Motor Racing: The hazards of quick fixes: David Tremayne says Max Mosley's plans to make Formula One safer are unworkable

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WHY is it, somebody pondered last week, that Formula One can never seem to get from A to B in a straight line?

It is not a bad question, for no matter how clear a view it has of its own future, individuals' polemics always seem to introduce hazardous curves.

Following a press conference given during the Monaco Grand Prix meeting by Max Mosley, the president of the governing body, the FIA, the world anxiously awaits a new breed of grand prix car. It does so because Mosley told it to. A new car normally takes nine months of painstaking design and research, but he insists it must be done by the German Grand Prix - the ninth round of the world championship series - in late July.

In the interests of safety Mosley has overridden the long-established Concorde Agreement, which requires unanimous agreement from the teams before changes can be made, and new regulations intended to reduce grip in corners and engine power for the 1995 season are to be brought forward by six months.

His conference was a political tour de force, as he told a world horrified by the deaths of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger at Imola what it wanted to hear about motor sport cleaning up its act. In previous weeks he had made some unfortunate remarks, such as decrying the sincerity of drivers' attitudes to safety, but now he spoke with an authority and clarity that brooked no argument.

Behind the scenes the story is a little different. The team owners claim he took no notice whatever of the findings from a four-hour meeting of their engineers the day before he made his speech, nor even of his own technical working group. The FIA denies this. The teams say that the time-scale he is seeking to impose is just a bit of shrewd politics, not to say unfeasible.

Certainly, the team bosses are not the ostriches that the FIA might have us believe. They more than any give priority to safety. In Hockenheim last year, for example, all agreed to have a maximum of 10 people working in the pit lane. Then the FIA reintroduced refuelling and that number doubled.

Last year, say the teams, they also implored Mosley to introduce a pit-lane speed limit, but were rebuffed. Even after the Imola accident, when mechanics were hit by a wheel from Michele Alboreto's Minardi, Mosley stood firm. The FIA only gave in at Monaco after Karl Wendlinger's accident - which, ironically, had nothing to do with the pit lane.

Mosley has further ruffled feathers by insisting on a fuel flow valve to reduce power from 750-800bhp to something closer to 600bhp. The engine manufacturers think this a complex and unreliable way to reduce power and would rather have engine capacities reduced, the teams claim.

All the teams agree that change is necessary, but Harvey Postlethwaite, joint managing director of Tyrrell, says: 'Max and Bernie (Ecclestone, the man in charge of commercial affairs at the FIA and also head of the constructors' association, FOCA) have reacted very quickly and very broadly, but I think that the detail is going to have to be discussed.'

None of the teams believes that the modified chassis - with higher sides and a larger cockpit opening to protect drivers' heads - that are required in time for the Canadian Grand Prix in three weeks can actually be built by then, much less that the virtually all-new cars can be prepared by July. 'It's actually impossible,' affirmed Postlethwaite, himself a distinguished designer, in Monaco. 'We can't make an existing monocoque from scratch in that time, let alone a new one.'

This week the FIA World Motor Sport Council approved Mosley's proposals, but said it was prepared to consider alternatives from the teams. There is, however, a rider. Each must achieve 'a reduction in performance or increase in safety which equals or exceeds that of the decision it is intended to replace; and involves no delay in implementation'. That smacks rather of Hobson's Choice.

Mosley, a consummate politician, just as his father Sir Oswald was, once said with a smile: 'The secret of this job is to appear to be a gentleman while being self-serving.' While appearing somewhat nave on the surface, he has none the less achieved his aim of throwing a firecracker into a circle of people. Now he is waiting to see which teams pick it up and deal with it, and which run away.

'What Max is doing is making us look stupid,' one team owner said last week. 'He's making himself out to be St George, out to slay the safety dragon. The trouble is, he has a battle plan, and we don't' But they are working on it. Common sense may yet prevail.