F1’s controversial ban on radio instructions is making waves again, as world champion Lewis Hamilton moved to within a single point of the title lead on Sunday.
Actually, Nico Rosberg was still 4 points ahead after the chequer at Silverstone, but a post-race stewards decision demoted him from second to third.
Although team instructions to drivers are now banned, Mercedes told the German driver how to fix a gearbox problem that would have seen him stuck in seventh gear.
But Mercedes argued that the call was legal.
“It was a very critical problem,” said Rosberg. “I was about to stop on track, so they told me ‘change default’ to try and fix it.”
Rosberg duly finished second but the stewards ruled that he had not driven the car “alone and unaided” and a penalty dropped him behind Max Verstappen.
Mercedes signalled its intention to appeal whilst team boss Toto Wolff argued: “These rules maybe need a rethink. It needs to be discussed.”
Team chairman Niki Lauda told German RTL television: “I am sure that we interpreted the rules correctly.”
But Red Bull’s Christian Horner, whose Verstappen benefitted from Rosberg’s penalty, said Mercedes “know all too well” that the radio message was illegal.
Force India team manager Andy Stevenson agrees, saying it was no different to Austria a week ago when Sergio Perez could not be told his brakes were failing.
“How absurd is that?” Williams’ Pat Symonds told Auto Motor und Sport. “How many tens of thousands of pounds did that accident cost the team?”
There is also an issue of consistency, after Williams was allowed to warn Felipe Massa about a similar brake problem.
“No one understands why they were (allowed to tell the driver) and we weren’t,” said Stevenson.
Horner added: “We need to address this issue at the next strategy group meeting and modify the rule.
“I understand what the FIA wanted to achieve with driver coaching, but in the case of technical problems, we must be able to support the drivers.”