Mosley meddles as Ralf Schumacher returns to crash site

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The Independent Online

The Americans have an oft-used expression: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Max Mosley, the president of the sport's governing body the FIA, and who is not here, appears to disagree.

Formula One, 2005 vintage, is a rich lode of excitement and variety. First of all, Renault ran away with half the races. Then McLaren came on song and started doing the same. Williams-BMW and Toyota have threatened now and then, while the 2004 headliners BAR-Honda and Ferrari have failed.

The key has been Ferrari's fall from grace. Without Michael Schumacher painting every town red, Formula One has again captured the hearts and minds of all those enthusiasts who do not wear red caps, or wave flags with black prancing horses on yellow backgrounds. Nothing against the Scuderia, which has contributed richly to the heritage of this sport, but a little humility now and then can be a timely restorative.

Ask Ron Dennis, the man who says he feels pain every Monday morning after races his McLaren cars have not won. Ron has been feeling very hale of late.

Even races that have begun quietly - notably Germany and Canada - have exploded into life. You can thank Mosley for that to an extent, for his insistence that teams should now run only one set of tyres for qualifying and the entire race. Instead of flat-out sprints between regenerative pit stops, races now feature the stealth tactics of which Alain Prost was a master.

If it were not for the underlying war between Mosley and the major motor manufacturers, everything in the garden would be blooming (even if Americans still only really understand their domestic Nascar saloon car series).

Next year, engine capacity will be reduced from 3 litres to 2.4, and the iconic 10-cylinder concept will be ousted in favour of eights.

This is all being done in the interests of safety, which has allowed Mosley to drive a coach and horses through regulations that were supposed to be firm until the Concorde Agreement expires at the end of 2007.

This dictatorial stance so angered Honda, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Renault, Ford and Toyota that in Brazil last year nine of the 10 teams - everyone bar Ferrari - threatened to go their own way.

Ford have since chucked in the towel, while Red Bull and Jordan are equivocating, but the other seven teams are still firmly opposed to Mosley's plans, and the acrimony between the parties continues to destabilise the sport.

On Thursday, Mosley, from Paris, threw another can of gasoline on to the bonfire as he outlined further plans - as yet simply proposals intended for discussion "in the interests of complete transparency".

Among other things, they propose a standard electronic control unit for every engine, so that aids such as traction control can finally be eliminated; standardised internal gearbox components, including manually operated gear-shifts and foot-operated clutches; standardised wheels; standardised brake components and materials; yet more mandatory dimensions for the chassis which cover even its centre of gravity.

Pretty soon, driver height and weight will be a regulation. What next, hair colour?

Reaction has been muted, at best, as Mosley's ideas have come gift-wrapped in all the usual flannel about safety, need to reduce costs, keeping the public interested. It remains to be seen how much actually makes it into the regulations of the future.

In Juan Pablo Montoya's case something needs fixing, after he was disqualified from last week's Canadian Grand Prix for illegally exiting the pits during a yellow flag. But the Colombian says his only focus now is adding a second victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to the one he secured here in the famed 500-mile race in 2000.

"When I was racing [IndyCars] in America, my team boss Chip Ganassi also got pitstop strategy wrong twice, and I was winning the race both times. He was doing something else when it went yellow," Montoya said. "It doesn't matter, you know. That's what it is. I don't care really that I didn't win the race.

"For me the most important thing is I had been struggling to drive the car quickly. My race pace was good, but I hadn't been able to do much qualifying pace, I couldn't get the most out of the car. But in Canada we did a lot of work, went a different way from Kimi the whole weekend, and it paid."

As practice began at the Speedway yesterday, Montoya delayed running until the final 10 minutes, but gave himself a boost with the fastest time, moments after his team-mate Raikkonen had gone through the gravel in Turn 11 and did not record a time. Jenson Button was encouraged with the fifth-fastest lap, while the American rookie Scott Speed was 15th, right behind his Red Bull team-mate, David Coulthard.

Ralf Schumacher returned undaunted to the scene of the worst accident of his Formula One career.

With no recall of last year's US Grand Prix crash, a high-speed impact that left him slumped for what seemed like an age in his wrecked Williams as cars threaded their way through the debris, the 29-year-old said he had no fears to haunt him. "If I were afraid of being in a Formula One car I'd stay at home," he said. "I remember nothing basically. I just remember the start and then when I woke up in the hospital more or less. That's it."

He was found to have two hairline fractures of the spine after hitting a wall backwards due to a tyre failure. He missed six races but saw out the season with Williams before joining Toyota.

"I saw the accident in the hospital the same night and on the way back [to Europe] saw the race again but there was nothing special about it," he said. "We go to other quick circuits and whatever happens to your car, if you have a tyre failure like I had here last year, you can have a severe accident - if you fear that you'd better stop."