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An error, or something sinister?

NEWS STORY
19/02/2006

A story first covered by the German media and subsequently picked up by a British motorsport website, which reports it as "new information", at first glance appears to be cut and dried - Renault is behind plans for a 'freeze' regarding engine development.

The news that the French manufacturer is calling for the freeze, and is reportedly making its own proposals as to how this might be achieved, in addition to coming up with other cost-cutting initiatives, gives the impression that it could be on the verge of breaking ranks with its fellow manufacturers that comprise the Grand Prix Manufacturers' Association (GPMA). This would open up a costly, and messy, can of worms since the manufacturers are legally bound together until September 2006.

This week, Max Mosley warned that he would be seeking to impose a freeze on engine development from 2008, further warning that next month, the manufacturers will be given a ten-day 'window' to sign for the 2008 Championship or face exclusion. Meanwhile, one week ago, Renault boss, Flavio Briatore urged the manufacturers to sign-up to the new Concorde Agreement.

According to the German media, Briatore wrote personally to Max Mosley on January 20, listing a number of recommendations as to how to make F1 a better spectacle and also reduce costs.

Amongst Briatore's more fanciful suggestions are calls for a salary cap for drivers - most odd, considering his other role as a driver manager - and an age cap - an idea discussed and dismissed by the team principals and Max Mosley in February 2005.

The Italian also calls for a ban on testing - at least in the summer - with the Friday of each Grand Prix devoted almost entirely to testing, and recommends that all Technical and Sporting regulations should only be changed every three years - thereby 'freezing' engine development and chassis design.

As we have said, at first glance, this would appear to suggest that Renault, under Briatore's guidance, is looking to break ranks, make peace, and sign up to the new Concorde Agreement.

According to the British website, the FIA has "refused to confirm whether Renault are the ones pushing for the 'engine freeze' idea", quoting an FIA spokesman as saying: "It would be inappropriate to comment".

However, a search of the FIA website reveals that Flavio Briatore has indeed written to Max Mosley with a number of cost cutting proposals, these include:

  • The technical and sporting regulations should be frozen for a minimum of three years. Only in extreme cases should changes be introduced for safety reasons during this period.
  • The regulations for the next three year period should be fixed and published a full two years prior to their introduction. The changes from one period to the next should again only be done for significant safety reasons. During the three year period of unchanging regulations each team must homologate a car and engine design that remains unaltered. Variations in car design to allow for cooling options and various downforce levels etc can also be homologated.
  • Bodywork regulations to be altered to significantly reduce development potential i.e. remove bargeboards, brake drums and diffusers, and mandate standard front and rear wings.
  • Enforce standard ECU and software.
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