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F1 teams battle over cost-cutting

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Andrew Benson | 12:58 UK time, Monday, 10 January 2011

The first race of the 2011 season is still two months away, but the fight for a competitive advantage in Formula 1 is still raging away behind the scenes.

As their engineers put the finishing touches to their new cars in time for the start of pre-season testing next month, team bosses are trying to thrash out a new cost-saving agreement. And it's getting a bit nasty.

Rivals - almost without exception, I'm told - believe Red Bull exceeded en route to winning the world title last year the limitations laid out in the document that defines how teams commit their budgets. They also claim that Red Bull are blocking a new version of the so-called Resource Restriction Agreement to take the sport through to 2017, where the current one runs only to 2012.

One insider at a rival team said Red Bull had been "flouting" the RRA. This is quite a serious accusation, as it effectively claims Red Bull either spent longer developing the aerodynamics of their car, employed more staff, or spent more money - or all three - than they were allowed to. In other words, they had an unfair advantage.

Red Bull deny outright that they overspent in 2010, and insist they are objecting to the revised agreement only because it is flawed in its current form and they want to ensure it is "fair and equitable". More of which in a moment.

"We've worked in accordance with the RRA limits since they were introduced," Red Bull team principal Christian Horner told BBC Sport. "With tremendous hard work and internal efficiencies, we believe we've absolutely adhered to it.

"Red Bull has committed its budgets wisely and it's obviously surprising that people will feel that way, but it's inevitable, I guess, when you're at the front and winning races."

No one will go on the record to confirm their suspicions about Red Bull, but Virgin Racing chief executive officer Graeme Lowdon, while making it clear he does not know about Red Bull's budget, says: "On something as fundamental as this, on something that's there to make the whole business you're in sustainable, if someone was to even breach the spirit of that, then that's extremely disappointing.

"I cannot see how anyone can level a criticism at an RRA. If it made a worse show, or watered it down, then there would be a case to answer. But it doesn't so it's very disappointing if teams ignore something as fundamental as this."

In many ways, this financial dispute echoes the technical rows that enveloped Red Bull in 2010.

Unable to explain or understand how the RB6 car was so fast, rivals first accused Red Bull of having an illegal ride-height control system, and then of an overly flexible front wing. Red Bull insisted the car was completely legal, and the FIA, F1's governing body, never found otherwise.

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner

Horner finds Red Bull in the middle of another controversy about 2010. Photo: Getty

"We expect other teams to potentially challenge [whether we have over-spent]," Horner says, "as they have done on front wings and ride heights and everything else in the course of last year. But we don't have any issue.

"Red Bull probably has the third or fourth biggest budget in F1. We spent prudently and have achieved great efficiency within the factory, and we have to top that in 2011."

This row has come up in the context of negotiations over revising ways of controlling F1's costs. Keeping a lid on budgets is, along with ensuring the racing remains as good as possible, one of the central themes for F1 stake-holders at the moment, as the sport's bosses seek to ensure it remains both compelling for its audience and affordable for its competitors in a difficult economic climate.

The RRA is the document the teams drew up in 2009 to control costs in F1. It defines a series of limitations on resources, getting stricter through 2010, 2011 and 2012, and the penalties for exceeding them. But it was always meant as a stepping-stone to a longer agreement.

In the current agreement, there is a sliding scale of penalties covering the following main areas of resource commitment:

  • Aerodynamic development, measured in wind-tunnel hours or computational fluid dynamics data, with the more you do of one, up to a given limit, meaning the less you can do of the other;
  • Total staff numbers, from 350 in 2010 down to 280 in 2011, and total external spend, from 40m Euros in 2010, down to 20m Euros in 2011, with the more you commit to one, the less you can spend on the other.

The penalties were based on a sliding scale. For example, a breach of up to 5% is punished by having that same amount taken off your resource allocation for the next year; a breach of 5-10% means having 1.1 times that amount taken off; and so on.

The new document - the fundamentals of which were largely agreed at a meeting at the Singapore Grand Prix last September - changes that.

One team principal, who did not wish to be identified, said that the new RRA relaxes the restrictions on resources - teams can spend a bit more money and employ a few more staff - and in return the policing is stricter, both in terms of how teams' spending is analysed and the penalties for exceeding the limits.

But the detail is proving problematic, with Red Bull in particular unhappy about the new document as it stands.

