Tuesday 24 October 2017

Lewis Hamilton hits right notes amid Radio Gaga mess

Lewis Hamilton drives during the first practice session of the Singapore F1 Grand Prix
Lewis Hamilton drives during the first practice session of the Singapore F1 Grand Prix

Daniel Johnson

IF ONLY the Singaporeans had overseen Formula One’s radio ban.

Rather than this notoriously ordered nation, capable of putting on one of the most spectacular sporting events the world has ever seen with minimal fuss, it was left to the sport’s blunderous bosses. Predictably in F1, what ensued was comically slapdash.

Initially, a series of stringent restrictions, designed to make life much tougher for the drivers, were proposed and adopted.

But then, at the 11th hour, teams which had previously been supportive changed their tune. The practically-minded among them saw it was unworkable (why did they not speak up last week?).

 The result is a halfway house in which no-one has much of a clue as to what can or cannot be said when the drivers emerge under 1,500 lights for qualifying today.

Perhaps the 3.1 million watts used to illuminate this stunning circuit should be used to force some common sense through the sport.

A good idea, designed to bring back the gladiatorial image of drivers, removing the constant coaching that has gone on this year, has ended in quasi-farce.

McLaren boss Eric Boullier, among others, rightly questioned why it could not have waited until 2015.

This all would have been avoided if the semi-authoritarian Singaporeans were put to task. In a country where chewing gum and littering are banned, mess has been flying around only in one small portion in the Marina Bay area, and not just the debris from Pastor Maldonado’s inevitable practice smash.

The FIA, the sport’s governing body, did their best to clear up some of the confusion.

Charlie Whiting, the race director, was offered for questioning, but it began in futile fashion.

Whiting was asked what it all meant. He said the specific details were in his directive issued to team managers, but it was many hours later that it emerged.

Whiting’s explanation for the postponement of some measures was that it might disadvantage some teams more than others.

“In the interest of fairness we felt it would be better to introduce it in two stages,” he said.

How will they stop teams using coded messages? Not to mention the frequent ‘Hammer Time’ instruction given to Lewis Hamilton?

Whiting added: “It won’t be straightforward and we will have a little bit of time to think about that. I think that is...to be discussed.”

The outlawing of certain messages was already being felt in yesterday’s practice sessions. Hamilton, 22 points behind his team-mate in the standings, asked his engineer what sector times his competitors were pumping in.

Pete Bonnington had to reply: “We’ll continue our programme and discuss it when we get back in the garage.”

 Nico Rosberg, the championship leader, later asked if he was “allowed” to ask how others were doing, including his principal foe.

The more pressing concern than their relationship is which might prosper under the sport’s new radio regime.

 Both have benefitted as much as the other, but in the tense moments it is often Hamilton who is more reliant on the calming advice of his team.

 Yesterday in practice, however, it was Hamilton who prospered, ending an enormous 1.5 seconds quicker than his team-mate.

Rosberg explained that he was held up on his hot lap by the error-strewn Maldonado.

Despite the dramatic change in the rules, the Briton has seemed more relaxed than ever. His personal life is stable and he is less easily-riled than in years gone by.

“I don’t know what lies ahead of me but I am sure that I am best prepared than ever in terms of having those experiences to handle what it is ahead,”he said last night. © The  Daily Telegraph, London.

 

Singapore G P, Live Sky Sports F1, Setana  Sports 1.0pm tomorrow

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