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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

This Is Nuts

Well, the GPMA may have expressed their support for the sale of SLEC to the CVC but if I were one of the manufacturers this latest bit of madness from the FIA is surely to drive me up the wall. The FIA in the draft 2008 regulations is proposing that:

"Only engines which have been homologated by the FIA in accordance with Appendix 6 may be used at an event during the 2008, 2009 and 2010 seasons."

The said Appendix 6 provides that:

1. A homologated engine is an engine identical in every respect to :

(i) an engine delivered to the FIA prior to 1 June 2006 or,
(ii) an engine delivered to the FIA after 1 June 2006, or modified and re-delivered to the FIA after 1 June 2006, which the FIA is satisfied, in its absolute discretion and after full consultation with all other suppliers of engines for the Championship, could fairly and equitably be allowed to compete with other homologated engines.

All such engines should be delivered in such a condition that the seals required under Article 85(d) can be fitted. Engines will be held by the FIA throughout the homologation period.

2. The supplier of a homologated engine and/or the team using the homologated engine must take and/or facilitate such steps as the FIA may at any time and in its absolute discretion determine in order to satisfy the FIA that an engine used at an Event is indeed identical to the corresponding engine delivered to and held by the FIA.

In short people, the crazy folks at the FIA are proposing a 3 year engine freeze. 3 bloody years! I don't know about you, but I think this absolutely not Formula 1 anymore.

In a surprising twist however, this proposal was not a Max Mosley original. A previous article on Pitpass mentioned that in a letter to the FIA, it was Flavio Briatore that proposed these rules. It seems that Flavio urged the GPMA members to sign the new Concorde and proposed a number of other measures to "cut costs" including the standard ECU (I'm all for that actually) and get this, a freeze on chassis development as well.

I particularly like this bit in Appendix 6: "... and after full consultation with all other suppliers of engines...."

That should really read : after full consultation with our favourite pet, Ferrari.

And of course I'll bet that Ferrari will be given an absolute magic wand to resubmit a modified and re-delivered engine after 1 June 2006. After all the FIA seemed to agree that their flexi wings, in contravention of the technical regulations are legal items. Whereas McLaren's rear brake steer circa 1998 developed with full consultation with the FIA was banned after protests from Maranello. (** See postscript below)

Alright, putting aside my prejudice, how does the FIA or the other manufacturers for that matter determine that an engine "could fairly and equitably be allowed to compete with other homologated engines?" Oh well, when in doubt they'll probably just ask Ferrari.

Sorry, there I go again. But seriously speaking, this is just inviting more arguments into the sport. Recently, Super Aguri was admitted into the world championship without much ado. But its probably because no one expects them to be any threat at all. Not at this stage anyway. But say, Volkswagen Audi / Porsche wishes to compete I'm sure there will be plenty of discussion as to whether they would compete "fairly and equitably".

And as a fan of Formula 1 and of technology, do I really want to see no progress for three bloody years? And should Mercedes come up with another shoddy engine, do I really want to see a McLaren fighting for last place for three years? There has got to be a better way to do this.

And what happens if for some reason Max Mosley decides in 2008 that this is all wrong and he wants another change of the rules? We've got all these homologated engines with the FIA lying around with costs already sunk. Suddenly, the manufacturers are going to cry foul and protest about researching and producing new engines, incurring more costs, the homologated engines being wasted, so on and so forth.

I really hope my understanding of this situation is incorrect and that Formula 1 doesn't degenerate into this. Ideally I think everyone would like a simple set of rules that promote technology and innovation instead of all this mucking about by the FIA.

As for saving costs. I think the problem is simple. In the first place, the commercial rights for Formula 1 which takes in all television and other revenues from the sport, shouldn't have been flogged off to bloody SLEC and now CVC in the first place. The Formula One Constructors Association, forerunner to the Formula One Administration (or whatever they call it) was originally intended to ensure all the teams got a fair share of the revenues. Bernie should have been fighting for the teams as was the original intent of the FOCA, not to make himself rich with his magic tricks in the fine print. If all the revenues were available to the teams as is their right, then many great teams now long gone would have survived till today.

Now, years on the rights have passed hands once again to CVC. Of course the stiffs there will want a return on their bloody billion dollar purchase. But that return ought to be in the hands of the teams not some bloody investors more interested in the money than any notion of sport. The only recourse I suppose that Max and Bernie can think of to stop more teams from leaving and to attract more teams is to put in these artificial and complicated rules in to "save costs." Dubious measures to save costs are one thing. It would have made more sense to offer these folks revenue instead. But the lions share of those revenues went to Bernie mostly and now to a lesser extent CVC.

The result is the status quo we have today. Bernie may have led the sport into unprecedented worldwide attention it enjoys today but simultaneously it has led to its degradation.

I know in these times everyone is trying so hard to save Formula 1 and there is a spirit of reconciliation and private discussion among the parties. But to me, the sweet has turned sour. If anyone, be it GPMA or some others were to come up with an alternative grand prix series without these complications and of course with worldwide television coverage, I know which series I'd rather watch. There have been controversial proposals in the past 20 years but never have I seen such madness as these today.

(**) Postscript: Sorry folks I just couldn't let it slide. Berrylium, used in Mercedes engines, was banned in Formula 1 back in 2000 or so after Ferrari raised a protest over the material. They cited a safety concern or specifically fire risk. All the while the greatest fire risk is still refuelling which was only brought back into Formula 1 because Ferrari needed it to compensate for the thirsty V12 engines. The real reason for calling for a ban on berrylium was because Maranello could not obtain a monopoly supply of it. The cads. But the point here is: When Maranello wants something it gets it.

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