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MOSLEY'S FORMULA 1 REVOLUTION

Away from the glamour and glare of the Grand Prix weekend the daily grind of Formula One continues with eight of the teams testing at two different venues. Ferrari, Williams, McLaren, Renault, BAR, Jaguar and Toyota are pounding about in pouring rain at Silverstone, England while Ferrari, Williams, BAR, Sauber and Toyota also have cars testing at Monza in Italy.

In the sunshine of Northern Italy, Ferrari continued to demonstrate its dominance with test driver, Luca Badoer topping the timesheets on day one of the test. Ralf Schumacher in the Williams was next up followed by the increasingly impressive Anthony Davidson in the BAR-Honda who was less than three tenths of a second off BadoerÕs best time. Toyota drivers Olivier Panis and Ricardo Zonta, split by SauberÕs Felipe Massa rounded out the drivers in action, all three being at least a second and a half slower than the Ferrari. All five teams were evaluating low down force aerodynamic packages that will be in use for the next two races in Canada and Indianapolis.

Back in 1980 two organizations were struggling for control of Formuala 1. On one side was the governing body for international motor sports, FISA and on the other a body that looked after the interests of the teams, FOCA (Formula One Constructors Association). This was a struggle in which self-interest reigned supreme. FISA president, Frenchman Jean-Marie Balestre, was attempting to establish his authority and prestige by forcing through rule changes (including the banning of sliding skirts) that would give an advantage to anyone running the slightly bulkier but far more powerful turbocharged engines including the French Renault team. FOCA teams, realising that as the turbocharged engines were now more powerful than the Ford Cosworth V8s they were running and becoming more reliable did not want this rule change, as it would be at the expense of their only real advantage. The Ford Cosworth was the perfect engine in size and packaging for a ground effect car and the loss of the sliding skirts would mean the loss of most of the aerodynamic down force produced by ground effects. With less power and equal down force there was no way that a normally aspirated powered car would be competitive with a turbocharged one.

The teams with turbocharged engines, or those building them, namely Renault, Ferrari and Alfa Romeo sided with the FISA. Those without, including Williams, McLaren, and Brabham etc sided with the FOCA. This struggle first came to a head just before the 1980 Spanish Grand Prix (just one of the coincidences when you look at where this weekends race is). The race was run eventually by FOCA without FISA approval and a boycott by the three FISA siding teams and was immediately stripped of its World Championship status. The brawl simmered on throughout the summer until late in the year the FOCA teams held a press conference announcing that they would be running a rival Formula One World Championship under the control of their own organization, the World Federation of Motor Sport. These struggles lasted another two years and led to FISA teams boycotting the 1981 South African GP and the FOCA teams boycotting the 1982 San Marino GP until a deal was reached that became known as ÒThe Concorde AgreementÓ and Formula One has been run under that ever since.

It all sounds very familiar, doesnÕt it? Now the FIA trying to force through rule changes & being blocked by the teams who then talk of setting up their own series. Of course, now itÕs the manufacturers, Renault, Mercedes, BMW and Ferrari etc who were talking of their own series (the Grand Prix World Championship or GPWC) and the other major difference is that the two former FOCA heavyweights of the 1980s struggle, Max Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone are now the men at the head of the FIA trying to re-establish the governing bodies control. As I said, the wheel has turned full circle. Another similarity is that despite a lot of hot air and many pages of press releases both rival championships collapsed before they started.

The GPWC has failed because of money. When it was first announced they got the support of the minor teams such as Jordan and Minardi by saying that there would be a more even spread of the sports income and that there would be financial transparency within the organization. In Malaysia earlier this year, copies of the Memorandum of Understanding that the GPWC sorted out with the FIA were leaked to some of the team bosses who were outraged to find that Ferrari, Williams and McLaren were going to get an even greater share of the income than before. Not even, not transparent and now, not a hope.

The changes that Mosley has announced are in effect, non negotiable. The current Concorde Agreement expires in 2007 and as these changes were slated for the 2008 season they were not bound by the existing contract. With the GPWC dead in the water Mosley has simply imposed these regulations and any teams that want to enter the 2008 series will simply have to abide by them. This may mean the loss of some of the manufacturers from the sport but so what? Formula One has survived and thrived before when there were no major manufacturers involved at all. It just means there will be less money sloshing about to spend on useless stuff like titanium gearboxes or exotic metals being used to reduce weight by another 0.05%. That, after all is also part of MosleyÕs plan, to reduce the costs. Having smaller engines with bans on expensive bits like variable geometry inlet & exhaust systems, ultra high pressure direct injection and that are run with a standard Electronic Control Unit that must last two to three races should help. The use of standard parts such as brakes, wheels & wings etc will also achieve this end. Allowing the sale of chassis to other teams should help entice new teams to enter the championship as buying an existing chassis would cost a fraction of what it does to design and build a new one from scratch. That the standard ECU will be used to control the amount of testing done and eradicate the hideous blight of traction control is for me, the best piece of news I have heard in a very long time. On a purely aesthetic note the potential change back to wider (real) slick tyres at the back and narrower ones at the front is also very pleasing and the additional effect of greater drag caused by these should help Òliven the showÓ by allowing closer racing. Perhaps even real racing where the lead changes on the track and not in the pits. Remember that?

Being presented with this Òfait accompliÓ many of the team bosses have suggested that most of these reforms could be brought forward to 2006. If so, they will need to be voted on by the World Council by June 30 this year as agreed in the current Concorde Agreement. There will be a lot of manoeuvring and arguing to come but this means that we only have another two months before we know just how successful MaxÕs ÒRevolutionÓ has really been. It is ironic that the very men that gave rise to the ÒConcorde AgreementÓ are those who will now bury it.

Sam Snape

7-5-04