Formula one, 2001 season Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka: Business and Politics: the jpoc report

The FIA's World Motor Sport Council met in Cologne on the 3rd of October and made a number of announcements about Formula One in 2002. They banned systems to detect the signal for race starts and electronically controlled power steering systems. They allowed bi-directional radio signals between the pits and the cars. They relaxed restrictions on testing in order to pass the onus to the teams and they imnposed new safety regulations. The latter comprised stronger rear impact absorbing structures, stronger wheel tethers and bigger mirrors and rear lights. They also released the details of the race calendar for 2002.

The 2002 calendar lookd much like the 2001 version. Seventeen races, starting in early March with one race each fortnight except that the German race would be brought forward by one week in order to allow a three week break in August.

For the full 2002 calendar, see here. The races at Monza and Imola were subject to contractual agreement, the Australian race was subject to the outcome of the inquest into the death of a marshal at the 2001 race and the Silverstone race depended on the ability of the organisers to guarantee the traditional traffic jams, rain and car park swamps.

Another outcome of the meeting was the re-election of Max Mosley as president of the FIA. He gets to serve another four year term at the head of the FIA. He has announced that it is his intention not to seek another term in 2005. He is joined on various worthy bodies by various worthy persons whose names you would neither read nor recognise if I put them here. :-)

Jordan would have to go to the year's last race not knowing the result of their appeal against the disqualification of Jarno Trulli from the US Grand Prix. The date for the appeal was not even fixed as they set off for Japan.

The FIA lifting of the FIA testing bans meant that the teams would have to agree a new regime between themselves. Most favoured a ban for the three week gap in August and another from the middle of December until the end of the new year's hangovers. Of course, not only would the ban need to be agreed, it would also need to be enforced. A gentlemen's agreement would not cut it as the owners would first have to agree to sell their teams to gentlemen.

One odd area for 2002 concerned brake lights. At the instigation of the FIA, the teams considered the possibility of running with brake lights. The teams didn't manage to come to an agreement so the proposal to make the teams fit them did not come into effect. For 2002, Ferrari threatened to go their own way and fit them anyway.

The German media group Kirche raised more fears amongst the car manufacturers active in F1. They exercised their option to convert loans made to EM.TV into shares in SLEC, the company that owns the rights to F1 racing. The reason that this was a worry was that Kirche owns a pay TV channel in Germany and would love to put F1 racing exclusively on that channel. Moving German F1 coverage to pay TV could make huge sums of money for Kirche. Perhaps as much as US$500M/year which would be very tempting. However, that would have a disastrous effect on the appeal of F1 to manufacturers and sponsors. For F1, the German market is probably the world's most valuable and the loss of numbers watching the sport if it switched to pay TV would be a heavy blow to the likes of Mercedes, BMW, Jaguar, Becks, Veltins, Warsteiner, West, Shell and Allianz.

Nobody expected any big changes while Bernie Ecclestone remained in charge but he would not be there forever and the car manufacturers and big sponsors were worried indeed.

The whole 2001 season All the races and the behind the scenes games
Japanese GP at Suzuka October 14th Who drives what?
Japanese GP at Suzuka October 14th Teams and personnel
Japanese GP at Suzuka October 14th Circuit news
Japanese GP at Suzuka October 14th Setting the scene
Japanese GP at Suzuka October 14th Practice and qualifying
Japanese GP at Suzuka October 14th The starting grid
Japanese GP at Suzuka October 14th Race report
Japanese GP at Suzuka October 14th Results
Japanese GP at Suzuka October 14th Championship standings after the race
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