Horner says his objections are rooted in ensuring the new RRA, which would run until 2017, does what it is intended to do.

"The RRA is a positive thing for F1," he says. "I think a solution can be found for the outstanding issues, it just needs some sensible discussion between the teams, because the thought of an unrestricted spend in F1 is unpalatable for all the teams.

"So it is a matter of achieving transparency and a fair and equitable system between all independent and manufacturer-owned teams so that no party is at an advantage or disadvantage."

"The resource restriction needs to be sorted quite quickly because at the moment it is unclear what rules we are working to in 2011 in many respects, so it's important a solution is found and I think one will be found."


  • Comment number 1.

    All this fuss about Red Bull is because they had such a brilliant 2010 and no one could explain why the RB6 was so fast, hopefully everything will be resolved. Can't wait for the new season!

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    If all the F1 teams share what costs with a single body, could this all not be dealt with internally?

    They all agreed on the cost sutting, so are they not made to disclose the info at the end of the season?

    Without facts how does anyone know who spent what during 2010!!?!?!

  • Comment number 4.

    Its not surprising to hear more quarrells from the teams, but it doesn't matter anymore, RBR & SV have been handed their title trophies so their is effectively no going back, it is fascinating that RBRs budget is only 3rd or 4th although you could argue that their 'outward' costs could be picked up by mateschitz elsewhere.

    Either way this looks like it won't go away & i bet Bernie is rubbing his hands with glee! Roll on another stirred up season!

  • Comment number 5.

    Hi all,

    Thanks for your comments so far.

    Re. comment 3, that's exactly what happens - and Red Bull have already sent their figures to teams' association Fota. Hence why Horner says he expects them to be challenged. He says he is not worried because they won't find anything.

  • Comment number 6.

    @ Andrew

    But if they know what they have spent and on what and it's within the limits set, why does he expect them to be challenged?

    Are Red Bull getting paranoid?

    Wouldn't it be easier to set a single figure budget and let the teams share it out as they see fit? £20m all in, simple.

  • Comment number 7.

    I presume that the current RRA has some well worded methods of policing what each team is doing, although this will no doubt not in any way get rid of creative accounting but, if all of the other teams believe Red Bull was cheating, why does RB not simply invite the other teams or the FIA to audit them on all aspects of the RRA to prove they weren't doing anything they shouldn't have?

  • Comment number 8.

    Never really understood why teams are not allowed to work on their cars between races and only in certain periods and why they all test together at the same track. Who or how stops say ferari having a sneaky blast around their test track pre to pre season testing? A team would look pretty stupid arriving to find their engine wont start

  • Comment number 9.

    Costs need to be brought down then maybe drivers with talent will be allowed to race in F1 and not drivers who have or bring £ to the team themselves.

  • Comment number 10.

    One way to cut cost would be to change the calendar for races and testing. Have a few Monay tests after a race so everyone is already there so the extra costs are low. Also arrange the calandar so the least amount of miles are needed by having races in one region after each other then go to the next maybe with a little break between?

  • Comment number 11.

    Strange comment by Hornet - he expects other teams to challenge? I cannot remember quite so much in years gone past. Remember when the McLaren's lapped everyone in Adelaide? The other teams didn't shout so much that season as I recall.
    Is he going to say "oh yes they will find that we cheated?" Unlikely

  • Comment number 12.

    Re comment 9 ( TJ )

    Spot on, drivers should be in a F1 car due to the fact they are one of the top 30 drivers in the world, on merit and skill. As opposed to a driver who can afford to BUY a seat.

    That's one rule that only the teams can sort out, although it seems some teams would not be able to survive without the extra income.

    Maybe F1 should start looking after it's own and stop making the rich, richer.

  • Comment number 13.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 14.

    Obviously there's provision for assessing expenditure against how much of the car any team actually develops and builds, but how does the system take account of the fact that Ferrari make virtually everything and the other teams, including Red Bull, don't?

  • Comment number 15.

    Isn't all this budget nonsense merely trying to let people without the money for or capability of producing a decent car go racing? I think the dismal performance (and juggling of pay-drives) of HRT last season shows why it really isn't a good idea....

  • Comment number 16.

    @13 - Bennetton went downhill after Schuey, Brawn and Byrne left for Ferrari, Renault Stopped developing the V10 which was eventually rebadged Playlife then Mechachrome(?) and even then Berger still won a race! Also YOU say they went downhill, but they were still getting podiums every year until they were taken over by Renault in around 2002!

