Formula One drivers will be allowed only one engine each for a Grand Prix weekend if a radical cost-cutting initiative is given the go-ahead by the teams.
Max Mosley, president of the FIA, revealed the plan yesterday as the governing body responded to the demise of the Prost team. F1 teams are currently permitted an unlimited number of engines to use over the three days. Negotiations are under way and the regulation could be changed in time for next year's championship, possibly saving millions of pounds a season.
If a driver blows an engine in practice he will be allowed to change it at the cost of places on the grid. Mosley believes the forfeit would encourage teams to develop longer lasting power units and provide greater equality for the less wealthy teams.
"We need to look at measures of reducing costs without diminishing the spectacle," Mosley said. "Allowing only one engine for the race weekend is such a measure and there is a strong body of opinion among teams that we should do this.
"Most are in favour and I think it's only a matter of when rather than if. If a driver blows an engine he would be able to use another one, but would have to start the race at the back of the grid or perhaps 10 places further back.
"When you get the leader of the championship starting down the grid it improves the spectacle of the race. It is also more of a relevant challenge for a team to build an engine for 800km rather than 350km.
"Money is going to be tighter in Formula One. There are a lot of economies teams can make, such as reducing the use of exotic materials. Other teams are having problems putting together the budgets they need to be competitive, although I'm not aware that any are in danger of going the way Prost have gone.''
It is unlikely anyone will take over Prost, complete with debts of £19m, before the opening round of the 2002 season, in Australia, on 3 March, so new teams will be able to apply to fill the gap next year – providing they pay the $48m (£34m) bond.
Mosley dismissed a suggestion by Ron Dennis, team principal of McLaren-Mercedes, that an unnamed team was preparing an illegal car. "Until his dying day Ron will be saying someone is bending the rules,'' Mosley said. "I'm very fond of Ron, but I don't take any notice when he comes out with things like this.''
It is understood that a tyre company had developed an asymmetric groove, but the authorities deem the design unacceptable and do not expect it to appear at Melbourne.
Mosley welcomed the road development at Silverstone, the circuit that had to raise its game to keep the British Grand Prix. However, he reiterated the warning that the European Union could expect to lose "two or three" races races as other parts of the world lay claim to Grands Prix. Moscow is pressing ahead with plans to host a Grand Prix next year, while venues in the Middle and Far East are to be considered.
Heinz-Harald Frentzen will drive for Arrows alongside Enrique Bernoldi. The 34-year-old German was left without a drive after the Prost team was declared bankrupt last month.Reuse content