Cost-cuts. British GP and engines Schuey’s team has a hand in them all
Ferrari is taking its usual position centre stage in a debate about the future rules of Formula One — but claims the pivotal role has been forced against its wishes.
As Motor Sport closed for press, Ferrari sporting director Jean Todt had snubbed a meeting with the other nine F1 team bosses to agree on a cost-cutting plan restricting testing to just 10 days a year, plus a pair of two-hour free practice sessions on the Friday at grands prix, from 2005. The plan also calls for restrictions on tyre development.
As a consequence of these cuts, Bernie Ecclestone has agreed that the F1 calendar could be expanded to 19 races to allow the British and French GPs back onto the schedule.
Ferrari reacted angrily to the proposal because it owns two test tracks, Fiorano and Mugello, and benefits from a unique — and free — tyre deal with Bridgestone. The team is also annoyed that it could become a scapegoat for the loss of two historic GPs if it fails to comply. Meanwhile, the threat of a breakaway manufacturer series for 2008 continues to gather pace despite Ferrari (Fiat), BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Renault — the four makes behind the Grand Prix World Championship — holding different views on engine regulations. BMW, Mercedes and non-GPWC member Honda want to stick with 3-litre V10s, but Ferrari and Renault are backing a new 2.4-litre V8 formula. As in the past, what’s best for Ferrari could dictate which way it goes.
Back in 1961, Enzo Ferrari stole a march on his British rivals when F1 switched from 2.5-litre engines to 1500s. Sir Jack Brabham had just won back-to-back world titles with Cooper: “The change was a disaster for us — the rug was pulled from under our feet. And there may have been an extra tug from Ferrari. In ’61, it was the only team with a good 1500cc engine. No-one was happy about the change.
“As far as I was concerned it should have lost the F1 name as the formula was very little better than F2. The fact that we went to three litres in 1966 just made the 1500cc formula look more ridiculous.”
In response to the capacity reduction, British teams formed the 3-litre InterContinental Formula, but the series did not survive into a second year. Ferrari had pledged its support, but with the success of its 156 `Sharknose’ this was never forthcoming…
This time, Brabham reckons F1 should stick to its current formula: “The problem is the 3-litre engine has gone from 385hp in 1966 to 900hp today,” he says. “Rather than throwing the V10 away, maybe just limit the revs to 16,000, which will help reliability, and then limit speed with chassis regulations on aerodynamics. Maybe they should also go back to cast-iron brake discs.”