    Finally, Ross Brawn has repeatedly said that the Bennetton never had traction control and the whole reason the topic came up in the first place was because of a comment made by Senna to Patrick Head about the way in which Schumacher was able to exit slow corners, PH even sent a team member to video the Bennetton but this was strangely never released (Even though PH still has it!)

  • Comment number 17.

    Hispania quit FOTA over the hypocrisy of the RRA, and FOTA's inability to police it.

    Several other teams were rumoured to be contemplating doing the same thing, however Team Lotus have issued a statement saying they will not leave FOTA ... Strange thing to have to say.

  • Comment number 18.

    They probably spend loads on R&D of gearboxes/engines etc. Then recoup the costs by charging teams. So if Ferrari supply engines to Toro Ross and BMW/Sauber, and spent £30million researching and constructing them, they probably charge each team £10-15 million. - total random figures, i have no idea how much an engine costs to design and build, but you get the picture.

    Its a very good point though. Its the Man City vs Arsenal argument. You can invest long term, or just invest short term, buying other manufacturers engine and gearbox. At the end of the day, its no different.

    What i don't like to see is these partnerships interfering with races, i.e. Petrov, arguably the most erratic driver out of the premiership formula 1 teams, holding up Alonso to help out RedBull who run on Renault engines.
    Cue argument that Petrov was just doing his job, alonso wasnt fast enough etc etc. But lets be honest, if the car in front of Alonso was a Toro Rosso, they would have felt obliged to accidentally on purpose not accelerate as quickly as possible.

    With respect to supplying teams with parts, surely they should be rewarded with an extended budget? They are helping teams out, and they are the teams doing all the hard work, just to have some fizzy drink man come up with a suitcase of cash and buy it all because of restricted spending. Giving the suppliers extra budget would also deter teams from using them as it disadvantages them.

    Bring on Bahrain. I will be really disappointed to see RedBull on the podium.

  • Comment number 19.

    In an interview with Murray Walker, years ago, pre his retirement, Michael Schmacher called Formula 1, "sports entertainment", which is what the world calls WWE etc, american wrestling. From that day forward i have understood that's they way to look at F1, it's not "sport" in the clasic sense and is unfortunetly as crooked and make believe as Hulk Hogan and his friend's own "sports entertainment". How can something this expensive be run with gentlemans agreements, and secret deals. This is a self regulated, billion dollar industry.

  • Comment number 20.

    Totally agree with comment number 1. I fully expect an amazing season with Mark Webber wanting the crown more than ever, he has a point to prove and for very good reason.

    I don't support Red Bull but I have to give credit where it's due, they have such an amazing car.

    Good luck to all the new teams too

  • Comment number 21.

    Sorry, just sounds like more sour grapes to me.

    I wouldn't put it past the FIA to take the title off RB and give it to Alonso!!!

  • Comment number 22.

    @16 "Finally, Ross Brawn has repeatedly said that the Bennetton never had traction control and the whole reason the topic came up in the first place was because of a comment made by Senna to Patrick Head"

    No. The traction control was found by a British company the FIA brought in to look over Benetton's systems. It was activated via a hidden menu and by a combination of paddles and switches he could use to turn it on and off. Ross Brawn tried to claim that they had left it in from the previous season but that it was turned off.

    The FIA decided to do nothing since there was no proof they had used it. An extremely flimsy excuse.

  • Comment number 23.

    @22 - actually, it was Launch control software that was found, there was never any traction control software found although there was what has only ever been described as 'illegal' software found in many other teams cars following the same investigation! Oddly those teams were never named.

    But back to the original point, to quote Flavio, "Our only mistake was that at the time we were too young and people were suspicious" although I admit he is perhaps not the best example to be quoting following recent events! ;)

  • Comment number 24.

    he problem with F1, as with most sports, is that the competitors are always one step ahead of the regulators. In fact, the same applies in any situation where breaking, or even bending, the regulations offers a substantial reward. This is particularly true when the regulations are extremely complex. The recent banking crisis proved this. Banks were all governed by strict regulation and apparently all complied. It was only once things went wrong that they were forced to admit their deception.

    In F1, the issue of flexible wings was never satisfactorily resolved because the load test to which the wings were subjected in scrutineering was significantly lower than the forces acting on the wings at full racing speed. Therefore, a sophisticated engineering solution could allow the car to meet the letter of the law whilst breaching the intended spirit of the regulation.

