Medal system on hold but F1 speeds up its cost cutting

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Bernie Ecclestone must wait to realise his dream of replacing world championship points for drivers with a system of medals, after yesterday’s meeting of the World Motor Sport Council in Monaco agreed unanimously that public opinion needs to be sought for such a significant change.

However, decisions were taken that will realise an immediate reduction in costs of up to 30 per cent. Engine life is to be doubled from 2009, and each driver may only use a maximum of eight engines for the season plus four for testing. These units will be limited to 18,000 rpm, 1000 rpm down on their 2008 counterparts.

In the wake of Honda’s decision to pull out of Formula One, the cost of engines to independent teams will be approximately 50 per cent of 2008 prices. Unanimous agreement was reached on a list of proposed changes to the Renault engine for next year; all other engines will remain unchanged. In-season testing has been banned, except during race weekends. From 1 January no wind tunnel may exceed 60 per cent scale and an operational speed of 50 metres/sec. A formula to balance wind tunnel-based research against computational fluid dynamics (CFD research), is to be proposed by the FIA, subject to the agreement of the teams. The latter will close their factories for six weeks in each year, depending on local laws.

Manpower at races will also be reduced by various measures, including sharing information on tyres and fuel to eliminate the need for “spotters”, who effectively spy on rival teams strategies.

In proposing market research to investigate the popularity of the medals idea, the WMSC is for the first time showing genuine awareness of, and concern for, the opinion of the sport’s fans. It will be used not only to assess Ecclestone’s pet project, but also to gauge public reaction to possible changes to qualifying.

For 2010 engines will be available to the independent teams for less than €5million (£4.5m) per team per season. These will either come from an independent supplier (Cosworth) or be supplied by the manufacturer teams backed by guarantees of continuity. Any deal with an independent supplier will be signed no later than |20 December.

Refuelling will be banned and race distances may also be reduced depending on the results of market research. In the longer term the FIA and the teams’ association, FOTA, will study the possibility of an entirely new power train for 2013 based on energy efficiency.