The Formula One scene

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IN THE March issue of MOTOR SPORT I said that one thing about the World of Formula One was that you know where you stand. The striking drivers of Kyalami were reprimanded by officialdom, fined, and given suspended sentences of a ban from a certain number of races if there were any further misdemeanours. This went to the highest court of appeal within the FIA and subsequently the fines were reduced as were the proposed suspensions, while Monsieur Balestre and the FISA were given a rap over the knuckles for acting too hastily and too severely. It might be as well to recount briefly how our motoring parliament is made up. In every civilised country which has active motor competitions taking place within their boundaries as well as normal motoring, there is a National Motor Club that is given the charter to look after motoring, as with our Royal Automobile Club, or in a non-sovereign MC such as France or Italy the Club is simply the Automobile Club of France or the Automobile Club of Italy. The Federation International de l’Automobile (FIA), comprises members from all National Motor Clubs. The FIA deals with everything concerning the motor vehicle and the motor industry and they delegate the responsibility of administering to the competition and sporting side of motoring to the Federation International de Sport Automobile (FISA). In countries like Great Britain the Royal Automobile Club delegates the sporting interest to a lesser body, in our case the RAC Motorsports Association. In France it is the Federation Francais de Sport Automobile (FFSA) and in Italy it is the Commissione Sportiva Italiana (CSI) and all other countries having sporting activities have a similar arrangement. Delegates from these bodies make up the FISA. The Formula One Constructors Association (FOCA) thought they could take over the role of the FISA, but have since seen sense and formed an alliance with FISA.

Now what goes on in the sporting world, whether racing or rallying, is under the control of FISA, but all decisions and rules have to be ratified by the FIA and no matter what rules FISA may work to, in the final analysis the FIA have the last word, and while a FISA court of appeal may say one thing or the immediate FIA arm working with FISA may agree, when it comes to the highest court of appeal within the FIA, they can over-rule everyone, which is what happened in the drivers strike. Everyone has to be responsible to someone, and Balestre and FISA are responsible to the FIA. You might well ask who the FIA are responsible to. Collectively they are not responsible to anyone, but individually each member is responsible to his own Government. In Great Britain we are very fortunate in that our Government leave responsibility to the Royal Automobile Club without interference, but I am sure the word has been passed down from on high to “keep an orderly house”. In less fortunate countries like Switzerland, Denmark and Sweden the Governments have imposed severe restrictions on the activities of their National Motor Clubs. France and Italy have made it very clear that any “disorderliness” within the realms of motoring competitions will see the Government coming down heavily on the National Clubs with the impositions of severe restrictions. Governments do not mind those playing at racing killing themselves, but if the public get killed in unreasonable numbers the Government hand would fall heavily. This is why France and Italy are pretty sensitive about circuit safety. Another catastrophe like the 1955 Le Mans one would put paid to motor racing in France for all time.

So the rather severe fines and suspended sentences meted out by FISA after the South African race have now been leavened by higher authority, but that does not mean the drivers have been exonerated from what they did. Happily the matter now seems to be settled and the badly worded Super-Licence form is being re-written. Having surmounted that little obstacle to the smooth flowing of Formula One another one arose when the Cosworth powered teams, like Williams, Brabham and McLaren, found a loophole in the regulations and exploited it. Rules used to say that a Formula One car had to weigh 585 kilogrammes empty of petrol but with oil and water up to normal levels. Any designer worth his salt using a Cosworth V8 engine and Hewland gearbox could build a car that was quite a bit under the 585 kg. limit, so teams like Williams carried 20 kg. of lead ballast to make their cars legal. This was usually bolted under the gearbox, but could be repositioned to alter the centre of gravity. Renault and Ferrari could not get down to this limit as they had to carry the added weight of two turbo-charger units and intercoolers. Last winter general agreement among the teams settled on a reduction of the minimum weight limit to 580 kg. For some time now cars have been weighed after practice and last year the Brabham T-car, with carbon-fibre brake discs, was invariably under-weight, but was made legal by filling the oil tank to the brim. It was obvious that the car could not run with that amount of oil in the system and in Spain the technical scrutineers, who came from France, requested that the Brabham be presented ready for practice next morning with the oil and water at the same levels.

Overnight the hierarchy of FOCA and FISA got together (ie Ecclestone and Balestre) and next morning the French Scrutineers were more or less told to go away and stop causing trouble!

Three years ago Renault were in trouble with the brakes on their turbo-cars and AP-Lockheed helped them out with a water-injection system that squirted water into the eye of the brake disc so that it was centrifuged outwards and assisted brake cooling. Able to build a car well below the 580 kg. limit the Williams team, and others, fitted their cars with a water cooling system for the brakes, with a plastic water bottle and small plastic pipes to the brakes. They ran their cars under the legal limit and before being weighed they topped up the oil tank and the engine cooling system and then filled up the plastic container with water to bring the weight up to 580 kg. As much as five gallons of water was added to stars with (23 kg.), but the more weight that was pared off the car the bigger became the plastic container for the brake cooling water, except that the cars ran with the container empty. Against a turbo-charged Ferrari or Renault which might scale 600 kg., a Williams or a Brabham has been running at 550 kg., a saving of over 100 lb. weight. Naturally Renault and Ferrari put in protests about these under-weight British cars and the whole business has now gone to various disciplinary committees and tribunals. At a recent meeting in Paris, it was decided that the practice of “topping up” was illegal and that all cars in future would have to operate at least 580 kgs. at all times. In this connection, Piquet and Rosberg were disqualified from first and second places in the recent Brazilian Grand Prix because their Brabham and Williams, respectively, made use of this loophole. Now the Cosworth-powered cars which are underweight will have to carry lead-ballast until someone can find another loophole in the regulations.

As a counter-ploy to the underweight, rule dodging, Cosworth brigade, Ferrari produced his double rear aerofoil, with one on one side of the centre line of the car and the other on the other side. Not exactly what the rules meant but nonetheless legal to the letter of the law. A decision on whether it is a misinterpretation of the rule or not, is to be made later. Meanwhile there are probably many more rules in the Concord Agreement that can be twisted round to mean something other than what they say. A good Formula One team should find cross-word puzzles very easy! Already Jean-Marie Balestre is talking of anulling the Concord Agreement, which destroys its primary object which was four years of stability to the rules. Meanwhile a new Formula One is supposed to be in preparation for 1985. A pious hope with the instability reigning at present. — D.S. J.

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