    Submitting expenditure accounts to the FIA for auditing is utterly pointless. No team would submit figures that could incriminate them. Hiding expenditure 'off balance-sheet' is so simple, even national governments are doing it...

    None of this is suggesting that RBR engaged in such activities, just that any team with the resources could do so. I'd be very surprised and slightly disappointed if all the teams were playing by the rules. That would be far too sporting in an industry worth £billions.

  • Comment number 25.

    The majority of contributors clearly have greater knowledge than myself but I would make a few observations.
    It would seem to me technical shenanigans as regards the letter of the rules would appear to me just part of the game. For example if the front wings on RBR’s car passed the test but then flexed more under greater forces then that’s clever design.
    Financial shenanigans however would be a different kettle of fish and should be adhered to in the spirit aswell as the letter of the rules.
    However it should be relatively easy to monitor and police. I would presume that all F1 teams are separate trading companies (even Ferrari I would imagine would run the F1 company as a separate trading body to the car manufacturer). F1 companies are relatively small organisations with relatively straight forward cost issues. People have highlighted the issues regarding transfer pricing issues where one team manufacture components for other teams but this would not be especially difficult to police.
    There is probably issue on how capital expenditure items would be amortised, for example if a team build a hugely expensive wind tunnel then this would have to be amortised over a number of years.
    One could also imagine how certain teams could try to off balance sheet certain overhead items such as marketing, finance etc. But again this would be fairly easy to police.
    The biggest stumbling block would probably the teams will hide behind the "commercially sensitive information" smoke screen and therefore not divulge individual cost items.
    The problem of policing is not that it is particularly difficult to do as any half tidy forensic audit of the organisations would provide the necessary information. I would venture to suggest the issue is more of will on the FIA’s part. The teams most likely to be breaking the rules are probably those with the greatest influence. The people at the top of the FIA have not become unbelievably rich people by alienating the largest stakeholders involved.

  • Comment number 26.

    f1 is now full of politics and a lot of nonsense..

    rules that have alot of loop holes, consequences that are rubbish.

    they should put a wieght handicap on the podium finnishers..

  • Comment number 27.

    At #18
    Ah, so that must be why Alguersuari held up Webber when he came out after his pit stop; to help Alonso with his Ferrari engine.
    Or maybe Alguersuari, like Petrov is a racer, racing for next year's seat and they were both just doing what they're supposed to do.

  • Comment number 28.

    Well who really cares about the budget cap, I dont, as far as im concerned if the smaller teams cant afford to be in f1 so be it. You know what they say "IF IT'S TOO HOT, GET OUT OF THE KITCHEN". I know this dosn't sound fair but think about hispania racing, rubbish budget as far as f1 standards go, paying drivers and change them like musical chairs. Come on hispania racing how can any petrol head take you as a team seriously. Bernie was right some of the smaller teams shouln't have joined. Two i recon. This budget cap is all rubish and politics, its devaluing the sport and only the best infustructured teams need apply.It should be all about value for money for the investors and cost management, not blaming another team that has over spent.Come on why not relax the regs and go racing..... isnt what this should be all about.

  • Comment number 29.

    this does sound like a big bag of sour grapes and jealousy to me.

    First there was ride-height, then it was front wing flexibility, the rules were changed, the RB6 still passed the revised load tests; they are the young, noisy neighbours and they won both championships, of course the other teams noses are out of joint.

    That being said, RBR were one of the teams that complained about Brawn's double diffuser last year so what goes around comes around I guess.

    The teams losing will always try and come up with a way of getting clever engineering banned or undermine the winning team in any way they can, it's happened in F1 since forever... the drivers aren't above skullduggery either.

    For what it's worth, I wouldn't like Christian Horner's job, it seems more than any other member of the paddock, he's damned if he does and damned if he doesn't.

  • Comment number 30.

    It's straight from the central pool of Scriptwriters? It gets F1 in the news in the run up to the new season, when little else is going on?

    Costs and adhering to contraints are important? The switch from V10s to V8s that was cheap. KERS in 2009, no KERS in 2010 and KERS back for 2011? That sounds like that was really efficient and cost effective? The switch to 1.6 Turbos? Those engines will cost what to develop? £100 Million for each design? It's not making sense to me.

  • Comment number 31.

