Pat Symonds has lauded F1's rulemakers' newfound willingness to try out innovative ideas such as the reintroduction of KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) and advent of the moveable rear wing this year - and he suggests that far from detracting from the sport's appeal for fans, the seemingly incessant political infighting actually increases it.

Two years ago, F1 was rocked mid-season by the spectre of a manufacturer-led 'breakaway' series, with the Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA) even going so far on the eve of the British Grand Prix as to announce the launch of just such a venture.

The threat has never truly dissipated and indeed was revived late last year by Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo, who has made little attempt to conceal his evident distaste for the practice of cost-cutting, arguing that should the newcomers not be able to pay the going rate to compete at the highest level with the big boys, then they should go and play somewhere else.

There has always been in F1 the fear that off-track polemics will overshadow the action on-track, but Symonds does not believe this in any way harms the sport's allure - and just as Bernie Ecclestone has repeatedly dismissed the 'breakaway' menace almost out-of-hand, so the former Renault F1 executive director of engineering reckons there is more than an element of bluster and hot air to di Montezemolo's fervent pronouncements.

"It's a very, very bold thing to say," the Englishman mused, speaking to "Of course, it got a lot closer a couple of years ago and I think people were seriously looking at it. In fact, I know people were seriously looking at it then because I had to do work on it myself.

"I think when you do look at it seriously, though, you realise what a huge undertaking it is, particularly on the promotion side. Now, there are people who might say Bernie isn't doing as much to promote the sport as he could, but it's bloody healthy and he's got contracts in-place with a lot of countries and a lot of television companies. If you want to launch a breakaway series, you have to match that or exceed it - and that's not easy.

"Politics always have taken over, so why should this year be any different? I think to be honest, that's part of the attraction of F1, isn't it? I know that sounds a strange thing to say, but people are interested in it - it's the modern way of life. As long as it doesn't get destructive - and let's face it, it did a couple of years ago - while there are little arguments about 'is this wing too flexible, has this guy spent too much money', it's not the end of the world.

"I hope in 2011 we can look forward to a season as good as last year - it really was exciting all the way through, and it was exciting because there was so much quality there. The racing was really close, the cars were really close and we've now got five champions there, so I think there's every reason to believe it's going to be another great season. I hope that the changes to the rules don't destroy things, but I don't think they will."

Ah yes, the rule changes. Out has gone the 'double-decker' diffuser, in has come the moveable rear wing and making a return is KERS. Then, in two years' time the sport is set for an even wider-reaching regulations upheaval, with 1.6-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged engines the major news. Symonds is not convinced the aerodynamic modifications will resolve the overriding issue of a lack of overtaking, but he is pleased that the FIA is giving things a try.

"KERS coming back, basically I think it shouldn't have gone - that was a bit of an anomaly, I think," opined the 57-year-old, still held to be one of the sport's keenest technical brains. "Tightening up the double-diffuser, it seems strange to me to allow these things and then stop them - they're either legal or they're not. Once it's there, why not leave it alone, [although] having said that, I don't think it should have been there in the first place - I think everyone knows my views on that.

"The adjustable rear wing is much more interesting, and what I like about that is that it shows lateral thinking and it shows that F1 is moving forward. For many, many years we had a system in F1 where one team could veto any change, and that's why F1 was so stagnant. With the advent of FOTA, things have changed, and now if there's 70 per cent agreement, it's put through and effectively becomes unanimous, because all the teams then fall into line and take a unanimous view to the FIA. That allows these more novel ideas to prosper.

"Is it the right thing to do? I don't know, but we will only find out by trying it and if we're wrong we've got to be big enough to say, 'no, that's wrong'. The great thing is to actually see things tried, and not this stagnation that we've had in F1 for far too long.

"Regarding 2013, we have to say that they're proposals, they're not regulations just yet, so that means there's room for manoeuvre. I think that the powertrain regulations which are much more mature and much better-defined are actually extremely good. I think the guys who have come up with that should be proud of it.

"They've really sent the right environmental message; I've done some calculations, and I can see straightaway just on the internal combustion engine part of it that there's something like a nine per cent improvement in thermal efficiency. That's really, really impressive; they're starting to put numbers up with diesels - it's really that good. The KERS is much better-integrated, the exhaust heat recovery, it's all the right messages and the right way to go, and I think they really have done a good job.

"On the chassis side, I'm much less convinced. I think they must do a study on overtaking before they commit to anything, because there is some evidence that ground-effect cars don't overtake as well as the winged cars at present. I'm not convinced that reducing drag in an artificial way just to save fuel is good, however, I do support having less downforce because that will help overtaking.

"I think F1 cars at the moment are underpowered - 750 horsepower is absolutely not enough for a car as sophisticated as an F1 car. I think there'll be a great reluctance to go up to the sort-of 1,000 or 1,200 horsepower that they really need, though, so bringing the downforce off the car is an alternative and a better way of doing it. There's a lot of work to do, and surprisingly little time to do it."



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