Changes in F1 set to cause conflict

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The Independent Online
Formula One is heading for confrontation after major changes were announced by the FIA, the sport's ruling body, yesterday.

The scrapping of Friday practice and the increase in the number of races in a season by one to 17 - with a guarantee by the teams of 20-car grids - are among the main changes.

Prize-money has also been scrapped to be replaced with a system of dividing the vast amounts of television money the sport generates, which will affect the revenue of successful teams like Williams, who are not commenting on the changes.

Williams, who last week won the constructors' championship for the eighth time, have withdrawn from the Concorde Agreement between FIA and the teams. McLaren and Tyrrell have refused to sign the agreement which, in theory, could lead to their non-participation in future races. They would be allowed to compete with the consent of the Formula One Commission.

But without the participation of teams like Williams and McLaren, it would be impossible for the other teams to ensure 20-car grids for the races. Only the likes of Benetton and Ferrari have the financial clout to use three cars in races instead of two.

It is believed that Williams, McLaren and Tyrrell objected to the loss of Friday's practice on safety grounds. They argued it was necessary to have a day to set cars up correctly for both qualifying and racing. Two free practice sessions will now be held on Saturday mornings followed by qualifying in the afternoon.

FIA said the changes were part of a package of alterations made to the new formal accord with some of the teams to run from 1997 to 2001. They also include an agreement by the teams to stay in Formula One until 2001, while FIA also said the teams would in future accept an 80 per cent majority instead of unanimous agreement for any sporting or technical changes.

Teams would agree not to test anywhere in the week before a race or between the end of the season, usually October or November, and 1 December.

n The world rally champion, Colin McRae, has been fined pounds 167,000 - pounds 117,000 of it suspended - after running into spectators in a service area during last month's Argentinian Rally.