A worrying message from the FIA


While the statement that followed yesterday's meeting of the World Motor Sport council contained news of decisions that would affect the WRC, WEC, World Touring Car Cup, F3, Truck Racing and a whole load of others series governed by the FIA, the reference to F1 was minimal.

Indeed, just 22 words were devoted to the so-called pinnacle of motor sport, the crown jewels of motor sport's governing body.

Those 22 words however, though they don't contain any vital information, are likely to send a shudder through the sport and its fans.

"The Council approved the launch of a series of tenders within the context of the ongoing development of the 2021 Technical Regulations," they read.

Just last month, the FIA invited tenders for a standard gearbox cassette which would be used by all teams from 2021 to 2024, and while no specifics are mentioned in the WMSC's brief statement it is clear that F1 is seeking to standardise more parts.

All this, of course, is part of the drive to reduce costs and level out the playing field, but, as some will argue, does standardisation compromises the very DNA of F1

"We need to close the differential between the cars in terms of overall performance," said the sport's technical boss, Ross Brawn at the official screening of the Netflix documentary of the 2018 season.

"We have divisions, one and two at the moment, and we need to stop that," he continued. "We need much closer gaps between the teams and cost control will be part of that. The regulations evolving will be part of that.

"We are moving a number of elements on the car which don't engage the fans," he said. "Technology should be exciting and fascinating for the fans. That's not things like a lighter fire extinguisher.

"Every team wants to build its own fire extinguisher because it thinks it can make it a bit lighter than someone else's," he continued. "No-one is interested in that. That's just a simple example, everyone should run the same fire extinguisher. But if you've got the money to put into the fire extinguisher, you can probably make one a bit lighter than someone else, and where the teams have the resources, and the money, and the budget, they can do those things.

"Then they get just a fraction of a second advantage here, and a fraction there, before you know it, they're a second ahead, and the competition is poor," he insisted, this from a man who pushed the envelope to its very limit - and then some - constantly treading that very fine line between the legal and the not so legal in his quest for that little bit extra pace and performance, that edge.

"So we have to have cars which are close to each other, and then, when they're close to each other we have to have them behave in a way that they can race each other.

"There is a massive difference already. With the current cars, once you are two car lengths behind you lose 50 per cent of performance.

"The car we have under development is a huge improvement on that, huge," he said of the work being carried out by his technical team.

"It's a commercial approach and a technical approach that will bring a better F1 and so we're doing both in parallel. Everyone would like to see it happening more quickly or more visibly, but when it's done it will be done correctly."

However, to paraphrase Martin Niemoller; "first they came for the gearbox cassette, and I did not speak out..."

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Published: 08/03/2019
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