Tag Archives: FIA

Korean GP given green light by FIA

FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting inspecting the Korean GP circuit

FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting inspecting the Korean GP circuit

The Korean Grand Prix has been confirmed to go ahead later this month, as a recent FIA inspection has reported the track to be up to safety standards, and more importantly, the construction is still on time. Charlie Whiting has been inspecting the track over the last 2 days, and has finally declared the race ready to go.

 

For the last few months, particularly in the recent weeks, speculation has been mounting about the circuit’s inability to prepare the track in time, particularly in the laying of the tarmac, which only happened a few days ago. However, with this seal of approval from the FIA, surely most of the media attention will focus on the actual race.

While the tarmac and kerbs are now down, certain aspects of the infrastructure are still to be completed, such as some of the smaller grandstands. Having said that, the main features of the circuit are reported to have been completed.

Race promoter Yung Cho Chung has welcomed the approval by the FIA, and has stated that he hopes to see this Grand Prix ignite more Korean interest in F1:

"We are delighted that all works are now finished to the 
complete satisfaction of the FIA, and we join the whole of 
Korea in welcoming the Formula 1 fraternity to the Korea 
International Circuit for the first time.

The KIC has been constructed to the highest standards, and 
will become the epicentre of motorsport in the country. We 
believe the 2010 Formula 1 Korean Grand Prix will be the 
catalyst to ignite enormous interest in the sport across 
the nation."

 

Ferrari decision revealed: WMSC ignores recommendations, Todt says: “Not enough evidence”

The reasoning of the World Motor Sport Council letting Ferrari off with charges of team orders has been explained today, and it’s not a pretty sight. The WMSC ignored a reccomendation from the Reporter (investigator) to penalise Fernando Alonso, while Jean Todt claimed there was “not enough evidence”.

Lars Osterlind, one of the top names of the FIA since Max Mosley took over years ago, and tipped for Presidency in the future (currently Vice-President), was appointed as the Reporter for this case. Put simply, he was in charge of investigating every single aspect of the team orders case, and he showed the WMSC some truly damning evidence to incriminate Ferrari.

For example, he found out that both drivers, before the team order, were instructed to turn their engines down, presumably to save fuel or the engine. However, Lars found that Alonso soon turned up the revs on his car “without Mr. Massa being informed. Mr Fernando Alonso was therefore benefiting from a definite performance advantage over Mr Felipe Massa in the moments preceding the contentious overtaking.”

He then went on to explain why the ethics of sport were broken:

“Motor racing ought to be unpredictable, as it has been to
date. Part of that competitive element is to take equal
interest in all competitors. Irrespective of their fitness,
talent or position in the race, competitors should be able
to rely on themselves for purposes of winning the race
without any form of external aid influencing their sporting
performance.”

He presented his full findings in a 160-page document, and gave it to the World Motor Sport Council. The FIA acknowledged that Ferrari had interfered with the race, but refused to increase the penalty, stating:

"There were many examples of what could have been said to be 
team orders in Formula 1 in recent years, and therefore there 
has been inconsistency in its application.

Also its application to indirect team orders via messages 
where drivers raise no complaints is uncertain and difficult 
to detect and police."

They even admitted that rules 39.1 (no team orders) and 151.c (bringing the sport into disrepute) were broken, but still found no reason to full prove that Ferrari’s messages directly interfered with he race, rather Felipe Massa made a “decision based on the evidence presented” to him by the team.

Ferrari claimed that “team orders were different from team strategy”, meaning that there would be a difference between a “supply of information or a request for what a team would like a driver to do” and direct orders.

The WMSC also noted that they had received letters of support for Ferrari from Frank Williams and Peter Sauber, heads of the Williams and Sauber teams.

Meanwhile, FIA president Jean Todt claimed that there was “not enough evidence” to fully prove Ferrari’s guilt. Seeing as he was in charge of Ferrari during the biggest team order scandals in F1, why are we not surprised?

Really, this is a scandalous day for Formula 1. This completely undermines the team orders ban, and will almost certainly destroy the championship battle in terms of team-mates racing each other. Ferrari, the FIA, and the WMSC should hang their heads in shame.

2011 F1 calendar revealed, Brazil now season finale

The FIA have announced the full race calendar for the 2011 season, and it is the longest ever, with 20 races overall. This is due to the additions of Korea and India this and next year.

Like 2008, Brazil will hold the F1 finale in 2011

Like 2008, Brazil will hold the F1 finale in 2011

As expected, the Bahrain Grand Prix will host the season opener, for the second year in a row. The only other changes are the addition of India for the 30th October (Race 18), and the Brazilian Grand Prix now hosting the season finale, switching places with Abu Dhabi.