    Formula 1 has a charade of complexity that is intended to seduce the enthusiasts that love to watch it and debate the technical wizardry and awe inspiring driving that leads to such closely manufactured finishes. Sport in this instance has become entertainment. Throw in the melting pot, the big characters, Italians, Germans, British, Spanish, and some last race of the season climaxes and we have a spectacle that appeases the broadcasters and advertisers. F1 is big business and has little to do with technical ability. I imagine Mr Schumacher may well become world champion again. Wasn't he the best driver ever? Too much domination makes for a dull product.

  • Comment number 32.

    This is an internal spat that makes news, although the devil is that you and I will never know the real detail. Christian Horner is simply not agreeing to a future charter until last years costs get rubber-stamped. With an air of suspicion over Red Bull, he would apparently be stupid to do otherwise.

    Roll on the racing, roll off the press releases!

  • Comment number 33.

    It's amazing people on here seem to be privy to information the rest of us aren't, as they can categorically state whether or not Red Bull did indeed break the rules. Fact is nobody knows yet.

    Whatever, I certainly hope they don't start deciding yet another racing result retrospectively in the boardroom and I say that as a Ferrari fan.

  • Comment number 34.

    An F1 team that can't find a way around a 'resource restriction' clearly lacks the ingenuity and the initiative to remain in F1.

    RBR operate a 'show team' and Red Bull as a company operate in just about every Formula of motor racing, Ferrari have more F1 'operating experience' than any other team, when they run a 2 year old car at the factory I am positive they can gain some useful data that can be applied to the new car. Williams Engineering sell their technology as well.

    I realise that HRT are effectively a customer team building an F1 kit car, but I welcome their input to the grid, if only for their addition to the knowledge base through running various customer components.

    Good blog yet again Andrew, I can't wait for race 2 of 2011 (call me cynical, but race 1 will be a procession like last year!)

  • Comment number 35.

    I am not entirley convinced either way that RBR cheated. Who is to say they didnt test bits on the STR when customer cars were allowed?

    What i do find odd is how slowly the cheating allegations are taking to be sorted. Brawn, Toyota and Williams with the double diffuser issue was sorted fairly quickly, likewise the Mclaren F-duct last season was sorted fairly fast.

    If you were a fan of conspiracy theories, could you say that this current incident is a damage limitation exercise for RBR? Or like Brawn, Mclaren, Ferrari and Williams in previous years, did they just get it right first time?

  • Comment number 36.

    Our books have to be checked by an independent auditor. Why can't the F1 teams do the same?

  • Comment number 37.

    This is a huge schism between the teams. After winning the FIA - FOTA war in 2009, and binning the regulatory budget cap that the FIA had proposed, FOTA realised that they did need to control spending so brought in their own, rather weaker, proposals. Teams that entered in 2010 did so on the basis of a stable playing field at ~£50M pa. Note that is not just the new teams but was also the basis of the purchase of Renault, and of Peter Sauber's taking back his eponymous team. Note also that Williams and Force India sided with the FIA against FOTA and remain strongly supportive of a firm £50m cap.

    The FOTA agreement established in 2009 allowed a significantly higher budget than the FIA proposal, handing an advantage back to the wealthier teams, and dress it up any way you like the current revisions significantly increase the amount teams will be allowed to spend - and that is bad news for the independents.

    I am not sure about the suggestions that Red Bull have breached the agreement. They may have but this might just be a spoiler to divert some of their effort away from developing their car. Red Bull Racing are well but not infinitely resourced but would probably support being able to spend more. Red Bull overall may not be so keen though - they need to sell Torro Rosso, something that would be much easier with a clear and lower budget in place.

    If anyone was found to be breaching the agreement I would have expected it to be Ferrari. This is not because I feel them to be inherently more dishonest than other teams but rather that they have always opposed the cap, accepted it under duress and with very bad grace, and actually have substantial infrastructure and resource in place they are prevented from using for F1.

    Two years ago we were seriously looking at a grid of fewer teams running three cars each. The budget control operated since then have kept existing teams on the grid and enabled new start up teams to join. I supported the FIA over a funding cap, not just because it seemed a necessary step in its own right, but because it also allowed a major relaxation of the rules (which the FIA offered as part of the package)allowing far greater technical innovation. Indeed it may be that some of the established teams feared this aspect more than the budget limitation itself. As a fan I still feel FOTA short changed us in that respect.

