Tag Archives: FIA

FIA to change safety car rules

Because of a lack of clarity on safety car rules, Michael Schumacher lost his points-scoring position

Because of a lack of clarity on safety car rules, Michael Schumacher lost his points-scoring position

The FIA has admitted a “lack of clarity” regarding safety car rules, and has promised to change the regulations accordingly. Following Michael Schumacher’s penalty for overtaking on the last lap as the safety car had already pitted, much critisism has been aimed at the rules for not being clear enough.

However, since then, the FIA have issued a statement, saying that the rules were not clear enough, and would consider changes at the next World Motor Sport Council meeting on June 23rd. They said:

The problems identified during the final lap of the Monaco Grand 
Prix, counting for the 2010 FIA Formula One World Championship, 
showed a lack of clarity in the application of the rule prohibiting 
overtaking behind the Safety Car.

Adjustments to the regulations are necessary to clarify the procedure 
that cars must meet when the last lap is controlled by the Safety Car 
whilst also ensuring that the signaling for teams and drivers is made 
more clear.

These adjustments will help to avoid the problem which occurred during 
the Monaco Grand Prix from happening in the future.

The Formula One Commission, upon a proposal of the F1 Sporting Working 
Group will submit an amendment to the Sporting Regulations to address 
this issue. These amendments will be considered by the World Motor Sport 
Council at its next meeting in Geneva on June 23.

To be honest, I’m not sure what rule they can actually change. In the regulations, it is clearly stated that overtaking is not permitted when the safety car pits at the end of the race. Having said that, providing clarity on the issue works just as well.

Regarding the initial penalty, opinion is split. In the poll I put up yesterday, 50% believed that the penalty was wrong as it was under racing conditons, 21% wanted a smaller punishment, and 29% thought the penalty was fair.

Ferrari fined, while Petrov, Di Grassi, Chandhok and Glock receive penalties

The FIA has handed out punishments to different drivers and teams, most of which were for gearbox-related incidents.

First of all, both Timo Glock and Lucas di Grassi were given 5-place penalties, for Virgin failing to notify the FIA of the gearbox ratios they would be using within 2 hours of the end of Friday Practice. This means that Glock and Di Grassi will start 22nd and 23rd.

Next, Karun Chandhok and Vitaly Petrov also received 5-place grid penalties, this time for unscheduled gearbox changes. Vitaly Petrov changed his gearbox after his crash in Saturday morning practice, but it is unknown when Chandhok had his gearbox replaced. Either way, their gearboxes were supposed to last 4 races, so a 5-place grid penalty was inevitable.

Finally, Ferrari were fined $20,000 after qualifying, after Fernando Alonso was released unsafely into the path of Nico Rosberg. Nico was forced to brake sharply to avoid a collision, and nearly his his back left wheel against the pit wall in the process. The FIA concluded that the Ferrari mechanics failed to ensure that the coast was clear before releasing Alonso out of the garage.

You can view the FIA’s report on the two Virgin drivers here.

You can view the FIA’s report on the Alonso-Rosberg incident here.

Briatore and Symonds accept 3-year ban in Crashgate settlement with FIA

Pat Symonds and Flavio Briatore

Pat Symonds and Flavio Briatore

Both Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds have agreed not to pursue further charges, after a settlement with the FIA that resulted in both effectively receiving a 3-year ban from Formula 1.

In exchange for the FIA dropping charges against the two, they have agreed not to take any “operational role” in Formula 1 until the end of 2012, or any FIA competition until the end of 2011. However, it still seems that no charges are to be brought against Nelson Piquet Jr, the driver who conspired with Briatore and Symonds to cause a deliberate crash, and give Fernando Alonso a huge advantage in the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix.

The full FIA statement reads as follows:

The decision handed down by the Tribunal de Grande Instance of 
Paris on 5 January 2010 at the request of Mr Flavio Briatore 
and Mr Pat Symonds, which the FIA has appealed, revealed a poor 
understanding of how the disciplinary procedure before the 
World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) works. In accordance with the 
undertakings made by the FIA President during his campaign, it 
will be proposed at the next General Assembly, at the end of 
2010, that a structural reform, on which the FIA Statutes Review 
Commission is currently working, be adopted to prevent other 
misunderstandings.

In the meantime, at its meeting in Bahrain on 11 March 2010, the 
WMSC decided on the one hand to adopt a Code of Practice to 
clarify the working of its disciplinary procedure, and on the 
other hand to give the FIA President full authority to seek a 
definitive outcome, whether judicial or extrajudicial, to the 
disputes with Mr Flavio Briatore and Mr Pat Symonds, best 
preserving the interests of the FIA.

After discussions between their lawyers and those of the FIA, 
Mr Flavio Briatore and Mr Pat Symonds have each made a settlement 
offer to the FIA President with a view to putting an immediate 
end to the legal proceedings.

Each of them recognising his share of responsibility for the 
deliberate crash involving the driver Nelson Piquet Junior at 
the 2008 Grand Prix of Singapore, as "Team Principal" of Renault 
F1 where Mr Flavio Briatore is concerned, they have expressed 
their regrets and presented their apologies to the FIA.

They have undertaken to abstain from having any operational role 
in Formula One until 31 December 2012, as well as in all the other 
competitions registered on the FIA calendars until the end of 
the 2011 sporting season.

They have also abandoned all publicity and financial measures 
resulting from the judgment of 5 January 2010, as well as any 
further action against the FIA on the subject of this affair.

In return, they have asked the FIA to abandon the ongoing appeal
procedure, but without the FIA recognising the validity of the 
criticisms levelled against the WMSC’s decision of 21 September 
2009, as well as to waive the right to bring any new proceedings 
against them on the subject of this affair.

Considering that the judgment of 5 January 2010 concerned only the 
form and not the substance of the WMSC’s decision of 21 September 
2009, and that the undertakings and renunciation of all claims 
expressed by Mr Flavio Briatore and Mr Pat Symonds are in line 
with what the WMSC is seeking, the FIA President has considered 
that it is in the best interests of the FIA not to allow the 
perpetuation of these legal disputes, which have received a great 
deal of media coverage and which, regardless of the outcome, are 
very prejudicial to the image of the FIA and of motor sport, and 
thus to accept this settlement solution, thereby putting an end 
to this affair.

If you actually read all that (bit heavy-worded wasn’t it?), you would also know that Briatore and Symonds have both rejected the £18,000 and £4,000 compensation packages that the FIA were forced to give to them in January, after a court ruled that their previous life bans were illegal.

Now though, they must bide their time, as they have to wait until the 2013 season until they can apply to get back into Formula 1. The question is, will anyone take them? Symonds might get in with a team, since he’s a nice guy, and certainly didn’t play as big a part as Briatore, though he still deserved the ban. Briatore might go back to driver managment, but it is unclear if any driver would want to work woth him after all of this.

However, the FIA have the option to turn nasty. A few months ago, the idea of driver managment liscences was suggested, to stop Flavio Briatore from getting back into Formula 1. If they were to bring it in, they could stop Briatore, without the threat of court action, since they are in the legal right this time.

Alternatively, we could just hope that the 2012 doomsday predictions are right, and they will never get into F1 again.

FIA: Ride height control systems are illegal

Many teams believe that Red Bull are using a ride height controlling system

Many teams believe that Red Bull are using a ride height controlling system

The FIA, the governing body of Formula 1, has faxed all of the teams and notified them that any type of system that controls the ride height of the car while on track is against the technical regulations, and is illegal.

In the last few weeks, suspicions have been arising concerning Red Bull’s suspension system, after allegations that it can control the ride height while on track. There is suppposedly a device in the RB6 that allows it to be lower to the ground, and therefore gain a downforce advantage, in qualifying.

