Matters of moment , February 1996

Back to school

The FIA has hinted that 1996 may be the last year in which Grand Prix drivers are permitted to compete without first passing a written examination, in which they must prove that they have a satisfactory knowledge of the current rules and regulations. To give them a fighting chance, it is likely to be a multiple-choice test.

We believe that the idea is by no means as facile as it might sound. Given the dreadful lack of discipline displayed by certain drivers in racing situations in recent seasons, it would be interesting to see some of the responses. We are not thinking of the tedious frequency with which Schumacher and Hill came together last summer, more of the ignorance displayed by some of the backmarkers they were attempting to lap.

While the notion of such an exam is sound in principle, we believe that it should only be a partial barometer of whether or not a driver is fit to compete in Formula One.

The fact remains that the overall standard of F1 drivers has dipped woefully in recent seasons, and 1995 was probably the worst example of this trend. True, the World Championship has been infiltrated by happy-go-lucky amateurs since its inception, but the advent of the FIA ‘super licence’ was supposed to act as a filter to prevent the unworthy from making a nuisance of themselves in a sport in which the margin for error has become so critical in terms of car control.

If the FIA sees the need for a written exam, it should surely see the benefits of introducing a practical test, too, along the lines of the rookie orientation programmes operated in the USA. This could just be the first in a series of steps for the common good. S A