Analysis: FIA Cracks Down to Cut Costs

Formula One's ruling body unveiled a package of radical technical measures on Wednesday to cut soaring costs and make racing more exciting as recession bites.

Analysis: FIA Cracks Down to Cut Costs

Formula One's ruling body unveiled a package of radical technical measures on Wednesday to cut soaring costs and make racing more exciting as recession bites.

The measures, eliminating many of the sport's electronic 'driver aids', were hailed as a shot in the arm by hard-up smaller teams struggling to find funds.

"It's a huge day as far as we are concerned," said Irish team boss Eddie Jordan after the meeting with International Automobile Federation (FIA) President Max Mosley and commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone.

Mosley told Reuters that he was confident no more teams would go to the wall this season after a year that has seen Prost and Arrows collapse. He promised the FIA would be adopting a no-nonsense approach to the existing rules when the season starts in Australia on March 9th.

"Our position is that we are a little bit like (former) Mayor (Rudolph) Giuliani (of New York). We have gone over to zero tolerance," he said. "We could have probably been more insistent (last season) so now we decided we would impose them (the regulations) to the letter."

The measures include eliminating all radio communication during races between a driver and team and also the two-way telemetry that allows engineers to change a car's settings electronically while it is in motion.

Each team will only be allowed two cars from this year, removing the "spare" from the garage, and the FIA also plan to impound cars between final qualifying and the race.

Teams will be allowed to work on them only under strict supervision, ensuring that they do not use special engines and developments for the new single-lap qualifying format to be used for the first time this year.

Standard Systems

From 2004, it is planned that all cars will have a standard braking system and rear wing design and car manufacturers involved in Formula One must ensure that no team is left without an engine.

The FIA plans to get rid of traction control and fully automatic gearboxes as soon as possible but by 2004 at the latest if it proves too expensive for teams to do so immediately.

Traction control was banned for most of the 1990s as the governing body tried to prevent the technology diluting the drivers' skills.

It was reintroduced after persistent suspicions of cheating by some teams and after the FIA admitted they were unable to police the systems effectively.

Mosley said on Wednesday that "the big change" was that the teams had now agreed a new technical regulation under which they must be able to show by physical inspection that the cars complied with the rules.

"That being the case, the suspicion disappears because probably the only way of doing it is with a standard FIA ECU (electronic control unit) both for the engine and transmission," he said.

The ECU is effectively the electronic brains of a racing car's engine.

The FIA said more rule changes, to be approved by the Formula One commission, were proposed for 2005 and 2006 concerning engines.

For 2005, engines must last for two races and there would be new penalties for engine or component changes outside permitted times.

For 2006, engines would have to last six races. At present, teams can get through several in a single race with special high-revving ones used for the short burst of qualifying.

Nothing Done

The FIA made clear that they had been stung by the inability of teams to decide anything on their own and were determined to act themselves.

"Despite the disappearance of two Formula One teams in the past 12 months, nothing has been done to save money," the FIA said in a prepared statement issued before team principals had left the meeting.

"Last October the Formula One teams rejected all the FIA's cost-saving proposals. The teams themselves have had several meetings, but produced nothing."

Arrows went into liquidation this week after missing the last five races of 2002 while Prost never made the Melbourne starting grid after closing their doors a year ago.

"Once they got over the shock, it all went down quite well," Mosley said of Wednesday's meeting.

Jordan and Minardi's Paul Stoddart both welcomed the decisions taken. "For the smaller teams, me and Eddie, it's good news," said Stoddart.

"There's a solidarity in there that wants to see 10 teams survive and compete and complete the season...in overall terms it's a good package of measures for Formula One and it's also going to spice up the racing."

Jordan said that "the atmosphere was the best that I have ever known in a team principals meeting".

"Things have been changed, Max has been quite brutal about what he wants to see for '03, '04 and '05.

"There is supposedly doom and gloom but today was the most positive I can possibly ever remember in my lifetime in Formula One."

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