FIA announces new regulations, Reactions on lifting the team order ban, Lotus saga reaches boiling point.
FIA announces new regulations
Formula One's governing body, the F?d?ration Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), has published the 2011 Technical and Sporting Regulations, which contain numerous changes for the 2011 season. The most notable technical chance is the introduction of an adjustable rear wing, which should make overtaking easier for drivers. The adjustable wing is operated by the driver, but it can only be used it if the driver is within one second behind an opponent. As a result of this year's flexing wing controversy, the FIA has tightened the bodywork regulations, and ramped up the bodywork deflection tests as well.
The F-Duct and double diffuser will be banned, and the tyre regulations have been changed. The intermediate tyre will be re-introduced, and drivers who fail to use both dry-weather tyres during the race, will be severely punished, and can even be disqualified from the race. A gearbox has to last five races instead of four, and anti-intrusion panels will be introduced to protect the drivers' legs. This modification is introduced after Vitantonio Liuzzi's crash in Brazil, when a part of the suspension went right through the monocoque of the Force India car and almost pierced his legs. The new regulations also contain clarifications about the Safety Car rules, and now specify when a driver can and cannot overtake the Safety Car.
The ban on team orders has been lifted, but the FIA also warned 'teams will be reminded that any actions liable to bring the sport into disrepute are dealt with under Article 151c of the International Sporting Code and any other relevant provisions'. Unfortunately the new regulations do not specify what is acceptable and what is not, so whether the scenario that unfolded during the German Grand Prix, when Felipe Massa was ordered to hand over his first place to Fernando Alonso, is acceptable or not, or are in fact a violation of Article 151c, still remains a mystery.
The 107% rule has also been re-introduced for for the first qualifying session, and competitors 'whose best qualifying lap exceeds 107% of the fastest time set during that session will not be allowed to take part in the race. Under exceptional circumstances however, which may include setting a suitable lap time in a free practice session, the stewards may permit the car to start the race'.
The FIA also announced a radical new engine formula for 2013 to make Formula One greener, the environmentally-friendly engine will replace the current 2.4 liter V8 engine, and it is expected the new engine will reduce the fuel consumption with 35 percent. According to the FIA statement 'the power units will be four cylinders, 1.6 liter with high pressure gasoline injection up to 500 bar'. The engine revs will be limited to 12,000 rpm, but the FIA expects new energy recovery systems and an improved energy management system will compensate for the loss of power. In 2013 drivers will be limited to five engines per season, and this will be further reduced to four engines the following year.
More detailed information about the 2011 regulations will be published on Motorsport.com this coming Friday.
Reactions on lifting the team order ban
The first to react on the decision to lift the team order ban, was of course Ferrari, who were fined $100,000 for issuing team orders during the German Grand Prix. Team principal Stefano Domenicali was happy with the decision, "Finally, we have said goodbye to this pointless hypocrisy. For us, Formula One is a team sport and we have always maintained that viewpoint and it should be treated as such," he said during the Bologna motor show. About the FIA's referral to Article 151c, Domenicali was also clear, adding, "The regulations already include points that prevent certain situations being managed in an extreme manner. The decision taken is very important."
Mark Webber reckons lifting the ban won't make a difference. Webber said during a interview on BBC Radio Five, "It's something that's been around since the 1950s and 60s, it's always been there. When you've got two drivers driving for a team and you can swing the results around every now and again to help the team achieve a better result. It has been done in the past, it's been done up and down the field." The Australian also confessed he has been involved in team orders in the past, "I've done it myself at times. I've been on the receiving end of it and done it as well in teams I've driven for in the past."
Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner repeated Red Bull's stance on team orders: "I don't think it changes anything for us. We will go into next year giving both drivers the same support as we always have," he said. Jenson Button, who repeatedly said he would rather quit Formula One if team orders would be legalized again, has so far not given any comments.
Lotus saga reaches boiling point
The Lotus name dispute is heading for court, Team Lotus owner Tony Fernandes recently stated he didn't want to destroy the Lotus brand and it's heritage, but team chief executive Riad Asmat has confirmed the Malaysian outfit will nevertheless continue with the legal procedures, and the matter will be decided by London's High Court in January. "I think that will be fair to everyone and the courts will explain everything to everyone," Asmat said.