Also, the European season now begins with the Turkish Grand Prix, instead of Spain. Here is the full calendar:

13 March – Bahrain Grand Prix
27 March – Australian Grand Prix
10 April – Malaysian Grand Prix
17 April – Chinese Grand Prix
8 May – Turkish Grand Prix
22 May – Spanish Grand Prix
29 May – Monaco Grand Prix
12 June – Canadian Grand Prix
26 June – European Grand Prix
10 July – British Grand Prix
24 July – German Grand Prix
31 July – Hungarian Grand Prix
28 August – Belgian Grand Prix
11 September – Italian Grand Prix
25 September – Singapore Grand Prix
9 October – Japanese Grand Prix
16 October – Korean Grand Prix
30 October – Indian Grand Prix*
13 November – Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
27 November – Brazilian Grand Prix

*Subject to circuit inspection

Personally, I would have made a few small changes, like pushing Suzuka to the near end of the calendar, to set up a more exciting finish to the season, but that’s just me. Also, it’s great to see the Brazilian Grand Prix back in its rightful spot. Every world championship since 2005 has been resolved in Interlagos, and I hope it stays that way.

No new F1 team for 2011 season

In addition to the decision not to penalise Ferrari further, the World Motor Sport Council have also announced that there will be no 13th Formula 1 team for the 2011 season.

The F1 grid will remain at 24 cars next year

The F1 grid will remain at 24 cars next year

Their explanation for their choice was that none of the applying teams met the criteria to join the grid, meaning that the F1 paddock will continue to be limited to 24 cars next season.

The main applicants, Epsilon Euskadi, Durango/Villeneuve Racing and Stefan GP, all had disadvantages to their entry, although I would have thought that Epsilon Euskadi would still have been chosen, thanks to their impressive Le Mans technology centre. Before this decision, they had announced that they had already tested their first wind tunnel model of their 2011 car.

An FIA statement read as follows:

"Following the press release of 19 March 2010 calling for 
expressions of interest to participate in the 2011 and 2012 
seasons of the FIA Formula One World Championship, a number 
of interested parties expressed their interest.

It was considered that none of the candidates met the 
requirements to be granted an entry into the Championship.

Consequently, the allocation of the 13th team will not be 
granted."

Again, this is disappointing news, seeing as Epsilon Euskadi looked so far into their development, as well as being a fully professional outfit. There is still a possibility of a merger with Hispania, but both parties have since denied these rumours.

Korean GP will break rules even if it goes ahead

It has emerged today that even if the Korean Grand Prix event does go ahead this year, which is slightly doubtful to say the least, the FIA would be forced to break its own rules to allow it to do so. While the track organisers are releasing new photos of developed buildings, it still isn’t enough to quell the doubt of many F1 fans and the teams.

One of the new Korean GP buildings - just in time?

One of the new Korean GP buildings - just in time?

It has been accepted that if the venue fails to host a Grand Prix this year, it will be barred from doing so in 2011. To be honest, the chances of it going ahead this year are still doubtful. Karun Chandhok’s demonstration run in a Red Bull, scheduled to take place on the 4th-5th September in only a few days time, is in serious doubt, with a trusted source saying that an FIA official said that there was “no way” this could happen.

Even more worrying is the FIA’s Appendix O to the International Sporting Code, which states that the final inspection of the track must take place 90 days before the opening of the venue. With the race weekend beginning on Friday (possibly Thursday, depending on whether it is an official opening day or not), then the final inspection should have taken place on July 23rd.

Clearly, the track wasn’t developed back then, and FIA rules state that an inspection would be very stringent, and therefore the track couldn’t have passed it, even if it took place. The rule reads as follows:

"...Inspection all work relating to the track surface, permanent 
features and safety installations should be completed to the 
FIA’s satisfaction.”

An incomplete track surface can’t exactly be up to the FIA’s satisfaction can it? Never mind “permanent features and safety installations”, which wouldn’t seem to be in place either.

While all the officials and FIA heads will insist the race will go ahead, you can’t help but feel that they are delaying the inevitable. Bernie Ecclestone would never throw in the towel early, and is probably pushing the FIA to get this race done, but financial (and sporting) implications will be severe if the Korean GP is scrapped with days to go. Having said that, the organisers will still have to pay up if it doesn’t go ahead, so Bernie’s pocket is still covered.

It is understood that if the Korean GP fails to materialise, the job of handing out the punishments goes to the World Motor Sport Council and not Jean Todt. Either way, this isn’t the last we will hear of this story.

FIA fines and disqualifies USF1

USF1 have been fined €309,000 for failing to race this year

USF1 have been fined €309,000 for failing to race this year

The FIA World Motor Sport Council has announced that they have fined the USF1 team €309,000, and disqualified them from competing in any FIA championship, for failing to make the grid this year. The team had pulled out 3 weeks before the season opener, saying that they would not be ready in time.

The American project was set to become one of the 4 teams to compete in the 2010 Formula 1 season, but they failed to make the grid, because of a lack of sponsors, and their car was not ready. They requested the FIA to postpone their entry until the 2011 season, but the FIA rejected this proposal, seeing as the other teams were on course to make the grid. After USF1 pulled out, the FIA soon announced that they would be taking action against the team, as they had broken the terms of their entry.

USF1 representatives attended a hearing in Paris yesterday. In their defence, they argued that the period of uncertainty, caused by the Concorde Agreement and proposed budget cap rules during the 2009 season, had hampered their efforts. They also suggested that Bernie Ecclestone was deterring sponsors from the team, after making negative comments about them.

The FIA rejected all of these suggestions, saying that:

"The WMSC considered US F1 had cooperated fully with the FIA in its
investigation, and had been entirely open in answering the questions
of the Reporter.

The WMSC however did not consider events of 'force majeure' were
established in this case as there were no compelling supervening
events but instead this was about a lack of funds.

Nor did they accept statements from FOM [Formula One Management]
had had any real material impact.

Rather they considered that the team, whilst well-intentioned, had
displayed poor financial management and had underestimated the
requirement to present an F1 car for the 2010 season in the time
and with the financial resources available to them.

It was wholly unacceptable that the FIA was presented with only
three weeks warning of the total non-appearance of the team at the
Grand Prix in Bahrain and for the 2010 season, and WMSC members had
real concerns about the impact on the championship, not least the
deprivation of the opportunity for another team to have provided
two cars to run in the championship in 2010 instead of US F1.

The FIA has fined US F1 309,000 euros, the equivalent of the
championship entry fee and ordered it to pay the costs of the FIA
disciplinary process, and disqualified the team, "which definitively
deprives US F1 of the right to take part, in any way whatsoever, in
any competition."

Also, after having read the full WMSC report (link at bottom), it seems that USF1 were not very clear on their budget either. In December 2009, when doubts were growing over them competing in 2010, USF1 claimed that they had $26m of sponsorship money, under 3 different binding contracts, meaning that they didn’t have it yet, but the binding contract would force them to get it. However, the FIA found out that only one of these contracts were binding ($8m), meaning that the other $18m was not actually binded to USF1.

Because of this lack of sponsorship money, USF1 did not have enough capital to build their cars and spares, as the report explains:

"USF1 was unable to produce its race cars and necessary spares in 
the time available. This was a result of lack of adequate and 
timely capital investment combined with sponsorship arrangements 
which did not com to fruition or were terminated. This caused a 
delay in construction of the cars and equipment."

The Entry Fee for competing in Formula 1 is €309,000. This is a deposit for the FIA, and is later added to the deposit paid to Cosworth for their engines. USF1 had paid the Entry Fee, given the deposit to Cosworth, and also made the first payment under their contract (even though USF1 had previously stated that they did not want to use the Cosworth engines).

The FIA found out that after all of this, USF1 had “little or no financial liquidity”. The FIA were then advised that a new fine to the team would be pointless, as their lack of liquidity would mean that they would probably be unable to pay. Therefore, they were advised that “at the very least” they should force USF1 to forfeit their Entry Fee.

At the end of their report, the FIA fined USF1 €309,000 (in other words, make them forfeit their Entry Fee), disqualifying them from any taking part in any competition whatsoever (no timeframe specified), and force them to pay the FIA’s costs for this inquiry. USF1 have 7 days to appeal.

In my opinion, this is very good news. It is absolutely unacceptable that a team could pull out with only 3 weeks to go, leaving another prospective team without a space on the grid. Their situation spiralled out of control in late 2009, yet they continued to claim they would make the grid, up to February 2010. The team and investors have lost approx. €20m in total from this failed attempt to enter F1, because of poor financial management, and a lack of knowledge of the sheer effort required to enter Formula 1.

While this never should have happened in the first place, this is a good response from the FIA, considering the sheer farce of USF1’s attempt to enter F1.

Thoughts on the 2011 rule changes

Yesterday we saw a fleet of rule changes brought in by the World Motor Sport Council and the FIA, to tackle an order of issues for the 2011 season. These range from clarifying safety car rules and fuel samples, to the tyres supplied to the grid and the adjustable rear wings.

