Saturday August 18th, 2001
By Alan Baldwin
Formula One cars look set to escape speed curbs next year but moves are being made to reduce the risk of wheels flying off. Williams technical director Patrick Head told reporters at the Hungarian Grand Prix on Saturday that he had been told no action would be taken to slow cars down in 2002.
Laptimes have been under scrutiny by the International Automobile Federation (FIA) after increased cornering speeds were evident from the start of the season in Australia. On Saturday, Ferrari's Michael Schumacher qualified on pole three and a half seconds faster than he had last season.
FIA President Max Mosley warned in March that the governing body might have to act if there was a safety concern but he said later there was no need for immediate action. Head said he raised the issue with FIA safety delegate and race director Charlie Whiting at the last technical working group meeting.
"Charlie Whiting said that at the moment there was no intention to reduce the speed of the cars for next year. And I agree with him," he said.
But Head admitted other things did require attention and one of those items had been discussed at a meeting in Budapest this week.
"Obviously the wheel tethers are not working as well as we want them to," he said. "There was a meeting here on Thursday to agree an increased specification for wheel tethers for next year prior probably to a much more significant change for 2003.
"As far as the overall car performance there is no plan at this stage to make any changes for next year."
The Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne was marred by the death of local marshal Graham Beveridge, who was hit by a wheel that flew off the BAR of Canadian Jacques Villeneuve. Villeneuve had collided moments earlier with the Williams driven by German Ralf Schumacher.
Wheels were also ripped off in the last race at Hockenheim in July when Brazilian Luciano Burti crashed into the back of Michael Schumacher's Ferrari.
"Unfortunately, such is the nature of racing cars that everything looks totally safe when the car is going round the track and behaving normally," said Head. "It's when unusual occurrences occur and then people seem to be surprised by how much energy is stored in these cars and what a hell of a lot of stopping they take."
McLaren boss Ron Dennis told reporters in a separate meeting that he did not expect speeds to be a major issue next season. Part of the decrease in laptimes has been attributed to the renewed tyre wars between Bridgestone and Michelin this season after two years when the Japanese firm had no rivals.
"I hope that we arrive at a point where we can at least go through next year, because I think most of the step ... has come through the tyres," said Dennis. "I think the development of the tyres now is going to be relatively flat so I wouldn't see some significant performance increases next year.
"If we can live with what we have now, I think the jump will be much less next year so I hope nothing changes. I think that's the right thing to do."
Published at 18:32:33 GMT