When making enquiries about last week's Technical Working Group meeting - during the course of which agreement was reached to emasculate exhaust-blown diffusers from the British Grand Prix onwards, and ban the devices outright from next season - this column was advised by various sources to 'forget the TWG meeting; the real fireworks come next Wednesday...' And, so it seems.
The Formula 1 Commission, made of all F1's 'heavies' is scheduled to meet at a Heathrow hotel on that date to debate various issues, including the question of the 2013 engine regulations. These were originally confirmed for introduction in that season, but the date is now open to 'redefinition' - as the release issued in the wake of the FIA's last World Motorsport Council meeting so quaintly put it.
In fact, after reiterating that the 2013 technical regulations were 'confirmed' and providing a brief outline of the regulations* - including the introduction of 1.6-litre four cylinder turbo-charged engines, equipped with KERS - the release went on to state:
"In consultation with the main stakeholders, and following the outcome of this consultation, a fax vote by the WMSC could be considered by 30 June latest to redefine the implementation date of these technical regulations.'
These regulations have caused much consternation at team and commercial rights' holder level, and have the potential to threaten the unity of the sport. In fact, the question of the 2013 regulations could well result in a breakaway series should the FIA not, at the very least, delay introduction by (minimum of) a year, for the teams and engine suppliers maintain they simply cannot afford the costs of new power trains and completely new chassis.
The 2013 regulations had three main topics, namely engine, chassis and low profile tyres (16-18 inch rim sizes). In Montreal, Pirelli's motorsport director Paul Hembery confirmed F1's tyre size would remain at 13-inch for at least the duration of the company's present contract, which expires at the end of 2013. This is due to the costs of the sole tyre supplier developing low profile rubber for what could turn out to be a single season. This point, at least, is expected to be ratified during Wednesday's F1 Commission meeting.
Then, for months now three (Ferrari, Mercedes and Cosworth) of the four engine suppliers have stated their opposition to 'F1-lite', suggesting instead that the sport retain the current 2400cc V8s, but fitted with up-rated KERS units and various eco-friendly devices.
The sport's commercial rights' holder Bernie Ecclestone, too, has campaigned against the regulations on the basis that eco-friendliness belongs predominantly in touring cars, and not motorsport's most powerful (and noisiest) premier category. Various circuit owners have put their full weight behind F1's tsar on the basis that they fear the relative lack of spectacle will turn fans off. And, turned-off fans means fewer bums on seats, which means less income for promoters, which means less income for the CRH, which means less income for the teams who in turn pocket 50% of F1's underlying revenues...
Then, in Canada, various technical directors indicated to this column that the proposed 'low-drag' 2013 chassis format would be unworkable with the concept of up-rating the existing engines, as, simply put, the cars would prove too fast for the available downforce, given that power outputs would be as much as 30% up on the proposed 1600cc turbocharged four-bangers. All sorts of component groups would also require modification, including wings and brakes - adding further to the costs of developing the new chassis technology.
The FIA says rules introduction open to 'redefinition' © LAT
Enquires have revealed that 'consultation' will indeed take place at the F1 Commission meeting.
So, with low profile tyres already all but scrapped and 75% of the sport's current engine suppliers set against the four-pots - and, saliently, no convincing incoming supplier on the horizon - the regulations seem dead in the water despite the governing body being adamant they will be introduced, if not in 2013, then later.
In the meantime, the FIA, having set itself a deadline of June 30 to find a solution, has just 10 days remaining to do so, with tomorrow's F1 Commission effectively being its final opportunity of 'consulting' in real time. Complicating the matter are suggestions, confirmed at senior level, that legal action against the FIA is being contemplated by some of those against the current 2013 regulations group on the basis that they were forced through by the WMSC in December last - ahead of the two-year notice clauses demanded by FIA's own regulations for major technical changes - without procedures as laid down in the 2010-2012 Concorde Agreement being followed.