  • Comment number 38.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 39.

    If i was a Formula One Team Boss. I'd Live by this Formula.

    Success = Resource x Experience x Personnel x / Regulations.

    These categories can be easily broken down into sub categries to form a truly winning formula! From these sub categories, Constants are formed, and variables are left. If i was Mr Horner, I would recognise that my team lacked experience compared to my rivals, and also the experience and heritage to attract the best drivers. SO instead i'd hire Adrian Newey to try and balance the equation somewhat. I'd attempt to put in place the resources to ensure i could compete with Ferrari and Mclaren and i'd build the team around experienced drivers for a few years to ensure that the personnel were all used to dealing with winners!

    AFter this what would i be left with? I have the right resources and experience to give Mclaren and ferrari a run but i lack drivers. Well Red bull's driver development program aint too shabby and picked out Sebastian Vettel. So thats a world class driver sorted!

    All thats left is the regulations and they dont change do they? SO they're constants... the more variables you find in that equation the better chance you have of finding the variables in that equation. Whether you consider the regs to be the confines of a race track, the design of a nosecone or the way you spend your money. It will always be the best way of balancing the equation in your favour as it's the dividing power in the equation. Over recent the years, the winning teams have always made the best use of this part of the formula. Brawn did it last year, Red Bull this year. ANd teams that have failed in the equation have failed despite overwhelming advantages. In 2007 Mclaren were fined and disqualified for breaking the regulations, and lacked the experience, whether it be in managing two world class drivers or inexperience and left with nothing where ferrari whose car lacked so much in pace, managed the team perfectly to become constructers and Drivers champions.

    We watch formula one to see how each team manages the variables and tries to compete. Then there is the Unquantifiable element.

    Utimately, every team that plays by this formula deserves to be in the sport. If a team breaks the rules they deserve to be punished. And if the regulations leave a gap for Christian Horner or anyone else for that matter to Exploit to win then so be it. They did it, they balanced the formula in such a way as to beat the other teams. They deserve to win. The Spirit of he regulations is a joke. Every team has the same Equation, if someone has got a better answer than you then applaud them as they cross the line before you!

  • Comment number 40.

    @27 Algesuari didn't hold Webber up. He let him by on the long straight.
    He did however hold Massa up for entire race.
    Although I don't believe Petrov was deliberately holding anyone up I don't feel the same could be said for Algersuari.
    With all the talk of cost cutting measures I think it stinks that a team is allowed to run teams and use the slower team so blatantly as a mobile chicane like they did with Massa and allowing big brother through RBR a lap earlier.

  • Comment number 41.

    We should not worry ourselves about these F1 teams this is just a publicity stunt and as will agree soon on all matters. They are just building emotions for the new season.

  • Comment number 42.

    @23 - "actually, it was Launch control software that was found, there was never any traction control software found"

    No, there was a full traction control system found that could be used from starts and during the race. There was something found at McLaren, but that was it. Justifying this by saying 'other teams were doing this' is rather silly.

    I don't think anyone cares how young they were at Benetton or how a 'junior engineer' removed a a critical component in a fuel rig, the fact is hard evidence was found of cheating and nothing was done.

  • Comment number 43.

    re comment 1.

    among the many problems from last season were a RB car that didn't seem to be affected by changes in ride height due to fuel load and most interestingly front wings that did flex until the new load tests were introduced.

    You could say that they always managed to stay 1 step ahead of the regulations.

  • Comment number 44.

    @ 42- No, It was Launch control software found - Here is what LDRA had to say about it, they were the company who investigateed the software:

    'Analysis of this software, which had been used at the San Marino Grand Prix, revealed that it included a facility called "launch control". This is a system which, when armed, allows the driver to initiate a start with a single action. The system will control the clutch, gear shift and engine speed fully automatically to a predetermined pattern.

    Benetton stated that this system is used only during testing. Benetton further stated that "it (the system) can only be switched on by recompilation of the code". This means recompilation of the source code. Detailed analysis by the LDRA experts of this complex code revealed that this statement was untrue. "Launch control" could in fact be switched on using a lap-top personal computer (PC) connected to the gearbox control unit (GCU).

    When confronted with this information, the Benetton representatives conceded that it was possible to switch on the "launch control" using a lap-top PC but indicated that the availability of this feature of the software came as a surprise to them.

