FOTA slams 'unilateral' rule changes
Tuesday, 17 March 2009 17:36
The Formula One Teams’ Association has reacted angrily to rule changes passed by the sport’s governing body on Tuesday.
Following a meeting of its World Motor Sport Council, the FIA announced plans to change the system for deciding the world champion driver with immediate effect and introduce a budget cap in 2010.
From this year, the title will go to the driver who has won the most races rather than scored the most points, although the existing points system will apply for the remainder of the driver rankings.
FOTA had proposed a modest change to the points system to put a greater emphasis on winning races, but rejected Bernie Ecclestone’s medals idea on which the FIA-ratified changes have been broadly based.
The budget cap of £30m will be optional, but teams which agree to adhere to it will be given greater design freedom and exempted from many technical regulations.
The teams’ alliance was unimpressed by the “unilateral” manner in which the governing body took its decisions.
“With regard to the decisions taken today by the FIA World Council, FOTA would like to express its disappointment and concern at the fact that these have been taken in a unilateral manner,” the organisation’s chairman Luca di Montezemolo said in a statement.
Montezemolo added that the proposal for two parallel rule systems in 2010 – with some teams subject to a budget cap and others not – threatened to undermine the fabric of the sport.
“The framework of the regulations as defined by the FIA, to be applicable as from 2010, runs the risk of turning on its head the very essence of Formula 1 and the principles that make it one of the most popular and appealing sports,” he said.
Since being founded last July FOTA has taken an increasingly pro-active role in debates about F1’s future – culminating in a high-profile press conference earlier this month in which it outlined a wide-ranging ‘roadmap’ for the sport.
Having had a major input into the cost-cutting measures ratified at the last World Council meeting in December, it had urged the FIA to rubber-stamp its latest proposals on improving the sporting spectacle.
Montezemolo said FOTA would now need to “study closely the new situation” and warned against further regulatory upheaval.
“Given the timeframe and the way in which these modifications were decided upon, we feel it is necessary to study closely the new situation and to do everything, especially in these difficult times, to maintain a stable framework for the regulations without continuous upheaval, that can be perplexing and confusing for car manufacturers, teams, the public and sponsors,” he said.
Ecclestone delighted with title change
Wednesday, 18 March 2009 09:50
F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has welcomed the decision to award the world championship to the driver who scores the most race victories – and is convinced the change will lead to more overtaking at the front of the field.
The FIA’s World Motor Sport Council ratified the most radical change to the drivers’ title race in the sport’s history on Tuesday, with the championship for the first time to no longer be determined by points but the number of wins.
The change is broadly based on the Olympic-style medal proposal put forward by Ecclestone towards the end of last year – a system under which the driver racking up the most ‘golds’ (wins) at the end of the season would become champion – in a bid to stop title contenders settling for solid points finishes.
And while ‘medals’ won't be introduced, Ecclestone believes the governing body is on the right track with the change and that the decision to scrap the 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 points distribution in determining the champion (unless drivers are tied on wins) will force drivers to take more risks.
“It’s sort of a modification of my idea of medals, which I wanted to actually go down to the bronze in third place – but this is a good start,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“The idea is to get people racing, so somebody that is second has got to win rather than thinking he can only get two [more points].
“It’s not a big motivation to do something to try and get past somebody.”
The sport’s rule makers have already attempted to address the common complaints about the lack of overtaking in F1 by overhauling the technical regulations for this year, with hopes increasing that the combination of reduced aerodynamic levels, adjustable front wings and push-to-pass KERS devices can spice up the racing.
However, while the jury is still out on whether the 2009 regulations will achieve their intended aims, Ecclestone insists awarding the title by the most race victories will make an immediate impact.
Asked if a winner-takes-all system was what the sport needed, Ecclestone said: “Absolutely.
“There is all this complaint that the cars are wrong, the circuits are wrong but in the end it’s a lot to do with the guys that are driving the cars.
“They need [an incentive]…if you were first and I was second and I thought it was going to be a risk overtaking I wouldn’t bother.”
Ecclestone’s medal proposal received a largely lukewarm reaction from some of the paddock’s leading figures during pre-season, with the Formula One Teams’ Association subsequently proposing its own tweak to the points system earlier this month.
On the back of a worldwide survey which it said called for a “greater points reward” for race winners, FOTA suggested a 12-9-7-5-4-3-2-1 system to be introduced so to increase the points gap between first and second place.
But while the FIA is yet to reveal why it opted for Ecclestone’s idea over the teams’, the commercial impresario joked that regular race winners would love the change while the non title-contenders wouldn’t be bothered.
“The guys who know they are going to win are quite happy and the ones that aren’t going to win don’t care!” he said.
“So it’s a nice situation to be in.”
The drivers’ championship positions from second place downwards and the whole constructors’ championship will continue to operate on the existing points system.
