OCTOBER 28, 2002
The good news from Monday
The good news from the FIA Formula 1 Commission is that the traditions and the spirit of the sport has not been compromised with weight penalties or driver switches. These have rather predictably been rejected as gimicky or unworkable and the changes which have been agreed are entirely sensible.
Qualifying will become a lot more exciting with cars running one at a time on two consecutive days. This has been used in Australia for many years at the Bathurst 1000 and makes for a very exciting session. It is also a lot safer than running all the cars at the same time as there will be only a couple of cars on the track at anyone time. This will be one car speeding up for a run and another on a fast lap. There will be no complaints therefore about traffic and the pressure will really be on the drivers to perform. It will provide a good spectacle. Teams will inevitably complain about changing track conditions and what happens when it rains but overall the decision will mean better qualifying sessions and there will be something to talk about on Fridays.
The key decision is the one about tires because it means that teams will no longer have to compromise on tire compounds. This year Ferrari has enjoyed a huge amount of success with Bridgestone but Michelin has had to try to produce tires for both Williams and McLaren and this has meant that both teams had tires which were not as good as they might have been. This will now change and that should mean that the gap to Ferrari will be cut.
The change in the points structure is a sensible one to keep the World Championship going for longer. The value of a victory has always been much higher than second place (10 points instead of six). This was designed to encourage drivers to battle for victories but it has not reallly fulfilled that role and so giving the second-placed runner eight points will help keep the championship going longer. The extra points for seventh and eighth places is a good idea as smaller teams will be able to tell sponsors that they scored points - which does make a big difference. It will also reward reliability.
The issue of testing is one that will remain forever difficult to resolve. The big teams want to test as much as possible but the money is really being wasted as their relative performance does not much change in the course of a season. A reduction in testing will also make cars less reliable and therefore there will be more chance that cars will break down and thus the racing will have a little extra spice. The fact that teams will now be allowed to run at race tracks with spare cars and test drivers on the Friday of a race meeting is an advantage which may eventually force the big teams to accept that it is the wisest thing to do. They can, if they chose to, use simulation technology to maintain their advantage.
When all is said and done the decisions of the F1 Commission are a credit to the sport because traditions have not been tampered with and costs will to some extent be cut and the action spiced up. Let us now hope that some of those who have been making so many downbeat statements will now begin to talk up the sport...
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