But the tone in the dispute has also changed, as the comments and statements of the two parties involved have become bolder and bolder. Asmat was very sarcastic when he gave his comment last week. "Did anyone have any specific guidelines? I am not aware of that. Oh, they [Proton] said they own the [Lotus] name, well we own the name Team Lotus, that is why we are racing as Team Lotus," said Asmat.
David Hunt, who was the owner of the 'Team Lotus' name before he sold it to Fernandes, has now also given his opinion about the dispute. The decision of Group Lotus to enter Formula One in an alliance with Renault is completely wrong according to Hunt in an interview with the UK Norwich Evening News. "I think it's silly, whatever angle you look at it. Even if Proton and Group Lotus were to succeed with their extraordinary agenda, they would actually score an own goal because, judging by what the fans say, the damage they would do to their brand is pretty plain," Hunt said, clearly indicating he supports the claims of the Malaysian Lotus team.
Hunt also wondered: "Have the sponsors on Renault's car all been warned what they are in for and the damage that might occur to their brand through association of what is effectively a declaration of war by Proton? And given Renault still have a suspended sentence tied to them after bringing the sport into disrepute in 2008, are they doing so again by deliberately and willfully confusing the public over the Lotus brand?"
Renault's Gerard Lopez is confident only one team will be called Lotus next season, and told press agency Reuters, "As far as having four [Lotus] cars next year on the grid, I don't think it's going to happen. I tend to be a positive person, so I would say that nobody has anything to win from this -- except maybe Group Lotus as having four cars running for the same brand and only being involved financially in two of them."
Regarding the ownership of the Lotus name, Lopez was clear and defended the actions of Renault and Group Lotus. "We are doing a deal with Group Lotus and we are taking the Lotus brand racing in Formula One. And that's it. It's not complicated. There is only one car manufacturer that builds Lotus cars, and that's Group Lotus, and all we are doing is promoting that brand," he said.
But Lopez might be in trouble. When the FIA published the official 2011 entry list on December 2nd, Renault was listed as the 'Renault F1 Team', while their constructor's name was listed as 'Renault'. Fernandes' Lotus team was listed as 'Team Lotus', and their constructors name appeared as 'Lotus Renault' on the list, exactly the same name the current Renault team has in mind for the 2011 season. Renault cannot simply chance their name, the name change will have to be approved by the FIA.
So far it is unknown whether Lopez has applied for an official approval of the FIA for the name change, neither has the FIA indicated whether they would agree to do so, and would be willing to accept two similar team names during the 2011 season.
Meanwhile, there have been other developments. Fernandes and his team have decided to abandon their plans to run the black and gold livery in 2011, and will race in the same green and yellow livery as this season. "Having four black cars looking the same I think is silly and one has to relent," Fernandes commented after the decision had been published. He said he had also received messages from fans, who had expressed their concerns the black and gold livery might lead to people thinking Lotus and Fernandes would sponsor a tobacco company, and according to Fernandes that was also one of the reasons Lotus has dropped the plans for the black and gold livery.
Reserve (third) driver Malaysian Fairuz Fauzy has been dismissed from the Team Lotus outfit. His father and manager Haji Fauzy revealed the original five-year contract had been 'prematurely' terminated by Team Lotus 'without reason'. Lotus will not hire a new reserve driver, a Team Lotus spokesman confirmed the drivers of the new AirAsia GP2 team will be given the opportunity to be the test and reserve drivers for the Formula One team. And as Renault is also active in the GP2 support series, both Lotus teams will be rivals in GP2 as well.
For motor sport journalists the Lotus saga has become a minefield as well, as Team Lotus Technical Director Mike Gascoyne has accused an editor and journalist of the UK-based Autosport magazine of being 'biased' when he commented about the Lotus dispute. "Lots of fans are unhappy with the Autosport articles this week, me too," Gascoyne wrote on Twitter. Unhappy or not, it doesn't seem a good idea to involve journalists in this dispute, there is no hidden agenda, they simply report about the Lotus saga, and give their point of view, as they have done for decades.
And last but not least, although the recent exodus of car manufacturers from Formula One has been attributed to the current economic situation, things are looking up for mother company Renault. French newspaper Le Figaro reported on Monday Renault sold 2.6 million cars in 2010, 300,000 more than in 2009. According to the newspaper the French manufacturer made a net profit of 3.3 billion Euro this year, last year they reported a loss of 3.1 billion Euro.
Join us again next week for the weekly "Formula One: On and off track"
See also: Formula One - On and Off track week 49