Alonso wants budget cap reconsidered
Thursday, 19 March 2009 11:31
Fernando Alonso has hit out at Formula 1’s constant rules upheaval and admits he is “concerned” by the plans for 2010 and beyond.
The FIA’s World Council this week announced a series of changes to come into force over the next two seasons, with the decision to decide the world championship by race victories from this year and the introduction of an optional £30 million budget cap from the following season provoking controversy.
The latest regulation changes come on the back of a radical overhaul of the technical framework for this season, with further measures aimed at slashing budgets already agreed between the teams and FIA.
Double world champion Alonso fears further new rules only have to potential to alienate F1’s worldwide following, especially as they have been introduced without consultation with fans or teams.
“I don’t understand the need to change the rules of the sport constantly,” Alonso said on his official website.
“I think these kinds of decisions can only confuse the fans.
“Formula 1 has existed for more than 50 years thanks to the teams, the sponsors, the drivers and, above all, the fans from all over the world – and none of them have been able to put their views to the FIA.”
The Renault star admitted he had particular reservations about the budget cap that will come into force from 2010.
Observers have already voiced fears that the cap – which will allow teams operating inside it to have greater technical freedoms over the squads spending more than the £30m limit – could create a two-tier championship.
Alonso wants the FIA to look at the plans again before they are introduced.
“I am concerned, not so much about the decisions that affect the season that’s about to begin, but especially about those affecting the future of the competition in the coming years,” he said.
“I hope somehow these measures can be reconsidered in the near future.”
The Spaniard’s criticisms echo the views expressed by the Formula One Teams’ Association earlier this week.
FOTA reacted angrily to the “unilateral” manner in which the FIA took its decisions and said it would now study “the new situation” presented by the governing body’s changes closely.
Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali has told Italy’s Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper that the teams want to see rules stability to ensure that Formula 1 remains as straightforward to follow as possible.
“We want a stable regulatory framework, without continuing disruption that would create confusion among teams, fans and sponsors,” he said.
And asked if Ferrari would contemplate withdrawing from the sport in protest, Domenicali said it was important that the teams worked together to put pressure on the FIA so to agree a more favourable rules solution.
“Let’s wait and see,” he said.
“For now it is important for us to convince by force of argument those who think differently from us.”
Meanwhile, the FIA’s decision to break with 59 years of F1 history and award the title to the driver that scores the most wins during the season has met with a largely negative response from some of the sport’s top stars.
With the existing points system only coming into play in the determination of the championship in a tie-break situation, it opens up the possibility that a driver could for instance win five races and crash out of the remaining 12, but still become champion.
Brawn GP ace Rubens Barrichello, the most experienced driver in the sport’s history, believes a winner-takes-all system fails to reward season-long consistency.
“I don’t like this rule much,” he said in an interview with Brazilian television station TV Globo
“The world title should go to the driver who has scored the most points.
“The champion should be the driver who has put in the best performance across the entire season.”
Schumacher: Rule change 'makes no sense'
Thursday, 19 March 2009 13:57
Seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher has joined some of Formula 1’s existing drivers in questioning the new winner-takes-all world championship system.
The retired legend has called the FIA’s move to introduce it on the eve of the new season “astonishing” and believes it won’t be beneficial to the sport.
In the most radical overhaul of the drivers’ title race in history, the World Motor Sport Council this week swept through changes which will see the most number of race victories, rather than points, determine the champion.
Schumacher – whose clinching of the title after just 11 races in 2002 prompted the last change to the scoring system, reducing the points gap between first and second place – believes that giving greater rewards to the race winner again was necessary, but that the change for 2009 has gone too far.
“I cannot imagine those changes to help F1, especially regarding the new system to find the champion,” he said on his official website.
“I cannot see how it makes sense to eventually have a world champion who has less points than the driver coming in second, even if I also think it is a good move to try to strengthen the winner's position.”
The unexpected move has largely met with a negative response from drivers so far, with Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello already raising concerns over whether it will confuse the public and is the fairest solution for drivers.
Schumacher reckons the overhauled technical framework for 2009, including teams’ continuing uncertainties over KERS, should make the new season one to look forward to for fans.
However, he doesn’t think the new drivers' championship system will add to the expectation and can’t believe the changes have been ratified just over a week before the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
“During the tests we had to fight with several topics as well but this is more than normal at this stage prior to the season,” he said.
“But you also have to say that KERS is a risk for all the teams using it, with these restricted testing possibilities.
“So there are, as always, certain question marks before the first races. But this is what makes the whole thing so attractive, isn't it?
“I doubt the same goes for the new rules given out on such a late moment prior to the season – something which to me is really, well, astonishing, as in all the years, when the majority wanted to have a rule change for a good reason, they always said that would not be possible in a short term or so late before a season.”
