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Team chiefs debate impact of '03 rules

At Suzuka, leading team figures were asked their opinion on Formula 1's success in 2003 and whether it was down to the FIA rule changes or other more general factors, prompting some interesting debate

Toyota team principal Ove Andersson said: "It's a very difficult question to answer. Generally speaking, I believe that the championship, due to the new qualifying regulations - doing qualifying with fuel - has mixed up the grid and has been making races very interesting. So probably the rule changes have had a big influence."

Williams technical director Patrick Head, meanwhile, argued: "I think the main influence has been that there have been three and sometimes four teams running competitively and that wasn't the case. We were able to qualify well last year but we weren't able to sustain that. The degradation of our tyres was much worse than with the Ferrari, and so we were promising only to deceive in reality.

"But now there are three, sometimes four competitive teams, because the Renault is probably competitive at every circuit now. Certainly its engine no longer seems to be as far behind as it was at the beginning of the season. Last year, the Ferrari was just head and shoulders above the other cars and however you mixed up the regulations you were still going to get a similar outcome."

Head's opposite number at BAR, Geoff Willis, added: "Probably we've seen more varied effects of the tyre battle this year. There hasn't been such a consistent benefit one way or the other and it has depended on circuits and on conditions. And also, yes, there are more teams competing at a close to equal level technically so I think that's mixed it up. I personally don't think the qualifying has made any real difference to the outcome of the championship."

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