Posted on January 29, 2009
Some good news for F1 TV viewers | James Allen on F1 – The official James Allen website on F1

Yesterday I wrote about some things we will not be seeing on TV, today I’m posting on a couple of things which will be in the show, although I’m not sure about one of them.

Radio conversations between team and driver have been available for a few years, but the team had a button it needed to press to make the channel open to the TV director. Renault were always very good and open about this, even though it used to irritate them that the director kept playing clips of them telling Fisi to push harder. Ferrari and McLaren were useless at opening the line, and would simply open it at the end, after a victory for some stage managed gushing. This season the radios will be open all the time from every team, so you should hear some much more insightful stuff and get a feel for how the big names come across on radio in the heat of battle.

The other thing I’m not so keen on. I’m told that the teams and the FIA are seriously planning to publish the weights of the cars after qualifying. If this is true I think it is mad as it takes away from the suspense of the opening part of the race and might make teams inclined to do more or less the same thing on fuel strategy as each other, which will create more of a procession.

One of the reasons qualifying with fuel has worked was because there was the chance to go short or long and we couldn’t be absolutely sure, because there was always that margin for driver error.

Also it will devalue the pole before the race has even started if say, Kubica has achieved it by running six laps less fuel than Hamilton and Massa. We’ll all stand on the grid saying, “So what?”

I hope that this change does not come about. The new mood of openess in F1 is good, but this is one step too many for me.

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  1.   1. Posted By: Daniel Hoyes
        Date: January 30th, 2009 @ 1:16 am 

    Couldn’t agree with you more, James! F1 is about races, so any qualifying format that helps improve the race is a good thing.

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  2.   2. Posted By: Matthew Villari
        Date: January 30th, 2009 @ 3:33 am 

    Agree totally with you on the decision to post fuel loads. There is definitely intrigue in guessing whose carrying what, even if at times it reasonably easy to guess. I wonder if you could find out about if the race weekend format is going to change, if there will be bigger sessions on the friday to make up for the test ban. Certainly having an open team radio during a time that would be much the same as testing would be very interesting.

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  3.   3. Posted By: Michael R. Tomkins
        Date: January 30th, 2009 @ 5:00 am 

    I’ve long hoped for team radio to be opened fully, and while I’d fully expect the top teams simply to try and come up with coded messages their rivals may not fully understand, it’ll still give fans a bit more insight into the races. Publishing weights is a horrible idea though, for the reasons you stated. Where’s the point in gambling on strategy if you’re forced to show your hand before the play can be made?

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  4.   4. Posted By: Finn
        Date: January 30th, 2009 @ 8:03 am 

    With respect, we already think ‘so what’ about the pole winner at most meetings. How many times last year did Hamilton qualify ahead of Kovi because Kovi had been fueled heavy and Hamilton light? Unless cars are allowed to qualify on equal fuel, we’ll never really know who the fastest drive is.

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  5.   5. Posted By: kcautotrader
        Date: January 30th, 2009 @ 9:02 am 

    If this is true I think it is mad as it takes away from the suspense of the opening part of the race and might make teams inclined to do more or less the same thing on fuel strategy as each other, which will create more of a procession.

    You’re kidding surely? Fuel strategy isn’t real racing, it’s the height of tedium. Knowing the cars in the final part of qualifying are running different fuel loads makes qualifying dull. Waiting for them to pit at the start of Grands Prix isn’t ‘tense’ – more often than not it it’s the ruining of a previously good-looking race. It makes perfect sense to have them declare fuel weights in qualifying this year. And good riddance to race fuel strategy in 2010!

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  6.   6. Posted By: Fans may get to know qualifying fuel levels | F1 Fanatic - The Formula 1 Blog | F1 news, cars, drivers and more
        Date: January 30th, 2009 @ 9:13 am 

    [...] move, claimed in the online diary of British F1 television broadcaster James Allen, would presumably be for the benefit of the [...]


  7.   7. Posted By: Andy Fov
        Date: January 30th, 2009 @ 9:15 am 

    James, what have you got against Kubica? Yesterday it was the Roman nose, today he’s the name plucked out of thin air to use as an example of an unworthy pole sitter.

    I’ve still not forgiven you for your “He’s no Brat Pitt, but…” as he stood atop the podium in Canada last year. So what?

    Kubica is an amazingly talented driver, and the fact that he’s a bit odd looking is a total irrelevance. He serves as an inspiration to ugly blokes the world over, myself included. His place on the grid sends out the clear message that being a bit aethetically challenged is no hindrance to success in modern F1.

    The days when you had to look like Nico Rosberg before you’d even get a test drive are long gone, and good riddance to them, that’s what I say.

