APRIL 1, 2003
The FIA's recent announcement about driver aids was a masterpiece of ambiguity. It implied that launch control, traction control and fully-automatic gearboxes will not be banned until the start of 2004. This is how it was reported by most media organizations. But the announcement did not actually say that.
The exact wording was that "full enforcement of the long-established ban on in-car driver aids will be delayed until the first race of the 2004 season".
This implies (as it must) that the ban is in place because the rule stating that drivers must drive their cars "alone and unaided" has existed since October 1993. What is not clear is whether the lack of "full enforcement" means that the ban will not be policed at all or whether the policing will go ahead without the necessary technical devices needed. If policing does go ahead teams must demonstrate the compliance of systems "by means of physical inspection of hardware or materials" and that "no mechanical design may rely upon software inspection as a means of ensuring its compliance".
The onus is clearly on the teams being able to prove that they are not using illegal systems and not on the FIA to prove that they are. The only ways in which teams, therefore, be safe if the FIA decides to police the rules is if they take the systems off the cars or invest in the checking equipment necessary. The former is unlikely to happen because teams need to be as competitive as possible. Logically therefore if the rules are applied teams will need to pay for the equipment to prove that they are not using the systems.
The FIA statement makes it clear that if McLaren and Williams decided to settle the arbitration agreement, the problem will go away.
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