5 of the Most Interesting Radio Messages from 2016 British Grand Prix
Nico Rosberg became the first Formula One driver to be punished for breaking Formula One's 2016 team radio restrictions in the aftermath of Sunday's British Grand Prix.
The German was catching Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton in the closing laps of the Silverstone race when he suffered a sudden gearbox glitch on Lap 46 of 52.
With his pilot staring at the prospect of retiring and losing the lead of the drivers' standings, race engineer Tony Ross informed Rosberg how he could nurse the issue to the chequered flag, with the No. 6 car crossing the finish line in second place.
But following a post-race stewards' investigation, Rosberg was handed a 10-second time penalty and dropped to third behind Red Bull's Max Verstappen.
And to make matters worse, his championship advantage over Hamilton—which stood at 43 points just two months ago—has been cut to just a single point with 11 rounds of the season still remaining.
With a look at Verstappen's impressive feedback, Rosberg's unhappiness with the Red Bull driver's tactics, Fernando Alonso's frustration with McLaren-Honda and Hamilton's impatience with the safety car start, here are the most interesting radio messages from Silverstone.
Why Nico Rosberg Received a Post-Race Time Penalty
When the 2016 radio restrictions severely compromised Hamilton's race in the European GP, Rosberg had little sympathy for his Mercedes team-mate.
Per the Press Association (h/t BT Sport), the championship leader stressed that while the new rules had made races "more challenging" they had stopped spectators complaining the drivers were mere "puppets on the track" and were perfectly "OK the way they are."
But after encountering his own dramas with pit-to-car radio in the latter stages of the British GP, his opinion may have altered.
After finally making his way past Verstappen around the outside of Stowe on Lap 38, Rosberg was catching Hamilton at a vast rate of knots, and his team-mate, for whatever reason, had no response.
The problem for Rosberg, however, was that when he squeezed the throttle pedal on the exit of Vale at the end of Lap 46, he received no response from that either.
"Gearbox problem! Gearbox problem!" shouted the championship leader, who retired from the British GP with a similar issue two years ago.
"Driver Default 101! Chassis Default 01! Chassis Default 01!" blurted out Ross, who cared little for the radio rules when his driver was at risk of retiring before delivering the message that saw Rosberg incur a 10-second post-race time penalty.
"Avoid seventh gear, Nico, avoid seventh gear," he advised on Lap 47.
"Well, what does that mean?" an increasingly flustered Rosberg asked. "I mean, I have to shift through it?"
"Affirm, Nico, you need to shift through it. Affirm, you need to shift through it."
On an afternoon Rosberg's race could easily have ended with the No. 6 car pulling over at the side of the track, being demoted from second to third was a price well worth paying for Mercedes.
Whether the current radio restrictions—which are too complicated for the drivers, are too frustrating for the teams and rob spectators of valuable insight—should exist, however, is a different matter entirely.
Max Verstappen Gives Good Feedback as Kevin Magnussen Keeps It Short and Simple
Barely a month after Verstappen made his grand prix debut at the beginning of 2015, Toro Rosso's Xevi Pujolar had seen enough to know the teenager was "the best [he'd] ever seen" arrive in F1.
"You recognise in him the difference between a potential world champion and the rest," Pujolar, who had previously worked with Ralf Schumacher, Mark Webber and Juan Pablo Montoya, told Dutch publication De Telegraaf (h/t Autoweek), confirming the boy wonder would live up to the hype.
Much of Pujolar's excitement surrounding Verstappen, you suspect, was not only built upon his natural pace and overtaking prowess, but his work behind the scenes, his ability to embrace a team environment and to provide relevant, detailed feedback.
We caught a glimpse of that maturity during the British GP, when, with the crossover point between intermediate and dry-weather tyres edging ever nearer, Verstappen—running third and determined to at least keep the Mercedes drivers honest—updated his Red Bull team on the track conditions.
"OK, it's getting drier now. I don't think slicks yet but it's getting closer," he reported on the 14th lap, warning the team to start thinking about preparing a set of dry tyres.
"OK. Good info, Max," commended his race engineer, who eventually called the No. 33 car to the pits at the end of Lap 18.
Contrast Verstappen's approach to that of Kevin Magnussen, who once belonged with the 18-year-old in the "potential world champion" category but is now in serious danger of becoming one of "the rest," just another driver on the F1 grid.
Magnussen's Renault outfit were facing an identical conundrum on Lap 15, but rather than feeding regular nuggets of information to his team, the Dane waited for the pit wall to contact him.
"How's the track, Kev?" asked his race engineer, Chris Richards. "Talk to us."
"Still wet," Magnussen muttered, making no attempt to identify the most hazardous parts of the track or predict the right time to switch to slicks.
Small details, of course, but the difference between a great F1 driver and a good one was there for all to hear at Silverstone.
Nico Rosberg Angered by Max Verstappen's Defensive Tactics
Although Verstappen may be unlike any other junior driver to have arrived in F1, one characteristic he shares with his fellow youngsters is his no-compromise approach in defence.
Like Magnussen, who was penalised for weaving in front of Manor's Pascal Wehrlein in Austria, Verstappen occasionally crosses the line between the defensive and the dangerous when another driver even threatens to pass him on track.
