Change you can believe in, until that gets changed too

Remember mass dampers? The Fric (front and rear interconnected) suspension systems? Thought not.

The former were banned from the German GP in 2006, the latter from the same race this season.

Changing the rules mid-season isn't new in Formula 1, and often the effect of such an action is a lot less than people anticipate. But it's the job of the teams to complain about anything that might jeopardise their chances of success.

This time, it's the radio messages between the engineers on the pit wall and their drivers that have been banned - though, in true F1 style, there has been further confusion this weekend.

The FIA now say it needs to think about what exactly will remain allowable until the start of the 2015 season.

In a nutshell, things that inform the driver about the performance of his car were allowed again following meetings on Thursday.

One of the biggest technical concerns was the need to keep drivers fully informed about the state of the complex batteries and energy recovery systems, and safety issues such as brake wear.

But Williams and Red Bull also argued they would be at a disadvantage because the information screens on their steering wheels, on which the drivers would now have to rely more, are smaller than those of their rivals. So car performance things are back on the allowed list.

But teams may not communicate information to their drivers, either by radio or hand-held pitboards, which relate to things such as driving lines on the circuit, car set-up parameters for specific corners, comparative or absolute sector time details, cornering speeds, throttle application, gear selection or braking points either in general or relating to other drivers and individual driving techniques.

Those are for the drivers to figure out for themselves once more.

Okay, so much for the whats. But how about the whys?

Putting the brakes on radio communication has been the talk of the weekend but why make these changes in the middle of the season? Why is there confusion over what to reinstate?

The casual spectator could be forgiven for believing that the sport has a continual need to reinvent the wheel, and therein lies the answer: the casual spectator.

The burghers of Formula 1 are in a little bit of a panic at the moment because of declining spectator attendances. The Austrian and British races were big successes but the audiences in Germany, Belgium and Italy were smaller.

But is it any wonder, after luminaries such as Bernie Ecclestone himself, Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz and recently overthrown Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo were so brutally critical of the new eco-hybrid rules earlier in the season.

That made it natural that Joe Public harbours doubts about F1 and decides not to attend.

The recent paucity of ideas about what to do was illustrated by the suggestion of getting Flavio Briatore - whose Renault team so famously cheated their way to victory here in 2008 via the Nelson Piquet Jr Crashgate scandal - back in to spice things up.

The idea of stopping the embarrassing sight of engineers publicly coaching their drivers was Ecclestone's.

"The drivers are all happy that it's gone," he said on Thursday.

"They drive the cars, they should know what is wrong or right. They don't need someone on the pit wall telling them what to do."

As for the revisions to the revisions, they were a logical step for the simple reason that when you change one thing via a knee-jerk reaction in F1, you invariably generate effects you didn't anticipate.

Sometimes a little bit more haste and less speed is a good thing.

stsports@sph.com.sg

Finding the right way to fix things As for the revisions to the revisions, they were a logical step for the simple reason that when you change one thing via a knee-jerk reaction in F1, you invariably generate effects you didn't anticipate.


This article was first published on Sept 21, 2014.
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