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  Tuesday, 29 October, 2002, 16:55 GMT
Cautious welcome for F1 overhaul

Damon Hill had suggested fielding Michael Schumacher, Jacques Villeneuve and Juan Pablo Montoya in the same team.

Max Mosley wanted a multi-national swap shop of drivers and Bernie Ecclestone proposed weight penalties for the most successful car.

Surprise, surprise, the changes announced by the great and the good within Formula One included not one of the above.

Why? Because the proposals of Hill and Mosley, while hugely attractive with guaranteed box office appeal are unworkable, and Ecclestone's makes a mockery of the world's most exacting form of motorsport.

But headlines do not come easily when an old format is repackaged with a few extras thrown in for good measure.

Michael Schumacher
Schumacher's greatness is F1's biggest problem
The critics wanted exotic, extraordinary reforms for a Grand Prix revolution.

Failing that, their dismissal of the F1 Commission's decisions was as predictable as any Ferrari's 15 victories last season.

Nobody doubts that F1 has a problem. It is called Michael Schumacher.

But as long as he remains at the peak of his powers and Ferrari continue to provide him with the best car, the problem will not go away - particularly if Williams and McLaren continue to fumble between themselves.

Knee-jerk showbiz solutions, however, are not the way forward.

Nor, for sure, is the loss of the splendid Spa circuit in Belgium but politics conquered sport on that score.

Qualifying's new one lap shootout at least ensures non-stop track action on two days instead of the crushingly tedious waiting game of the past few years.

Policing team orders will take some doing
Jonathan Legard

No margin for error. No "banker" laps. No last-minute scrambles. No traffic complaints.

The clock is king on an open road. Miss your slot for whatever reason and back of the grid you go.

Even Schumacher cannot beat the rain when a sun-baked track suddenly becomes a river.

How he beats the field if he is stuck down the grid would be just what the world had ordered - overtaking and racing (remember those?) - even if he reaches the chequered flag first.

Banning team orders was only going to be a Ferrari problem - and if Schumacher is as good as he usually is, he could win even more. No more after you, Rubens.

F1 bosses Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosley
Ecclestone and Mosley trod a middle line with the changes
But policing the ultra-clever tactics will take some doing.

"If I was running a team, I could still do it. It wouldn't be a problem!" said Ecclestone with a mischievous grin.

Championship points for the top eight finishers spreads the cake round further. Why not the top 10?

Reliability is so strong these days, the smaller teams should be granted as many chances as possible.

Cutting intermediate tyres will simplify the rubber equation.

But bespoke tyres for individual teams will make enormous demands on Michelin.

More changes in pipeline

They have three sponsor partners in Toyota, Ford and Renault, not forgetting the supply to their leading runners, Williams and McLaren.

Bridgestone already do a job for Ferrari as it is - so no change there!

Saving costs by limiting testing to 10 track days will not wash with any of the top teams.

If Minardi, Jordan and Sauber want to sign up to this two-hour free for all on a Friday morning, so be it.

McLaren's David Coulthard
It is up to McLaren and Williams to catch Ferrari
Do not expect Ferrari to close Fiorano, or McLaren boss Ron Dennis or Frank Williams to stay out of Barcelona, Valencia, Silverstone or Magny-Cours.

Where the big three can contribute to the future well-being of the smaller teams is to reach agreement on technical changes at a further meeting in December.

"Two-way telemetry, between pits and car, ought to be got rid of," said Max Mosley.

"The teams will meet to consider ways of saving money and reducing the electronics."

Those words could prove the most crucial for the long-term health of the F1.

Standardising parts like electronics and brakes, and cutting driver aids such as traction control would significantly cut costs and throw the onus back onto the driver.

Any changes would only be introduced for 2004 - along with the one-engine rule, also to save money.

The steps may not be giant but at least they have been taken. The key is to maintain momentum and avoid complacency.

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Jonathan Legard

Rob Bonnet

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