Mohammed Ben Sulayem has decided ton ‘step back’ from the day to day running of Formula One and there may be many who breathe a sigh of relief. Since his election 14 months ago, Mohammed Ben Sulayem has micro managed Formula One which has led to row after row.
Whilst at times slow to bring about change, the FIA under the previous president’s leadership and the day to day management by Charlie Whiting generally performed with little criticism.
FIA fails to manage its own process properly
It now appears the officers in charge of managing the FIA’s procedures are not competent either given the latest row over the minimum weight changes to the 2023 rules.
Formula One cars are given a minimum weight and in the days before the cost cap, part of the reason for this was to prevent an arms race amongst the richer teams. They could afford to experiment with exotic and expensive alloys in an attempt to gain a performance advantage based on a lighter car.
The minimum weight rose by 46kg between the end of 2021 and the start of the new season which saw the launch of the new ‘ground effect’ design cars.
F1 cars 100 kg heavier in a decade
This was just shy of the previous biggest ever F1 car weight increase of 48kg for 2013 which saw the introduction of the new V6 hybrid turbo power units.
This year the weight of the cars was set for a small reduction from 798kg to 796kg, though a meeting of the FIA’s technical advisory committee agreed in 2022 to retain the current limit at 798kg.
However, this change was ommitted from the proper technical regulation update formally passed by the F1 Commission and so the original reduction of 2kg still stood.
FIA miss their own deadline
Having missed the deadline to enforce the change, the FIA then tried to use the governance procedure that requires eight teams to agree to a change and retain the minimum weight as it is.
Autosport report in the intervening period since the F1 commission’s decision a number of teams felt it would be advantageous for the originally agreed reduction to be applied. So the FIA failed to gain support for their weight proposal.
In a final effort to force through their will, the FIA decided this week to apply Article 4.3 which states that the minimum weight “will be adjusted up or down according to any differences (rounded to the nearest 1kg)” for any differences between the weight “of the dry-weather tyres used in the championship taking place in the calendar year referred to in the title and the preceding year’s championship.”
Weight reduction rule disadvantages Red Bull
Pirelli have developed a different tyre construction for 2023 which is more than 1.5kg heavier across a set of four, so finally the FIA can get is motion through and retain the 798kg min car weight for the 2023 season.
This is believed to affect Red Bull Racing particularly who developed a super lightweight floor last season as revealed by Max Verstappen at the Belgium GP.
The floor was never fitted to the RB18 due to the ensuing row over the budget cap and Red Bull’s current spending levels, so the team has it in reserve for this years RB19.
Red Bull can resort to ballast
If Red Bull can build a car lighter than the FIA regulated minimum weight it would still be advantageous because they would simply make up the difference with ballast which can be placed a different positions around the car at each circuit.
This is then another tool at the drivers’ disposal in setting his car up for the specific nature of each track they visit.