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  8.   8. Posted By: iceman
        Date: January 30th, 2009 @ 9:28 am 

    I generaly agree, but by knowing fuel loads, teams would choose same strategies, like you said and that makes more or less all drivers on equal terms in qualifying and the first part of the race. Last year Heikki allways took onboard more fuel than Lewis and was out of contention for first rows. (pretty much the same as Kimi) With published fuel loads, McLaren would have to put him on a more equal strategy to Lewis’. This is somewhat the same as to canceling the Q3 fuel-for-race rule so the teams would all run on same levels of fuel. Maybe it would take some from the race anticipation, but it would bring more fun to qualifying. Besides, now you don’t know the strategy untill the first pit stop ,later on all is clear and you pretty much know who can catch someone and who not. by all teams running same levels in the first part, they would gamble later in the race and make it more interesting -especialy if overtaking will be easy ths year.

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  9.   9. Posted By: Gary Davidson
        Date: January 30th, 2009 @ 9:46 am 

    “Ferrari and McLaren were useless at opening the line, and would simply open it at the end, after a victory for some stage managed gushing.”

    Yer, it was usually Hamilton “thanking the guys for a great job, this is for you guys” etc. Or Raikkonen’s race engineer and team: “Great job Kimi, bla bla”without a reply from Kimi. Or at Toro Rosso Vettel just squealing after a good result!

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  10.   10. Posted By: Al27
        Date: January 30th, 2009 @ 9:59 am 

    I actually think it’s a good idea to know the weights after qualifying. I agree with Finn that we already think ‘so what’ when a Trulli or a light Hamilton is up there. Having the information will make the first stint of the race less ‘phoney’.

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  11.   11. Posted By: Oscar
        Date: January 30th, 2009 @ 10:00 am 

    I think the current qualifying format is quite good, the different fuel loads add an extra element of interest and excitement to the whole thing. With the general lack of overtaking fuel strategy and refuelling during the pits is one of the few things that adds some unpredictability to the proceedings, if we got rid of these it would be a procession!

    What we all want is more track action and overtaking, if this happens the fuel strategy will be less important but until this happens keep it as it is.

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  12.   12. Posted By: BillG
        Date: January 30th, 2009 @ 11:14 am 

    It’s part of the new cost-cutting regime. As well as getting rid of test teams -

    ‘Manpower to be reduced by means of a number of measures, including sharing information on tyres and fuel to eliminate the need for “spotters”’

    (http://www.f1technical.net/features/11525)

    It’ll save a few quid on extra flights and hotel rooms.

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  13.   13. Posted By: Finn
        Date: January 30th, 2009 @ 11:41 am 

    If Renault didn’t like the TV broadcasters playing the “get a move on, Fisi” radio messages – why did Renault give them access to those messages? If the system is/was selective, they could have kept such messages quiet.

    And, if Fisi kept on getting the hurry-up message – why on earth is he still in F1????????????

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  14.   14. Posted By: AlexC
        Date: January 30th, 2009 @ 11:47 am 

    I’m all for opening up the radio comms, but from my one race experience as pit crew (thank you for mentioning me James during the commentary – Hockenheim 04!) the drivers don’t actually say that much. Well, Taku said nothing to my recollection and Jenson only said “Where are the bl**dy blue flags”. Still, we might hear the odd juicy snippet, what a shame we don’t still have Montoya for some more classic soundbites! As for publishing the weights of the cars, I could not agree more with you, James. What a pointless idea.

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  15.   15. Posted By: Chris Crawford
        Date: January 30th, 2009 @ 11:54 am 

    Yeah I agree. No mire bluffing then….Part of qualifying is wondering what the strategy was and mulling over in your head what may happen in the race.

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  16.   16. Posted By: Clinton
        Date: January 30th, 2009 @ 11:55 am 

    The teams already knew each others fuel loads before the start of the race in any event by employing so called “spotters”. They could tell when their rivals were pitting with reasonable accuracy. I would doubt there would ever be a situation where after qualifying a team would not know that Kubica was pitting 6 laps earlier than their drivers.

    How many times have we heard in the past that “rumors are that driver X is 3 laps lighter than driver Y”. Nine out of ten times the rumors were right.

    My understanding of one of the recent cost cutting measures was to reduce the number of people teams take to the races by making spotters redundant by sharing fuel loads, tires used ect.

    If the teams share this information it makes sense that it is published for the public to have.

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  17.   17. Posted By: speedmerchants
        Date: January 30th, 2009 @ 12:22 pm 

    JA writes: Straight away let me tackle Andy Fov’s point. I have nothing against Kubica. If you read my stuff over a period of the last couple of years you will find that I am evangelical about him. I rate him as highly as anyone in F1.

    There was no slight intended on the pole sitter reference (more a reference to last year’s cars and the relative pace) and the Roman nose line was because he has a Roman nose and a very fine one at that. BTW the Brad Pitt line in Canada was something I couldn’t resist at the time, but it was unnecessary and I shouldn’t have said it. (Hardly Jonathan Ross/Russell Brand though is it?) He didn’t mind in the slightest. I get on fine with him and his people and to my mind Hamilton, Alonso and Kubica are the sport’s three greatest stars, with Massa just behind, Kimi when he can be bothered and maybe Vettel in the future, but I’m not sure he’s quite got the depth of ability of my top three.

