Door opened to traction control - but not yet…

Traction control will return to Formula 1 as early as next year's Spanish Grand Prix if the teams can agree on an effective method of keeping additional electronic driver aids out of the sport and come up with a number of new safety systems

Door opened to traction control - but not yet…

The F1 Commission, made up of teams, major sponsors and representatives of the sports' governing body, the FIA, needed to unanimously agree that traction control should return before it could be given the final rubber stamp by motorsport's rules-making body, the World Motor Sport Council.

However, sources say that at yesterday's F1 Commission meeting in Monaco, four teams - Ferrari, its customer engine-users Prost and Sauber, plus Minardi - vetoed the original proposal for an immediate return 'for the good of the sport of Formula 1'.

Instead, after a meeting described as 'stormy at times', the F1 Commission has agreed to incorporate traction control as part of a package of measures to improve safety in F1. But the package will be implemented only if the teams can propose measures to guarantee there would be no additional use of electronics 'as an aid to competitive driving in F1'.

Examples of suggested safety devices were given, including a system to alert the driver of the presence of a car in front when visibility is reduced by spray, and a form of speed reduction for use under yellow flag conditions. All of these safety measures are still under discussion.

The package formulated by the teams will be discussed at a meeting between the FIA and Formula 1 team principals on February 14. Subject to a fax vote of the World Motor Sport Council on March 1, unrestricted engine electronics could be permitted as early as the Spanish Grand Prix on April 29.

Last month, the F1 Technical Working Group, an advisory body made up of the teams' technical chiefs, unanimously voted in favour of the return of traction control on the grounds that such electronic systems were impossible to police effectively.

Several teams are said to be angered that a previously unanimous decision, which should have been adopted as a formality, was subsequently vetoed and replaced by the modified package.

"How can a team agree on something at the Technical Working Group, then disagree with it a couple of weeks later?" said one F1 team insider. "What exactly has changed in the meantime?"

A Ferrari spokesman denied that the Italian team had been the catalyst for any change in stance and that it had led a veto.

"This is an FIA decision, not a Ferrari decision," he told the BBC. "I don't know why some teams speak in this way, but it is not right.

"Maybe they want the restrictions on electronics removed? But the FIA is very careful about electronics."

The move to allow traction control, but only on strict conditions, is in line with the thinking of FIA president Max Mosley, who was against its return in principle but has always advocated any improvement in F1 safety standards.

The decision has placed the onus back on to the Formula 1 teams to get their own house in order if they want traction control to return. The teams must devise a system which ensures that no further electronic systems to aid competitive driving could be used, as well as incorporating new safety measures.

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