The third topic in this mini-series of posts relating to the decisions made by the WMSC yesterday regards the accessibility of drivers and data during a grand prix weekend. Without doubt, the real stars of Formula One are the drivers. They are the dare-devils who control the machines that power them along at speeds close to 200mph, throw the cars into corners and take on one another in gladiatorial-type battles. Yet they are rarely seen outside of the cars.
Currently and for the future as well, as soon as the leading driver has taken the chequered flag, the following pack must follow him around one more lap and pull into the pitlane. The FIA mandate that there should be no delays in this as the weigh-in and podium ceremony need to be completed as soon as possible. The drivers aren’t even allowed to collect a flag from a marshal to wave on the victory lap, and doughnuts are considered a no-no.
As soon as the podium celebrations are complete the top-three are ushered into the press conference room and asked a slew of questions from Peter Windsor, and then from journalists speaking in their native tongue. After all this, and only after all this are the top-three finishers allowed to retire to their motorhomes for a shower, a change of clothes and a sit down.
This past year we have seen more footage from the holding area, just after the drivers have been weighed and are waiting to walk out onto the podium. We have seen the drivers look tired, flushed and sometimes utterly deflated after a 90 minute workout. Of course, they pump themselves up for the podium and put on a good show, but it is clear that they are not always in the mood for jumping around and answering questions.
However, for 2009 their duties are about to increase. For a start, the retiring drivers can’t slope off as they may have done in the past. The memory of Kimi Raikkonen stalking off to his friend’s yacht after retiring from the Monaco Grand Prix in 2005 or 2006 will not be repeated. Instead, he and all the other drivers must remain at the circuit and present themselves to the media after finishing their race and returning to the paddock.
Also, the teams must elect a senior spokesperson who will be the media’s first point of contact during and immediately after the races. On that note, can someone at McLaren please send Matt Bishop to a public speaking class. While Bishop is a lovely and talented man, and likely to be elected (I can just see it), he didn’t do particularly well when Lewis Hamilton was involved in the Spa incident last year. Just saying, as a complete aside.
The addition of a spokesperson for each team will hopefully mean we the viewing public will get further insight into the teams, and hopefully it will be from a consistent face at each grand prix. Also being added to the schedule are mandatory autograph sessions for the drivers, who must present themselves in their designated pitlane areas on the first day of practice. As another aside, can Bernie make his mind up where that is for McLaren and stick to it for this year.
Perhaps more important for the TV-viewing fans will be the availability of more data. After qualifying the weight of the cars will be made public, allowing us to understand how much fuel is on board, and therefore what the strategies are for each individual driver. From this we can immediately tell how well they actually did in qualifying, and what they may do during the race the following day. Of course, so will the other teams, but the cars are still impounded in Parc Ferme and cannot be altered between the two events.
Also being added to the TV feed will be more graphics explaining a variety of things that happen during a grand prix, like driver lines and pitstop predictors. Access to the team radios has also been made mandatory. This means years of encryption from the likes of Ferrari and McLaren has ended and the television race director will be able to add in the driver’s and team’s thoughts as when. Let’s just hope the delay between the message actually being relayed and when we get to hear it is reduced, significantly.
And finally, wet weather tyres and extreme wet weather tyres have been reverted back to their original names: intermediate and wet respectively. What was it I was saying about things not being broken earlier…?