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GP Week : Issue 156
I can see next week’s headlines now: ‘Red Bull crippled by FIA floor ban’; ‘FIA rules bring end to Red Bull’s victories’; ‘Red Bull floored by new directive’ Attention-grabbing? Yes. Accurate? No. As promised, the FIA have clarified the organisation’s opinion on the legality of the Red Bull floor in the period between the Monaco and Canadian grands prix, thereby avoiding the need for outright protest at either event after rival teams started asking questions. The timing of the FIA’s announcement was designed to attract minimal attention to the news; Charlie Whiting wrote to the teams late on Friday evening to inform them that he disagreed with Red Bull’s interpretation of the technical regulations. “We feel it would be helpful to make our position clear with respect to the presence of a fully enclosed hole in any surface lying on the step plane,” Whiting wrote. “It has been argued that, as it is not explicitly stated that fully enclosed holes cannot be located in a surface lying on the step plane rear ward of a line 450mm for ward of the rear face of the cockpit template, then they may be located in such areas. We disagree with this view and consider it implicit that fully enclosed holes may not be located there.” Whiting’s letter to the teams is not an outright ban on the Red Bull floor as it stands. Rather, it is a challenge – should Red Bull choose to run the floor and their rivals protest it, then Whiting has made his position clear in advance of the protest and Red Bull know that they will be risking penalties or disqualification. What the FIA want is to avoid bad press for Formula One, whatever form it might take. It is unfortunate, then, that circumstances have dictated that Whiting’s clarification of the technical regulation has fallen immediately before the Canadian Grand Prix at Montreal’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, and not another race on the calendar. The Montreal track is essentially a collection of straights strung together with the odd corner thrown in just to make sure the drivers can get back to the start line. While not quite as demanding as Monza in the engine stakes, it is a power circuit at which the Mercedes engine has consistently shown itself to be the best tool for the job in recent years. Sure, you can argue that Sebastian Vettel only lost the 2011 race to Jenson Button after the minutest of errors sent the Red Bull driver off track, but whatever the reason, a Mercedes powerplant has been on the top step of the Montreal podium for four of the past six years. Lewis Hamilton has sat on pole position for three of the past four Canadian grands prix. If there was ever a track designed not to favour Red Bull, this is it. And this is the week in which the watching eyes of the world’s media will be analysing the team’s performance, trying to determine just how much that technical clarification will have hurt them. It hardly matters that – according to Helmut Marko – Red Bull had never intended to run the Monaco-spec floor in Canada. Red Bull have won two of the past three races, and any perceived dip in form is going to be leapt upon by certain sections of the media as ‘proof’ that the FIA have deliberately disadvantaged Red Bull with a view to making the 2012 drivers’ championship a damn sight more exciting than Sebastian Vettel’s 2011 walkover. The reality is that Red Bull are never the favourites going in to Montreal. McLaren tend to be strong in Canada, Mercedes have a package that should see them fighting at the front, and Lotus – who performed well in Montreal in their days as Renault – are overdue a win this season. Whether or not the Red Bull floor was declared legal by the FIA, the Milton Keynes racers were going to have a fight on their hands in Canada to keep their lead in the constructors’ championship. And they know it. Because the beauty of this season is in its unpredictability. No team has yet found that one magic bullet that guarantees wins, as has been evidenced by the seemingly endless parade of winners we’ve been treated to. And whatever you might think of the holes in the Red Bull floor, Charlie Whiting’s letter has guaranteed they won’t be it. Floored by the FIA? Floored by a strong field, more like. RB FLOOR IS CANADIAN RED HERRING OPINION OPINION KATE WALKER Asst Editor 24 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: