US drivers could benefit from new rules

American drivers may get a chance to test Formula One cars on the opening day of practice of next year's United States Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. That prospect is one of the positive aspects created by the new F1 rules package...

American drivers may get a chance to test Formula One cars on the opening day of practice of next year's United States Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. That prospect is one of the positive aspects created by the new F1 rules package for 2003 that the Formula One Commission confirmed Oct. 28.

If at least three teams agree to test no more than 10 days between March 1 and Nov. 1, they will be allowed to test for two additional hours on the Friday morning of each Grand Prix. During that time, the teams can use their spare car and their test drivers.

"I think the proposals are good for the sport," Minardi team owner Paul Stoddart told Reuters. "Certainly we're going to liven up both practice on Friday and qualifying on Saturday. The (new rules) will do what we want to do, which is to improve the show to the people. And I think there is a little bit of help in there for the smaller teams.

"For a team like us, we would like to run in a host nation one of that country's drivers. In the United States, for example, I would have run both (Americans) Townsend Bell and Bryan Herta on a Friday morning.

"The interest that would have created at the U.S. Grand Prix would have directly translated on Friday and Saturday into gate attendance and interest.

"Formula One has made some very, very important decisions about its future," Stoddart added. "They have been done in the right spirit of promoting a great sport to be even greater."

Other rule changes include a dramatic format for a two-day qualifying showdown during which the drivers will each run alone for single hot laps. Changing track conditions, the weather and the driver's strategy will help create starting lineups that will make the Grand Prix races more exciting.

"Several of the fastest drivers, in an effort to be first on the grid, will make mistakes and have to start much further down than normal," FIA President Max Mosley said. "That will mean they have to do more overtaking during the race."

Jordan driver Giancarlo Fisichella approves of the new qualifying format.

"I experienced something similar when I drove for Alfa Romeo in international Touring Cars," he told Italy's Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper. "It's a worthwhile idea."

Because lap times could vary considerably if, for example, it starts to rain halfway through the qualifying session, drivers will no longer be required to post a lap time within 107 percent of the pole winning time.

Team owner Eddie Jordan said that the rule changes, which include prohibiting team orders that interfere with the race result and a new points system that rewards the top eight finishers, are "very positive."

"I have been calling for changes to improve the show, and also to control costs, for a while," Jordan said, "and I think the outcome of (the Formula One Commission) meeting is very encouraging."

Ian Phillips, Jordan's director of business affairs, said: "These are the most radical changes we've seen in Formula One for a long time. We should see the show improve as a result, and I think it's a very good start."

The Formula One Commission voted against some of the more radical proposals, such as adding ballast to the cars of the more successful drivers.

"We didn't want to give a handout," Bernie Ecclestone said. "We want teams to beat Ferrari fair and square. We threw out the idea about weights because it was too heavy."

Mosley said: "In the end, I think we all felt that we'd really like to see whoever it may be, Schumacher or whatever, running in the best possible condition, going as fast as he possibly could, without any form of restriction."

But Mosley still predicts closer competition in 2003.

"It'll be surprising if we don't see close racing next season, but close racing depends on the leading teams all doing a good job, not just one, and they are determined to do that," he said.

David Richards, director of the BAR-Honda team for which 1995 Indianapolis 500 winner Jacques Villeneuve drives, believes that the new rule package has created the needed changes without damaging the integrity of Formula One.

"We are in a cyclical phase, and we are not witnessing the death throes of Formula One," Richards told Reuters. "But it does need a lift, and that is what we have given it. Some cynics will suggest it is not enough, but Formula One has been very successful for the past 20 years, and we didn't want to tip things too far.

"I believe that this is everything that is needed, but we will have to wait for the middle of next season to see. I think next season is probably going to be vintage F1 again."

***

2003 USGP schedule, tickets: The fourth running of the United States Grand Prix, the 15th of 16 events in the 2003 FIA Formula One World Championship, is scheduled to take place Sunday, Sept. 28, 2003.

United States Grand Prix tickets are available by calling (800) 822-4639 from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (EST) Monday through Friday or online at www.imstix.com. Visa, MasterCard and American Express are accepted.

Ticket order forms also can be downloaded at www.usgpindy.com or obtained by writing to USGP Tickets, P.O. Box 24915, Speedway, IN 46224.

-ims-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Giancarlo Fisichella , Jacques Villeneuve , Eddie Jordan , Bryan Herta , Townsend Bell , David Richards , Bernie Ecclestone
Teams Ferrari , Minardi , Jordan