Honda hints at pull-out

The FIA's newly-confirmed engine regulations are a bombshell to those manufacturers in F1 hoping to demonstrate their technical capabilities and has thrown their future F1 participation into doubt - with Honda being the first to question its continued involvement in the sport

Honda hints at pull-out

The so-called 'Package 2' regulations announced on Friday were billed as having slightly fewer engine restrictions than 'Package 1', but FIA president Max Mosley has confirmed that the published 2006 engine regulations are the "full-on restricted ones."

Honda, predictably, has come out strongly in opposition. The company's Otmar Szafnauer commented: "As we said all along, we want the engine formula to be open, so we can differentiate ourselves.

"One of the reasons we are here is so that we can fight the others on a level playing field in a formula that is not very restrictive. Once you start restricting it, the challenge goes away. That is not what Honda is here for."

Szafnauer's biggest gripes surround restricting design freedom. "Defining the weight that the engine has to be, and the centre of gravity, the bore size and the cylinder spacing - those are the main issues," he said in Sao Paulo.

Szafnauer says that Honda is hoping to negotiate a compromise before it considers pulling out of the sport, but his hopes that there is room for manoeuvre appear to be unfounded.

"I think the first thing to do is fight this in every way we can," he said. "We want to discuss it with the FIA, tell them what we are against and hopefully come to a better solution. We'll do that first before we pull out.

"We are committed to F1, we always said that, and I think the easiest thing to do in the light of something like this is quit. The hard thing to do is fight for what you believe is the best for the sport. We're not selfish in saying some of this stuff. We joined the sport because it was the pinnacle and a challenge to our engineers. When that changes, then I think you should fight it."

FIA president Max Mosley, however, told Autosport.com: "We've done the negotiating. We did that in China. As far as Honda is concerned, I sat down and had a long discussion with them and tried to reach agreement but it turned out not to be possible. This has been voted and is now the rules. It's gone through all the procedures, been voted by the World Council and that's it."

It is believed that the manufacturers were offered a slightly less restrictive set of engine regulations in return for guaranteed engine supply to the smaller teams but that they refused to accept the terms of this.

Mosley's 2006 engine regulations are a clear reflection of his determination to make sure that F1 does not become dependent on major engine manufacturers. The published regulations are aimed at ensuring that a commercial engine builder will be able to construct an engine that will be within a very few percent of somebody spending hundreds of millions which, Mosley said in China, is the only way to keep F1 viable.

It is highly likely that the latest developments will drive major manufacturers to take the FIA to arbitration, claimed the new rules are a breach of the Concorde Agreement which guaranteed engine stability until 2007.

The governing body, however, does not appear to be unduly concerned and has already stated its defence, namely that it is acting on safety grounds in response to the demands of the sport's own Technical Working Group.

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