Motor Racing: Formula One given a facelift: Derick Allsop on radical changes designed to make grand prix motor racing cheaper and more attractive

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FORMULA ONE motor racing, fearful of pricing itself out of existence, yesterday took on board radical changes that will end the technological war, drastically reduce costs, and take the sport on to oval tracks.

The package will also accommodate grand prix racing's champion team, Williams-Renault, though the future of their senior driver, Alain Prost, remains uncertain. He will be eligible for the opening race, in South Africa, on 14 March, but his super-licence could be withdrawn by the World Council four days later. It appears the best he can expect is a suspension.

After months of political in- fighting, Max Mosley, president of the sport's international governing body, Fisa, doubtless backed by Bernie Ecclestone, his vice-president and president of the Formula One Constructors' Association, decided enough was enough and spelled out to the teams - including a reluctant Williams - that they must accept momentous reform if their category of the sport is to survive. Williams know they must now bow to the inevitable.

As from the start of this coming season, practice time and the number of tyres allocated to each team will be reduced, and the use of a spare car will be permitted only on race days. Fuel companies will supply an agreed specification of 'pump' petrol.

With effect from next year, all 'artificial aids' to drivers, such as active suspension, traction control and radio links with the pits, will be abolished. Teams will be allotted a limited number of engines for use over a race weekend.

Oval tracks may be incorporated in the 1994 championship, and definitely from 1995.

This remarkable catalogue of proposals was revealed after a Formula One Commission meeting at Heathrow and Mosley made it obvious to all concerned that ratification would be a formality. He said: 'The time had come when we had to do something. The spectacle wasn't losing its appeal, but the costs were out of tune with what we can afford.'

The introduction of ovals indicates an earnest attempt to regain a crucial foothold in the United States. Mosley said: 'We want to race in America and without the electronic aids the cars will be stable enough for ovals. One day we might even race at Indianapolis.'

Despite genuine concerns that the attraction of the sport might diminish beyond recall, the range and immediacy of the changes has surprised both teams and drivers. The news was received with a chorus of 'ooh la la's' by Ligier-Renault officials, visiting London yesterday. After some consideration, however, their two British drivers, Martin Brundle and Mark Blundell, welcomed the new formula.

Brundle said: 'Cost-cutting is going to be massive. It is a positive step. In a sense you are taking the sport back a decade, but it is sensible to reduce costs to keep the sport alive and provide a more level playing field for everyone.

'It's fascinating. It changes so much. It will change the whole philosophy of working and driving, because you'll have to be so conscious of the need to preserve your equipment. Hopefully, the whole thing will now settle down and we can all get back on track.'

Blundell said: 'I'm all for the changes if they make the sport more entertaining for the spectators because without the spectators there is no sport.'

Williams should still have the right package for the 1993 season but they are having to agree to a compromise, as they always realised they would. The 1994 season offers the prospect of a whole new ball game.

It is understood Mosley insisted on Williams's readmission after missing the deadline for entries, but hinted that Prost would not be allowed to get away with his comments on Fisa's running of the sport. If Prost is suspended the way could be open for Nigel Mansell or Ayrton Senna to make 'guest' appearances.

Williams were happy that their most pressing problems, readmission and the granting of Prost's licence, had been overcome but not so pleased about the changes. 'They're obviously a different thing and Frank doesn't want to start commenting on them at the moment,' the Williams spokeswoman, Anne Bradshaw, said.

The Frenchman Philippe Alliot will drive for Larrousse this season. Alliot, who joins fellow countryman Erik Comas, has previously driven for Ligier in Formula One.