Radio Ga Ga

"Ooooh, he spat a stone in my face!"

Jonathan Noble talks a lot of sense in Autosport today on the ongoing issue of team radio.

He says “Part of the reason current stars do not have the mythical standing that Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart and Ayrton Senna had in their heyday can be explained by the way modern society has changed. Social media and the 24-hour internet news culture means anything and everything they do is reported to the nth degree.

The amazing battle between Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso (at Silverstone) should have been celebrated as one of the most epic duels of recent years….Instead, their fight drew a reaction not for being sensational but because of the radio complaints from both men. The moans … showed us all that is wrong in a sport increasingly dictated by ever-tighter regulations.”

After the battle was finished, both protagonists expressed regret at what had gone on. The whinging was, they claimed, a result of overly prescriptive rules as well as an element of one-upmanship. “I’ll see your gripe and raise you two whines” kind of thing.

The real-time nature of today’s F1 coverage makes the modern sport difficult to reconcile with the arena of the famous battles of old.

It comes down to that allure thing, doesn’t it?

I have no doubt at all that when Nigel Mansell was shadowing him wheel-to-wheel down the straight in Cataluyna in 1991, the green lining wouldn’t have been the only colourful thing in Ayrton Senna’s crash helmet. In fact, we know he was miffed because of the interview he gave after the race, in which he huffed “I don’t know why Mansell is doing what he is doing.”

But because any Brummie grumbling or Brazilian berating that might have been going on was not broadcast live, that particular battle retains its nostalgic sheen.

Think also about Rene Arnoux and Gilles Villeneuve at Dijon in 1979. Noble’s article made the point that not only did the lack of radios in those days spare the viewing public from dummy-spitting soundbites, the drivers weren’t coached through each corner by staff HQ on the pitwall.

You only need to listen to the messages the engineers deliver to their drivers seconds after they’ve crossed the line to take victory these days: “Great job, mate…fantastic…now, pick up rubber, keep an eye on your fuel, adjust your mixture, change your brake bias, fiddle with your differential and don’t wink at the girls on the way up to the podium” to be reminded that F1 folk are a rather uptight lot. The fact that most of the engineers sound like accountants doesn’t help matters either. We need more Rob Smedleys, delivering off-the cuff quips in an excited Northern accent, and less of the clipped tones of the Phil Prews (Sorry Phil).

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