Columns - Big Al

Much talk leads to controversial results


I was once told by Tim Parnell, BRM team manager in the early 1970s, that meetings of the F1 Constructors' Association could be childlike to the point of disbelief. "We spend the first half an hour debating whether or not to have the window open," said Tim, "and then the next half hour arguing over whose pen it is."

To judge by the reports which have been filtering back to me about the endless sequence of meetings between F1 team principals in Malaysia, nothing much seems to have changed. However, as FIA president Max Mosley has opened the FIA court of appeals to the media, perhaps the constructors could do likewise for their meetings. For starters, I'd be intrigued to see somebody trying to strangle Eddie Jordan. Figuratively speaking, of course. Well, almost.

Tempers sizzled against the emotional safety valve in the humid conditions and I think it's fair to say that one or two relative newcomers to the F1 principals' business were rather taken aback at the trenchant attitude adopted by some of the more seasoned participants. I'm also advised that McLaren boss Ron Dennis decided the only honest course of action in discussing these changes was to call a spade a spade and tell some of the other team chiefs what he regarded as the realities of F1 life.

Basically, Ron and Frank Williams were the only two members of the 25-man F1 Commission to vote against the decision to introduce the one-engine-per-race weekend rule for the start of 2004. I gather their objections were basically founded on two arguments. Firstly, they thought the phasing-in period was too short. Secondly, they questioned whether what amounted to a change in F1 engine regulations could be railroaded through the F1 Commission without a unanimous agreement. The FIA took the view that this was an amendment to the sporting regulations - after all, they are still three-liter V10s - and that seemed pretty well the end of that.

Leaving aside, for the moment, the matter of whether a highly stressed racing engine can be tuned to run a 500-mile Grand Prix weekend without problems - and it certainly should be - the other tricky question is this business of penalizing anybody who needs a replacement engine. Pushing the hapless competitor ten places back down the starting grid is making this business look a bit contrived.

Ditto the provisions which will give the stewards power to inflict a similar penalty on those who transgress as from the Brazilian GP, although the demotion on the starting grid will apply from the following race.

I can sum this up best by saying that this is a subject on which both David Coulthard and Eddie Irvine agree absolutely. "This is racing," said DC, "you can't cut out the bits you don't like." Irvine added; "We obviously have to make F1 as interesting as possible, but ultimately it's racing. Not Hollywood," he said.

Difficult to argue with either of them at the end of the day.