Rewind to September/October last year, more particularly here and here, which disclosed not only modus operandi followed by the FIA in forming an Engine Working Group (as distinct from the TWG) and Chassis Working Group (ditto) to frame the 2013 regulations, but also the behind-the scenes power struggles.
Still, the WMSC went ahead and ratified the 2013 regulation in December last year, so at first glance it would appear the anti-faction has a point, for the Concorde Agreement is very clear that all technical rule changes must first be passed with a 70% majority by F1's Technical Working Group - an FIA constituted body consisting of a technical officer representing each entrant plus an FIA delegate (who acts as chairman, but has no vote) and a CRH representative (also with no voting power). According to insiders the 2013 regulations were not agreed by the TWG as they were discussed but not put to a vote.
However, once agreed within the TWG, any changes are forwarded to the F1 Commission, which in turn consists of:
- A senior management member of each team, so 12 this season
- Three members drawn from European race promoters, appointed by the CRH
- Three members drawn from non-European race promoters, appointed by the CRH
- Two race promoters, each representing European and non-European interests, appointed by the teams
- A senior member of the management team of the (sole) tyre supplier
- A senior member of the management of an engine supplier, representing all suppliers on a voted-in basis
- Two senior management members of sponsors not in the same business and in F1 for over five years, appointed by team consent
- President of the FIA, or as alternate, as appointed by him
- A senior member of management of the CRH, who acts as president of the F1 Commission
The agreement then demands that the quorum for a Commission meeting be 18 (of the 26 this season due to there being 12 teams), with a minimum vote of 18 in favour of any motion for it to be carried.
Again, sources advise that the 2013 regulations were not passed by the F1 Commission, following which they would be forwarded to the WMSC for ratification and subsequent implementation.
So, it seems an open-and-shut case for the anti-lobby...
Bernie Ecclestone © LAT
Except in F1 things are never that clear-cut, for the pro-lobby is arguing that the Concorde Agreement expires on December 31, 2012 and the regulations are due to become effective on 1 January of the next season. Thus deadlock, or so it seems.
However, the anti-lobby has now advanced the argument that the Concorde Agreement states the TWG shall 'draft all new and amended technical regulations concerning F1 racing, and shall make recommendations thereon to the F1 Commission only' (or words to that effect) - with the wording nowhere specifying that such deliberations shall apply only to the championship seasons covered by the agreement. The FIA is, of course, a Concorde signatory.
In addition to that, the FIA in a letter written to the Formula One Teams' Association a fortnight ago stated that the provisions of the Concorde Agreement supersede those of the (FIA's) International Sport Code - which in turn demands a two-year notice period for said major technical changes.
The main thrust of the argument however, centres upon the Concorde's provisions and whether these apply to 2013, given that the agreement as it presently stands expires in 2012. That said, there is no alternate provision, so the whole case should make for extremely interesting deliberation should it eventually end up in court.
However, F1 does not have the time or stomach for that, particularly after the Bahrain affair sullied all and sundry and the Lotus versus Lotus matter solved absolutely nothing. Thus the F1 Commission is seeking a solution rather more elegant than dragging the sport's dirty washing to the High Court in Britain (the prevailing jurisdiction for the Concorde Agreement), and thus the outcome of Wednesday's meeting will be particularly fascinating.
- Power units will be four cylinders, 1.6 litre with high pressure gasoline injection up to 500 bar with a maximum of 12,000 rpm, with extensive energy management and energy recovery systems (now known as ERS), reflecting the decision taken by the WMSC in December 2010
- The aerodynamic regulations have been based on 2011 rules, with modifications in order to improve the aerodynamic efficiency: together with the power train rules, this will enable a 35% reduction in fuel consumption
- The height of the tip of the nose will be limited to ensure better compatibility in a T-bone style accident
- A limitation on transmissions (gear ratios, number of gearboxes) in order to decrease costs
- The overall weight of the car must be no less than 660kg