DECEMBER 11, 2000
FIA delays traction control after Ferrari revolt
THE Formula 1 Commission has rejected plans for the return of electronic driver aids in Formula 1 because of opposition to the idea from Ferrari and teams associated with the Italian organization. Ferrari engineers had previously agreed with other F1 technical directors that it was impossible for such systems to be policed and as a result had backed a proposal in the F1 Technical Working Group for them to banned. It is unclear why Ferrari chose to reject the recommendations having previously agreed to them but rival teams are suggesting that the Italians may think they will lose some of their advantage if electronic systems are allowed.
This is hard to explain without suggesting that Ferrari is running illegal systems which cannot be found at the moment but there is no concrete evidence to back up these allegations. The argument that keeping electronic driver aids out of F1 is for the good of the sport is not accepted as the decision will mean that accusations are going to continue to poison the atmosphere in F1, which cannot be in the best interests of the sport.
The FIA has now said that the Technical Working Group must come up with a new package of measures, incorporating the removal of all restrictions on electronic control systems for engines and transmissions, to improve safety. The Technical Working Group must also propose measures to "absolutely guarantee that there can be no additional use of electronics as an aid to competitive driving". This would appear to be impossible.
The F1 engineers have until mid February to formulate ideas and these will then be discussed by the F1 team principals. If there is an agreement the decision will be confirmed by a fax vote of the World Motor Sport Council and could be introduced in time for the Spanish GP at the end of April, the fifth race of the Formula 1 season. There is no reason to suggest that there might be an agreement in February if there is no agreement now. However, the move towards safety sends out a clear message to those objecting to the change. If it is not agreed in February the FIA can circumvent the normal decision-making process if a change to the rules is declared to be on the grounds of safety. The teams do not have any control over how rules are interpreted by the FIA and the only recourse they have if the FIA did declare a rule change would be to go the FIA International Court of Appeal. And it is not good for any team to be seen to be objecting to a safety rule.
If the rule changes do come into effect there will be four races in which the 2000 systems can still be used and this could be interpreted as a sop to teams which feel they will lose some advantage with rule changes. Clearly there are hidden agenda involved in all the decisions but is difficult to know exactly what is going on.
What is clear is that at the meeting of the F1 Commission there were two objections to the new rule: one from Ferrari and one from the FIA. Ferrari said that they want more control over gearboxes and transmissions and the FIA said it wanted more safety.
What is clear is that in the long-term the FIA knows that it is impossible to police the rules and so must force through change before the sport sinks into a mess of protest and counter-protest.
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