BAR Forced Retirements May Lead to Controversy

BAR technical director Geoff Willis has revealed the team plan to change the engines of both their cars before the Malaysian Grand Prix, but the team's decision could lead to more controversy in Formula One.

BAR Forced Retirements May Lead to Controversy

BAR technical director Geoff Willis has revealed the team plan to change the engines of both their cars before the Malaysian Grand Prix, but the team's decision could lead to more controversy in Formula One.

Willis said the team decided to retire both Jenson Button and Takuma Sato before the end of today's Australian Grand Prix in order to be able to change their Honda engines without a penalty. Both drivers would have been out of the points as Button was running 11th and Sato 14th.

"As we were out of the points, on the last lap we decided to stop both cars which gives us the opportunity to change engines for Malaysia without further penalty," said Willis is a team press release. "This could be an advantage at a race where we normally encounter high temperatures."

Under new regulations, Formula One engines must last for two race weekends. However, a loophole in the regulations allows a driver to retire deliberately before the race's end in order to replace the engine before the following Grand Prix. The replacement goes unpunished.

This option was pointed out to the FIA before the season had begun, but officials rejected the possibility that teams would actually do that, since a team who would retire before the end of the race would be merely losing positions that could be crucial for the Constructors' Championship standings at the end of the season.

BAR's retirement is perfectly legal under the wording of the new regulations. Moreover, according to sources in Melbourne, some teams have already inquired before the race whether they would be punished if they were to retire their cars before the race's end, in order to change engines for the next race. And, according to sources, teams were told that they would not be penalised.

However the FIA could still issue a clarification if this becomes a wide-spread habit among teams. And, with BAR openly admitting to have retired their cars for the sake of replacing both engines, the FIA may well be forced to do so sooner rather than later.

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