As Honda's third driver, Anthony Davidson, headed the practice times from the Red Bull Racing's Robert Doornbos and Renault's world champion, Fernando Alonso, with Michael Schumacher sixth and Jenson Button eighth, encouraging signs came from a meeting here on Wednesday of the FIA's new Sporting Working Group comprising the race director, Charlie Whiting, and representatives of several teams.
Under the regulations of the FIA, the sport's world governing body, for 2008 and beyond the SWG can change the rules by majority votes, whereas up until then unanimity will remain necessary. Changes that affect the rules beyond 2008 will then be ratified by a new Formula One Commission which will be chosen shortly by the World Motor Sport Council.
A proposal by the FIA that engine development should be frozen for three years was rejected following an initiative by McLaren-Mercedes, with eight teams voting in favour and four against.
A suggestion that erring teams should carry ballast rather than incurring grid place penalties (usually for engine failures outside races) was also vetoed, but there was unanimity that standard engine control units should be adopted not just in races but also in testing.
The SWG is the idea of the FIA president, Max Mosley, and works in the interests of breaking the frequent deadlocks that resulted from the demand for unanimity. That, more than anything else, has strangled progress many times in the past. The Formula One Commission is expected to adopt the new changes, especially as Mosley recently said in a letter to the teams that the SWG's proposals would only be rejected by the Commission, or by the WMSC, if doing so was in the "overall interests of the Formula One World Championship or of motor sport in general". That is unlikely to be the case here.
The general consensus in the paddock is that this first meeting is a sign that the sport is finally beginning to pull back from the brink of apparent self-destruction.
The McLaren team principal, Ron Dennis, said: "Primarily I want to see F1 get better, and grow. Looking at the process that unfolded on Wednesday, I am encouraged by the fact that it was a democratic process. If that's the way we are going to build our future, by evaluating all the options, we will have a very good F1."
The fact that this long overdue dose of common-sense is timely was endorsed as Silverstone confirmed that the change of date from July to June, to avoid a direct clash with the World Cup in Germany, has nevertheless resulted in slower ticket sales for the British Grand Prix. The managing director, Richard Phillips, said: "They are slightly behind where we were at this time last year, and that is one hundred percent due to public interest in the football World Cup."Reuse content