Unfortunately, in my view, the larger rule changes are all for the worse. The adjustable rear wings, for example, are simply a far too complicated version of trying to reduce downforce for the car behind. Banning diffusers, or any other method of reducing rear downforce, would have been better. Also, the 107% rule is quite unnecessary, seeing as the new teams are catching up quite well. The new team next year will have extra pressure put on them, thanks to this rule.

However, on the other side, some of the changes do make sense. First of all, I’m very happy that Pirelli has been chosen as the tyre supplier, as Michelin were simply bringing far too many demands. The increased minimum weight will encourage teams to run the KERS system next year (more on this in a separate post), which needs to be run by every team in order for it to work.

Other rules, like the safety car line, Ho-Pin-Tung’s superlicense and fuel samples, are less important, and won’t generate much controversy. What do you think of the new rule changes? Have a say below:

More 2011 rules: Weight, fuel samples, safety car line, licences and more

Michael Schumacher's Monaco penalty has been clarified by the FIA and WMSC

Michael Schumacher's Monaco penalty has been clarified by the FIA and WMSC

After the announcement of Pirelli being the sole tyre supplier, adjustable rear wings, and the 107%, the World Motor Sport Council have announced even more (but smaller) rule changes for the 2011 season. I would be here all year if I were to write separate articles, so I have put them all into one post:

The safety car line

The WMSC have clarified the issue regarding the safety car line, after what happened to Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso during the last lap of the Monaco Grand Prix:

"With immediate effect, no car may overtake until it has passed the
first safety car line for the first time when the safety car is
returning to the pits. However, if the safety car is still deployed
at the beginning of the last lap, or is deployed during the last
lap, it will enter the pit lane at the end of the lap and the cars
will take the chequered flag as normal without overtaking."

This is good news, as there will be no more arguments about whether overtaking is allowed on the last lap after the safety car pits. The safety car line was introduced this year, so as to create more exciting restarts during the race, but not for the end.

“Competitor’s staff” FIA Licence

While this is not a rule yet, it is a proposal. This is to give licences to “staff of competitors”, in other words, all team personnel, at and away from the track:

"A proposal relating to specific licences for members of staff of
competitors entered in the FIA World Championships has been
submitted to the Formula One Commission. This is under consideration
for implementation in the FIA Formula One World Championship from
the start of 2011, with a view to inclusion in other FIA World
Championships in the future."

The only real use of this, as far as I can see, is to stop Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds returning to the sport in 2013. To be honest, apart from suspicious employees (Mike Coughlan?) this rule shouldn’t be put into use much. Hopefully.

Fuel samples and stopping out on track

This is a rule for Lewis Hamilton only, after what happened at Canada. This new rule states that, after all practice and qualifying sessions, the car must be brought back to the pits via its own power. In other words, the car cannot be switched off in order to save fuel for a fuel sample:

"With immediate effect, any car being driven unnecessarily slowly,
erratically, or which is deemed potentially dangerous to other
drivers, will be reported to the stewards. This will apply whether
any such car is being driven on the track, the pit entry or the
pit lane.

In order to ensure cars are not driven unnecessarily slowly on
in-laps during qualifying or reconnaissance laps when the pit
exit is opened for the race, drivers must stay below the maximum
time set by the FIA between the safety car line after the pit
exit and safety car line before the pit entry. The maximum time
will be determined by the race director at each event prior to
the first day of practice, but may be amended during the event
if necessary.

With immediate effect, if a sample of fuel is required after a
practice session the car concerned must have first been driven
back to the pits under its own power."

Charlie Whiting has already issued a warning, that anyone who tries what Hamilton and McLaren did in Canada will be punished, so again this is simply a clarification of the rules.

Minimum weight

The minimum weight of the cars will be increased from 620kg to 640kg. This is to encourage teams to run the KERS system next year (which FOTA is now allowing their members to use for 2011). This year, the minimum weight was increased from 605kg to 620kg, for the refuelling ban and for KERS, although the latter was not used this year.

"From 2011, the minimum weight of the car must not be less than
640 kg at all times during the event."

Hopefully this will encourage all teams to run KERS next year, rather than just a few. Certain teams have already announced that they will be running KERS next year. More on this later.

Ho-Pin-Tung’s Superlicence

Ho-Pin-Tung has been granted a probationary 4-race superlicence, which suggests that his Renault team applied for one. The Chinese driver had just taken part in a test session in a Renault R29 last weekend.

