The FIA President, Max Mosley, admitted last night that he was "astonished" by the favourable reaction of Formula One team principals to proposed regulation changes, following a high-level meeting in Monaco.
"There was a very good atmosphere from the start," said Mosley, who last week at Imola laid out the governing body's proposals for swingeing changes from 2008 onwards. The objectives are to improve the racing spectacle; to put a greater emphasis on driver skills by finally eliminating electronic aids; to reduce the costs to both the major and minor teams; to encourage new teams to enter Formula One; and to encourage a full grid of 24 cars
Among the technical changes mooted are 2.4 litre V8 engines with a standard electronic control unit (ECU) provided by the FIA and a life of two race weekends; a manual gearbox and clutch; a ban on electronic drivers' aids such as traction control; and standard brake discs, pads and callipers. There would also be limitations on aerodynamics; a single tyre supplier and limitations on the number of tyres per weekend; and a drastic reduction in testing.
Additionally, there will be no restriction on the sale, loan or exchange of chassis and components between teams or to new entrants in the championship, to encourage new teams such as Arden International (from Formula 3000) or Carlin Motorsport (Formula Three) to graduate to Formula One.
Yesterday's meeting was expected to be volatile as six teams - Williams, BAR, Toyota, Sauber, Jordan and Minardi - who are in favour of the changes faced four - Ferrari, Renault, Jaguar (Ford) and McLaren, who apparently were not. The latter had been ardent supporters of the proposed manufacturer-run Grand Prix World Championship breakaway series. However, last week it became clear that Ferrari are in favour of the new changes, and the others voiced little opposition yesterday.
"In 2008 we can say exactly what will happen and the teams will have to follow," Mosley said. That is when the current Concorde Agreement, by which the sport is run, will expire. However, it is increasingly likely that many of the proposals will be implemented for 2006, some even earlier. The major sticking point is that two teams prefer the idea of staying with 3 litre V10 engines, reduced in power to last up to six or eight races. However, the FIA believe they would still have too much power (800plus bhp) compared to the 2.4 litre V8s which will produce around 720bhp. Teams and their engine partners will continue talks today specifically on that subject. There does not appear to be the level of opposition that was expected to the idea of a standard ECU.
"Most people I speak to are still enthusing about the motorcycle fight between Max Biaggi and Valentino Rossi in South Africa recently," Mosley said. "Most of them haven't got a clue what type of engine the Moto GP bikes run, or what an ECU is. They want to see the human element in races, not a computer-controlled spectacle.
"The manufacturers are coming to realise that. Some teams, including their engine manufacturer partners, need 1,000 people to put two cars on the grid, at a cost of €150 million [£101m]. They all know that is not sustainable, which is why they are prepared to talk. And cost savings will filter down to the smaller teams too, and they need to be kept in business."
Mosley accepts that redundancies within the sport will be inevitable, but believes that costs could be reduced to a 10th of current levels. Some changes, such as a new qualifying format, could be introduced as early as this season if there is majority agreement.
HOW MAJOR OVERHAUL WILL AFFECT FORMULA ONE
Engines reduced from 3.0 litre V10 to 2.4 litre V8.
Engines to last for two races each with penalty for unscheduled changes.
Standard electronic control unit (ECU).
Manual gearboxes and clutches.
Power steering banned.
Chassis weight limits reduced by at least 50 kg to eliminate need for ballast.
Front tyre width reduced and rear increased.
No spare car allowed during entire event.
Cars to be held under "parc ferme" conditions under FIA scrutiny
One tyre supplier only.
Drastic restriction of private testing, limited by mileage rather than number of days.
New qualifying system to be discussed.
No tyre changes during races, excepting punctures.
Constructors' points could be awarded to a maximum of four cars per constructor to encourage major teams to supply others with cars and information.
No restriction on the sale, loan, or exchange of chassis and components between teams and new entrants.
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