BY DAVID TREMAYNE
Max Mosley, president of the sport's governing body, the FIA, said yesterday that he is confident of an early solution to the controversy that marred Sunday's Brazilian Grand Prix.
The race winner Michael Schumacher and the runner-up David Coulthard were disqualified for fuel irregularities, then further suspicion arose when it was learned that Schumacher weighed only 71.5kg (157lb) afterwards compared with 77kg the previous Thursday. This gave rise to speculation that the minimum weight of the car and driver - which is being combined at 595kg for the first time this season - was being manipulated. Schumacher had ascribed a weight increase of 7kg since 1994 to a revised training programme. Gerhard Berger, who was subsequently awarded victory, had also increased but was still within a kilogram of his new weight when he was checked again after the race.
Leading designers calculate that every 10kg saved is worth two tenths of a second off the lap times. Gary Anderson, the technical director of the Jordan grand prix team for which Schumacher made his debut in Belgium in 1991, said: "The situation is a bit fishy, isn't it? You need to think very deeply why you'd want your driver to weigh more.'' He admitted he was uncertain whether regulations allowed the FIA to weigh cars without fuel aboard, and added: "It could mean that you could run your car as light as you like during the early parts of the race, to build up an advantage, then make a late final stop where you ballast it with fuel.''
Mosley said: "Normally what happens is the driver rushes straight to the podium, the car is weighed, and you would then add to that the accepted weight of the driver. Obviously, if the weight of the driver was too high, then the weight of the car could be too low. You could steal a performance advantage that way.'' He believes that regular spot-checks will eliminate the problem.
"The rules don't [specifically] state that you can take the fuel out to weigh the cars and never have, but we do and the reason why is under Article 2.6, which a lot of the engineers don't understand. This says that the competitor has to satisfy us that the car complies at all times. Teams could only steal a performance advantage by lying about their driver's weight, and using that `increase' as an allowance to run underweight, if we were foolish enough to take all the fuel out and just assume that the driver weighed what the driver weighed at the beginning of the season. But under Article 2.6 the thing to do is weigh the driver at that point. And if the driver plus the car less the fuel is under 595, they're out.
"The less I say about Schumacher's weight loss the better, but what I can say officially is that it's of considerable academic interest to doctors. As far as we are concerned even at his lighter weight the car was legal so we are taking no further interest in the matter.''
Mosley said that this controversy is a storm in a teacup, but added: "I think some people didn't realise we were going to start weighing drivers after the race. They all forget the famous Article 2.6.'' He laughed. "Article 2.6 was written by me donkey's years ago, and copied from British tax legislation! It is a catch-all.'' Because of it, he believes that any further uncertainty over weights has been nipped in the bud.
Mosley also said yesterday that while further analysis of the fuel samples taken from the cars of Schumacher and Coulthard would take less than a day, the appeals against their exclusions would not now be heard until 13 April, four days after the Argentinian Grand Prix.
Elf, the French oil company, insisted yesterday that the fuel it supplied to teams for Sunday's grand prix was legal and obeyed rules set by the FIA.Reuse content