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Controversy puts a damper on GP weekend

NEWS STORY
28/07/2006

Before the German Grand Prix weekend had even got underway, off-track controversy once again threatened to overshadow the on-track action.

Following the FIA's decision to ban the mass damper system, used by Renault and several other teams, race stewards declared the device legal. However, the FIA subsequently announced that it will appeal its own stewards' decision, which could lead to race bans similar to that meted out to BAR in 2005.

Last week, the FIA banned the system, pioneered by Renault but now used by several other teams, claiming that the it constituted a "movable aerodynamic device", thereby contravening Article 3.15 of the Formula One Technical Regulations.

Although not fitted to the two Renault race cars, the system was still in place on the T-car, when inspected on Thursday.

This was reported by the Technical Delegate to the stewards, who asked team representatives to "attend them and explain the reason such a component was fitted to their car". The stewards heard evidence from Renault's Pat Symonds and FIA Technical Delegate Charlie Whiting.

Renault demonstrated that the principal use of the damper was not to "improve the aerodynamic performance of the car" as had been communicated by the FIA in a memo to all teams on 21st July, but rather to improve mechanical grip by reducing 'contact patch load variation' - essentially, improving the ride of the cars.

The stewards considered that:

1) There was no regulation prohibiting use;
2) Unchallenged data showed negligible effect on aero performance (and that conventional dampers could have much greater effect)
3) Up to 7 teams have used them during the current championship
4) The FIA held the view until 21/07 that it did not contravene tech regulations;
5) There has been no change in the tech regulations referable to mass dampers though the year.

We understand that Renault along with others will assist the FIA in framing regulations to restrict their use from 200 owing to genuine grounds for FIA concerns about escalating use (ie: very heavy masses in the cars).

Nonetheless, the FIA has now warned that it will appeal the Stewards findings, though a date for the appeal has yet to be set.

This would mean that should the FIA win the appeal - which of course it almost certainly will - any team could forfeit its result this weekend and face a ban.

The last time the FIA appealed a decision by its own Stewards was at Imola in 2005 when race Stewards declared the BAR fuel tank legal. The FIA won on appeal and in addition to losing its San Marino result, the English team was banned from the next two races and 'put on probation' for twelve months.

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