    In order to enable "launch control", a particular menu with ten options, has to be selected on the PC screen. "Launch control" is not visibly listed as an option. The menu was so arranged that, after ten items, nothing further appeared. If however, the operator scrolled down the menu beyond the tenth listed option, to option 13, launch control can be enabled, even though this is not visible on the screen. No satisfactory explanation was offered for this apparent attempt to conceal the feature.

    Two conditions had to be satisfied before the computer would apply "launch control": First, the software had to be enabled either by recompiling the code, which would take some minutes, or by connecting the lap-top PC as outlined above, which could be done in a matter of seconds.

    Secondly, the driver had to work through a particular sequence of up-down gear shift paddle positions, a specific gear position had to be selected and the clutch and throttle pedals had also to be in certain positions. Only if all these actions were carried out would the "launch control" become available.

    Having thus initiated "launch control", the driver would be able to make a fully automatic start. Such a start is clearly a driver aid as it operates the clutch, changes gear and uses traction control by modulating engine power (by changing ignition or fuel settings), in response to wheel speed.

    When asked why, if this system was only used in testing, such an elaborate procedure was necessary in order to switch it on, we were told it was to prevent it being switched on accidentally. "

  • Comment number 45.

    @tj - Comment 10
    I've said for many years that the calendar should be organised so there is as little travelling as is possible, not just to keep costs low, but to also help protect the environment. Now I know that I'm not the only one who thinks that!

    Anyway, with regards to Red Bull's apparent over-spending, I do have my suspicions as to whether Red Bull did cheat in 2010. The flexi-wing controversy, for example. I felt that Red Bull's wings did flex too much when compared to the other teams, but according to the FIA, they didn't. It's strange that the FIA always seem to be on the side of the team that is winning the Constructor's Championship. The double diffuser controversy in 2009, for example. I know that with the double diffusers, it wasn't just Brawn that were involved in that controversy - if I recall correctly, it was Williams and Toyota as well - but hopefully, you can see where I'm coming from.

    Another gripe that I have with Red Bull is that they always seem to moan and moan when things don't go their way. With something like the Ferrari Hockenheim controversy, then that's understandable, but for other things, it just gets so boring hearing them moan about anything that doesn't go their way. Do any of the other teams moan when things don't go their way? Yes, but from what I've gathered, nowhere near as much as Red Bull seem to do.

    It did worry me a little bit when Red Bull bought out Jaguar, as I was concerned that the sport would become even more commercialized. I think I might have been proved right on that point, judging by the accusations that are flying about, and because they bought out Minardi and renamed them Toro Rosso, so they had two teams in Formula 1! Somehow I don't think it's right that one company is able to own two teams, despite the fact that they seem to be under separate control.

  • Comment number 46.

    according to autosport, legard is going to be replaced this year. On his Twitter account he said 'Life moves on. Ask Nick Heidfeld or narainracing. You never know what's next. To the critical and the complimentary. Thanks for the company. Could DC and Brundle commentate. Murray was much better than Legard ever will be as Legard is a rubbish commentator and made F1 sound like horse racing

  • Comment number 47.

    I don't know about redbull moaning, I think they were unjustly accused of all sorts of things, with flexible wings and then floors and prefferring one driver over another, thier car passed all tests at all times and the drivers given equal treatment so they should be proud of what they achieved and rightly so. If you want to look for moaners, look no further than the McLaren garage, it is they who are always complaining about other peoples cars and tactics instead of getting on with their own job!

    Slightly off topic, NOOOOOO not DC for commentator!! I can't beleive he is even being mooted as a replacement, it would be truly awful especially after his awful reports from the McLaren Mission control. He is a good pundit no doubt but struggles to find the words when it comes to 'filling'. Either Crofty or the motoGP guy, definitely NOT another ex-driver, MB is good enough.

  • Comment number 48.

    Like the earlier comments, I can't get my head around this. Theoretically the teams all submit their spending data and someone somewhere does the sums and either the teams were ok or they overspent. There doesn't seem to be any grey areas there. However Horner's comment that Red Bull will be challenged suggests that there is some ambiguity. Either the Red Bull figures don't stack up, in which case it should be an open and shut case that they cheated, or the RRA is ambiguous enough that teams could overspend by carefully juggling the way things are recorded (like, for instance, employing a bunch of engineers as caterers, or whatever).

