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OCTOBER 22, 2004

FIA decides on Formula 1 rules

The FIA has finally issued the Formula 1 regulations for 2005. The teams have been unable to stop the FIA imposing its changes because they have been unable to agree on any package. The aerodynamic rules will mean that front wings will be raised and rear wings will be brought forward. The height of the diffusers will be reduced and the bodywork in front of the rear wheels will be reduced. This will result in a reduction of downforce of about 25% but engineers are already saying that 15% of this will have been won back by the start of next year and that by the end of the 2005 season, downforce levels will be back to where they now are. One set of tyres will be used for qualifying and the race. This means that pit stops will no longer involve tyre changes. The tyres will be harder and should, in theory at least, reduce the lap times. The FIA is insisting on two-race engines, which it argues will reduce the horsepower levels but with development these will rise again. The switch to one-race engines has done little to reduce the speeds.

The most controversial aspect of the new rules package is the engine regulations for 2006 which will see 2.4-litre V8s introduced alongside restricted V10s. The V10s will be allowed to race in 2006 and 2007 subject to a number of restrictions "determined by the FIA". This, in effect, can force the manufacturers to switch to V8s because a rev limit on the V10s could easily make the V8s more competitive.

The FIA says that the reductions will slow the cars and will cut costs, while also providing engines for customer teams at a sensible level.

The FIA decisions are likely to be greeted with much reaction in the days ahead. The major manufacturers are expected to remain in the sport, despite threats to quit but we expect the arbitration claim to go ahead as planned.