In a departure from the norm, the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) is looking to propose rules changes to the Formula One World Championship itself for the 2008 season and beyond. In the past team technical directors have made the...
In a departure from the norm, the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) is looking to propose rules changes to the Formula One World Championship itself for the 2008 season and beyond.
In the past team technical directors have made the technical rules, but the FIA has determined "a better method might be to specify what we want the rules to achieve and only then allow the engineers to make proposals. The purpose is to suggest objectives together with some new rules to achieve them," the sport's governing body said.
The organization has faced the fact that costs need to be cut, having lost two independent teams and one major manufacturer in the past three years. "However, some manufacturers are opposed to any economy measure which might curtain technical exploration," the FIA stated through a published declaration of its Motor Sport Council proposal, which was, in part leaked to the media.
As the FIA sees it, the problem is the accelerated spending of monies to achieve a good spot in the season-long tally of points. "However much money the six manufacturers collectively spend, only one can win while, each season one at least is going to finish with cars in 11th or 12th places or worse," the directive explained.
The question is how to make sure competition is upheld. "The simple truth is that whether the six manufacturers collectively spend EU1.5 billion or (at the extreme) EU150 million, the result will be the same. The one with the cleverest engineers, the best managed team and the best drivers will win; the others will fail."
Cost reduction must ensure, the FIA declared, that independent teams survive to race in Formula One. "Should costs continue at present levels, or worse escalate in the next ten years at the same rate as the last ten, we risk simultaneously driving out the independent teams and some of the less successful manufacturers. The result would be non-Formula One cars on the grid or, possibly the collapse of the Championship."
The sanctioning organization does not want F1 to become [more of] a money-spending competition. "We need more emphasis on rules which allow a clever but under-funded team to defeat a less competent but richer rival. [Independent teams] provide an entry point for young drivers and team personnel and bring color and interest to the paddock."
A prime objective is to keep the public interested in Formula One, something that has occurred this season with new drivers and teams at the top of the points. But the FIA wants to take it all farther.
The FIA would also like to do away with electronic driver aids and put the onus for success back on the driver.
There are some suggested objectives: the rate of car performance should not exceed improvements to protect the public, marshals and competitors; rules should be clear; rules and methods of enforcement must be sufficiently flexible to deal with unforeseen technical innovation; costs should be contained to keep manufacturers in the fold, enable private teams to be competitive and reduce performance deficits of less well-funded teams.
In addition, the FIA proposes to reduce expensive technology no one can actually see or understand; reduce dependence on expensive materials or designs; eliminate driver aids as far as possible so they don't replace driver skills; downforce should be drastically reduced and mechanical grip increased substantially to induce closer racing and overtaking.
To accomplish these objectives, the FIA would like to see a specified and homologated ECU (electronic control unit) and would grandfather the current 3-liter V10 engines for teams unable to obtain a 2.4-liter V8, subject to similar strict performance limitations as in 2006-7. Gearboxes would be fitted with gear, final drive ratios and differentials manufactured by a designated FIA supplier and gear changing would be manually operated; clutches would be foot-pedal operted.
On the bodywork side, the FIA would like to see downforce reduced to approximately 10 percent of current levels yet drag would be maintained. Overall car width would be increased under this proposal and, most important, total advertising area remains unchanged.
The FIA would still like to see a single tire supplier and slick tires would be returned to competition under dry weather conditions with lower profile tires designated. They'd also like to see "significantly larger wheels with minimum and maximum sizes stipulated." Tire warmers would be banished from pit road.
A minimum center of gravity would be specified, as would minimum weight, while energy of all impact tests would be increased as would loads for all static tests and side intrusion tests. Ballast would be reduced under these proposed rules.
Telemetry and data acquisition would change under these proposals, and pit-to-car telemetry would be prohibited. The FIA would like to see a driver-operated onboard starter and spare cars would be prohibited
Testing, which goes on from December 1st until the end of the season would be limited to 30,000km annually per team on a calendar year basis, subject to a single tire provider. And lastly, teams would be free to buy a complete chassis or any part of a car from another constructor, which would change the awarding of constructor's points.
These proposed regulations will be debated by teams and in the public until some kind of solution is found.
In the USGP paddock, the primary oppostion appears to be to three ideas: most object to the banning of tire warmers as it takes a lot of engine power to warm rubber over three laps or so where tire warmers do so in a static fashion; the idea of reducing downforce in favor of mechanical grip also pushes the buttons of many engineering talent, as they believe more downforce will aid competition, not hurt it; others voice objections to the idea of selling race cars, as that would promote a preponderance of monied teams rather than "clever" ones.
Will these proposed solutions to cost cutting be a "dumbing down" of Formula One? Only time will tell.