This device may take the form of a pressure-operated component, which keeps the car as low as possible to the ground as the fuel burns off. Because of the refuelling ban, the cars are full of fuel at the start, and without a ride height controlling system, this is the lowest they would be to the ground in the race. As the fuel burns off, the car would become lighter, and therefore rise, meaning a loss in downforce.

Since qualifying is low-fuel, all of the cars should be quite high up from the ground, since no modification to the car should be made in between qualifying and the race. However, Red Bull seem to have been able to run their car quite low to the ground in qualifying, and keep the car up when they put the fuel in the car for the race.

However, these are just rumours, and nothing has been proven or denied. The Red Bull RB6 cars were heavily scrutineered before the Malaysian Grand Prix, and nothing suspicious was found. Still, the FIA has found the need to clarify this issue, in case other teams try to use an innovation like this. Their statement reads as follows:

"Any system device or procedure, the purpose and/or effect of which is to change
 the set-up of the suspension, while the car is under parc ferme conditions will 
be deemed to contravene Article 34.5 of the sporting regulations."

Article 34.5 reads as follows:

If a competitor modifies any part on the car or makes changes to the set up of 
the suspension whilst the car is being held under parc fermé conditions the 
relevant driver must start the race from the pit lane and follow the procedures 
laid out in Article 38.2.

The only way Red Bull could change the ride height of their cars legally is by doing it during the pit stops. It is rumoured that Ferrari were going to try this method, but there is no evidence to support it.

Outboard mirror ban delayed until Spanish GP

Outboard wing mirrors, seen here on last year's Ferrari F60

Outboard wing mirrors, seen here on last year's Ferrari F60

The ban on outboard mirrors, which was supposed to come into effect by next race in China, has now been delayed until the Spanish Grand Prix, following complaints from the teams that there was not enough time to make the changes.

After several near misses and incidents in the Australian Grand Prix, which were caused by outboard wing mirrors, the FIA decided to notify the teams that the mirrors would have to be mounted on the cockpit side from the Chinese Grand Prix onwards. However, several teams have complained that they will not be able to do this in time, and so the ban has been delayed for 1 race.

It is understood that the drivers who were concerned about the outboard wing mirrors spoke to Charlie Whiting, FIA race director, who agreed to get the FIA to ban the devices. This ban may affect the performance of the top teams who use this device, such as Ferrari and Red Bull.

The only problem I have here is why the teams are complaining. Basically, they think that two weeks isn’t enough to move two wing mirrors to the inside of the cockpit, and they need four instead. Bloody hell, if it actually took a team more than 2 weeks to change mirrors, then they don’t deserve to be running in the Lada Cup, never mind F1. Of course, the only reason they want extra time is so that they can exploit this new rule in some other way. Don’t be surprised if the teams can find a way of sneaking bargeboards into their wing mirror design.

Outboard mirrors to be banned

Outboard wing mirrors, seen here on last year's Ferrari F60

Outboard wing mirrors, seen here on last year's Ferrari F60

It has been announced that outboard mirrors are to be banned from the Chinese Grand Prix onwards, due to safety concerns.

There were several complaints during the Australian Grand Prix weekend about drivers holding each other up. This was mainly because the drivers were unable to look in their mirrors without taking their eyes off the road. For example, the first corner collision between Alonso and Button could have been avoided if the Spaniard had been able to look behind him and see that Button had already taken the inside line.

Many teams were using the outboard mirrors in their cars, such as Ferrari, Red Bull, Force India, Sauber, Williams and HRT. McLaren used them in practice in Australia, but took them off in time for qualifying.

Now, from China onwards, the mirrors will have to be fitted on the cockpit side for safety reasons. Oddly enough, while most drivers didn’t like the design, Felipe Massa claims he has no problem with outboard mirrors:

"I have no problem with my visibility. So, if it is the same I prefer to keep
what I have, but we will see how it is going to be. I hope we don't lose
anything moving the mirrors from one side to the other."

It’s good to see safety be put first, like I was talking about a few days ago. Obviously this rule change couldn’t be put in for this weekend, since it is too close to make the full changes this late.

