Formula 1 teams fail to come to agreement over FRIC ban
Formula 1 teams have failed to come to an unanimous agreement to delay the ban of FRIC suspension systems until 2015.
The ban of FRIC – front/rear interconnected – suspension systems was first revealed early last week after a letter was circulated to teams by the FIA stating that the system was in breach of the sports technical regulations and could be challenged at the upcoming German Grand Prix.
There was hope that the ban on the concept – which is used by a number of outfits up and down the grid – could be delayed until the start of next season, if all 11 teams could come to an unanimous agreement to not protest its use for the remainder of the year.
While a group of teams had agreed to a pact not to protest against its rivals if they ran with the system at Hockenheim, a number of smaller teams stood firm on their intention to see the suspension concept banned from the German Grand Prix onwards.
This is believed to have prompted a number of the bigger teams who had earlier been against the ban to change their view, ending any hopes of an unanimous agreement.
AUTOSPORT reports that the FIA no longer expects an opposed front from the teams over the ban of FRIC in Germany.
“We have not yet got, nor do we expect to get, the agreement of all teams to the proposed amnesty,” a FIA spokesperson told AUTOSPORT.
With the failure to form a pact, teams must now decide whether to run their FRIC suspension systems at this weekend’s German Grand Prix, in the face of a possible exclusion if one of its rivals were to protest its use of the concept.
While the FIA is expected to not actively protest the use of the system, McLaren become the first team on Monday to confirm that it will run without FRIC in Germany to avoid the possibility of exclusion should one of its rivals protest, with other outfits expected to soon follow the Woking-based squad.
WHAT THE FRIC? – LUKE SMITH
Is anyone really that surprised by this? Were the eleven teams – who can’t even agree on who’ll make the tea – seriously expected to agree that it would be beneficial to all to postpone the ban? “Beneficial to all” is a phrase that the F1 Strategy Group doesn’t compute.
The main argument for postponing the ban was the intricacies of the FRIC system itself, and just how much of a problem it would be to remove it. As technical expert Craig Scarborough has already touched on, it is unlikely to monumentally change the pecking order like some are expecting. Probably best to skip betting on Marussia to outqualify Mercedes at Hockenheim…
But at the same point, this is clear proof of how the Strategy Group’s own selfishness can backfire. If you keep telling the smaller teams “we know what’s best for you”, when they are given a clear chance to make up their own minds, they are less likely to go with the crowd.
One would imagine that this ban will leave many engineers and designers tutting and cursing, as it has warranted a minor rejig of everything. Therefore, it would surely have been best for every team to pull in the same direction and tell the FIA to postpone the ban – unless there was something to gain.
It’s a final roll of the dice; one last shot for the teams that are currently mucking about outside of the top ten – Toro Rosso, Sauber, Lotus – to try and make a break. That said, it’s also a chance for the likes of Ferrari and McLaren to curb the influence of Force India and Williams – or vice-versa. Frankly, it could have been a team within the strategy group that was the team to veto postponing the ban; it could have been more than one of them. We just don’t know.
When we spoke with Valtteri Bottas last week at Silverstone, he wasn’t bothered by the ban. “Maybe some teams could be more affected than us I would say,” he said, hinting at the Silver Arrows ahead. “We’ll see, I don’t really know what’s going to happen, we will see.
“What will be the decision, I think we’ll be okay with it. I don’t think it’s going to be key to the season or anything like that.”
And it’s probably best that it isn’t. However, it offers a nice little look through the keyhole into the politics at play in the sport.
The most interesting part is that all eleven teams are still valued. That might appear to be quite a pessimistic way of looking at the current state of play (i.e. no-one cares about Force India downwards), but the F1 Strategy Group has been the teams’ voice since the demise of FOTA. Six have spoken for eleven.
However, instead of going to the Strategy Group and saying “what do you think?”, the FIA went to all eleven teams. It has been opened up a little bit more. Whether this is because Charlie is that keen to get rid of FRIC or not is unclear. However, it shows that, even in the time of a meritocracy, the sport still has some time for the smaller fish.
Image courtesy of Octane Photographic
Dan Paddock and Luke Smith