The first rules row of the year

F1 Racing - - CONTENTS -

What would the F1 win­ter be with­out a juicy rules spat to keep the fires stoked as we await the first roar of 2015 cars on track? And this year the ‘mak­ers’ (of en­gines, of rules) have done us proud. To boil the ar­gu­ment down, Fer­rari and Re­nault found a way to keep de­vel­op­ing their en­gines through 2015 to help them get on a power par with the dom­i­nant Mercs, while new­bies Honda, re­turn­ing with McLaren, will have to freeze the spec of their en­gine at ‘V1’ on 28 Fe­bru­ary. Thus, at a stroke, a bold and proud new com­peti­tor, not to men­tion one pre­pared to invest hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars into a sport that’s still nav­i­gat­ing choppy fi­nan­cial wa­ters, is be­ing roughed up even be­fore it has started fight­ing.

It smacks of noth­ing more than old-school bul­lies gang­ing up against an am­bi­tious and wealthy new boy, from a re­spected fam­ily, and, truly, F1’s power-bro­kers should be ashamed at their ac­tions for once again fail­ing to grasp the big pic­ture.

It’s not that Honda aren’t big enough to take the snub, nor that they won’t fight back (there is al­ready talk of le­gal ac­tion against the FIA for erect­ing an an­ti­com­pet­i­tive bar­rier to en­try). No, it’s that F1 shouldn’t find it­self in such a te­dious de­bate about en­gine cred­its and de­vel­op­ment win­dows, when all the fans want to see is star driv­ers rac­ing hard in cars of com­pa­ra­ble com­pet­i­tive­ness. In­stead, we have the prospect be­fore the sea­son has started of Fer­nando and Jen­son driv­ing McLaren-Hon­das less pow­er­ful than they might be, and suf­fer­ing from a lack of com­pet­i­tive­ness as a re­sult.

But surely Re­nault and Fer­rari need de­vel­op­ment to catch Mercedes? Yes, of course, but so will Honda, so why not one rule for all? Hob­bled Honda? No thanks.

It’s never pos­si­ble, in such a dog-eat-dog sport, to keep all the ma­jor play­ers happy, but this is­sue has forged un­holy al­liances. F1 Rac­ing un­der­stands that it was a Fer­rari man who first spot­ted the reg­u­la­tory nu­ance that might al­low con­tin­ued en­gine de­vel­op­ment (for some) beyond 28 Fe­bru­ary and quickly, we gather, a call was put through to the Christian Horner bat­phone, to en­list the support of po­lit­i­cally pow­er­ful Red Bull, on be­half of en­gine part­ners Re­nault.

Now some might con­tend that we should ex­pect noth­ing more than skull­dug­gery and vi­cious piranha-on-piranha ac­tion, when it comes to find­ing an ad­van­tage that might eke out a tenth (or more) per lap. In­deed, isn’t F1’s hunger to feast on the car­cass of weaker ri­vals part of its ‘red-in-tooth-and-claw’ ap­peal?

Maybe so, but this smacks more of des­per­a­tion than of ne­ces­sity, and when Honda do ride out the storm, as they surely will, they’ll not be quick to for­give or for­get.

Only a month ago it was Fer­rari chair­man Ser­gio Mar­chionne, iron­i­cally enough, who de­rided F1’s reg­u­la­tory struc­ture when quizzed dur­ing a press brief­ing as to progress on 2015 en­gine ne­go­ti­a­tions. “It’s a real labyrinth,” he said. “The rules ap­pear to have been writ­ten by a drunk at a bar. We have to sim­plify them so that even nor­mal peo­ple can un­der­stand.”

And to that sen­ti­ment, as we pre­pare to toast the birth of a new F1 sea­son, we raise a glass.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.