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Do it the FIA way or else . . . . .   
6 February 2003 Volume 5 - Issue 1   

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We could water it down to imbecilic ineffectiveness.

I was somewhat taken aback by the forceful and rather dramatic change to the regulations by the FIA. Some of them I felt would achieve very little, some were silly and some were a total contradiction to formula one�s history and culture. There were none that I believe will dramatically improve the sport.

Let�s take the first, forceful, announcement:


Yes two teams did disappear in twelve months. That is sad but don�t forget that one of them was Prost, which was the worst managed enterprise in decades. Under the best circumstances they would have folded anyway. The other, Arrows, fell foul to a bad season (probably due to the fact that they were always changing engine suppliers) and impatient sponsors. I think that is just normal evolution in business.

They are concerned that money is wasted. That I can understand but when they claim that the high revolutions of the engine is an example of this, they lose me. In order to be competitive each team will be looking for an advantage. Mostly the quest is to get a little faster and to achieve this (if we ignore other issues like braking and road holding) power to weight and/or power to drag ratios become critical. At a point the gain from the reduction of weight and drag becomes impossibly small (or non effective if the car is already at the minimum allowed weight) and power gain becomes the only realistic option.

Simplistically, to get more power the only option is to increase revolutions as size is restricted to 3000 cc. Given the rules I do not see that as a waste, I am interested in the revolutions and the power output � otherwise why not convert to F3000? If spectators are not concerned with these matters what are they concerned with?

Why the sudden concern in the spectator value of the sport? For years I have been screaming that aerodynamics (wings etc) have made it almost impossible to overtake and that the lack of overtaking is detrimental to the spectator value of the sport. Why is the increase in revolutions a waste when most teams have at least one very expensive wind tunnel and that is regarded as OK? How does this increase spectator value?

Telemetry and radio:

So, they want to eliminate telemetry and radio contact. OK, no big deal with only hassle value for the teams. They will have to find another way of doing something similar (because that is what it is all about) so I can�t see where the saving is.

Caged cars:

Cars in parc ferme between qualifying and the race with limited modifications or repairs sounds great but is impractical. With all teams needing to do final inspections it will be even busier than the pits were last year.

Traction control:

In Spain in 2001 launch control and traction control was allowed because it became too hard to monitor or even detect. Now it is going to be easy? They now have a magical traction detector?

There are many ways of skinning this cat. Some forms of traction control (like using brakes) are less effective than others but to believe that all can be detected in the same way is ridiculous. Anyway, how will this save money? What the teams have at the moment is paid for. Finding different ways of achieving this will cost more money.

Common components are introduced. This is the premier formula in motor racing. What are they trying to do: turn it into an upgraded formula Ford? I am also somewhat surprised at their definition of common components. It has to be designed or manufactured by a third party or other company. What does that mean? For instance is a spark plug a common component? If so I suspect that they have been doing this for years.

Here is their explanation:

By way of clarification, the FIA confirms that teams which wish to do so can share components. The teams are invited to agree unanimously to delete the provision in Schedule III to the Concorde Agreement which prevents a constructor using a component (other than an engine or a gearbox) designed or manufactured by another constructor. In default of such unanimous agreement, the FIA confirms that provided a component is manufactured and designed by a separate company or other third party, there is nothing to prevent two different constructors using the same component(s) on their respective cars.

So what does that mean?

Teams are invited to delete the provision that prohibits using parts manufactured by another constructor. So far I am OK but when they then change the rules to say that these components must be manufactured by a third party, they lose me again. Why add that? What purpose does it serve? Why does it matter?

Bureaucracy gone crazy.

Friday morning:

Friday morning is not part of the event. I suppose that means that other than normal safety rules and testing convention this is not part of the regulated event and if, for instance, a motor is blown it can be replaced with no penalty.

Multi-race engines:

In 2004 they want a single engine per event. Again Friday morning is not included. In 2005 a single engine must last for two events and in 2006 six races.

It is obvious that they are prepared to take the consequences of this rule. It is almost guaranteed that the manufacturers will not want to do this as they race to win, not to last forever.

Here is how the FIA are threatening to fix this problem if it happens:

Finally the requirement to supply engines to other teams (point 10 above) may become problematic if the number of car manufacturers involved in the FIA Formula One World Championship decreases significantly. In the first instance we believe we will have overcome this problem by increasing the life requirement of the engines - the greater the number of races between engine changes, the less onerous a requirement to supply more than one team. However, at a certain point, even with six-race engines, this could place an excessive burden on the remaining engine suppliers. We would then have to enter into discussions with those concerned in order to find a solution. In the most extreme case, however, a single-source engine supply might be the answer.


For starters I am not sure that I understand the change from event to race but the end result of a single sourced engine supplier is guaranteed to turn it into Formula Ford Enhanced.

