring at his steering wheel trying to work out what is set incorrectly.
That aside; I believe the radio communication ban has gone too far; with the new V6 hybrid turbo engines being so complicated that drivers also need to be engineers. A common sense decision would be allow technical advice on engine modes, but not allow coaching, i.e. “take turn 1 in ‘x” gear at ‘x” speed”.
Another option would be to take it out of the drivers hands completely, make the engine control system completely automated, having the ECU control everything about the running of the engine, or have the engine map pre-programmed by the team for whatever strategy they intend to use in the session.
FIA president Jean Todt has brushed off complaints about the radio ban citing that all teams agreed unanimously about the technical and coaching radio ban. So unless all teams agree to change the rules, nothing will change in the immediate future. But, clearly some change is needed, a driver being in the car unaided and alone is silly when there are literally thousands of possible permutations and modes. Either ‘technical’ advice should be permitted or steering wheel controls need to be significantly simplified.