Tyre changes outlawed as F1 treads new ground

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The Independent Online

The drama of four-second tyre changes will be consigned to history in 2005, following the latest edict from the sport's governing body. Yesterday, the Fia ruled that from next year onwards teams may only use one set of tyres for qualifying and the race.

The drama of four-second tyre changes will be consigned to history in 2005, following the latest edict from the sport's governing body. Yesterday, the Fia ruled that from next year onwards teams may only use one set of tyres for qualifying and the race.

With the season all but at an end, the teams were also finally furnished with a set of definitive technical regulations so that they can complete building their 2005 cars. The Fia confirmed the new rules, in the absence of a majority vote from the teams on which of three possible options they preferred.

"The technical working group met recently on October 15 but still failed to vote eight to two in favour of any of the three packages within the 45 days specified by Article 7.5," an Fia statement said. "The world motorsport council was therefore free to impose its own measures from October 21."

The new rules impose limitations on bodywork with the aim of reducing downforce (and therefore cornering speed) by 20 per cent, and engines must last for two races instead of the current one, thus theoretically reducing horsepower too. But it is the condition that teams may only use a single set of tyres on Saturday and Sunday, at each grand prix, that will change the face of racing in 2005. Refuelling is still allowed, however, so pit stops will still feature.

The Fia also confirmed their intention to introduce 2.4 litre V8 engines from 2006 onwards, but in order to help the smaller teams that have to buy their own engines, they will be able to use rev-restricted three-litre V10s of comparable power to the V8s until 2007.

"Generally we are supportive of extending the life of engines," said BMW's Mario Theissen. "We are prepared to accept two-race engines and we might even go further but we think the idea of changing engines before the start of a race is smart. That way you have to keep the engine running for 1500km and if you run out of engine, you have to stop testing. We believe that extending engine life will reduce costs. But the legal argument over the V10s is still there."

Honda, who like BMW and Mercedes-Benz are prepared to bring legal action against the Fia, if necessary, to safeguard their existing engines, said: "From a technical perspective we are just against all design restrictions and particularly anything that defines such things as bore size, weight, cylinder spacing and so on. We are completely against it and we will fight it in the proper way. Technically we have nothing against 2.4 litre V8 engines. indeed we think that we have a good history with racing V8s and we think we can gain an advantage from it. However we think it will damage the high technical standing of F1 and that is why we are against 2.4 litre V8s."

Meanwhile, the local hero Rubens Barrichello, who was born in São Paulo, believes that Ferrari's strongest opposition at this weekend's Brazilian GP will come from BAR-Honda and McLaren-Mercedes. "I think BAR are going to be very strong," the Brazilian said. "But McLaren have quite a quick car, in terms of cornering and pace and so on, so I predict they will be very strong."

As he continues to build bridges with BAR, with whom he must stay in 2005, Jenson Button said: "A good way to finish the year would be to win this race. It's been an interesting season for us, good and bad, and that would be a good thing to build on for 2005."

Meanwhile, as he faces his 150th and final grand prix for the McLaren team, Button's fellow Briton David Coulthard has made a plea for a drive with Williams in Button's place.

"I have no contract for 2005 and clearly there is a drive at Williams," the Scot said. "My credibility is far and away stronger than anyone else's. I've had pole positions, wins and fastest laps, and I have been involved in car and tyre development. I know that Antonio Pizzonia is inside the door and that I am outside it, but I hope that I can make them realise that I am the smallest risk available to them. Whatever I do, I intend to be driving an F1 car in 2005."

Juan Pablo Montoya put down an early marker for the Grand Prix by setting the fastest time in yesterday's opening practice session. The Colombian driver's best lap time of 1min 12.547sec edged out the Toyota test driver Ryan Briscoe by the narrowest margin.

Montoya's team-mate Ralf Schumacher took third place, while his brother Michael was 11th. The BAR test driver Anthony Davidson was the leading Briton, in fifth place. His team-mate Button ended a difficult week regarding his future in 14th place.

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