The Formula One scene

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The present Formula One, for 3-litre unsupercharged engines and 1½-litre supercharged, was started in 1966, since when there have been so many secondary roles introduced that we have had, in effect, a number of Formulae since that date. A 1966 Formula One car would no longer comply with the rules in many ways, tubular space-frames are outlawed, 16-cylinder engines are banned, alloy fuel tanks held on by steel straps would not be accepted and there are a multitude of other constructional details that have been limited or specified. Every now and again official thought is given to a new Formula, but every time the idea is dropped and detail changes are made to the existing rules in a vain hope of holding back progress a bit, for the science of building racing cars, or racing machines, is now so sophisticated that performance and cornering speeds are almost out of hand. At no time has anyone expressed the wish for more power to be available, either by increased engine capacity or the application of supercharging, or special fuels to the 3-litre engines. Equally, at no time has anyone given serious thought to a reduction in the power available, either by reducing the engine capacity or by some artificial restriction, as in Formula 3. In other words the power from a 3-litre unsupercharged engine, or a supercharged 1½-litre is just about right for our premier Formula. In 1966 an output of 360 b.h.p was the average to start with; in 1967 Keith Duckworth set a new standard with 400 b.h.p. from the Cosworth DFV. Today the Cosworth gives around 490 b.h.p., while Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and Renault have well over 500 b.h.p., so we can say that everyone is happy with 500 b.h.p.

The next question is the weight, for 500 b.h.p. in a 30 ton lorry would not be impressive by racing standards, while a similar power output in a projectile weighing half a ton would be lethal. Over the years the minimum weight of a Formula One car has crept up and few designers have managed to make their cars too light. As various pieces of safety equipment have become mandatory, such as fire-fighting systems and structural safety devices, an allowance has been added to the minimum weight figure. At present a Formula One car must not weigh less than 575 kilogrammes (1,265 lb., or approximately 11¼ cwt.). With 500 b.h.p. available this makes for a pretty exciting vehicle, even though the addition of driver and some fuel brings it up to something like 13 cwt.

Recently the Technical Committee of FISA met to discuss the technical future of Formula One and came to a number of decisions; these now have to be ratified by the main committee of FISA after consultation with the Constructors The chairman of the Technical Committee is the Swiss engineer Curt Schild, and the members are Frere, Benzing, Crombac, Deutsch, Eason-Gibson, Bishop, Morr, Peralta and Zaletaev. The proposals listed below are recommended to take force on January 1st 1982.

Engines: No change is envisaged from the existing 3-litres unsupercharged and 1½-litres supercharged, with a maximum limit of 12 cylinders.
Weight: The minimum weight to go up from the existing 575 kgs. to 625 kgs. (1,375 lb.), which will allow the addition of various safety devices to the existing cars.
Wheels and Tyres: The maximum width of wheel and tyre is to be reduced from the existing 21 inches down to 16 inches, while the minimum wheel diameter will remain at 13 inches.
Dimensions: The overall dimensions will be limited to length 4.15 metres, width 1.90 metres and height 0.80 metres (excluding crash-bar and windscreen).
Safety: To prevent the interlocking of wheels between two cars the part of the body work between the front and rear wheels will extend to a vertical plane linking exterior of the wheels and will have a minimum height of 30 cms.
General: The sizes for the present deformable structures around the fuel tanks will be increased, and the cockpit must have a deformable structure protecting the pedals and extending for 50 cms. beyond them. There will be minimum widths for the cockpit and the pedal box.

According to the FIA statutes a two year warning must be given for changes to Formula One, hence the proposed date of January 1st 1982, but the Technical Commission would like to see these new rules brought forward a year, which can be done if all parties concerned are in agreement. As an interim measure the Technical Commission suggest that a number of limitations should be implemented to take effect on January 1st 1980, these involving raising the weight limit to 600 kgs., restricting the overall length to 4.70 metres and restricting the length of aerodynamic skirts. They would like to see a ban on all forms of aerodynamic skirt on January 1st 1981. We now wait to see what the Constructors think of it all and what the general committee of the FISA decide.