Webber fears no reward for consistency
Thursday, March 19th 2009, 16:20 GMT
Mark Webber fears consistency will not be rewarded this season as a result of the change to the scoring system.
The FIA, Formula 1's governing body, announced that the driver with the most victories would be champion this season, meaning someone with more points could still lose out.
Last year, BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica was in contention for the title until the final races of the year, despite winning just one grand prix all season.
Webber believes consistent drivers like Kubica are likely to lose out with the new system.
"Robert Kubica would have been nowhere near the championship last year, and do you want that? Robert drove awesome last year and he would have been nowhere near the title hunt with these regulations," Webber told the BBC.
"You could have the world champion making more mistakes than the guy who is second.
"Whether consistency makes a better driver, or the driver who wins more races is better than the guy who is more competitive at more races throughout the season, is a matter of opinion."
The Red Bull driver reckons the racing could become more aggressive as a result of the changes, although the Australian feels there has not been a lack of excitement in the past seasons.
"I can see why they're trying to do it like that so there could be some guys who might not sit in so much and to start going for wins, especially when it's down to two or three guys," Webber added.
"The last few years we've had bloody exciting races. It wouldn't have been something I would have thought of or done, but we'll see how it comes out.
"It's going to affect key parts of the races. Everyone's trying to win, that's clear, but the difference between a win and second now is huge, much bigger than in the past.
"There could be a fraction more aggression shown towards victories in the future because second places won't mean as much, and winning will mean a lot more."
Webber also said that it was wrong to use past championships to support new scoring systems.
"What I hate is the comparisons to what Stirling Moss or Lewis Hamilton or whoever might have done in the past - because that wasn't the rules you were racing with," he added.
"We know what the rules are for this year and people will race accordingly. The people who won the championships in the past deserved them and the same will be the case in the future."
Button: New points could confuse fans
Wednesday, March 18th 2009, 13:01 GMT
Jenson Button thinks the new Formula 1 scoring system has the potential to confuse the public, but accepts the reasoning behind it.
From 2009 the driver with the most race victories will be crowned champion, with the traditional points system only used to decide tie-breaks and lesser placings.
Button is concerned that it will be difficult to explain the new method to casual fans - and that it could lead to titles being decided earlier.
"I think the public will struggle to understand why a driver with 60 points can become champion instead of the one who has 100," he told Gazzetta dello Sport.
"I understand the logic behind it and I find it interesting.
"For sure it's an incentive to always go for the win, but it seems risky too - after nine races, we could find ourselves with a driver that has already won the title and can stand still eating ice cream, while the guy in second in the standings is just 18 points behind."
Bernie Ecclestone, whose Formula One Management organisation came up with the new system, said earlier today that he felt Button could benefit from it given Brawn GP's impressive testing pace.
"If Brawn has got it right, then there is a chance that for the first three races we could maybe see Jenson winning," said Ecclestone.
"Now that it is not points that decides the championship, if he has three races in his pocket then it is not bad - although I suppose in the end you have to look at the old timers like [Fernando] Alonso, Kimi [Raikkonen], Felipe [Massa] and Mr [Lewis] Hamilton."
Briatore: Budget cap decision a shock
Wednesday, March 18th 2009, 15:28 GMT
Renault boss Flavio Briatore says the FIA's decision to introduce a voluntary budget cap from 2011 came as a 'shock' to him given the efforts the Formula One Teams' Association's had already made to cut costs.
FOTA believes its proposals will halve Formula 1 teams' costs by 2010, but the FIA felt more drastic action had to be taken, and will next year allow teams willing to stick to a £30 million budget cap to have greater technical freedom than squads spending unlimited amounts. Measures will be taken to equalise performance between the capped and uncapped teams.
Briatore echoed FOTA chairman Luca di Montezemolo's concern at the FIA's decision.
"With this we really need to sit down together and understand it, because the teams have already done a big job to reduce the costs," Briatore told the BBC.
"Formula 1 is very complicated. Sometimes you try to reduce the costs and instead the costs go up. We need stability, we need to be working with the federation together.
"It was a bit of a shock. I believe all the parties need to be working together to achieve a target.
"The financial crisis makes everyone worried and we need Formula 1 to be more efficient but sometimes we are not happy with the sentences that are imposed.
"I believe the teams have already done an incredible job for 2009 and 2010, and now we're ready to go further but we need to continue working together with the federation."
The Italian is troubled by the possibility of teams running to different rules under the proposed system.
"I think Formula 1 needs to have the same rules for everyone, and after that we'll discuss the budgets," Briatore said.
"The principle for me is that all the cars need to be (built to) the same (rules)."
He emphasised that he fully agreed that F1 costs had to be reduced, but felt the FIA had been impatient.
"There was a bubble in every area, including Formula 1 as well," said Briatore. "People needed to come back to a basic point, keep their feet on the floor, and make Formula 1 more efficient, absolutely.
