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FIA changes too little to late   
27 November 2002 Volume 4 - Issue 30   

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It seems that the FIA changes to the Formula One regulations were watered down to ineffective attempts to slow down the big spend rather than making the racing closer, which is desperately needed.


Two very significant changes were made:

There will be two qualifying sessions - Friday and Saturday

In each session each driver will be allowed one flying lap.

Friday's session will determine the running order in Saturday's session (that is, the fastest on Friday will go last on Saturday) and Friday's order will be determined by the standings in the championship (that is the leader in the championship will go out first).

For starters (excuse the pun) I do not think that the order in which the cars go out will have any bearing on their relative speed. In the past, unless the weather affected it, qualifying times went down towards the end of the session as more rubber is laid on the racing line and the racing line is scrubbed clean by the endeavours of the whole field.

With cars virtually in single file I do not think that the track will improve over the hour as each car will be allowed only three laps of which only one will be full on. That is unlikely to scrub the track clean and would lay down very little rubber.

What stops a driver from going off the racing line in his last, slow down, lap thereby deliberately dirtying the racing line for the other drivers?

Reversing the order so that the fastest car on Friday is last on Saturday will, for that reason, only serve to make qualifying more exciting not give the last driver the better track conditions.

Allowing only one lap (on Saturday) to determine the grid is definitely going to get the order a little more mixed up than normal. That will certainly make the start and first few laps very exciting but it may also hold back some of the leaders as they struggle to overtake slower cars.

The jury is out. I do not think it will work but you never know. It could make for interesting races especially the first few laps.


As an initial attempt to cut down on the costs of campaigning the FIA will now allow only those teams that do not test for more than 10 car days in private during the season to have two hours additional testing on Friday morning before the race. In this time teams may use their spare cars and test drivers.

I can see why this would reduce a team's costs but I do not believe that the bigger, better and richer teams would be tempted to agree to this. Unless it is applied to all teams it will probably only separate the leading teams even further from the budget challenged pack.

World Championship points:

Now 8 cars can finish in the points instead of 6 and the difference between 1st and 2nd is only two points.

I can't see how this will change the championship by much. Other than severely punish the fast unreliable cars. Gaining two points over the opposition will make it five races to recover from one engine failure.

This could be a subtle way of introducing reliability into the sport in an attempt to reduce costs. Structure the points so that it is unwise to forfeit reliability for speed must reduce the cost as well as preparing teams for the number of engines allowed per race that is coming.


The two individualised sets of tyres could have a profound impact on the sport.

This rule is totally contrary to what I thought the FIA were trying to achieve. It will undoubtedly make the sport more expensive and it will undoubtedly advantage the bigger, richer teams as it implies that tyre design is now a variable that can be used competitively.

Teams like Ferrari will already have a tyre development group that will be working with Bridgestone (or Michelin as the case may be), as I am writing this, to get that extra edge. Teams like Minardi, on the other hand, will only be able to race on commercially available rubber. I can�t see any tyre company giving them more than the basic service.

How big the impact will be is a moot point as the tyre companies were being led by the top teams before. In 2003 however it is possible that there will be complete secrecy and any breakthrough in tyre technology may be restricted to the team that did the development.

Team Orders:

This one is absurd. This is like the church or school outlawing dirty thoughts. How do you apply it? Are the FIA going to put every member of the team under 24-hour surveillance?

All that is going to happen is that the FIA will drive team orders underground. They will still exist but will just not be blatant.

Instead of a driver letting another through on the race track it will happen by manipulating pit timing or just dropping maximum revs marginally or some other subtle way of slowing one driver just enough to not make it obvious.

If the FIA were forced to allow traction control because there were too many ways of achieving this without it being noticeable, no team orders will be even harder to enforce.

Although I was not in favour of the more radical measures that were talked about, like ballasting or handicapping the faster cars, I feel that these new rules will do very little to change the sport. Next year�s cars will be faster and by definition that will mean that the wealthier teams will be even faster and even more dominant.

It will also make the sport more dangerous. We have already seen speeds in excess of 350km/H in 2002, how fast will they be in 2003 after spending more time in wind tunnels to achieve the same downforce with less drag?

Agree or disagree ?
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