On Monday night, the FIA caused a media storm as they released a number of key regulation changes as a result of Jean Todt’s recently retained mandate. Controversial does not scratch the surface on this one – One of the most poignant changes of recent times has seen the FIA announce that double points will be issued in the final race of the season, which in 2014 will be Abu Dhabi. As Martin Brundle highlighted, the regulation is “an answer to a question nobody was asking.” Is there anything positive to come out of the latest FIA document?…
I cannot remember when one short document published by the FIA has caused such a storm from within the community – fans, driver and teams have all expressed their dismay at the changes. The most damning amendment is the announcement that double points will be awarded in the final race of the season, meaning that he race winner in Abu Dhabi will receive 50 points as oppose to the usual 25, with the second place driver receiving 36, and so on. There are so many issues with this regulation, it is difficult to know just where to begin. Primarily, the now dubbed “Abu Double” will inevitably devolve the significance of the other 18 races. What has increased the frustration is the fact that this crucial race will take place in Abu Dhabi – a circuit lacking the historic nature and buoyant atmosphere that Spa, Monza or Monaco would.
Evidently, the FIA are against the possibility of another Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull title season ending in advance of the final round, however, in dominant seasons such as 2013, this new rule will not prevent the champions being crowned before the final race. From as far as I can see, the FIA have introduced a policy which fails to prevent what it is intended to; the strategy is flawed on many levels. A fascicle regulation has to add value to the sport. In 2010 and 2012, the final race of the year was magnificent and did not require the unnatural, manufactured result which double points will inevitably give. In 2011 and 2013, when Sebastian Vettel cruised to the title, double points would have made no difference whatsoever anyway. Clearly, this is a last resort from the FIA, yet is trivialising the sport and is frankly an unwanted commodity.
Why has it been introduced now? 2014 is the biggest shake-up in regulations since the 1980’s and is sure to cause a shake-up of the pecking order. There is no guarantee of Red Bull performing at the same dominant level next year, meaning that the governing body could also be taming an outdated issue. 2009 was the most recent example of a change in regulations, with a number of aerodynamic adaptations. While this change was far insignificant compared to the 2014 alterations, the grid was dramatically reformed, as the previously dominant Ferrari and McLaren slipped behind the likes of BrawnGP, Red Bull and Toyota. If after two or three more years of Red Bull dominance under the new engine regulations took place, then and only then, would a radical alteration to the championship be appropriate and necessary.
Meanwhile, it is not all bad news for the FIA. Another of the changes is a move towards personalised driver numbers, which will see drivers choose a number between 2 and 99 to be their number which will exist for the entirity of their career. This will be a recognisable adaptation to MotoGP fans as the famous Number 46 of Valentino Rossi and 93 of Marc Marquez are famous associations. Obviously, the Number 1 will be reserved for the Champion if he chooses to accept it. While a change to the numbering system may seem unnecessary it does make some sense – It will evidently improve branding and the commercial aspect of Formula One in general, despite the fact that traditionalists may be frustrated.
Aside from these headline amendments, a cost cap has been introduced for 2015. However, details are yet to be confirmed as the transformation is not as easy as the term would suggest. It is difficult to introduce a cap to a multi-industry franchise such as Ferrari or Mercedes and it will always be difficult to moderate spending in these cases. It would likely require an entirely separate department within the FIA, perhaps as large as the current scrutineers, (Joe Bauer and company). It also seems bizarre that the FIA are only looking to introduce this now – the year after the most expensive year in Formula One.
In addition, a new five point penalty will be implement next season for minor infringements, which is a universally welcomed change. It means that minor transgressions will not receive the rather harsh drive-through penalty which has the potential to wreck a drivers race. The flexibility of punishments should allow the stewards to make fewer controversial decisions, with the general opinion regarding the stewards panel receiving a much needed positive boost.
Finally, a transparent tyre test has been commissioned by the FIA, allowing Pirelli to examine their prototype 2014 compounds and allowing the teams to gain a head start on development. The test will take place next week, however, only four teams will attend, with McLaren and Force India recently pulling out after an initial six teams were announced. It is a sign of the times in Formula One, as only Red Bull, Mercedes, Ferrari and Toro Rosso, (plus the aforementioned two) are the only teams who can afford the expense of an additional end of season test. It will surly extrapolate the gap between those with a large pot of money, and those on a shoe-string budget. Lotus could pay the biggest price, with their main rivals all taking part.
So, all things considered the FIA announcement is not all bad – except the one negative inclusion eclipses all positives which could be taken away from the announcement. Double points for the final race – sounds almost as ridiculous as tyres which have to last the whole race. Drat, the FIA have already used that one…