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Saturday, October 23, 1999 Published at 12:24 GMT

Motor racing faces rules rethink

The FIA appeal court said the "barge boards" were legal - just

Formula One's ruling body says it may have to re-write its rulebook after its appeals committee raised questions over monitoring proceedures in its decision to re-instate Ferrari.

Former Formula One driver John Watson: "Formula One will be rocking on its heels"
But rival race team McLaren says the FIA is wrong to discredit its own methods in order to accommodate the Italian team.

When news of Eddie Irvine and Michael Schumacher 's disqualification for breaching the legal dimensions on their Ferraris first broke - it may have appeared certain any appeal would fail.

It seemed unimaginable the sport's governing body would take such a dramatic step and go on to crown Mika Hakkinen the 1999 Champion without cut and dried evidence Ferrari had broken the rules.

But, as many Formula One fans know, nothing is black and white in a sport in which the complexity of its rulebook is only exceeded but the complexity of its politics.

[ image: Everything is now riding on the final Grand Prix on Japan]
Everything is now riding on the final Grand Prix on Japan
From the moment the decision was taken to disqualify Ferrari and thus render the final Grand Prix of the season meaningless, cynics argued the FIA would back down under pressure for a more exciting finale for television.

Certainly Ferrari's arch rivals McLaren believe the rules have been bent to take the race to the wire.

But the grounds cited behind the decision to reverse the original disqualification could cause an even bigger stir in the sport.

Most observers believed Ferrari's drivers would be re-instated using one of two "get-out" clauses - either that the 10mm discrepancy to the aerodynamic vanes offered no advantage or that the mistake was an innocent one.

In fact the five-man panel surprised many when they ruled that the 10 millimetre discrepancy had not broken the rules.

They said it was within a loophole that allows a limited amount of leeway - 5mm - on that part of the car, which is fitted to improve air flow and stability.

Ferrari argued that the turning vane was in fact only 5mm too small if it was sitting at a particular angle to the car.

Instead of blaming Ferrari, the FIA's appeals court has blamed its own "confusing" regulations and "questionable" measuring methods.

The FIA said in a later statement that "the 10 millimetre dimension referred to in the technical delegate's report (in Malaysia) resulted from a method of measurement which was not necessarily in strict conformity with the regulations.

"The measuring equipment available to the FIA scrutineers at the Malaysian Grand Prix was not sufficiently accurate to call into question Ferrari's statement that the turning vane was indeed properly attached to the car."

FIA president Max Mosely has even gone so far to admit the sport may now have to adopt new monitoring proceedures.

"The court criticised the means of measuring available at races and we are going to look carefully at what they said about this point and they also criticised the way in which these measures were made," he said.

McLaren boss Ron Dennis is disgusted that the FIA have gone to such lengths to revive the Championship and believes it can only discredit the sport.

Dennis says the regulations are complicated but not confusing and that the measuring methods are far from crude - lasers are used to check the cars.

"There has been a re-assessment of the measurement process," he said.

"A piece of equipment which cost many millions of dollars not only to make but to move around the world to verify the legality of a car, has suddently been brought into question as has the competence of the FIA's own people.

"Therefore you (are being asked to) accept the FIA individuals who were part of this process have not demonstrated competence and that the equipment they have used and was updated two years ago has been questioned on accuracy.

"Are we disappointed? No. Are we surpised? Not really, we think the push now for our sport has inevitably become quite commercial, everyone wants an exciting race in Japan.

"But I think the price we've paid for that one race is too great."

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Formula 1 Contents

In this section

Toyota set to join F1

Irvine's $2m miss

Hakkinen crowned F1 champion

Finn toasts team success

1999 Championship standings

Ferrari dream in tatters

F1's emotional champion

Dreams shattered in Irvine's home village

Grand Prix's favourite son

Mika's glory: Japanese GP in pictures

Top cat Eddie

The best man won

Damon Hill: An F1 career in pictures

Silverstone to stage F1 Easter parade