The thing is, this is the second rule change already this year, because of teams exploiting the rules. The first was closing the loophole on diffuer starter motors, before Australia.

Safety should still be key

When I was watching the race on Sunday, two things struck me as odd. First of all was Kamui Kobayashi’s repeated front wing failures, and the second is the issue over the outboard wing mirrors, which I have already posted about.

Neither of these ended with catastrophic results, but they are both still worrying. The fact that drivers have to take their eyes away from the road in order to look behind them is unacceptable in F1. The fact that there were two front wing failures on one car in one weekend, with little action taken (so far), shows a lack of drive by the FIA and the stewards in improving safety.

Since the death of Ayrton Senna, Formula 1′s primary aim is safety. Many innovations have been crucial in assisting this, such as the HANS device, front, rear and side impact structures, and helmet improvements. However, ignoring simple problems like these could one day undo all the great work that had been done over the year.

Here’s one example. Kamui Kobayashi’s front wing failure meant that he speared into Nico Hulkenberg and Sebastien Buemi. Now thanks to the improvements in chassis structures, only the heaviest of impacts could result in serious injury. But, what about the debris from the front wing? Let’s not forget that the front wing is very wide, and the debris could fly into spectator or photographer areas, or near the stewards. A steward was killed in Australia 2001 when he was hit by a flyaway wheel from Jacques Villeneuve’s and Ralf Schumacher’s crash.

After incidents like these, you would think that the FIA would be quick to clamp down on the complete lack of safety in Sauber’s front wing design. But, so far no action has been taken by either the FIA or the stewards regarding this problem. Hopefully Sauber will sort this out before Malaysia next weekend, but it is very worrying to see that something like this could get away unpunished.

Then, we have the problem of the outboard wing mirrors. At the moment, the mirrors are outside the drivers’ peripheral vision, which is the area that you can see, outside the point that you are currently looking at. If you currently want to look behind you, you must first take your eyes off the road, which is plain crazy at speeds of up to 200mph. This means that drivers are opting to keep looking ahead instead of behind, which means they don’t see cars approach from behind. A perfect example of this is the collision between Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button and Michael Schumacher.

When Fernando turned into Turn 1, he simply couldn’t look in his mirrors to see that Button had already taken the inside line into the corner. Jenson tipped Fernando into a spin, and he hit Schumacher, damaging his front wing. To be honest, I’m amazed that nobody else was caught up in this incident, seeing as there was a backwards Ferrari and a small bit of flying debris.

While this incident was a small one in the scale of things, there could be a much worse accident if the outboard wing mirrors continue to be used. These are just my thoughts, but swift action must be taken on issues like these to ensure that Formula 1 retains its appearance as a pinnacle for safety.

Drivers call to change wing mirrors

Outboard wing mirrors, seen here on the Ferrari F10

Outboard wing mirrors, seen here on the Ferrari F10

Formula 1 drivers are trying to lobby the FIA to take action on the problems with the wing mirrors this year, following many complaints about a lack of visibility.

Many incidents occured in the Australian Grand Prix this weekend because the drivers were unable to see behind them while concentrating on the road. In Friday Practice, Pedro de la Rosa was given a reprimand after holding up several drivers, although he was unable to see them approach from behind. In qualifying, Michael Schumacher spoke to the stewards after he was held up by Fernando Alonso while he was on a flying lap.

Currently, most teams mount the outboard wing mirrors on the very edge of the turning vanes, so as to improve aerodynamic efficiency. However, while drivers can see them, they have to turn their head to look behind them, which means that they cannot concentrate on the road. Ths results in drivers opting to look ahead rather than take the risk of looking behind them, which is certainly a danger on the track.

The drivers are very concerned about this, according to Rubens Barrichello:

"I hope we put a proposal as the GPDA to see if we can have the mirrors back to 
where they belong – and it is something we mentioned in the drivers' briefing 
on Friday.