"Based on his career résumé and comparative F1 testing times, the
World Council has approved the granting of a four-race probationary
super license to Chinese driver Ho-Pin Tung."

As I always say, I love giving new drivers a chance in F1. However, I hope this superlicence isn’t for this year, as surely Pin-Tung has not had enough testing yet. Having said that, there was a rule implemented a few months back, that said that a new driver in the middle of an F1 season was allowed a test session before his first race.

Driver conduct on the road

Another Lewis Hamilton rule here, after what happened to him during the Australian GP weekend:

"The FIA, both in its motor sport and mobility roles, has a strong 
interest in promoting road safety. Competitors at FIA events must 
act as ambassadors for the sport, be aware their conduct on the 
road must be exemplary and respect road safety rules. The World 
Council agreed that the International Sporting Code be examined 
to ensure the Federation’s overall objectives and, in particular, 
its commitment to road safety, are upheld."

In other statements, the FIA and WMSC have suggested penalties to drivers who are dangerous on the road, and this should be good news. While us sensible F1 fans know how to behave on the road, there are plenty of idiots who don’t. If a race driver is driving dangerously on the road, it needs to be shown to everybody that nobody is above the rules of the road. If that means compromising the driver in their sport, so be it.

All of these new rules will be summarised in a later post.

Adjustable rear wings for 2011 – but only for overtaking

It has been announced by the World Motor Sport Council today that adjustable rear wings will be introduced into Formula 1 for the 2011 season, but can only be deployed when a car is following another, and cannot be used by the leader. This has been implemented to assist overtaking.

The adjustable rear wings would not be allowed to be used in the first 2 laps. Also, it can only be activated when a driver is less than 1 second behind the car in front. The driver is notified by his electronics (a light probably) when the system can be used. When the driver hits the brakes after using the rear wing, the system is disabled.

The World motor Sport Council explained this system in more detail:

"From 2011, adjustable bodywork may be activated by the driver at 
any time prior to the start of the race and, for the sole purpose 
of improving overtaking opportunities during the race, after the 
driver has completed two laps.

The driver may only activate the adjustable bodywork in the race 
when he has been notified via the control electronics that it is 
enabled. It will only be enabled if the driver is less than one 
second behind another at any of the pre-determined positions 
around each circuit. The system will be disabled the first 
time the driver uses the brakes after the system has been activated.

The FIA may, after consulting all the competitors, adjust the time
proximity in order to ensure the purpose of the adjustable 
bodywork is met."

I’m not sure about this one. This system gives about 15 km/h extra speed in a straight line, and that is plenty to pass the car in front. However, it may be making it too easy to pass another car, and then when a driver has been overtaken, they can just repass them the following lap.

The F-duct was banned (a good thing in my book) to make way for this innovation, and coupled with KERS (I will write on this later), this could well make overtaking too complicated for the fans, and for the driver.

107% rule returns for 2011

Neither of the HRT cars would have raced in Bahrain if the 107% rule was in place

Neither of the HRT cars would have raced in Bahrain if the 107% rule was in place

As well as Pirelli being the sole tyre supplier from 2011 onwards, the FIA have today announced that the 107% rule will return to Formula 1 in 2011. This was announced at the World Motor Sports Council today. From 2011 onwards, any driver who does not get within 107% of the fastest lap of Q1 will not be allowed to start the race.

The World Motor Sport Council explained the 107% rule in more detail:

"From 2011, any driver whose best qualifying lap exceeds 107% of
the fastest Q1 qualifying time will not be allowed to take part
in the race. Under exceptional circumstances, however, which may
include setting a suitable lap time in a free practice session,
the stewards may permit the car to start the race. Should there
be more than one driver accepted in this manner, the grid order
will be determined by the stewards."

Now I’m sure that, in the event of rain or track damage during qualifying, the stewards would allow a slower car to go through to the race, but overall I think this rule is a bit pointless. The new teams are quickly getting up to speed, and would hardly get caught out by the 107% rule next year.

After a few minutes of figuring it out, I have concluded that there would have been 5 drivers knocked out in 4 different races this year if the 107% rule was already in place. In the season-opener in Bahrain, both Bruno Senna and Karun Chandhok would not have started. Then, in Malaysia, Lucas di Grassi would have been gone.

In Spain, Bruno Senna again would have been left out. Finally, Karun Chandhok in Canada would be excluded under 107% regulations. But, in the future, I can’t see how it would happen this often. If there is a 13th team in F1 in 2011, it will only make it harder on them to get into the sport.

As we have seen already, there haven’t been any serious difficulties with slow backmarkers, even in Monaco. This is why I believe that the 107% rule is a waste of time.

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