Common-sense cuts

Motor racing’s governing body has come up with some pitiful ideas in recent weeks, most notably the suggestion that a pace car should be used to tighten up F1 fields whenever a Grand Prix leader opened up an advantage of 12 seconds. And some Europeans scornfully dismiss the ‘artificiality’ and showbusiness packaging of the sport in the United States. .

Our fears that Formula One was about to be reduced to a laughing stock have receded, however, and we applaud the eventual stance taken by the F1 Commission in outlawing the costly electronic aids that have, in recent years, diminished the racing driver’s art. As meritorious as active suspension and traction control may be as technical achievements, they have done little to enhance the sport’s visual appeal (Which looks faster, a car cornering on rails, with active ride, at 140 mph, or one which is skittering through a bend, suspension askew, rear wheels sliding, at 125?) and the gulf between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ has increased in line with the greater emphasis on research and development.

We can readily sympathise with Williams and McLaren, who are guilty only of having exploited the existing regulations better than anybody else. With their collective expertise, however, it should not be beyond them to remain ultra-competitive in the new low-tech era. After all, both were winning races 10 or 11 years ago, when the majority of the field was running the trusty Cosworth-DFV and, generally speaking, there was greater parity of equipment.

Equally, we can sympathise with those teams who have spent what will now be wasted money in developing systems such as those which proved so effective on the 1992 Williams. It’s a situation they were forced into, and which many of them could ill-afford.

The recent loss of F1 teams such as Fondmetal and Brabham, and the difficulties encountered by intended newcomers such as Pacific, which has postponed its F1 entry until 1994, is proof enough that Grand Prix racing is not inflation-proof.

The measures taken by the F1 Commission (which were announced after this month’s Delirium Tremens had gone to press, hence some of the observations in that column have been overtaken by subsequent events) will make the sport less expensive and place a greater premium on driver skill. Such things, obviously, are to be applauded.

Similarly, we are happy to give the sport’s governing body a slap on the back for the dignified manner in which it announced the impending changes. Of late, endless squabbles and petty recriminations have clouded the air. In taking a firm, and clear stance, FISA has told the teams exactly where they stand, and has swept aside ridiculous side-issues such as the dispute over the Williams team’s late entry.

It’s now up to the same teams to get on with the business of racing, and to prepare for the dawn of the new regulations.

After a winter of discontent, we look forward to getting back to some sport. It may sometimes be hard trying to separate sport from politics, but the outcome of the meeting on February 12 suggested that FISA has had a damned good try.