Kimi Raikkonen was angered by the teenager's tactics during last season's United States GP and, at Silverstone, another vastly more experienced driver in a faster car was struggling to pull off a clean move.
With the track drying by the lap, the inherent pace advantage of the Mercedes W07 was becoming increasingly obvious as third-placed Rosberg tried to pay Verstappen back for his opportunistic move around the outside of Becketts earlier in the race.
But the Red Bull RB12's outstanding performance in Silverstone's high-speed curves meant Rosberg's only chance of passing Verstappen was in the DRS zone on the Hangar Straight.
Rosberg kept gaining massively on the long stretch, but Verstappen, jinking from right to left, covered the inside and outside lines simultaneously on each occasion.
And after one particularly late change of direction on the entry to Stowe on Lap 34, the championship leader—hardly the most decisive driver in wheel-to-wheel combat at the best of times—was less than impressed.
"Hey, that's moving twice, that is not on!" Rosberg ranted.
"Copy that message, Nico," replied Ross, not mentioning whether he would, as per normal practice, report Verstappen to Charlie Whiting, the FIA race director.
With Verstappen "struggling quite a bit with the rear," as he informed the Red Bull pit wall, Rosberg finally completed the move around the outside of Stowe on Lap 38 and later told the FIA press conference how his rival "did a good job, defending and everything," referring to the battle as "cool."
He might not have been quite so complimentary had he been unable to find a way past.
Fernando Alonso Frustrated with McLaren-Honda's Unadventurous Strategy Call
Lacking the outright power of their rivals, the vast majority of McLaren-Honda's best results over the last 18 months have been achieved on days when the variables—rain showers and safety cars—have come into play.
So when an intense downpour arrived at Silverstone, Alonso and team-mate Jenson Button—ninth and 17th on the grid, respectively—would have been rubbing their hands.
Sure, the safety car start, which forced all the drivers to begin the race on extreme-wet tyres, limited their initial strategic options, but as the sun poked through the clouds and the track began to dry, McLaren had a chance to be bold and brave.
Or so we thought.
It was instead Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel who became the first team-driver combination to gamble on dry tyres at the end of Lap 15, with the four-time world champion comfortably setting the fastest lap at that point of the race before losing time with a spin at Abbey.
Meanwhile, McLaren waited two extra laps to prepare a set of dry tyres and, rather than injecting a little variety into their strategy, decided to fit their cars with the same medium-compound rubber at the same time as Button and Alonso both pitted at the end of Lap 17.
Having ran ninth at the time of his stop, Alonso—renowned for his ability to read a race from the cockpit—rejoined in 11th place and was unable to comprehend how McLaren had allowed such a golden opportunity to pass them by.
"We lost so many positions, you need to stop one of the two cars," he lectured on Lap 18. "Yeah, he went off, but we are behind everyone...Two cars copying one each other instead of racing against the others."
Restricted to just four points finishes since the beginning of 2015, it seems Alonso can bring himself to accept a shortage of straight-line speed as long as he sees regular signs of progress.
What he will not tolerate, however, is sloppy, needlessly cautious decision-making.
Lewis Hamilton Complains About Safety Car Start
Hamilton's fourth Silverstone victory, his third in succession, was virtually assured from the moment he tiptoed over the hot coals of track limits to secure his sixth pole position of 2016.
But as he was hoisted aloft by the British GP pilgrims on Sunday afternoon, he may have been wondering how different his day might have been.
The only threat to Hamilton at Silverstone came from himself, with the three-time world champion locking his front-right brake and coming within inches of hitting the safety car at Copse as he prepared for the race to truly get under way on Lap 5.
That incident—which, had contact been made, would have been even more embarrassing than his infamous pit-lane collision with Raikkonen in 2008—stemmed from Hamilton's frustration with a second safety car start in five races, with the Mercedes driver complaining from the moment the British GP formally began.
"Safety car's too slow to get temperature," he commented just a matter of corners into the opening lap, unable to generate sufficient heat in his tyres and brakes when his speed was being limited so much by the pace car.
Despite later suggesting a safety car start was unnecessary, per Motorsport.com's Jamie Klein, Hamilton did accept the track was still rather treacherous in places after completing an exploratory first lap.
"Big puddles and aquaplaning still," he informed the Mercedes pit wall on Lap 2, but those puddles were nothing a set of intermediate tyres couldn't handle.
"The track's gonna be inters soon, I would say," Hamilton added later that lap.
As Lap 3 began, the safety car was becoming more of a hazard as the regulated speeds and low temperatures left the drivers more in danger of spinning off the track than under full green-flag racing conditions.
"The safety car is just really slow, so it's not that easy for us to keep temperatures up."
A lap later—and with the safety car still showing no signs of shifting despite Bradley Joyce, Nico Hulkenberg's race engineer, asking his driver how long it would be before dry tyres were required—Hamilton took it upon himself to urge Whiting to let the racing begin.
"We can go, Charlie," he confirmed toward the end of Lap 4.
On this occasion, Whiting listened, and the safety car lights disappeared halfway through the fifth lap, around the time Hamilton allowed the pace car to escape slightly on the old pit straight before stamping on the throttle pedal to generate some much-needed heat in his tyres.
Around the time Hamilton risked distilling his entire afternoon into a six-second-long video clip.