Formula 1's plans for a rules overhaul for 2017 can still be saved by tech bosses at a meeting next week, reckons Renault's Nick Chester, despite ongoing disagreement between teams.
F1's team bosses are at loggerheads over how extreme car changes intended for next year should be – with Red Bull pushing for aggressive aerodynamic modifications and other outfits eager for only minor tweaks.
Ahead of a March 1 deadline to get the rules in place – because after then only unanimous support will allow regulations to be altered – time is running out to implement a hoped for speed boost for F1 cars.
F1 technical directors are due to get together on February 11 to discuss progress on the 2017 regulations.
And that get-together will offer the perfect chance for then to reach consensus on specific car changes that will meet the criteria to make cars faster.
Mandate for change
However, while Chester, who is Renault's chassis technical director, is optimistic the scope is there for a breakthrough, he is adamant that F1's Strategy Group and the FIA need to tell technical bosses exactly what they want to achieve with the rules.
Speaking to Motorsport.com about the rules process, Chester said: “It has drifted quite a lot. One of the difficulties there is, is that when it gets close to a final decision date – like March 1 – all the teams are positioning themselves a bit more than we might have been six months ago.
“We have got another TRM [Technical Regulations Meeting] on February 11, and I am hoping at that meeting we will make some decent progress.”
When asked if he believed the differences between teams could be resolved, he said: “I think they can be, but only if there is enough direction from the Strategy Group and the FIA about what they want.
“With enough direction we can agree a set of rules. We had a set of rules agreed before Christmas which would do the job from a styling point of view – it doesn't add a huge amount of downforce, it adds a bit – but it has the wide track car, so we could go for that and nail those regulations.
“But it needs a little bit of will to give it some direction. If, for the TRM, we can have a little bit more of a mandate about what is required, we can finish it off.”
There had been some hope that last week's team bosses' meeting with Pirelli would help push on some agreement between Strategy Group members about what kind of rules they wanted implemented.
However, sources have suggested that was not forthcoming – and instead the TRM will be asked to come up with options for 2017.
They can then be taken to the Strategy Group meeting in Geneva on February 23 where, if the rules are to be implemented in time, they will need approval by a majority before going to the F1 Commission later that day.
The chances of a unanimous support for changes after March 1 are very slim, with Chester admitting that there remain differences of opinions from several teams.
“There is a bit of a gulf there,” he said. “There is a bit of a factor from Pirelli too, because it is a huge difference to them if they are producing tyres that cope with 40 percent more load or 10 percent more load.
"And they haven't got very long to make tyres and go testing. That combination is a bit messy. You have these two extremes and other teams in-between. So it isn't straightforward at all.”