By Daniel Wilson.
For as long as we can remember, the FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile) have been at the heart of Formula One’s very existence, and are the source of any rules or regulations that dictate how motorsport works. However, more recently, they have been the subject of criticism and anger from all corners of the F1 world – and I am one of those voices.
Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix was another step in the wrong direction for the sport as the FIA’s new radio communication rules were enacted with relentless force. Before the weekend even began, the subject was a hot topic in the paddock with the FIA’s announcement that drivers would now be required to drive into the pits to sort out a reliability problem during the race.
That ‘return-to-pit’ order meant that if Nico Rosberg were to have a similar gearbox problem that affected him in the British Grand Prix, he would have to take an effective drive through penalty to warrant the team telling him how to fix the problem – even if it’s safety related.
At Silverstone, Rosberg was handed a ten second timed penalty because the FIA argued the team had given the German driver coaching by telling him to shift through seventh gear, and that is angering fans who say the penalty is robbing them of raw racing.
But now, drivers and fans are noticeably more vocal in their criticisms of the tighter rules after Sunday’s race. Early on, Jenson Button radioed the pit wall, saying the pedals was sticking to the floor of the car, and the team told him how to manage the problem, which eventually fixed itself.
After running eighth from the start, the issue meant Jenson dropped to the back of the field and pitted in line with the FIA’s new rules. However, Button was still penalised for the radio communication and was handed a drive through penalty. This was despite him running last and his race already ruined.
It didn’t take long for the British driver to send a very clear message to the FIA about his frustration, saying over team radio: “So, the pedal sticking to the floor isn’t a safety issue is it?”
On Thursday, teammate Fernando Alonso criticised the new rules, saying the sport was becoming too controlled while his former Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen branded F1’s rules as a ‘joke’.
It wasn’t just radio rules that caused controversy in Budapest. Raikkonen’s anger was a reaction to his battle with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who Kimi argued had twice made more than change of direction when defending fifth place at the Hungaroring.
Several drivers were also critical of the yellow flags system after Nico Rosberg avoided a penalty for claiming pole position on a lap where double-waved yellow flags were out for Alonso’s spinning McLaren.
Red Bull and Ferrari criticised the FIA for allowing the result to stand. Rosberg did lift off going into turn eight but pushed on and set a purple sector time. Rosberg and the FIA were also criticised by title rival Lewis Hamilton, who lost pole position because of the yellow flags. In the post-race press conference, Hamilton argued the FIA was sending the wrong message to the junior categories of motorsport about what to do when those flags are waved.
This has been another talking point in the pit lane since Austria, after Nico Hulkenberg set a personal best lap despite yellow flags being out on the first part of the circuit. The German driver was found to only have lifted off by 4km/h but the FIA ruled this to be within the rules.
It seems then, that on a number of issues, the FIA is failing. It is failing to uphold the rules it has and has had for decades now. It’s failing to back down on rules they know are not popular with fans and drivers. It’s failing Formula One and everything it stands for and is loved for – racing.