Only last season, despite its denials, Ferrari‘s revival following the summer break was derailed once questions were raised over the legality of its engine and the FIA began issuing its infamous directives.
Self-confessed poacher turned gamekeeper, Ross Brawn, who heads the technical side of the sport and who himself fully pushed the boundaries as a technical director, most famously the double diffuser which saw his own team claim both titles in 2009, reveals that changes to the sport’s complicated governance should allow the powers that be to react quicker when rules breaches are suspected.
“The governance in the past has been the teams have to all agree to make a change,” he tells the official F1 website. “We’re pushing through governance where we can make changes much more on short notice than at the present time.
Currently, changes can only be made to the regulation once the season is over. This will change in 2021.
“If you exploit a loophole in the future, you can be shut down at the next race,” he warns, “which you could never do now. So the Brawn diffuser – as it happens, there were three teams that had it, so it would have carried on – but if one team stands out there with a solution that has never been conceived, and has never been imagined, and destroys the whole principle of what is trying to be done, the governance would allow, with sufficient support from the other teams, to stop it. This is a whole different philosophy.
“Then what happens is someone who has a loophole thinks, ‘Do I want to use it or do I want to tell the FIA about it as it wasn’t intended?’. You’ve found a loophole in the regulations and you turn up at the first race and the FIA say, ‘Sorry chap, that wasn’t intended, we’re going to hold a meeting now and if everyone agrees, apart from you, we’ll stop it’.”
The Briton says that the move is aimed to prevent teams exploiting anything which “corrupts the principle” while insisting that it is not intending to stifle innovation.
“A great idea is the exploitation of the regulations within what was intended. If someone comes up with something that was a play on the words, or some interpretation that was never intended, it completely corrupts the principle,” he says. “What is the choice? Either live with it for a year, and have something which is not a great competition, or we change it, put it right and get the competition back to where it is.”
It’s understood that whereas the ten teams currently have to agree to any changes during the season unanimously, from 2021 the ten teams, F1 and the FIA would each have 10 votes, and while a majority of 25 would allow change for the following season, a majority of 28 would permit immediate action.
“Would you take that risk of going into the championship with an interpretation that was risky if you knew it could be stopped?” says Brawn. “Therefore, the evolution and the way those things will develop will be different. The philosophy would be different.
“What we don’t want – and I say this with some hypocrisy – is that we don’t want a championship being won because of a loophole.
“We want people with an understood set of regulations that will be the best at what they do. I think they have to rely on us and the FIA, that we’re not going to penalise someone who has a great idea. That is subjective. But is a great idea the fact that someone put a comma in the wrong place in the regulations which means a lawyer can interpret it in a diverse way? I don’t think it is.”