Honda website
Honda website

MARCH 25, 2006

In the small print of the Sporting Regulations

The one thing that is missing from the new 2008 Formula 1 Sporting Regulations is any reference to a common electronic control unit. This in included in the Technical regulations published some time ago but that may still be changed. With engine and gearbox restrictions being considered as sporting matters one would assume that ECUs would be treated in the same way. If there is to be no such restriction one of the major causes of manufacturer resistance will have been quietly removed.

The new sporting regulations are interesting for a number of reasons. One of the appendices is interesting in that it outlines how changes to the technical regulations should be made with a Technical Working Group, consisting of one senior technical representative from each team and chaired by a representative of the FIA, deciding matters on simple system of majority voting. The FIA representative will not vote unless the team votes are equal. The proposals from this body and from a new body called the Sporting Working Group (consisting of one senior representative from each team and chaired by a representative of the FIA) will go to the Formula 1 Commission. This will be very different to the current body with six team representatives, rather than one from each team, five representatives of the promoters (rather than the current eight) plus one representative from the commercial rights holder and one from the FIA. The sponsors, the engine manufacturers and the tyre manufacturer will no longer have a voice. The FIA will have a casting vote in the event of equality.

The commission can accept or reject proposals but cannot amend them. Proposals accepted will go to the World Motor Sport Council for a final decision. Safety issues will be dealt with separately.

In terms of the practicalities of the sport, the FIA is getting rid of the $48m bond for a team to enter F1 and is instead asking only 300,000 Euros ($360,000 at today's prices) to be paid by November 1 2007. The new rules open the way for engines, chassis and gearboxes to be sold between teams although there is a restriction in that "a major car manufacturer may not directly or indirectly supply engines for more than two teams of two cars each without the consent of the FIA". The regulations go on to define a major car manufacturer as "a company whose shares are quoted on a recognised stock exchange or the subsidiary of such a company". Careful reading of this suggests that it would not cover Ferrari unless Ferrari is floated. Fiat's shares are quoted in Milan and New York but Ferrari is not a Fiat subsidiary. It is a subsidiary of the Agnelli Family companies IFI and IFIL and so is not a subsidiary of Fiat but rather a sister company.

Entries can be accepted or rejected by the FIA "in its absolute discretion". This is an interesting clause as there are probably those who would argue that the FIA would not be allowed to do that under the laws of restrictive trading if an established F1 team is refused entry to the World Championship. That however will not become an issue unless an established team is denied entry.

The new rules create a single tyre supplier for three years and restrict testing to 30,000km per team and allows for the FIA to act if other non-F1 teams are suspected to be helping out F1 teams with development work. Engines will have to be used for two races and rather than the current messy system of grid positions, failures will result in weight penalties of 15kg. Similarly gearboxes will have to last for four races with the same weight penalty for failure. The gearbox rule makes sense as it does not change the engineering challenge involved but simply asks engineers to design units with longer lifing.

The cars will only be allowed to have positioning systems supplied by the FIA and no other parts which, in the opinion of the FIA are capable of performing the same function, may be fitted to the car.

The FIA is also tightening its control of passes with a rule stating that "no pass may be issued or used other than with the agreement of the FIA" which will mean tighter control over the commercial rights holder. The other point of note is that in the future drivers "must be available at all reasonable times during an event to talk to the media as required by the FIA press delegate".

It is up to the FIA to define what it considers to be a "reasonable time".