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GP Week : Issue 122
According to a report published in French local newspaper Var-Matin earlier this week, Prime Minister Francois Fillon (pictured right) has put together a task force aimed at reviving the French Grand Prix. Var-Matin quote Fillon as saying “it is true that I have put in place a team [to] attempt to create a proposition that will allow the organization of a new grand prix in France. It is led in particular by one of my former colleagues, Gilles Dufeigneux, working with the French motor sport federation, the FIA and also Eric Boullier and the director of Le Castellet, Gerard Neveu.” As well as being director of Le Castellet, a commune in the Var departement, Neveu serves as director of the Paul Ricard Circuit, prompting rumours that – should the race be successfully revived – a location has already been earmarked for the event. Paul Ricard was the scene of one of the most epic battles in Formula One history: the wheel-to-wheel drama of the closing laps of the 1979 French Grand Prix, which saw Gilles Villeneuve and Rene Arnoux fighting for second place. Aside from a one-year hiatus in 1955, the French Grand Prix was a fixture on the Formula One calendar from 1950, the championship’s maiden year, to 2008. It was also the host of the first ever non- championship Grand Prix in 1906. The race was said to have been cancelled for economic reasons, but Bernie Ecclestone was publicly critical of the location and facilities of the Magny-Cours track, which played host to the French Grand Prix from 1991 to its cancellation. One option currently under consideration is alternating the French Grand Prix with the Belgian race held at the Circuit Spa-Francorchamps. The Belgian race organizers have been struggling financially for years, and alternating it with another event is thought to be one of the best ways of guaranteeing its continuing presence on the calendar. ON Friday evening in Valencia, FIA technical delegate Charlie Whiting held a media briefing in which he outlined the revisions to the rules for the European and British grands prix. Teams are no longer allowed to use separate engine maps for qualifying and the race, and off-throttle blown diffusers will be banned from Silverstone onwards. Explaining what was allowed under the new engine mapping rules, Whiting said “effectively [the teams] are not allowed to make any changes with a computer that is plugged in, but they are allowed to change things that they can do with a switch on the steering wheel. Simply, the single ECU doesn’t support certain changes from the steering wheel. Only fine adjustments can be made from the wheel. We are on the verge of issuing a note to the teams giving them a list of things they can change when they connect their computers, but it will be a very limited list.” Further changes will be permitted if there is a temperature change of more than 10 degrees before qualifying and the race. Whiting also denied that the confirmation of the rules governing off-throttle blown diffusers were not designed to hamper the performance of any one team. The simple fact of the matter is that “it’s illegal. ... I’m aware of stories that have been written but, to be frank, I know it’s not a political [decision]; it’s a purely technical intervention from our side and I feel perfectly comfortable with that.” Asked why none of the teams were facing punishment for benefiting from an illegal advantage, Whiting said “because we say that it’s ‘arguably’ illegal. The FIA technical department can only give an opinion. The stewards are the ones that decide whether or not the opinion of the technical department is correct. Nobody has yet challenged our opinion on this one. I think they are all happy to remove the extreme maps from their ECUs but it’s just a matter of timing and what they do without affecting any perfectly legitimate routines and systems. “We haven’t made any changes to the rules, all we are doing is stopping people breaking the rules,” Whiting insisted. “In essence, there is nothing to prevent [a] team from exploiting the use of their exhaust gases, provided that those gases are there for the genuine reasons of engine combustion, whereas a lot of the mapping that is being done is being done for purely aerodynamic reasons. That’s the bit that we think is wrong. “We know that exhaust gases have an influence on the aerodynamic performance of the car and we accept that, but the point is that the design should minimize the effect that the exhaust has on the car, it shouldn’t attempt to use the exhaust for a completely different reason,” he concluded. Whiting also noted that none of the teams had discussed the legality of their off-throttle blown diffuser plans with him in the off-season. Charlie Whiting explains engine mapping, off-throttle rule tweaks France looking to revive Grand Prix 10