Radio espionage in Formula 1: how the teams listen to each other


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(Motorsport-Complete.com) – Since the espionage affair 2007 Formula 1 is sensitized to any artwork of researching and listening. Nevertheless, the competition is observed at every turn. Thanks to the ban on the partition walls , the teams will do their work during the test drives 2020 even relieved. During the races, the opponent's pit radio is of particular interest.

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“We have an operating room in the factory,” explains Graham Watson of radio espionage in Formula 1 from 'Motorsport-Complete.com' addressed. The New Zealander has been to various racing teams, including Benetton and Brawn, since entering Formula 1 1996 , been engaged. Since 2014 he has worked as a team manager for the Crimson Bull sister team Toro Rosso.

In his function he knows all processes in the group – also how to best listen to the enemy. “We still have people stationed on the racetrack who listen to all radio channels.” A total of twelve employees were only assigned to this task on a race weekend.

“If you heard something, you were lucky”

How does “espionage” work? “We usually assign two or three teams to each person so that they can then pay attention to the keywords. Because there is of course a lot of irrelevant communication. So they only listen to the keywords and continue to work with them.”

And that very trusty: Because the teams are all listening to the official feed of Formula 1 management. “All teams have the opportunity to listen to all other teams.” However, this is only on the Tumble racing weekends, there will not be this possibility during the winter tests in Barcelona.

Unsurprisingly, the strategy of the other teams is particularly interesting for Toro Rosso. “In the race, of course, you want to hear whether they are going to pit or whether they have a self-discipline on the car. Whether they spare the tires or brakes or save fuel,” explains Watson.


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Basically, it is about getting an overview of the competition. The direct competition is much more important than the top teams at the top. “One can imagine that we focus united states of americaer on the group that we compete in in a direct duel.”

Became Mercedes leads, Toro Rosso normally does not affect , “But maybe became Racing Point, Haas or Renault.” In the past, completely different methods were used, recalls the 52 -year-old. It could happen that a group clicked directly into a competitor's radio.

However, this was no longer possible today because team radio was encrypted. “We use a digital system for this, each group has its own encrypted radio. Therefore, you shouldn't really be able to hear anything without the official channels. If you were lucky, but we are not actively pursuing that.”

In the 1990 There was a lot of trickery

Although Watson has to admit that it would be “absolutely” helpful to hear the entire boxing radio of a team uncensored to be able to – especially at the beginning of the season, when the balance of power has not yet clearly emerged. “That would help in particular, because with a fast lap it is always difficult to say how much fuel was used.”

Incidentally: for the first time a radio came to Toleman in 1983 on a trial basis. With Johnny Cecotto at the wheel, the British initially did not test the new technology on the race track, but at a show event in Goodwood. Later, in the 1990 years, the radio actually did spy, remembered Watson.

“Yes, yes! One hundred percent! People tried to enter other channels and listen to other teams. Yes, that happened,” said the Toro Rosso Team managers laugh about it today.


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