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Motor Racing

FIA defend Formula One overtaking innovation

FIA race director Charlie Whiting has rejected suggestions the governing body could influence the outcome of grands prix this season.

The latest innovation to be introduced into Formula One this season is the adjustable rear wing designed to aid overtaking.

A driver must be within one second of the car in front prior to the straight on which the wing may be activated.

On-board electronics will notify the driver he can use the device, but only when he reaches the designated point on the straight, likely to be around 600 metres before the braking zone.

Given the system is controlled by the FIA, questions have been raised about fairness and in particular what would happen if it should break down.

However, Whiting said: "Race control has no influence over the outcome of a race.

"Cars will simply have to get within one second of the one in front, the system will be armed automatically and the driver can use it at the predetermined point.

"There is no question of race control being able to intervene."

As for factoring in unreliability, Whiting added: "We have written the software to allow a driver to override the system, if, for example, the proximity detection failed for any reason.

"This would only be permitted if the team had been given a specific instruction to do so from the race director.

"Heavy penalties will be imposed for unauthorised use."

It is a device that could prove difficult for the viewing public to follow, in particular as they would be unable to fathom whether an overtaking manoeuvre was assisted or not.

But Whiting said: "There is no reason to suppose spectators will be confused.

"There will be lines on the track to show the area where proximity is being detected, and a line across the track at the point where the drivers whose system is armed may deploy it.

"Furthermore, the television broadcasters will be sent a signal each time a system is armed, and this will be displayed to the viewers."

It is believed it will take two, potentially three grands prix for the system to be fine tuned as it has yet to be fully deployed.

Given it is still in the teething stage, Whiting concedes there is scope for using part of a free practice session next Friday ahead of the season-opening race in Australia to test it out.

"We will discuss the possibility with the teams on the day before first practice," said Whiting.