The War Ends Before It Begins

24 hours ago Max Mosely and Luca di Montezemelo were sat discussing the FIA/FOTA fiasco, with Bernie Ecclestone also present presumably as moderator as well as looking after his own interests. The trio reportedly discussed the issues for most of the night in order to strike a deal before Wednesday’s crucial FIA World Motorsport Council (WSMC) meeting, in which frankly anything could have happened.

Thankfully the time pressure of the deadline meant common sense broke out and the following agreements were announced:

– There will be no FOTA breakaway, instead they will report back tomorrow with cost-reduction proposals.
– Budgets are to be reduced to “early 1990s levels” within two years. Curiously the method for achieving this was not stated so the budget cap may not be the answer.
– The 1998 Concorde Agreement, which determines the distribution of revenues, methods for agreeing regulations, and more, has been amended and extended to 2012. This means all teams are committed to that date.
– There will be 13 teams in the 2010-2012 Formula One World Championship, this is the list per the press release:

SCUDERIA FERRARI MARLBORO
VODAFONE McLAREN MERCEDES
BMW SAUBER F1 TEAM
RENAULT F1 TEAM
PANASONIC TOYOTA RACING
SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO
RED BULL RACING
AT&T WILLIAMS
FORCE INDIA F1 TEAM
BRAWN GP FORMULA ONE TEAM
CAMPOS META TEAM
MANOR GRAND PRIX
TEAM US F1

The latter three operations will use the cheap Cosworth engines, it is currently unclear if those will be under 2006 regulations since 2006 was the last year Cosworth competed (as a nod to cost-saving). If so this would give them a 2000rpm advantage over the other teams, and not have to run to the multi-race engine rules. While this is clearly unfair, it could be the new teams’ chassis will be so far behind the established teams, for the first couple of years anyway, that it all balances out nicely – should the new teams catch up, they can expect these breaks to be lifted.

You can read the FIA press release on their own website.

* * * *

Within the press release were some other nuggets relating to other FIA series.

World Rally

– The new 1.6 litre turbo engine will be brought in ahead of schedule in 2011.
– Events can now be more flexible. Instead of running to a set 3-day timetable, they may run 2, 3 or 4 days as long as it finishes on a Saturday or Sunday. They may include different surfaces.
– The 2010 calendar is out and you can see it in the link. Looks like the move to a winter championship schedule has been quietly dropped.

World Touring

– Yokohama is the sole supplier for the next three years.
Autosport reported the 1.6 litre engine will be used in WTCC in 2011 as well, and that it’ll be a spec engine, but the release doesn’t mention this.
– The 2010 calendar is out, check it out in the link. Algarve and Zolder are in. Pau is out. Valencia and Imola move around, assuming Imola is the Italian round.

I find the whole idea of the top rally and touring car series running 1.6 litre engines to be laughable. At least the rally cars will be turbocharged.

World GT

– Stephane Ratel’s plan to expand FIA GT into a new FIA GT1 World Championship has been authorised. GT2 will split into a new European series of its own races, many of which will run on GT1 weekends alongside GT3 and GT4.
– GT1 will be for pro drivers, GT2 for pro-am, and GT3 for non-professionals.
– The Bucharest street race next year is out, instead they’ll go to Budapest (I’m assuming this means the Hungaroring).

It seems like a good idea and I really hope it works for them, despite my reservations at losing the element of class traffic from sportscar racing.

Dr Gary Hartstein

There’s an interesting article at the International Herald Tribune about Doctor Gary Hartstein, originally from Staten Island, New York and now living and working in Belgium. He is the FIA’s medical rescue coordinator and rides in the Mercedes response car, the one following the field on the first lap. He took over from (the legendary) Professor Sid Watkins a few years ago when Watkins went off to found the FIA Institute.

The article is written by Hartstein and he explains his role at race weekends, you should check it out (there are two pages).

http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/11/07/sports/SRDOCTOR.php

I also recommend clicking the author’s name when done to see some of Brad Spurgeon’s words on the subject, particularly the 2002 article.

Thoughts on a strange week in F1

I can use that heading in any week of the year, yet this week seems more even more bizarre than most.

The 25-second post-race penalty applied to Sebastien Bourdais in the hours after the Japanese Grand Prix has been universally panned, in fact I haven’t seen a single person agree with it. (In the interests of balance I haven’t been able to find any Ferrari quotes). This is actually quite unusual despite what the English-speaking media might pretend after other penalties going in favour of Ferrari. There are usually a few (or more) ardent Ferrari fans arguing in favour of the penalty. I can’t find any in this case.

For example, after Belgium this year there was plenty of opinion from elsewhere in the world agreeing with the penalty, although you might not believe if from reading a lot of the British-based press corps.

This penalty does nothing to reduce the belief that the FIA stewards have an inherent Ferrari bias. Neither do the continued rumours that Jean Todt, team principal of the race team until he was promoted higher up the company some 12-18 months ago, will be taking over from Max Mosely as FIA President or joining the FIA in some other high-ranking capacity.

Until last year the FIA had a permanent steward at each race, Tony Scott-Andrews. He brought much needed consistency to the rulings and was widely praised by all in the paddock. This ended when he departed at the end of 2007 after only one year in the job. We are now back to the earlier situation with three different stewards at each meeting. One is from the national sporting body of the host country. Consider the countries which host F1 races these days, they are not the hotbeds of motorsport that some of the other countries are, and other former host countries still are. There are some pretty inexperienced guys making these calls and none of them have ever sat in a Formula One car.

The FIA has rules about which drivers are allowed to drive F1 cars in races. They have to have had F1 race experience, or have finished in the top 3 in selected championships the previous year, or have completed 300km of testing. That gets you a Superlicence which allows you to race in a Grand Prix.

I propose a Superlicence for race stewards. I want these people to have had experience officiating F1 Grands Prix, or have performed a similar role in another top line or feeder championship for at least a year. I want there to be a permanent steward who attends every GP and chairs the stewards’ meetings, as Tony Scott-Andrews did.

Other News
Just a week after the FIA pulled the Canadian GP, the French themselves have cancelled the French Grand Prix for “economic reasons”. Remember that France has struggled to get on the calendar for the last two seasons, that 2007 was supposed to be the last ever race at Magny-Cours. The same was said in 2008 before the 2009 race was announced. The promoter for the French GP is the French national motorsport federation, the FFSA, and technically another promoter could step in.

As things stand we’re now down to 17 races next year. Canada and France have been financially unstable for a while so I don’t think this is the start of a domino effect. On the other hand, I didn’t expect them to actually go…
Perhaps with France gone that re-opens the door for a new deal with Canada or the US? Maybe under the current global financial climate Bernie is willing to renegotiate? I’ve seen rumours floating around that Chris Pook of Long Beach fame is working on an F1 venue on the Western coast of the US.

Max & Bernie have been talking this week about changing the engines to a spec formula provided by a single manufacturer. ‘Cos that’ll persuade the car companies to stick around, right boys? Maybe they actually want to drag us kicking and screaming back to the 1970s with Ferrari vs Everyone Else using Cosworths. Maybe because they were successful as team owners in that period they think it’s the only thing that’ll work now.

The new FOTA organisation of team representatives has suggested a ban on refuelling and a reduction in race length. And I thought Max Mosely was crazy…

I finally caught up with the Japanese MotoGP on Tuesday. Belated congratulations to Valentino Rossi! Now there’s a guy dominating racing who I actually like – and that doesn’t happen often. They have a race in Malaysia this weekend at Sepang. I need to watch the Australian round first…

My F1 Chinese GP preview will be up tomorrow.

* UPDATE 16/10/08 *
Formula1.com has uploaded video of all of the contentious issues from the Japanese Grand Prix:
http://www.formula1.com/news/headlines/2008/10/8530.html
After seeing this, I’ve changed my view.
#1 Hamilton initiated the two Ferraris leaving the track by locking up, however Kovalainen was the car who pushed them wide simply by following Lewis around.
#2 Massa’s onboard camera clearly shows him accelerating toward Hamilton at the chicane. He was pulling a Schumi. Not good.
#3 This is as blatantly obvious as it was watching it live. Massa turned in on him. Just as an aside, that last angle shows the incredible stopping power of these cars… its easy to forget just how good they are at braking.

Move along..

..nothing to see here.

I was going to write about the outcome of the McLaren/Hamilton penalty appeal but really, who expected any differently? They lost. Big deal. Who cares? We all expected them to lose. The only people who didn’t were either McLaren employees or British tabloid ‘journalists’.

And you know what? I agree with the penalty. Not the harshness of it, but the concept that he had a penalty. He gained an advantage by leaving the track and he didn’t relinquish the advantage in full before going for the pass – I agree.

My problem here is that Kimi did the same later on – if he’d finished the race, would he have been served with a penalty? I don’t think he would. The inconsistency and apparent Ferrari-bias – or at least anti-McLaren bias – of the officials just won’t seem to go away. They need at least one full time steward, preferably all three full-time, and for at least one to have competed in Grands Prix before.

Oh. It turns out I DID write about the outcome of the McLaren/Hamilton penalty appeal.

The post is fuelled by red wine, Lemon Jelly, and a relaxed couple of days off work.
(you really need to listen to “The Curse of Ka’Zar” in that state of mind)