13 March 2010
Todt calls for respect for new teams
FIA president Jean Todt has said that F1's three new teams should be supported and helped by their established peers.
FIA president Jean Todt has insisted that, the absent USF1 aside, the Formula One fraternity needs to show some regard to the three newcomers on this year's grid - but revealed that there were moves afoot to ensure that they raised their game.
Speaking at a specially-convened press conference on the opening day of the Bahrain Grand Prix, his first public address since being voted in as Max Mosley's successor at the governing body, Todt claimed that the sport needed to show support for the Lotus, Virgin and Hispania teams, rather than denigrating their efforts - as, ironically, his former employer, Ferrari, had done in the run-up to the season.
"You must have respect for a new team who is arriving in this particular economic crisis period and to invest money to be in F1," the Frenchman pointed out, "I don't think it is a time to criticise but to support and help, and to help them. It is in the interests of everybody.
"Everybody in the business should be supportive of these days. I was impressed today, they did quite well and we must give them a certain time to be ready."
As expected, the three new teams struggled on the opening day of the season, with Lotus driver Heikki Kovalainen the quickest of the sextet in 18th place on the timesheets, but some 5.4secs off the pace of fastest man Nico Rosberg. Both Lotus and Virgin managed to get two cars on track during the brace of 90-minute practice sessions, but HRT - which only confirmed its programme at the last minute - suffered hydraulic problems on its second car, meaning that rookie Karun Chandhok has yet to turn a lap. Team-mate Bruno Senna only completed 17 laps, and had a problem after the chequered flag, while Virgin's Timo Glock sat out most of the afternoon session.
Todt has already referred to USF1's failure to make it to the grid as 'disappointing', but refused to disclose whether the American outfit would face sanctions.
Although all six cars will start the race if they are fit to do so - regardless of how far off the pace they may be - Todt has admitted that there are discussions taking place that would see a cut-off time reintroduced to ensure that the grid is competitive.
"We are very in favour of reintroducing the 107 per cent limit," he confirmed, "To change that for 2010, you need to have the unanimous agreement of the teams, so I don't think it will happen [this year] and we'll have to wait until 2011 to introduce it."
The 107 per cent rule was initially brought in back in 1996, due to concerns about the dangers created by increasing disparities between the fastest and slowest cars in the field – with any competitor unable to get to within 107 per cent of the pole position time in qualifying consequently similarly unable to start the grand prix.
Few ultimately fell foul of it, however, and it was abolished altogether at the end of 2002, following the disappearance of most of the transitory entrants and prior to the introduction of single-lap qualifying, which it was deemed might leave a quick driver outside of the net should he make a mistake on his sole 'flying' lap.
With Virgin, Lotus and Hispania highly unlikely to endorse a rule that might well prevent them from racing – dashing any hopes of unanimity – the regulation would ostensibly return in 2011, for which just 70 per cent agreement is required from teams. On the basis of FP2 times in Bahrain on Friday afternoon, whilst Virgin and Lotus would have been safely inside the 107 per cent marker, Brazilian rookie Bruno Senna aboard the sole running HRT would have wound up a full 3.5 seconds shy of making the cut.
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