OCTOBER 11, 2003
A very nasty little rule
The Formula 1 team bosses proposed changes to the Sporting Regulations in 2004 which includes a rule which will have a very dramatic effect on the careers of several Formula 1 drivers. Although the teams which finish below fourth in the Constructors' Championship are allowed to run third cars there are serious restrictions on who is allowed to drive these. For a start a dirver must have a superlicence or must have completed the necessary 250km of testing. This rule can probably be circumnavigated by the use of the Permanent Bureau of the F1 Commission which has the power to grant a superlicence it its members believe that the driver in question deserves the chance to race. This is useful for example if an American driver wants to come into F1.
However there is a clause that means that any driver who has competed in six events of more in the previous two seasons will not be allowed to be one of the third drivers. In other words, Allan McNish, Mika Salo, Nick Heidfeld, Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Jacques Villeneuve, Alex Yoong, Enrique Bernoldi, Pedro de la Rosa and Eddie Irvine will not be allowed to be the third driver.
This is a serious blow to their ambitions if they think that their future lies with middle-ranking teams.
The rule was insisted upon by McLaren's Ron Dennis who did not want the teams who have three cars getting the advantage of having experienced tyre testers in action on Fridays. The small teams were forced to agree because they wanted the right to run third cars.
The change of driver rules have also been changed as teams will now be able to nominate four drivers andf can change them at will rather than being allowed only one change in the first car and three drivers in the second.
The FIA World Council has the right to send the proposed changes back to the Formula 1 Commission if it does not like what it sees.
It is doubtful whether or not this rule would survive scrutiny under the European employment laws.
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