Features - Exclusive Interview
JANUARY 16, 2003
BY JOE SAWARD
Max Mosley has always been an impressive politician and this week he gave evidence of that once again as he presented the Formula 1 team bosses with a new set of Formula 1 regulations - without changing the rules. This little piece of magic was achieved by taking the existing rules and simply re-interpreting what they meant. It was the work of a fertile legal brain and left the team bosses with little room to maneuver.
The blow has been delivered and while the team bosses are licking their wounds and figuring out what they did wrong, their response has been largely (but not completely) in favor of the ideas that Mosley is putting forward.
"They were a little surprised," Mosley says, "but most of them seemed to react very positively. Broadly-speaking they took to it and began to discuss how it should be presented. They were not really arguing about it."
There is, of course, a possibility that one or two teams might decide to try to challenge what has happened by taking the FIA to arbitration at the International Chamber of Commerce in Lausanne (which is the established way that disputes between signatories of the Concorde Agreement are settled) but Mosley seems confident that this is not going to happen.
"You can never stop people mounting a legal challenge if that is what they want to do," he admits, "but I spent a lot of time thinking about this and I think it fair to say that I would not have taken the step if I was not confident that we would win. We seem to have the support of the media, the public and the majority of the teams which is more than enough to do it."
Mosley believes very strongly that it was a step that the FIA had to make to protect the sport both in terms of cost-cutting and to improve the show.
"The balance between man and machine got a bit out of kilter," he says, "and I hope we have gone some way to solving that problem."
It is feared by some that such a fundamental shake-up in the F1 regulations might lead to one or two of the automobile manufacturers deciding to leave the sport but Mosley says this is not something which he believes is a problem.
"When you look at the whole package, it is difficult to justify why this would be a problem for them," he says. "If supplying two teams in 2004 costs the same as one team in 2003 there really is not an argument. They can complain about the electronics and the idea of having a standard electronic control unit so what we said to them was that they have to get together to come up with a rule that does the same thing with having to use a standard ECU. It is up to them to do that."
Mosley's most controversial decision seems to be one which bans teams working on cars between qualifying and the race. This has been justified with the rules that state that "the scrutineers may check the eligibility of a car or of a competitor at any time during an event".
Mosley's justification for keeping the cars in parc ferme overnight is obviously pushing this rule to the maximum.
"We cannot do the scrutineering too quickly," he says. "And we have to be fair. It would take all day and all night to scrutineer everyone properly and we cannot, for example, let the two Williams cars go early in the morning and keep other cars until later and so the logical thing to do is to keep them all for the same length of time. Let us say until 1300 on Sunday. The teams would then have time to tidy them up for the race."
The teams argue that being forced to race cars which they have not been able to check over thoroughly is dangerous.
There are also complaints from some of the F1 sponsors who spend huge sums of money on their VIP hospitality as they will be deprived on many of the Sunday morning activities which have kept VIPs happy for many years.
Mosley says that there is no reason why VIPs cannot see the cars in parc ferme.
Despite the reservations which are being expressed by some of the teams, it seems that Mosley's initiative has been largely successful and that teams are working towards making the most of the new regulations.
"The teams that react quickest to the new rules will be the ones who are successful," said one team boss on Thursday afternoon. "It is as simple as that."
The happiest players are the small teams because their participation in the World Championship has been guaranteed.
"A redistribution of income has been agreed between Bernie Ecclestone and the teams," Mosley says. "The engine bills will be covered and teams are chipping in to do that. As a result of this all the teams will be OK. The biggest single problem in 2003 was the cost of the engines and that will be solved in 2004. The manufacturers must sort out between themselves how this is going to happen."
The coup d'etat has now happened but there is still a lot to be done before we get a clear picture of what will be legal and what will be illegal in 2003.
"We have said what we are going to do," Mosley explains. "But if someone can prove to us that it will cost them more money to do these things immediately we have said that there we will listen. There is an ultimate deadline of 2004 but if the changes will add to the costs in 2003 we will find a way around that. The only thing that is a bit of a problem is traction-control. The teams have built their cars and done all the software and it is difficult to change that immediately. I have asked the teams to look at ways that it can be done this year and after the engineers talk to Charlie Whiting on Friday I am sure we will have some more rational comments. I think that if we can find a way of getting that through we will do it and if there is only one team holding out, for example, we might be brutal and push it through anyway.
"Whatever the case there will be no traction-control in 2004."
The devil, so they say, is in the detail and in the days ahead Formula 1 and FIA engineers will be working flat out to see how they can implement the changes that are being proposed. It is quite possible that not all of the rules listed will become a reality but the doors that were blocking change have been kicked down.
Perhaps just as importantly Formula 1 had returned to the front pages of national newspapers but the stories are no longer negative: Formula 1 is trying to fix its problems and that has to be good news for everyone involved in the sport.