McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh has welcomed the announcement of rule changes ahead of the 2014 F1 season, but admits that none of them have come as a surprise.
The FIA decided to reveal the changes on the eve of the British Grand Prix, with in-season testing and driving standards both being addressed, as well as the usual tweaks being made on the technical side.
The governing body confirmed that four tests, each of two days' duration, would be written into the Sporting Regulations for 2014, with the proviso that they take place at European circuits in the week immediately following the races at those venues. Although there was no official confirmation of which circuits would host the tests, Pirelli's Paul Hembery told the BBC
that he expected the sessions to be staged in Spain, Britain, Hungary and Italy.
“Not everyone is comfortable to have more testing, but I think [the fact] that it replaces quite a lot of other extraneous testing is probably a beneficial thing, given that it's being arranged in Europe at circuits after we've raced there,” Whitmarsh commented, “I think they are fairly sensible proposals on testing and certainly it's good for young drivers and people who are trying to develop young drivers. I think it's a good initiative.”
The introduction of a penalty points system from next year will see drivers handed punishments of between one and three points depending on the severity of an individual offence. A one-race ban will be handed out when a driver picks up more than twelve points on their licence, with any points accrued remaining in place for a period of twelve months.
“It's been discussed for a long time,” Whitmarsh acknowledged, “[Now] it's clear; it's written down. Potentially, you can imagine being in a situation as a driver, or as a team with a driver, who is close to being prohibited, [and] I think that could be uncomfortable, but we'll have to see how that develops.”
Several tweaks to the technical regulations were also announced by the governing body, the most significant being the banning of stepped nose designs, but also including a 5kg increase in minimum weight to take into account the heavier 2014-spec engines, and the introduction of standard side impact structures across the grid. However, it is other cost-saving initiatives that caught Whitmarsh's eye.
“Obviously, a further restriction on aerodynamic testing, both wind tunnel testing and CFD capacity, [is] prudent and sensible and something that we have to do to try and develop more sustainable business models across the whole grid,” he confirmed, However, I think there are no great surprises. Obviously a lot of work, manoeuvring and voting has gone on to arrive at some of those decisions but, generally, [there is] nothing surprising. I think most of them are pretty sensible and the right thing for the sport.”
Whitmarsh also welcomed official measures to address the lack of action in opening practice on a Friday morning.
“It's not good, clearly, and I think we've got to be conscious of that,” he said of the situation where race fans are left staring at an empty circuit for as much as half the 90-minute session, “It has been announced today that there's an extra set of dry tyres available which have to be consumed in the first half hour of the first practice session, so that's a clear step in dry conditions, [particularly] where we've had circuits which have high levels of evolution and people have been reluctant to go out even in a dry session.