More trouble brewing in F1

March 21, 2009

MOTOR-RACING-PRIX/Even in the often bizarre world of Formula One, this week’s points system controversy takes a bit of explaining.

Ultimately, inevitably it all comes down to politics.

The governing International Automobile Federation (FIA) wanted to show the Formula One Teams’ Association (FOTA) who called the shots while the teams were determined to demonstrate their own new-found unity and leadership.

So we now have a situation, at least as far as deciding the championship is concerned, where there has been a lot of indignation and hot air but nothing has actually changed from last season.

That is pretty much what the FIA wanted in the first place, embarrassing climbdown or no.

They weren’t too taken with Bernie Ecclestone’s Olympic-style medals idea and did not want the teams deciding the rules either.

The teams can claim to have won the day by forcing the FIA, who appear to have flouted their own rules in the first place, to backtrack on the “winner takes all” system but what have they actually achieved? Their proposal of giving more points to the race winner was still roundly rejected by the world motor sport council.

Meanwhile, the far more substantial issue of rule changes and voluntary budget caps for 2010 remains very much on the agenda and FIA is a lot less likely to backtrack on that.

There is also more trouble brewing that could shatter FOTA’s public display of unity and have FIA rubbing their hands with glee.

Three teams — Brawn GP, Toyota and Williams — have all taken a particular interpretation of the new aerodynamic rules that rivals are already questioning because it appears to give the trio a clear advantage.

All three have looked quick in testing and nobody would be surprised if there was a protest to stewards in Melbourne next week.

Renault team boss Flavio Briatore has already said at least three teams are not respecting the regulations while McLaren, off the pace in testing, are not much happier about the situation.

The problem is that Toyota’s John Howett is the vice-chairman of FOTA and Brawn owner Ross Brawn heads up the technical working group.

Briatore leads the commercial committee and McLaren’s Martin Whitmarsh the sporting working group, with Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo the overall chair.

If there is a protest, the stewards on past form can be expected to refer it to the FIA’s court of appeal which is unlikely to meet until after the first two races in Australia and Malaysia.

More confusion, more uncertainty.

This was supposed to be the season when all sides of Formula One set aside their differences and came together to combat the common enemy in the credit crunch and secure the sport’s long-term survival.

It doesn’t look that way so far. In fact, it could get very messy.

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