Team bosses cool re FIA proposals

18/06/2005
NEWS STORY

As we await the proposals from the 5 Manufacturers, F1 team bosses remained remarkably cool towards the proposals put forward by the FIA on Thursday.

Indeed, Peter Sauber admitted to only giving the new proposals a cursory glance: "I read proposals and proposals over the last couple of years. And if I'm honest, I didn't read the new one completely," said the Swiss team boss.

"I think the direction is clear to save money," he added, "but that's been the direction for many years. And when we change something, Formula One gets more expensive and not cheaper, except maybe the engine for two weekends. But all the other things, all the rule changes we had, Formula One gets more expensive."

BAR's Nick Fry, also admitted to not spending too much time going through the proposals: "Since Montreal, Geoff (Willis) and myself have been occupied doing other things.

"We've read it but haven't digested it," he admitted. "I think generally anything that improves the excitement of the racing for the fans is to be applauded. Whether these are the right things or the wrong things, I think is simply too early to say at this stage. We haven't had a chance to go through it properly. So when we have time to do so, I'm sure we'll respond probably collectively, I'm sure there will be some discussion between the teams and I'm sure there's some very good bits and probably not so good bits. But I think it would be premature to say anything definitive at this stage."

Frank Williams was as pragmatic as ever: "I think Nick said exactly what I was going to say," said the Englishman.

As is often the case, it was Ron Dennis who grasped the bull by the horns.

"The first thing to remember is that we're talking about 2008 and we're halfway through 2005 and clearly that gives us the opportunity to have very considered views about change," said the McLaren boss.

"There is nobody, no team principal or chief executive of a manufacturer, who does not embrace the concept of making Formula One better. And if it can be made less expensive at the same time, that is a huge bonus," he added.

"But as Peter has pointed out, most of the changes have effectively cost money and you could even argue that the tyre regulation and the engine regulation has most definitely saved money for some teams but it has moved costs. In the instance of tyres, it saved the tyre companies money, in our opinion, and increased the teams' costs because there is very extensive testing that you have to do.

"On the engine side, a lot more work has to be done on the test beds and we have to run engines to prove them out on the circuits. So our testing costs have gone up. If you don't have to do that, your costs are going to go down. So perhaps it's a little bit of a Robin Hood-type of regulation where the teams who have enjoyed a little bit more of a financial cushion to the smaller teams and a bit more money are doing the lion's share of the work and, therefore, the smaller teams are saving money. But whether it saves Formula One money, that's very much an open issue.

"The regulations, I have to admit I've only seen them for the first time today," he admitted. "They primarily went to the manufacturers first for their comments and the first thing is we need to understand as individuals, either as teams or manufacturers, what our own views are and then try and come to a collective position which hopefully allows us to see those things that we think are positive and perhaps are already contained in our own ideas, are easy to adopt and those things that we feel aren't so, that we have the opportunity to discuss them.

"Nobody is against change, we just want to learn from the past and we don't want change that costs us money or change that doesn't benefit Formula One. So we've got the time and we should use it wisely and I think the important thing is no single entity should be pressuring the situation unfairly. And that is a criticism that I think we could levy at virtually everybody involved at one stage or another has increase the pressure and we should be balanced and discuss these issues and negotiate these issues behind closed doors. We've got the time to do it thoroughly and we should do it thoroughly."

Asked if there were any particular rule changes that appealed to him, Dennis replied: "I think that to cherry pick out of it would be dangerous. I think everybody's got a common objective and, you know, in the right environment, I'm sure we can improve Formula One and reduce some of the costs. But there are those people that are definitely going to resist some of the easy wins on cost reduction, which is number of races, controlled testing, you know, these things are very easy wins and there is a list of easy cost wins where everybody knows there is a real saving there but for some political reason are fighting against it."

The concept of a similar V8 engine configuration, similar gearboxes, control tyre and an FIA provided CPU, suggests a one-make Formula, which is clearly the view of race fans - on various message boards and forums - since the proposals were made public.

"As far as I'm concerned, the temptation is to have a discussion about it," said Dennis. "But I think that the right place to have the discussion is behind closed doors. But I mean, I think you've made some valid points, but we most definitely will consider everything but behind closed doors and then come hopefully to a common position."

"There's just one comment I'd like to make and that is how does Max truly define an independent team?" added Frank Williams. "Is an independent team a team with no money or is it the opposite, namely RBR owned by a billionaire with lots of money, clearly with only one mission and that is to win every championship he can get his hands on? That, too, is an independent team.

"Are we an independent team? We certainly are. We've managed to get through merit a freebie engine but next year, maybe, we have to pay for engines. It doesn't suit me to want to have to fire 500-plus people next year. But much more importantly, if you want to field a perfect field of ten independent 30-man teams, would Formula One still be Formula One and would it still have the world's third largest sporting TV global footprint?"

"I think it's just a general principle," added Nick Fry, "we've said, I think, and a number of the other teams have said several times, we want to see Formula One be at the so-called pinnacle of motorsport and I think we need to define what that is. As Ron says, cherry picking from the list put forward at this stage is probably inappropriate but I think most of the companies have made it clear that they want to see Formula One at that apex. I think that's as far as we should go on that at the moment."

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Published: 18/06/2005
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