Team chiefs set to resist tyre change plan

A proposed return to Formula One tyre change pitstops next season is likely to meet with strong opposition from the teams, McLaren boss Ron Dennis warned on Sunday.

The suggestion was included in a list of possible changes to the draft sporting regulations for 2006 sent to all the team chiefs by the sport’s governing body, the FIA, in an e-mail here on Saturday.

The proposals, which are a major development of those issued earlier this year, outlined an already widely-backed plan for a knockout qualifying format along with the other more controversial suggestions.

Tyre changes were scrapped at the start of this year and Dennis warned: “If you change back it means a massive tyre development programme and a complete about-face on everything that has been done in the last year.

“We just about stabilised the one-tyre formula and now it is out the window again. All these changes cost a fortune and I think you have to look at everything and see how we can positively influence next year.”

The single tyre rule had a significant part in changing the order of the grid this year, playing into the hands of Michelin and going against the formerly dominant world champions Ferrari.

A change back to multiple tyres in a race could swing the balance the other way again but Dennis insisted that was not the concern and said his worries were purely down to the costs involved.

The FIA are looking to move to a single tyre supplier in 2008 so the plans to bring back tyre changes came as a big surprise to many in the paddock and left Red Bull Racing driver David Coulthard concerned about continuous change.

“I don’t have very strong views one way or another but over the last four or five years there have been so many changes and I am just nervous of continually changing regulations,” said Coulthard.

“I think that the one tyre for the Grand Prix did not turn out to be quite as scary as it first appeared but we have all had difficulty with flat spotting tyres and having to run with poor visibility during Grand Prix.

“I think there is a reasonable argument to say that it is safer to have tyre changes, but equally it has thrown up a change this season, it turned the results of Formula One on its head, so there are arguments for both.”

The change to a knockout format for qualifying, which has been the subject of much discussion, was generally backed, however, after the document revealed the FIA’s proposed solution.

The format will see the five slowest cars knocked out after 15 minutes of low-fuel running and five more after 30 minutes then the remaining cars will fill with race fuel and have a 20-minute shoot out to decide the front of the grid.

Renault boss Flavio Briatore, who proposed the changes, believes it will be a hit with fans and said: “It is quite easy for the public to understand, like you have in the Olympics.

“All people do the run then five are out, then you have the semifinal and then the final. You see who is the quickest driver then for the supergrid the ten cars go out with the fuel and tyres they start the race.

“I don’t think it will get support from everyone because every time you do something to try to improve you have someone against so I hope there is someone with a brain on the Formula One Commission.”

Other plans include a change in timing of a Grand Prix weekend, with two one-hour practices on a Friday and one on a Saturday morning before qualifying, with no third cars allowed for teams in the Friday testing.

The third car, allowed for just the bottom six teams, is seen as a big advantage and BAR-Honda boss Nick Fry, whose team would have the use of a third car next year, admitted that proposal could see significant opposition.

There are also suggestions to scrap all spare cars, limit the number of people in a pit stop to 12, with only one person working on each wheel, and a ban on tyre warmers that bring the tyres up to temperature.

The proposals will be individually voted on by the Formula One Commission at a planned meeting in London on October 24, a little more than one week after the season-ending Chinese Grand Prix.
- Sapa-AFP

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