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FIA announces proposals for changes to 2008 rules

NEWS STORY
16/06/2005

The FIA has today (Thursday 16 June) issued the following:

Traditionally, Formula One rules have been written by the engineers. Save in very exceptional circumstances, the Concorde Agreement (Clause 7.1) prevents anyone except the team technical directors making technical rules. This may no longer be the best approach. A better method might be to specify what we want the rules to achieve and only then allow the engineers to make proposals. The purpose of this note, therefore, is to suggest objectives together with some new rules to achieve them.
Safety, fairness, keeping the current six major car manufacturers involved, preserving the independent teams and ensuring that the public continue to enjoy Formula One are the five principal challenges for the Formula One World Championship in 2008. Everyone is agreed on the need for the first two; the last three are more controversial.

The need to cut costs

On the face of it, costs need to be cut. We have lost two independent teams and one major manufacturer in the last three years with no replacement in sight. However, some manufacturers are opposed to any economy measure which might curtail technical exploration. Five of the six competing car manufacturers are very large companies. Each assumes it has the money and technical expertise to win the Formula One World Championship alone or in partnership with an independent team. Each is apparently prepared to spend large sums to do so.

The manufacturers’ dilemma

The problem is that however much money the six manufacturers collectively spend, only one can win, while each season one at least is going to finish with cars in 11th and 12th places or worse. Dr Helmut Panke, Chief Executive of BMW, said recently “We are not satisfied with the sixth and seventh places and we are in intensive discussions on how to do better”. But if all six manufacturers and their twelve cars stay in Formula One, one of them will have to be content with sixth or seventh place each year and two or three of the remainder will be even less successful.

The simple truth is that whether the six manufacturers collectively spend €1.5 billion or (at the extreme) €150 million, the result will be the same. The one with the cleverest engineers, the best-managed team and the best drivers will win, the others will fail. At the end of the season and after each race, manufacturers’ cars will be placed all the way down to 11th and 12th and possibly worse if there are one or two good, fully independent teams. But the Championship will look and feel the same whether €1.5 billion or (again, at the extreme) €150 million is being spent. Indeed it might be better with €150 million, because the gap between first and last would probably be less. So, arguably, some €1.35 billion is being completely wasted in Formula One each year by the six manufacturers.

Are costs the FIA’s business?

Some say this is no concern of the governing body; how the manufacturers spend their money is their business. But surely it is the duty of the governing body to do what it can to keep all the manufacturers involved, indeed to try to attract new ones. Manufacturers whose cars finish in 7th, 8th and so on, down to 12th place or below (which means at least half our current six manufacturers) are more likely to stay if their average annual expenditure is, say, €25 million rather than €250 million.

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