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FIA: no compromise on engine freeze

Formula One's manufacturers have been informed today that the FIA will not back down on plans for a full engine freeze in the sport unless there is unanimous agreement among the teams, autosport.com can reveal.

On the back of attempts by carmakers to get Ferrari, Renault and Midland in line with the sport's other four manufacturers so they can propose a scheme for part-homologation to the governing body, the FIA wrote to the teams this morning telling them that it is not open to any suggestions of amending the current plans for a three-year engine freeze.

In a document that was sent privately to all the teams entered in the 2008 championship this morning, the FIA insisted that concerns about rising costs and fresh fears about safety has left it unwilling to compromise on the situation.

This means that the FIA will not accept any bid to have the matter voted through on either the Technical Working Group or Sporting Working Group, where a majority of votes would in theory be enough to try and make changes to the rules.

The FIA has made it clear that it wants to stick with full engine homologation from the start of 2008, using engines that were lodged with it earlier this month.

"The 2008 regulations stop all engine development from 2008 to 2011," said the FIA document, a copy of which has been obtained by autosport.com. "This is what everyone signed up to when they entered last March.

"We cannot impose different, much more expensive, rules on teams which have already entered unless, of course, all the teams agree.  We have repeatedly said that we will look very favourably at any proposal that has the support of all the entered teams.  We were promised a unanimous proposal some weeks ago, but it has not appeared."

The statement added: "Everyone entered on the understanding that development of the 2008 engines would stop on June 1 2006 - this is precisely what the rules say - and many budgets have been fixed on that basis.

"It would be entirely improper and unfair to try now to force everyone to spend huge, unbudgeted sums developing these engines for the next fifteen months.  It is not what they all agreed to in March.  On top of that we have a safety problem arising from engine power.  This has become a major worry since Silverstone."

Mention of safety concerns is a new development and comes on the back of rising cornering speeds this year.

Ahead of the British Grand Prix, several drivers complained that the run-off areas at Copse and Becketts were no longer big enough for the current generation of Grand Prix cars.

It provides a strong case about why engine developments cannot be allowed to continue - although costs are still a significant factor. The FIA does not believe the Monaco Agreement, thrashed out between five engine manufacturers at Monte Carlo, to be a viable compromise either.

"Even this restricted programme would cost each manufacturer upwards of €30 million ($38 million) a year.  Not all manufacturers want to waste money in this way.  Also, the independent teams know that part of these extra costs will be passed on to them and they, too, do not want to spend money needlessly.

"More than €30 million ($38 million) is a great deal of money if it is not in your budget.  But let's look at another aspect.

"If the four dissident manufacturers put the annual €30 million ($38 million) or more they each want to spend on their current engines, into a common fund to promote Formula One, they could afford to race twice a year in the USA and buy enough advertising on US television to ensure coast-to-coast live coverage of every Grand Prix and still have money to spare. 

"Is it not time to start looking at a slightly bigger picture?"

With it looking increasingly likely that the engine freeze from 2008 will now happen, the next stage will be for the teams to consider bringing the homologation period forward to 2007.

The FIA has backed the suggestion, which would need unanimous support of the teams to happen.

The statement added: "As the engines for 2008 will be those of 1 June 2006, it would make sense to use these same engines for 2007.  They already exist and do not need any more development.

"By doing this we would avoid a problem with safety, save a vast amount of money and be fair to everyone.  We are currently in discussion with the teams about this.  It would be completely irrational to develop engines flat out between now and October 2007 only to go back to the 2006 level in March 2008."

Four teams, McLaren, Honda, Toyota and BMW have written to the FIA threatening legal action about the possible imposition of an engine freeze next year. They claim it is in contravention of the Concorde Agreement that stipulates unchanged engine rules until 2008.

Although the teams have indicated their legal advice suggests their case would be successful, sources indicate that the FIA has not yet been told what this advice is despite requesting it.

FIA president Max Mosley also made it clear at the British Grand Prix that he had no plans to force through the early introduction of an engine freeze.

"We can't impose that, that has to be agreed by the Formula One Commission, but I would be very surprised if the Formula One Commission did not agree, having got the freeze for 2008, 2009, 2010, also to agree it for 2007, because it would save everybody a fortune and avoid a great deal of unnecessary expenditure," he said.

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