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The FIA votes for a better show

THE FIA World Council meeting in Monaco on December 6 voted in favor of making Grand Prix racing more interesting to watch with specific technical measures designed to improve the chances of a driver being able to overtake his rivals.

For the 1998 season there will be modifications to both tire and brake regulations. The most dramatic change will be the outlawing of "slick" tires and the introduction of grooved dry weather tires.

F1 cars have been racing on treadless tires since 1971 when designers discovered that reducing the height of the tires reduced the drag of the cars. The extra contact between the tires and the road dramatically improved road-holding and so softer and softer tire compounds were developed in a tire war between Goodyear, Firestone and Dunlop. Inevitably this led to the use of slick tires - which had previously been developed in drag racing.

From 1998 front tires will have to have three grooves in them and rear tires will have four. This is intended to reduce tire grip by around 15%.

In addition the 1998 F1 cars will have to be narrower than the current models - the maximum width coming down from two meters to 1m80cm - which should make overtaking easier and make the cars less aerodynamically efficient.

Brakes will also be severely restricted in an effort to increase braking distances and reduce costs. All brake calipers will be made of aluminum with only a single brake disc allowed for each wheel and liquid cooling of brakes being banned.

Teams are understood to have discussed the possibility of active front wings - allowing wing angles to be altered on the straights - to improve overtaking - but this was rejected.

In the longer-term the World Council has voted in favor of a proposal from the F1 Commission that the current three-liter normally-aspirated engine formula remains in place for the next 10 seasons.

This is good news for the teams as major manufacturers which may be planning to involve themselves in the sport can now plan ahead. Although research and development is sure to increase the power outputs of the engines, the rate of progress will be slower as finding extra horsepower becomes more and more difficult and expensive. This will have the effect of keeping the engines closely-matched which should mean that the racing becomes closer.

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