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  18.   18. Posted By: Robert McKay
        Date: January 30th, 2009 @ 12:45 pm 

    I find it highly debatable that qualifying with fuel has worked at all, to be honest.

    Last season the top 4 were all roughly doing the same thing, and so “fuel strategy” in essence comes down to 1 lap, 2 maximum.

    The BMW’s had a big gap behind them, but weren’t always fast enough to really mix it in quali with Ferrari/Mclaren and invariably when they did it was at cost to their overall strategy.

    The rest in the top 10 then are left to chuck a lot of fuel at it, to try and cover themselves from the guys in 11th/12th who have freedom. This means that the Vettels and Webbers who could potentially nail a good lap and challenge for a decent third row, can’t, because it’s too risky to be 9th/10th with a much lighter fuel load than the guys behind.

    Publishing it might be a start, because I think the surprise element is heavily outweighed by the “I don’t know how good that lap actually was” element. Really, Q3 should be removing the fuel-in aspect.

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  19.   19. Posted By: Finn
        Date: January 30th, 2009 @ 12:58 pm 

    [ comment moderated ]

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  20.   20. Posted By: john g
        Date: January 30th, 2009 @ 1:37 pm 

    As long as Alan Permain is banned from any further pit to car radio transmissions then i’d welcome opening it up. i find it very interesting listening to driver comments about the handling of their car, the state of their tyres etc, and then to see what the team does about it at the next pit stop. i think it would surprise a lot of people how much goes on in a drivers mind that isn’t directly related to physically driving the car. Also agree on the comments on Kubi – unless he’s mentioned your hair somewhere…? ;)

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  21.   21. Posted By: Andy Fov
        Date: January 30th, 2009 @ 1:38 pm 

    Thanks for clearing that up, James. To be honest, my post was motivated by 95% devilment and 5% seriousness, but it’s reassuring to know you’re not blind to Kubica’s ability.

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  22.   22. Posted By: rpaco
        Date: January 30th, 2009 @ 2:09 pm 

    I would prefer the old old qualifying over 3 days, with 2 teaspoons of fuel. Then the teams can start the race with whatever fuel they like. Thus the quali weights would give no clue as to fuel loads for the race.

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  23.   23. Posted By: Mike Ellison
        Date: January 30th, 2009 @ 3:47 pm 

    Finn, the point was that Fisi was the only driver known to be getting the hurry-up over the radio, all the others got their hurry-up messages in private. :)

    For me the problem with publishing the weights is not that the fans and commentators know but the other teams would know (assuming they weren’t told in the past) and would take preventive action at the start. I think it’s better if the teams have doubt about what the others did in qualifying.

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  24.   24. Posted By: Matt
        Date: January 30th, 2009 @ 10:58 pm 

    I stand watching drivers celebrate pole position now and go ‘so what?’ Its a farce. The drivers look ridiculous celebrating when they dont actually know that they are the fastest.

    The truth is that since we have had fuel in qualifying we have all been duped and the term pole position has lost its meaning. If publishing the fuel loads makes this obvious then so much the better. Or are we seriously saying that we would all prefer to continue to pretend?

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  25.   25. Posted By: redmist
        Date: January 31st, 2009 @ 3:05 am 

    Could the sincerity of radio transmissions could come into question? There are some drivers — Montoya comes to mind (and probably most of them) — who sometimes curse during radio transmissions. Does this mean that the driver will be totally restricted about what they are allowed to say? That minimizes the whole effect of having “open” radio conversations in the first place. Although the idea in itself is not a bad one.

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  26.   26. Posted By: Duncan
        Date: February 1st, 2009 @ 5:19 pm 

    Will the options on BBC allow for interactive viewing and listening i.e. select which driver you want to follow and hear their radio conversations?

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  27.   27. Posted By: Matthew Villari
        Date: February 1st, 2009 @ 11:46 pm 

    What the hell are you guys talking about saying “a light Hamilton being up there” like Lewis is a stranger to being on pole position or something. The only time there are conspiracy theories in regards to fuel loads are when the pole guy smashes p2, and that only happened a couple of times in ’08.

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  28.   28. Posted By: M__E
        Date: March 3rd, 2009 @ 1:52 am 

    Isnt it funny, F1 has almost come full circle…and with that its back to BBC too! – just like the 90′s..yay ;-D

    back to racing and not statisticians getting more enjoyment out of ‘feeling clever’ about working out when cars are going to pit or not…back to the good days of F1..before the ‘Germans’ took it over! – ‘the King is dead (schuey) long live the king!

    [Reply]

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