Driving Today

When Is a Rule Not a Rule?

F1 decides to enforce rules it has had in place since the season opened, and some are up in arms.

If you can safely drive at 60 miles per hour on a stretch of road where the speed limit is 45 mph and there isn’t a cop in sight, aren’t you likely to drive 60 mph there? That’s a truism you can apply to the latest bit of controversy in Formula 1 racing, the racing organization that leads all others in controversy. Before last weekend’s European Grand Prix, FIA -- F1’s ruling body -- decided to enforce the rule that there can be no alteration of engine setups between the qualifying session and the actual race. This has some of the teams -- most notably series leader Red Bull -- more than a little cranky, because several teams typically make big changes between qualifying and the race, and the combination has worked very well so far this season.

Some characterized the new crackdown as a change in the rules, but it is FIA’s position that the rule has been in place all season. Of course, if you’re not enforcing the rule -- see speed limit example above -- is it really a rule? FIA says “Yes.”

“There are no changes to the rules,” FIA chief technical delegate Charlie Whiting told the Associated Press. “What we’re doing is making sure people don’t break the rules. All we’re doing is making sure cars are running, in our opinion, legally.”

Though one of the reasons the rule was instituted is to save teams money, several teams now claim that it will cost them money. Why? Because they have already spent a considerable amount of money developing separate qualifying and race engine setups. Now they will have to develop a single setup that could well be different from either of their current setups.

FIA is also looking into aerodynamics, and you can expect different enforcement -- or if you will, a rules change -- going into the British Grand Prix. One issue is the fact that some claim that certain car parts that are not intended to be aerodynamic are offering aerodynamic advantages. FIA inspectors hope to reel this in before it gets out of hand and a team decides to sue to make certain the rules are enforced. Of course, the series’ leaders like things the way they are, while the also-rans are hoping the changes can give them new life.



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