FEBRUARY 23, 2001
Mosley determined to make his mark on road safety
ANYBODY doubting that FIA president Max Mosley's determination to create a legacy of enhanced European road safety - and harnessing the F1 world championship as his means to that end - will be irrevocably persuaded that this is the case by the governing body's latest official edict.
Under the heading "FIA to introduce intelligent speed limits for Formula One in 2002" an official bulletin has been issued today by the FIA which effectively distils all Mosley's philosophical thinking on this matter within the confines of a single A4 sheet of paper.
Nobody in their right mind would argue against anything that compromises road safety and this is the prime thrust of what Max is using as a pretty ingenious argument. The tract starts with the delicately phrased sentiments;
"When an accident occurs during a Formula 1 race, it is necessary to slow competing cars as they pass the scene so as not to put track workers at risk. Currently this is done by showing one or more yellow flags, depending on the degree of risks. Drivers are then expected to slow down and overtaking is prohibited. The amount they slow down is a matter for their judgement."
So far, so good. No arguments here.
Max's message continues; "From 2002 this system will be replaced by the imposition of a variable speed limit. The limit will spend on the layout of the circuit at the accident site and the degree of risk to track workers. It will be decided by the race director and communicated electronically to each driver in the relevant area. Cars will be equipped with means to help drivers to run just under the limit. Cars will be equipped with means to help drivers to run just under the limit. Cars exceeding the limit will be detected and given a stop-go penalty."
Then comes the punch line; "By demonstrating intelligent speed limitation for F1 to a huge worldwide audience, the FIA hopes greatly to accelerate the introduction of the necessary technology on the roads."
Ah, ha. Very clever. Nobody is going to argue against this. Even though it's effect is, according to Niki Lauda and others, to take another step down the road towards reducing the role of the Grand Prix driver to that of highly paid machine minder.
I am sure that Max will remember with some affection our old journalistic friend Denis Jenkinson, who died five years ago. Back in 1971 Jenks, who was Continental Correspondent for MOTOR SPORT magazine, wrote a satirical article in which he anticipated Grand Prix car technology becoming so sophisticated that the designers said they could now design cars which didn't need drivers.
There was a huge uproar. The organizers said they had to have drivers, because the fans needed heroes to identify with. So the organizers said that the drivers could travel in the cars - but only on the condition that they didn't touch anything. In a somewhat sombre twist to the results of the first race, when the winning car rolled to a halt at the finishing line, the driver was found to be dead in the cockpit.
There are three conclusions which could be drawn from this tale. (a) Denis Jenkinson was a prophet. (b) Max Mosley has been re-reading his old issues of MOTOR SPORT or (c) H.G. Wells is really the president of the FIA.
We'll leave it to you to decide which.