Honda website
Honda website

DECEMBER 4, 2000

Now Mosley wants space craft in F1

FIA President Max Mosley is well known for his acute political skills, but his latest proposals for the Formula 1 Commission have left even the F1 team bosses a little breathless. Since 1993 Mosley has been advocating a total ban on all advanced electronic systems in order to ensure that the drivers remain important and it is not the machines that do everything. Thus he introduced the famous rule in 1993 that F1 drivers must drive their cars "alone and unaided". This stopped a lot of the software development but teams decided that there were certain "grey areas" in the regulations which could be exploited and so developed systems which could be justified or simply could not be found by the FIA software police. This battle has been going on for the last six seasons and the FIA has finally admitted that it is impossible to check everything because of the complexity of the problems and the limited amount of time available.

And so the Technical Working Group decided to propose that some electronic aids be allowed in 2001. The intention was to get rid of the bad feeling that has existed between some of the teams because each feels that the others are cheating and have not been caught and to do away with the absurdly complicated task of software checking.

The Technical Working Group - which has one member from each team - agreed unanimously that this was a good idea. If the Formula 1 Commission agrees later this week that rule will be adopted on January 1 2001. The commission has the right to accept or reject the proposal and can only make modifications to the proposals if everyone agrees they are a good idea. Mosley's proposals to go even further down to the road of electronic liberation will certainly give the commission plenty to talk about.

One way or another Mosley has to do a U-Turn in his policy because the FIA engineers simply cannot police the rules any longer. As a lawyer Mosley can argue any case given to him and so the idea of expanding software development was easy to justify. The automobile manufacturers are playing an increasingly important role in the financing of the sport and the sport needs to give them back things to help justify the investment. Advanced software is a good place to start. The car companies are all hard at work trying to develop better software for their cars to make them safer and more fuel-efficient. This will help them sell more cars in an increasingly competitive market. Creating more intelligent cars could help to reduce the number of deaths on the roads and would fit in very nicely with the FIA's Formula Zero campaign to improve road safety. Intelligent cars would undoubtedly get rid of a lot of accidents as they would, in effect, get rid of human error. This would also help to speed up the world's clogged roads and so reduce environmental damage.

Safety and the environment are two of the FIA president's long-term programs.

The danger, of course, is that advanced software development would make it ever more difficult for Formula 1 drivers to overtake one another. Mosley's response to this is to propose that aerodynamic downforce be reduced drastically. This would mean that while cars would accelerate and brake more effectively and would ride the track better, they would still be sliding in the corners because there would not be enough grip to cope with the speeds. A balance could then be struck which might even improve the racing.

Most of the Formula 1 teams, however, seem to think that Mosley has other plans with his proposal and that his sudden conversion to advanced technology is more devious than it appears.

Allowing more or less anything is not going to be accepted by the smaller Formula 1 teams because they are simply going to drop further behind the big operations than they are already. If Mosley's proposals are tacked on to the recommendations from the Technical Working Group it is very unlikely that those proposals will be voted through by the commission as there must be 100% agreement if the new rules are to come into effect. Thus by proposing more Mosley might achieve less because the teams would divide and be conquered. The rules in 2001 would stay as they are now.