"But already the teams have done a lot for 2009 and 2010, and what we need is another big step for 2011 and 2012.
"It's not possible to change the world in one week."
The FIA also rejected FOTA's proposed new points system in favour of awarding the title to the driver with most race wins, but Briatore supported this change.
"I don't have any problem," he said. "I think it's extra motivation for the driver to do their best, which is winning."
Montezemolo slams 'absurd' rule changes
Friday, March 20th 2009, 08:56 GMT
Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo has voiced further criticism about the raft of radical rule changes that the FIA announced earlier this week.
As well as unveiling plans for a voluntary budget cap from the start of 2010, the FIA has shaken up Formula 1's points system - declaring that the world championship will be handed to the driver with the most wins.
The changes have already drawn critical comments from former champions Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher, and di Montezemolo has spoken out again too.
"I really think it's absurd, severe and dangerous that one week before the first grand prix, Formula 1 is in such a situation, which is very bad for its credibility, its security, the teams, the car manufacturers, the fans, the journalists and the sponsors who invest," di Montezemolo was quoted as saying on Ferrari's official website.
"I hope for a responsible climate, which has been started by us, the teams, with a cost reduction of 50%.
"It's important to have a serene climate and to avoid continuous changes, creating uncertainty for those who work and making decisions for the future difficult."
Di Montezemolo made his comments during a visit by Italian president Giorgio Napolitano to Ferrari's Maranello factory.
Hamilton saddened by FIA's decisions
Friday, March 20th 2009, 10:57 GMT
World champion Lewis Hamilton has called on the FIA to start working with the teams to help improve Formula 1, after becoming the latest driver to criticise rule changes announced this week.
In the wake of the announcement about budget caps and the decision to award the world championship to the driver with the most wins rather than the most points, Hamilton has expressed his disappointment about what has happened.
It follows critical remarks that have been voiced by former champions Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher about the changes.
"I think it's a shame what's happening to Formula 1," said Hamilton on Friday. "It's hard to believe that these recent decisions will improve things for the trackside spectators and TV viewers, who should always be our number-one priority, but I guess we'll have to wait and see.
"Whatever the points system, I know that all Formula 1 drivers will always race our hearts out."
The FIA's shake-up of F1 rules went against proposals put forward by the Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA) following consultation with fans. Hamilton believes that the FIA's stance in rejecting FOTA's proposals is not good for the sport.
"For the first time in recent years we have the teams, drivers, sponsors and fans all working together for the good of our sport - now we just need the governing bodies to listen to us and help us," said Hamilton.
"Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motorsport and that's what we all love about it; we should all be working together to maintain that."
Statement on 2009 drivers’ championship award
20 March 2009
Following the decision of the World Motorsport Council of the 17 March 2009 to change the way the drivers’ championship is awarded, the Teams gathered and unanimously agreed to question the validity of this decision.
FOTA had made a proposal that was carefully based on the results of a Global Audience Survey, which allowed listening to preferences of the public, and all the Teams firmly believe that these indications should be properly taken into account.
The amendment to the sporting regulations proposed by the World Motorsport Council was not performed in accordance with the procedure provided for by Appendix 5 of the Sporting Regulations and, as per the provisions of the article 199 of the FIA International Sporting Code, it is too late for FIA to impose a change for the 2009 season that has not obtained the unanimous agreement of all the competitors properly entered into the 2009 Formula 1 Championship.
Since the change to the scoring system unanimously agreed by the Teams and proposed to FIA did not receive approval of the WMSC, no change can occur in 2009, and the Teams wish to reaffirm their willingness to collaborate with the FIA in order to jointly define a new point system for the 2010 season within a comprehensive set of measures aimed at further stimulating the attractiveness of the F1 Sport.
FIA set to postpone new points system
March 20th 2009, 17:44 GMT
The FIA has said it will defer the introduction of a new points system in Formula 1 until 2010 if teams are unhappy about it.
The Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA) issued a statement on Friday questioning the validity of the rule change which will see the world championship handed to the driver with the most wins.
FOTA believes that the rules could not be changed at this late stage without unanimous support of the teams.
The FIA has responded to FOTA's claims, suggesting that its World Motor Sport Council that voted for the changes earlier this week was under the impression that the teams had supported the 'winner takes all' proposal put forward by Bernie Ecclestone.
In light of complaints from leading figures, the FIA has now said that if the teams are unhappy then the introduction of the wins systems will be delayed until 2010.
The statement said: "On 17 March, the FIA World Motor Sport Council unanimously rejected FOTA's proposed amendment to the points system for the Formula One Drivers' Championship. The 'winner takes all' proposal made by the commercial rights holder (who had been told that the teams were in favour) was then approved.
"If, for any reason, the Formula One teams do not now agree with the new system, its implementation will be deferred until 2010."