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Controversy over electronic regulations

THERE was a great deal of politicking going on in Brazil over a plan by the FIA to introduce dramatic new restrictions on electronic systems - with immediate effect. The intention of the new rules is to stop the use of software which creates traction-control.

The Formula 1 team owners voted at the end of last year to have traction-control made legal because it was felt that the FIA was unable to police the rules. But the rule change was blocked by FIA President Max Mosley who argued that it would not be good for racing. At a second meeting of team owners we understand that one team changed its mind and voted against making traction-control legal.

In Melbourne we hear that McLaren presented the FIA with a secret dossier it had compiled giving conclusive evidence that at least three teams had traction-control systems last year. The report (which we have not seen) apparently alleges that two teams used traction-control systems last year while a third had a system hidden away in its software, but it was there simply to prove to the FIA that the rules could not be policed. How McLaren came up with all the information is unclear but one must assume that the information came from disgruntled employees within the teams named.

The FIA is now proposing a variety of measures to crack down on the traction-control systems outlined by the McLaren dossier. These include a limited number of revisions to electronic systems each year and sensors on the crankshafts to measure that they are running at the speeds they are supposed to be.

The odd thing is that in Brazil we heard that McLaren is opposed to the new regulations while other teams - including at least one of those listed in the McLaren report - have declared themselves to be in favor of the rule change. This seems to be back to front but as there are only a handful of people in the paddock who understand the technical issues involved it is very hard to establish what is actually going on. The only logical reason why teams using traction-control would be willing to accept the new restrictions is if they have already developed systems which will reproduce the same effect without the FIA being able to track them down with the crankshaft sensors.

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