Matters of Moment, February 2011

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Putting his house in order

He was responsible for it in the first place, so how fitting he should be the man to banish it. Even Jean Todt might have managed a hint of a smile as his governing body “deleted” the rule banning team orders in Formula 1 at the FIA World Council meeting in December. Todt has recently admitted to some regret over the Austrian GP scandal of 2002 when his dominant Ferraris played fast and loose with the description of Formula 1 as a ‘sport’ — although he also criticised Rubens Barrichello for only responding to the order to cede to Michael Schumacher at the finish line, thus emphasising the ‘fix’. Can’t blame Rubens for that. Can you?
The decision to ban team orders thereafter was an understandable reaction in the embarrassing aftermath of that fiasco, but it was never going to work. Like all prohibitive rulings, it just drove the activity underground and the men on the pitwall continued to manage their teams as they saw fit. Quite right, too. Charades have continued to be played out during the intervening eight years as team managers fired their orders ‘under the radar’ — until clumsy Ferrari blew the whistle (again) at Hockenheim.
Now, thankfully, we have clarity. I never expected to write this — ever — but common sense has prevailed at the FIA. Todt and his officials had to make this decision, but they have added an important caveat: “Teams will be reminded that any actions liable to bring the sport into disrepute are dealt with under Article 151c of the International Sporting Code.” Ah yes, good ol’ Article 151c. Disrepute is a charge that can only be made by human judgement, so it’ll be down to the discretion of the race stewards. But I wonder how much sway public opinion will hold the next time Ferrari, or anyone else, causes a mass outcry of ‘injustice’. It will happen, just as it did in 2002 and 2010. The teams must still be wary of this one.
How fitting, too, in an issue where we turn the spotlight on innovation in Grand Prix racing that the FIA should announce a new ‘green’ engine formula for 2013 (see page 15). Power is great, but as always it means little without efficiency. Now it is down to F1’s clever thinkers to bolt in 1.6-litre turbo engines that not only protect GP racing’s environmental credentials in a fast-changing world but also maintain the explosive spectacle that is at the heart of racing’s DNA. Our new columnist Patrick Head knows the importance of that balance better than anyone and will bring us tales from the front line of Williams Grand Prix Engineering — past, present and future — every month. Welcome, Patrick. It’s great to have you on board.
As we closed for press, news broke that the toughest of racing men had lost his battle with cancer. Tom Walkinshaw was a quietly spoken and yet intimidating Scot who didn’t shy away from using his significant physical presence on the track, in the pitlane, the paddock and in the boardroom. God knows what he must have been like on the rugby pitch.

Personally, I didn’t know him well and struggled to warm to him when our paths crossed. More than once he put me in my place after an attempt at a searching question with a standard “when we’ve made a decision you’ll be the first to know”. Funnily enough, I never was. His legacy, first as a saloon car driver, then as a team owner — most notably as the force behind Jaguar’s glorious sports car return in the 1980s — deserves so much more than a footnote. A full appreciation of Tom and his colourful racing life will appear next month.
Damien Smith, Editor

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Contributors

Patrick Head
The son of ’50s racer Michael Head has never been one to toe the line when it comes to speaking out, so we’re delighted to welcome him to our team as a columnist. Co-founder of Williams with Sir Frank, Patrick was the technical brain behind the team’s seven Drivers’ and nine Constructors’ titles. Less well-known are his rallying roots and the fact that he helped build the M4.

Pat Symonds
Don’t be confused by the three Formula] teams on Pat’s CV. Toleman begat Beneffon begat Renault, and Symonds rose through the various identities to become engineering director, with a stint as Schuey’s race engineer on the way. He believes passionately in the relevance of F1 technology to the wider world, and argues that as the world struggles to go green, GP racing is more important, not less.

Paul Fearnley
Sometimes the editor knows exactly what he wants from a story, and sometimes he a trusts the writer to frame it. Paul’s brief was very open: pin down significant Fl technical steps and there have been plenty. But by homing in on the analogue ’70s and speaking to prime movers of the time, Paul gives us a fine picture of how informed research can suddenly open new avenues that no-one expected.

Gordon Kirby
From his New England fastness our American Editor has been looking on amused as Britain flails in what to him is a light dusting of snow. He’s on course to publish his major history of the NewmanHaas race team next summer and we’ll be running an extract from this comprehensive work at the time. Meanwhile, 10 years on from a fateful day, he reflects on NASCAR’s most emotive name.

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