LONDON: Formula One team bosses are primed for fireworks today when they meet FIA president Max Mosley to try to hammer out more cost-cutting measures.
The meeting at London’s Heathrow airport is likely to be the last real chance to agree technical changes before the season starts in Australia on March 9.
“Max is frustrated by a lack of proposals coming from the teams themselves and the sport is clearly in economic difficulties,” a Formula One source told Reuters at the weekend.
“The FIA want to step in and sort it out.”
While the governing International Automobile Federation (FIA) have already moved to liven up race weekends with one-lap qualifying and a new points structure, the teams have not agreed changes beyond that.
The 10 team principals met the FIA’s technical working group at Heathrow last month without making any major announcements.
Formula One sources said Mosley was now making tough noises and was likely to push for a “zero tolerance” approach on the policing and enforcement of the 2003 technical regulations.
“I’m hoping we are going to see some fireworks on Jan 15 when Max Mosley forces on them some aspects of trying to cut some costs and even slow the cars up a little bit,” said former driver and television commentator Martin Brundle last week.
The most likely outcome is for much closer scrutiny of so-called “driver aids”, including the traction and launch control that prevent wheelspin and allow a driver to make faultless starts.
Power steering and automatic gearboxes could also be targeted.
Some of the electronic systems were only legalised in 2001 after previously being outlawed because the FIA admitted they were unable to police them effectively.
Some teams oppose moves to curtail them, but others would welcome a reining-in of the technological gizmos after a season that has seen both Prost and Arrows fail and has trimmed the starting grid for next March to a mere 20 cars.
“Electronics and other technical advancements have to be reduced,” BMW Motorsport boss Gerhard Berger told Britain’s Autosport magazine last week.
“Nowadays a 17-year-old like Nico Rosberg (son of former champion Keke who tested for Williams last month) can come along and instantly achieve top times. There’s something wrong there.
“Today, everything is automatic. All the driver has to do is to find the braking point.”
While immediate action for 2003 is likely to be a priority, the meeting is also expected to try to nail down changes for the future as well.
Engines could figure on the latter agenda, with one team boss suggesting at the weekend that manufacturers could be obliged to supply more than one team or be fined an amount equivalent to the cost of an engine deal.
The cost of engines, in excess of US$15 million for a season, is a crippling burden for the smaller entrepreneurial teams without major backers.
Mosley visited world champions Ferrari’s Maranello headquarters last week and while neither the FIA nor the Italian team would comment on the purpose of the visit, he is likely to have discussed today’s meeting.
“Ferrari’s support is fundamental to any changes and Mosley is thought to have persuaded (sporting director Jean) Todt that Formula One cannot exist as it is in the prevailing economic climate,” The Times newspaper reported last week. – Reuters