We have all been quite honest and said that we all have difficulties – apart 
from Lewis. The problem for me is that we are driven by the aerodynamics, but 
the mirrors situated on the aero stuff vibrates." Just a thought on what Rubens 
said about Lewis there. If Hamilton claims that he does not have problems with 
the wing mirrors, then it is his fault for holding up Michael Schumacher in 
qualifying on Saturday.

Pedro de la Rosa spoke to the FIA race director Charlie Whiting on Friday about this issue. He said:

"Everyone has got a problem with mirrors. The reality is that the mirrors on 
the sidepods, they give you very small vision of what is happening behind and 
they vibrate a lot so you see very little.

So if you don't have a lot of information coming from the radio, then you have 
a problem. You can see when you have a car straight behind okay, but when it 
is two seconds behind you have no idea where it is.

Everyone has the same problem, but since the mirrors have gone outboard this 
is a problem – as they are aerodynamic devices now.

Mirrors are to give the car the ability to look backwards and what is happening 
behind. They have to come back to the monocoque, with the old style, as that is 
the best position to work.

The reason they are out is that they are an aerodynamic device so they give 
downforce. That is the reality. We have to compromise – this is a safety issue. 
Most of the drivers agree – it hasn't been an easy weekend for me because of this 
factor."

There’s only one good thing that came out of outboard wing mirrors. When Felipe Massa was hit by a spring in the Hungarian Grand Prix qualifying, his head was – you guessed it – turned to one side, looking at the wing mirrors. If his head was straight ahead, the spring would have hit him head on, and it could well have killed him. I realised this when I first heard of this news of the outboard mirrors.

Stefan GP ends Toyota partnership

Stefan GP has now ended their technical partnership with Toyota

Stefan GP has now ended their technical partnership with Toyota

Stefan GP have announced today that they have ended their technical partnership with Toyota. The Serbian team, led by Zoran Stefanovich, had bought Toyota gearboxes, chassis and engines in expectation of getting a grid slot this year. However, since their application was rejected by the FIA, there will be no need for this partnership this year.

Stefanovich said:

"For 2010, it's not feasible to do it anymore. We are very grateful to Toyota, which is a great company and doing a 
great job in what they are doing. They are now organising things differently - they are now more profit-centered in 
TMG in Cologne.
We are looking for a solution which is feasible for us all the time. At the moment there is no opportunity to 
organise anything. We're basically looking to see which direction we will go in the very near future."

After this, he stated that another partnership with the Cologne squad was possible if the team were looking into applying for the 2011 F1 championship. At the moment, the FIA are open to submissions for the 13th grid place, and the reserve team. It is currently unclear if Stefan GP are going to apply for this position.

Hopefully they will, having come so close this year. To get hold of a reliable supply of vital car parts like they did is a great way of starting up an F1 team, and hopefully they can do the same next year. If they don’t, then they’re just giving up to a governing body which seriously mishandled what should have been a welcome sight, seeing many new teams in F1.

FIA closes rear diffuser loophole

Artwork of McLaren's starter motor and diffuser design

Artwork of McLaren's starter motor and diffuser design

The FIA has clamped down on 4 of the teams’ diffuser designs, after they closed a loophole in the technical regulations which allowed the teams to aerodynamically improve their diffuser with the starter motor.

At the moment, there is a hole in the starter motor, to allow the car to be started up. However, these holes have since been aerodynamicaly sculpted to allow diffuser improvements. While the FIA cannot do anything about the aero sculpting, they can limit the size of the starter motor hole. They felt that this hole was too wide, which is not a technical infringement, but is against the spirit of the rules.

While there is no strict dimensions for the starter motor hole, the FIA have sent out a letter to each of the teams, laying out the maximum diameter of the hole, and maximum projected area that is now allowed. This rule change affects four teams – McLaren and Mercedes, and Renault and Force India are rumoured to be the other two.

This means that these four teams will have to change their starter motor and diffuser designs before the Australian Grand Prix next weekend.

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