Alonso dominates on day of debate

After the usual Friday runners - Sauber-BMW's Robert Kubica, Honda's Anthony Davidson and Alex Wurz of Williams-Cosworth - set the initial pace, times corrected for likely fuel load suggest that the Renaults of Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella enjoyed a half-second advantage over Michael Schumacher's Ferrari. At this stage it appears likely that it will be business as usual for the championship leaders in the French Grand Prix here tomorrow after the Indianapolis hiatus, where Michelin had to be conservative on tyre choice.

"So far, so good," Alonso said.

"The situation looks pretty good," Schumacher said.

But beneath seemingly calm waters, tensions remain high in Formula One. Manufacturers and the FIA, the sport's world governing body, continue to dispute the FIA's aspiration to "take a 21st century view of engine development", according to a spokesman, "rather than a 20th century view".

"Instead of spending vast sums on an endless quest for more revs and more power, we want the focus to switch to achieving maximum power and performance from a given amount of fuel, then recovering and reissuing as much of that energy as possible." In other words, making Formula One more relevant as a road-car research vehicle.

Whatever happens, the 2008 championship, to which all of the existing teams plus Prodrive have signed up, will be run with engines frozen to the specification that prevailed on 1 June 2006. The manufacturers are still arguing over what happens in 2007, before the existing Concorde Agreement is replaced by a new one in January 2008.

Meanwhile, the independent teams are flexing what limited muscle they have; the present Concorde Agreement requires unanimity. The independents will not agree to everything the manufacturers want in terms of engineering freedom because they have seen no sign of the £10m engines that the manufacturers promised three years ago.

They argue that it makes more sense for the manufacturers to stump up that sum between them, per year, to fund an independent engine of similar power and torque to the major teams' units, than it does collectively to invest perhaps more than £1bn in 2007, only to have to revert to mid-2006 spec power units in 2008. In return for that, they would agree to proposals for increased scope for development that the manufacturers want to put to the FIA for 2008 onwards.

It is the typical Formula One impasse, where self-interest often overrides other considerations.

For their part, the manufacturers have concerns. The 2008 development freeze appears to give an unfair advantage to Renault and Ferrari, who currently have the best engines. They also argue that equal power levels would lessen overtaking, and rob the sport of the development challenge that makes it so exciting. And that Formula One would be less interesting for current and future engine manufacturers.

One manufacturer-based insider said: "I honestly can't tell you whether any manufacturer will actually quit F1 over this, but if it were my brand/budget participating, I would certainly ask myself whether the playing field has just become less level, and whether I will ever have a realistic chance of winning the way the rules would be framed."

There is also a feeling that while they have kept their part of the deal with the FIA (by submitting their 2008 entries on time despite a schedule brought far further forward than usual, participating in all technical and sporting working group meetings, casting their votes, and generally keeping calm and constructive), its president, Max Mosley, is once again running roughshod over them.

The day ended with the McLaren principal, Ron Dennis, suggesting that it is "completely possible" that the Nascar-exiled Juan Pablo Montoya might yet reappear in Formula One this year. The gist was that the "employee" needed a period of "attitude adjustment". Cynics believe Honda will win a race before that happens, however.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent