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GP Week : Issue 204
21 GPWEEK.com // 21 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: What an irony that Red Bull tycoon Dietrich Mateschitz should have spent tens of millions on reconstructing the temple of speed that was once called the Osterreichring, only to see his cars crash, falter and stutter into retirement when he finally had an opportunity to stage a Grand Prix there. The lack of fizz at Team Red Bull and Scuderia Toro Rosso in Austria was relieved only by the signed message of thanks to Herr M which Bernie Ecclestone's TV people arranged to be overlaid on a spare section of the asphalt. It was a delightful touch and will presumably have cost Bernie nothing to put it there. But I'll bet my house that if he'd actually painted the message on the track, the cost of renting the space would have been only a fraction of the millions that Mateschitz has poured into F1 over the years, much of it filtered through organisations associated with Mr E or owned directly by him. In the week leading up to the returned Austrian GP, details were emerging of decisions made at a meeting of the FIA's Formula 1 Commission. Those who sit on the Commission are mostly senior members of leading teams, together with race promoters, sponsors and key representatives from the FIA and FOM including Bernie Ecclestone and Jean Todt. Ostensibly, the meeting had been called to push for ward with attempts to agree on the measures required to achieve much-needed cost cuts. But first indications were that only a string of minor rules-changes had been achieved. Winter testing outside Europe will be banned and there will be a reduction in the hours that teams can spend in their wind tunnels or on computerised aerodynamic research. The show will be subjected to some changes, too, with further research into increasing the noise of the engines. The Commission thinks it has found a way to put an end to the ugly noses that have disfigured several of this year's cars, while there may also be a dispensation to permit the use of under-car titanium blocks to generate the sparks that we enjoyed 20 years ago. Then, instead of rolling re-starts, we will be treated to standing starts after a Safety Car period. All this, by the way, has yet to be approved. But where were the bold cost-cutting moves that keep getting pushed on to the back burner? The one that certain leading teams had been pushing for - a slashing of track time on Fridays - seems to have been shelved because it got through to someone that this one would have discouraged fans from coming in to watch. And because the turnstile money is the only income which Mr E's contracts allow to the circuit owners, any move to reduce the cars' pre-race running would have trimmed the owners' margins even more thinly. The most coherent of the team chiefs demanding serious cost-cutting is Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn, whose team is one of the three or four which see their futures under threat if costs are not cut soon. Ms Kaltenborn resents the rejection of various suggestions which the smaller teams have proposed. She says that no measurable cost cutting has yet been achieved. Speaking to journalists in Switzerland last week, she said: "If you mention the World Motor Sport Council, there was a decision taken last year in which they endorsed cost-cutting as a target and they also agreed in principle to the cost cap and the FIA was mandated to implement that." Instead, only petty- fogging changes have been proposed (a ban on tyre blankets is one such). My reading of the situation is that certain teams are becoming so desperate that they are even considering bringing legal pressure on the FIA to implement the measures that it has already formally endorsed. My own suggestion is simple and straightfor ward. It would involve stripping the cars of the immensely complex aerodynamic appendages, notably the ludicrous front wings on which their technicians squander hundreds of hours to produce. These wings, which contribute nothing to the show except when they get damaged (as happened to Sebastian Vettel on Sunday), represent hundreds of millions of dollars of expense over the years. If savings are to be achieved, jobs will have to be sacrificed. The aerodynamic specialists have been living high off the hog for too long: putting them out of work will not generate too many tears. What would we need to put in their place? I suggest that we look for a set of wings of the simple type that the teams employed, say, 30 years ago. And how would we make my idea attractive to the panjandrums behind the sport? Well, a suitable start would be to borrow the design of the wings that were used by the Brabham team when Bernie was the owner there. Offer him an appropriately extravagant annual royalty, and he'll quickly come round to the idea. Problem, I think, solved. THE DuDE'S SHOW-IMPROVING COST-SLASHER OPINION OPINION MIKE DOODSON