F1's radio ban leaves Hamilton off the pace
Hamilton, who finished only fifth on the sport’s inaugural visit to Azerbaijan, reported a lack of power with his Mercedes from as early as lap four.
But after the FIA, the sport’s governing body, introduced a new set of radio regulations on the eve of the new campaign – in the hope of placing more emphasis on the driver rather than the pit wall – Mercedes were forbidden from informing Hamilton how to resolve the problem.
The world champion then spent 12 laps, at a new track which has been billed as the fastest street circuit on the calender, fiddling with different buttons and knobs on a steering wheel which has hundreds of different settings. Hamilton, now 24 points behind his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg who cruised to his fifth victory of the season, was asked how it felt as he attempted to resolve the issue while racing at speeds in excess of 220mph.
“Dangerous,” he replied. “I am just looking at my steering wheel for a large portion of the lap – all the way down the straight – just looking at my wheel.
“All the team can tell me is that there is a switch error, so I am looking at every single switch thinking, ‘Am I being an idiot here? Have I done something wrong?’
“I hadn’t. The engine switch has 16 positions, and in those positions there is like 20 positions, so I had no idea what the problem was and how to rectify it.”
Hamilton was already facing an uphill challenge after he crashed out of qualifying and subsequently started from 10th.
And his progress back through the field was thwarted by a incorrect engine setting, pre-determined by his Mercedes team, before the lights turned green.
Mercedes understood immediately how to resolve the issue, but, under the sport’s strict team radio rules, could not relay that information to their driver. “It was a technical issue that should have been rectified by the team if the FIA had allowed them,” Hamilton added.
“Maybe the rule needs to be looked at again because it was a technical issue.”