FOCA/FISA

Having carefully explained last month how Monsieur Jean-Marie Balestre was proposing to change the title of the Commission Sportive Internationale (CSI) to the Federation Mondiale du Sport Automobile (FMSA), when the proposal came before the FIA it was changed and accepted as the Federation Internationale du Sport Automobile, so now we can replace CSI with FISA. All that was so much paper-work, what was really important was the footnote to our article last month, in which we noted that the hierarchy of FOCA (there are elite members, voting members and non-voting members) had gone to Maranello for a meeting with Enzo Ferrari and they were unanimous in demanding of the FIA that they be allowed to run Formula One racing without having to refer to Balestre and the FISA. The FIA coughed discreetly from their portals in Paris and re-affirmed that all sporting control was the province of the FISA, and that within that organisation was a Formula One committee on which members of FOCA served.

From that point on the FOCA seem to have kept a stony silence, I won’t say a dignified silence for dignity is not something that Ecclestone and his cohorts know much about. Presumably they are working on the principle that it takes two to make an argument, and Balestre is ready to argue with anyone. That the FOCA were prepared to “go it alone” was no surprise after the South American races; the McLaren team were still smarting from the £3,000 fine imposed on John Watson, the Ferrari team were still incensed over having their protest about Reutemann’s push-start being thrown out, the Brabham team are fundamentally anti-Balestre with team-owner Ecclestone also being the “obergruppenfuhrer” of FOCA and the others were prepared to stand by their mates. One thing about FOCA that is impressive is the solidarity of the more powerful members. It is probably due to the fact that none of them trust each other. There is such a big “financial cake” at stake that they are all very wary and suspicious of each other and spend all their time making sure that no-one gets more than his share. This means they have got to stick together or otherwise the monetary balloon might burst and nobody will get anything.

Suggestions were made that the outcome of this stale-mate situation could lay in the hands of the race organisers, some of whom have already signed contracts with FOCA for forthcoming races. What it was amounting to was that FOCA were suggesting that if the FIA would not give them control of Formula One they would break away and run their own races and their own World Championship. In FIA parlance this would mean “pirate” races, and in the rule books there are clear-cut consequences for anyone running “pirate” events outside the control of the FIA. Straight-away all the drivers taking part would automatically have their FIA licences withdrawn, and any circuit used for such a “pirate” event would have its FIA circuit licence withdrawn. It was also pointed out that in France, for example, the Government have given all sporting control for motor-racing to the French Federation of Sport and that it is against the law to organise “pirate” motor racing outside of their control. This would appear to stop FOCA organising anything in the way of a French Grand Prix. More than likely similar laws would control activity in Italy, Belgium and Austria.

On March 9th there was a regular meeting of the Formula One Working Group in Paris and from all accounts FOCA were represented by Ecclestone and Mosley. The meeting seems to have gone off well, with no signs of open warfare between FISA/FOCA and in fact numerous discussions took place on the practical future of Formula One racing, rather than the theoretical. Items such as catch-fencing poles, the acceptance of the Alfa-Alfa Formula One car into the scene, the refusal of the application of the Kauhsen Formula One team, and race-starting procedure were under mutual discussion. It could be that FOCA have decided to live with FISA without actually acknowledging their existence, but that can only last until a decision has to be made on a specific occurrence at a race; then the silence will have to be broken. It could be that Max Mosley has persuaded FOCA to adopt the Marxist philosophy of gaining power without aggression by insidious infiltration. They already have a financial interest in the Brazilian Grand Prix and the German Grand Prix, as well as controlling the television coverage for most of the world. They own all the cars, drivers and teams, in effect and as long as the FIA let Formula One continue as it is at present, the FOCA “monetary cake” can get bigger and bigger. Unfortunately for FOCA there is a fly in their cake. That is Jean-Marie Balestre, who views this insidious take-over by FOCA as wrong and against all FIA principles, and he is not afraid of saying so. Which is where we came in!