FIA compromises on F1 'driver-aids'

The FIA compromised on some of its intended cost-cutting measures [Jan 15] during yesterday's meeting of the F1 Technical Working Group. The ban on traction and launch control and automatic gearboxes is postponed to mid-season. The introduction of a standard ECU is cancelled. Car-to-pit telemetry will be allowed in 2003 only. Radio communication will be permitted, but must be made available to broadcasters. In addition, a third car may be used if a race car is damaged beyond repair

FIA compromises on F1 'driver-aids'

Yesterday's F1 Technical Working Group meeting in London followed the failure of the group to reach any meaningful agreement last Friday. On this occasion, the teams' technical directors were joined by their electronics specialists, and also by independent electronics experts. Discussion of the safety and financial effects of the measures announced on January 15 convinced the FIA to agree to some compromises.

The teams may now retain their traction control systems and fully automatic gearboxes until the midpoint of the 2003 season (the British GP). Launch control will be eliminated at the same time, provided that the teams can all operate their current clutch mechanisms manually.

The FIA was persuaded yesterday that its technical inspectors can now establish the absence of traction control, launch control and fully automatic gearboxes using a combination of the latest technology and additional electronic sensors. These will be compulsorily fitted to the cars by the inspectors in the future and will render a 'control' ECU unnecessary, says the FIA.

There is no compromise on the immediate ban on pit-to-car telemetry, which has allowed engineers to change control settings from the pits. However, car-to-pit telemetry (by which the engineers receive copious information about the cars' performance) will stay through 2003. The FIA was convinced yesterday that immediate implementation would not save the teams any money, because the limiting factor is the data-acquisition system, and this cannot be deleted from the 2003 racecars in the time available. Instead, car-to-pit telemetry will be eliminated from new-for-2004 cars, when a 'standard' data-logger will be introduced in its place.

Radio communication between the driver and his engineers is to stay for the foreseeable future, on safety grounds, provided that each system cannot be used to transmit anything but voice data. As of 2003, however, the communications must be 'open' - accessible both to the FIA's race officials and broadcasters. In addition, the FIA is now investigating the feasibility of creating a broadcasting system that will be accessible to the race-going public at trackside.

As to the newly announced cost-cutting measures that have nothing to do with driving the cars, the FIA has bowed to pressure from the teams by allowing the use of a third car, provided the team concerned has convinced the scrutineers that a race car has been damaged beyond repair. Any spare car deployed following damage to a race car just before the start (or in a race stopped during the first two laps) must start from the pit-lane.

Instead of being held in parc fermé between qualifying and the commencement of the race start procedure, the cars will now be allowed to return to their respective pit garages - but will be kept there under strict parc fermé conditions. Any work other than that to be specified on a "very restricted list" will require special authorisation from the FIA inspection team.

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