Engine rule row twists again before FP3
9 July 2011
Further to McLaren and Mercedes' dissatisfaction with the apparent change in the F1 engine rules during opening practice at the British Grand Prix on Friday, the tables appeared to have turned again heading into day two of the British Grand Prix.
Even as the third and final free practice got underway on Saturday morning, team principals Christian Horner, Martin Whitmarsh and Stefano Domenicali were all conspicuous by their absence from the pit wall, believed to be deep in conversation with FIA race director Charlie Whiting after an early morning ruling that stripped the Renault engine users of the concession they were allowed on day one.
Horner and Whitmarsh exchanged verbal blows during Friday's press conference, each claiming that the other's team had been given an unfair advantage by the latest directives from the governing body, and the disagreement continued into Saturday when it was revealed that the 50 per cent throttle opening that Renault users had been granted was removed, replaced with the same ten per cent allowance permitted to all other teams. The regie had claimed that the extra opening was required for reliability reasons, and disputed the concession given to Mercedes that allowed it to continue firing on the over-run of its engines.
BBC sources confirmed that Horner was readying for a confrontation with Whiting as free practice resumed, and the outcome was an hastily-arranged meeting of the sport's Technical Working Group, which resulted in a ceasefire of sorts for the remainder of the weekend.
"We were trying to find a solution," Horner told the BBC as he and his fellow principals emerged, "It is in nobody's interest to have a lack of clarity in the rules. Charlie made an offer, and Red Bull Racing offered a concession here to run as we are, but we need all teams to agree to move on and put this behind us."
Horner confirmed that he still felt that RBR was handicap, having been told that it would have to revert to the ruling imposed prior to arriving at Silverstone, but confirmed that the team had agreed, reluctant, to comply with the latest regulations.
"At the moment, in our opinion, we are running at a disadvantage to other engine manufacturers, but we're trying to find a solution going forward," he noted, "The best way would be to revert to where we were two weeks ago...."
McLaren's Martin Whitmarsh, speaking closer to qualifying, shared similar sentiments, if not exactly the same view of the outcome.
"I think there are inevitably going to be winners and losers," he admitted, "Those at the front of the grid will undoubtedly be happier. Ferrari seemed to come out [of the meeting] smiling, but McLaren is not very happy. It is difficult to judge, as there was not much running this morning, but [the ruling] affects the whole car, not just the diffuser, but brakes, cooling...
"The right thing would have been to allow the rules to run to the end of the year but, instead, we've shuffled from one change to another, which only confuses people and looks untidy."
Undoubtedly, there is more to follow....