    What this really means is that the way the RRA is policed is open to exploitation, even if noboday has actually done it. While I like the idea of gentlemans' agreements, I think the days of there being gentlemen in F1 are long since past, and for rules to work properly there needs to be absolutely no ambiguity and no room for cunning interpretations or brinksmanship.

    The other thing I'd say is that to those who are being hard on the new teams, just consider that when their applications were being considered, they were entering F1 under the pretence of the original FIA budget cap, which was eventually scrapped. Meaning that while the RRA may in principle be designed to give new teams the ability to compete on a level playing field, the field was anything but level in 2010. Obviously the financial problems of teams like HRT didn't help, but even without those complications, those teams were operating on a significantly smaller budget than the rest of the grid, and were all set up in the space of about a year (some far less) from absolute zero. The fact that they even turned up for the first race with a full compliment of cars was a miracle in itself, let alone the fact they persevered in a year where it was absolutely impossible for them to bring their cars up to the standard of the rest of the grid thanks to the promises made by the FIA. Promises which were ultimately broken. The men and women working for those teams worked no less hard, and are no less intelligent and cunning than those working for the bigger teams. The difference is that they had to do far more with far less, and considering that, what they achieved was absolutely remarkable.

  • Comment number 49.

    I am curious to know how all these proposals are going to be monitored. Will the governing body receive regular audits from the teams or are their HQ's to be 'visited' on an odd hoc basis to verify their paperwork? Otherwise it would seem to be another opportunity for creative accountancy. As to personnel levels, will this include contracted out work E.g HRT using Williams' transmissions. Does this mean that Williams could 'lose' some of their personnel in that instance and HRT gain them? It's like any law making process - it's a useless exercise unless it can be effectively policed. QED mobile telephone use by drivers in motion.

  • Comment number 50.

    The reason Red Bull do so well is that they effectively have double the research opportunities compared to other teams.

    Or are we supposed to believe that Torro Rosso will refuse to share their testing data?

  • Comment number 51.

    I agree with point 50. There is no way that Red Bull are not also benfitting from Torro Rosso!

    I also think that Red Bull never really seem to help themselves in situations like this. Christian always comes across a little shifty and seems to get frustrated when he has to defend himself. It doesn't make him or the team look very honest. My advice to Christian: get a PR person.
    By saying "we expect to be challenged" makes him sound like a petulant child! He may as well say "I didn't take McLaren's biscuit or Ferarri's toy but they told their mummy's I did!"

    They either overspent and broke the rules or they didnt and he should know one way or the other as team principal. If they have, they should be punished, World Champions or no.

    Personally - I bet they have, but it doesnt show on the books and, like I say at the beginning and has been said previously; it's not as if they don't have another team to do half their work for them!

    Very much looking forward to the 2011 season!

  • Comment number 52.

    More Ferrari led bleating.

    Wwonder how they take into account the declining value of £ vs the Euro on budgets?

  • Comment number 53.

    seems fairly obvious to me that red bull clearly had a massive advantage in 2010 , the front wing clearly flexed more than any other, those guys are very clever at red bull and i reckon that they are good at developing the car to pass all the tests and still give an advantage when under race conditions , i don't know if they cheated , they just took part in the madness that is F1, i do feel that if it was Mclaren that had that front wing there would have been a far deeper investigation and test of the wing, it is very suspicious that two drivers who are not the best out on track should do so well ,if Lewis had drove like vettel did when he hit poor webber he would have been docked a million points and forced to start each race from the local tesco! just because they didn't get caught doesn't mean they didn't cheat, but they are not the first and wont be the last, if the new argument over cost cutting is not agreeable to red bull then i have only one thing to ask them , if all the other teams are happy to go along with it then why do they have issue with it? are they afraid of a level playing field. RB are top of the pile now and as such will be watched all the closer . toro rosso should be a completely separate entity with its own sponsorship as they are clearly being used as a test bed for RB which is NOT fair to the other teams or to the toro rosso team and drivers,

  • Comment number 54.

    I find this final remark of Horner's most confusing:

    "The resource restriction needs to be sorted quite quickly because at the moment it is unclear what rules we are working to in 2011 in many respects, so it's important a solution is found and I think one will be found."

    The article states quite clearly that the current RRA runs til 2012. Last time I looked 11 comes after 12! Horner and Red Bull can be in absolutely no doubt as to what RRA rules are in place for this coming year because they were agreed to two years ago!

    Just what, in regards to this RRA, is unclear to Horner?


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