JANUARY 26, 2005
The FIA proposals for the future
The FIA proposals which were due to be discussed on Friday seek to address the issue of cost-cutting in Formula 1. The problem is that the teams and apparently Bernie Ecclestone as well think that they risk altering the essence of what they believe to be Formula 1. They argue that Formula 1 is about exotic machinery, high technology and innovation and that to undermine that is to damage the sport. The FIA says that "if we do nothing we will lose the independent teams and end up with a money-spending contest between an ever-smaller number of major manufacturers".
This is a belief that the FIA has had for some time but what is interesting is that it has not been backed up by reality. The Formula One group pays for 10 teams and although there is a provision for there to be 12, the money that comes for Formula One is significant and does make a difference. This is why the new Midland F1 operation has decided to buy Jordan Grand Prix rather than starting its own business. The fact is that the smaller weaker teams are not disappearing but rather being acquired by wealthy non-manufacturer organizations such as Red Bull and Midland willing are to spend what it takes to be successful in Formula 1. There is a need for some sensible cost-cutting measures but not necessarily a wholesale rethink of the way Formula 1 operates. The federation says that it wants to "reduce the importance of expensive technologies" and says that while it cannot stop a team using several expensive wind tunnels for 24 hours a day, it believes "with clever aerodynamic rules" it can ensure that the advantage gained by doing so is minimal. The teams appear to believe that these are dangerous goals.
The full list of FIA proposals is fairly radical including a standard electronic control unit for the car and the engine, a restriuction on telemetry and sensors, standard brakes, center of gravity and minimum weight regulations, reductions in aerodynamic downforce, homologation of chassis for specific periods of time, long life components, a further extension of engine life, a rev limit on engines, standard transmissions, limits on materials that can be used in chassis, a single tyre supplier, the banning of tyre warming devices, the elimination of the spare car, two-day Grand Prix weekends and staff reductions at races. In addition there are suggestions of salary caps for drivers and a maximum age limit for the second driver.
Hidden away in the details is a proposal to discuss the most recent fax vote of the Formula 1 Commission, which appears to be a source of some controversy. This was the vote in October which set the rules for 2005. It is not clear why this needs to be discussed but obviously there are some questions in relation to how it was carried out. This is underlined by the fact that there was also to be a discussion on the rules for future fax votes.
In addition the FIA is proposing a reform of the F1 Commission to simplify the decision-making process. This is bound to be a controversial move as complaints with the previous system (which the FIA says was "arguably more efficient") led to the creation of the current structure.
The FIA is also proposing that Formula One Management conduct full market research into all proposals to change Grand Prix format to find out what the public want to see and how new revenues can be found for the teams. This is a very good idea and the teams and Bernie Ecclestone responded positively and logically pointing out to the FIA that there is no point in discussing rule changes until after the market research which the FIA is proposing has been carried out.
This is a fair point but our sources at the FIA say that Max Mosley is going to hold the meeting anyway, although it is not clear why there is a rush to do anything. Nothing can be decided if the teams do not turn up to the meeting.
Mosley's rush to do things is curious. If the teams do not attend the meeting he may try to use this fact as a way to act without them but it is unlikely that any change will be in line with the rules of the Concorde Agreement and that could open the FIA to accusations that the federation is overstepping its powers.
That is probably not something that Mosley wants floating around in an FIA election year.
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