I am a little confused by the logic behind the FIA�s obsession with saving money by making engines last. Conceptually it is admirable but practically I can�t see it happening.

Around the world there are several endurance races that last for either 12 or 24 hours. Some of these are campaigned with standard road cars. Attrition due to engine failure is very high. Standard road cars are designed to run trouble free for at least 100,000km. Achieving this on the open road and commuting to the office is one thing, taking the same car onto a race track and driving 1,000km in anger has a very high chance of killing not just the engine but the drive train as well.

Taking into account that a race meeting has two one hour sessions on Friday and Saturday plus qualifying, a warm up on Sunday followed by a two hour race, it adds up to around seven hours per event or 42 hours per engine over 6 races.

High performance road cars produce about 200 to 250 horsepower out of a three-litre motor. That is less than a third of the output of the average formula one car. Admittedly formula one engines could be built to be considerably stronger than those in passenger cars but they already have to be just to run at the very high revolutions needed to produce 800hp plus. Building engines that can produce the same power for 42 hours or over 5,000km cannot be achieved without lengthy and expensive development. So where is the saving?

At present, to be competitive teams will not be able to drop back the power to ensure that the engine will go the distance, but over time they will all be forced to lower engine power to have even a small chance of making six events.

This raises two concerns:

Spectators will lose interest if, for instance, Michael Schumacher�s engine blows up on Saturday, sidelining him for the rest of the weekend and the race. In 2006 it will take him out of more than a third of the season. If this happens to two or three of the top drivers, I will stop watching.

The FIA seems to be aware of this and have sort of catered for it by saying that they will allow a start from the back of the grid but it is regarded as exceptional circumstances. The implication is that too many exceptional circumstances will still sideline the car and driver.

Standard components:

After 2004 �major components� will also have to last for the entire event. Standard rear wing, side plates and brakes will be introduced. The FIA believes that this will assist in overtaking � I just think it will standardise the sport to the point that nobody will be watching.

This irks me. F1 has always been the peak of competition not just between drivers and pit teams but an effort that starts at the drawing board. Take this out of the formula and I do not know what we are going to get but it will not be formula one.

I guess that the FIA are trying to make the sport cheaper while still hanging on to the excitement. I do not think it will work.

Reality strikes:

A lot of this is reflected in their huge back down on January 20.

Outlaw of car to pit telemetry is postponed to 2004, but pit to car telemetry is outlawed with immediate effect.

It will already be a challenge to make an engine last longer � without the help of telemetry (both ways) it will just make it that little bit more difficult. How this will make things cheaper in the proposed time frame I do not know. It certainly will have no effect on spectator pleasure.

Radio communications are still allowed but monitored by the FIA. No big deal. What has changed? All that is needed is to develop some sort of code and it does not matter how much the FIA listen.

The one change that I find hard to understand is the vague rule around the use of the spare car. Now a third car is allowed if a racecar is damaged beyond repair.

Virtually any damage to a racecar can be repaired given enough time. One must assume that �beyond repair� means that it cannot be fixed in the time available.

What stops teams from taking advantage of this rule by building a qualifying car and then deliberately �damaging it beyond repair� following qualifying or the warm up on Sunday morning (if this is still allowed)? That way a driver can maximise qualifying performance without having to worry that the qualifying setup will not be robust enough for the race.

Cars will be held in parc ferme between qualifying and the race or could be kept in a team garage under supervision. That choice makes little sense to me � of course all teams will want these cars in their garage.

The bit that really does not make sense is that very restricted work will be allowed in this period. How do you reconcile this with the previous rule of damage beyond repair? They are almost inviting drivers and teams to consider the abovementioned loophole.

From the British Grand Prix traction control and automatic gearboxes will not be allowed. Launch control will be abandoned if all teams can operate their current clutches manually.

As I said before: How are they planning to monitor this now seeing that they abandoned this restriction just over a year and a half ago because they could not monitor it?

I would have thought that the current clutches must all be capable of being operated manually. How else can one keep the motor running during a spin?

What happens if they do not end launch control at the same time as traction control? Seeing that it is pretty much the same thing how are they going to make sure that the teams will not use it to also control traction illegally?

Enough said. I think that the changes for this season are unlikely to make the sport cheaper. From next year on they may make it cheaper but this could be at the cost of spectator interest and support. Manual gearboxes and throttle control is a retrogressive step.

None of the proposed changes would have saved Prost. Nobody misses Prost � they were an embarrassment.

Currently sponsorship is moving from tobacco to motor manufacturers. Neither are concerned with the cost of competing. The teams that will benefit are the Minardis and Saubers. I do not know how many spectators are watching because of these two teams but I am prepared to bet that it is very few.

The cars are still faster and more dangerous this season. Aerodynamics will be even more refined making it even more difficult to overtake. Now we can look forward to races where one or more of the top driver join us as spectators.

Why do I feel that they have missed the plot?

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