x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Mark Webber calls for end to rules row

Red Bull Racing driver appeals for common ground after taking pole position at British Grand Prix on Saturday.

SILVERSTONE // With the qualifying session for the British Grand Prix taking place on Saturday under clouds of both precipitation and confusion, the governing body for world motorsport have announced that, so long as all 12 race teams were in "unanimous agreement", the recently imposed prohibition of off-throttle exhaust-blown diffusers will be abandoned.

Mark Webber secured his second pole position of the season, with teammate Sebastian Vettel completing a Red Bull Racing front row lockout.

Fernando Alonso of Ferrari finished third-fastest in unpredictable conditions at Silverstone.

But during what proved an embarrassing day for Formula One, Webber's accomplishment was overshadowed by the ongoing controversy surrounding exhaust emissions.

On Friday, Christian Horner, Red Bull's team principal, was involved in a heated public debate with Martin Whitmarsh, his counterpart at rivals McLaren-Mercedes, about what was legal and who was benefiting from the new regulations.

Following the increasingly technical and confusing discussion - which centred on last-minute rule refinements - the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), F1's ruling body, held an extraordinary meeting yesterday morning to clarify the situation.

By evening a statement was released confirming if the teams are in unanimous agreement, the FIA is prepared to revert to pre-Silverstone rules.

Predictably, the drivers were quizzed on the issue and, predictably, Webber was most eloquent.

After joking that if pole position was located on the wrong side of the grid they would have it changed overnight, the Australian said: "Every year we have a new thing to talk about. This last few weeks it has been about this. Let's hope everyone can find a common ground because it's incredibly boring.

"Also for the fans, I think they can't understand 0.1 per cent of what's going on. Even for us it is sometimes difficult.

"Let's get on with the racing, keep the rules as simple as possible from the start of the year, and go from there."

Today's race will see Vettel aiming for his seventh victory from nine races, but with Ferrari fast-improving, Alonso is confident he can ensure the constructors' champions do not have it all their own way.

The Spaniard, who won at Silverstone in 2006, finished just 0.085 behind the German world champion, with Alonso's teammate Felipe Massa confirming the Italian team's promising form with fourth place on the grid.

"We are definitely closer than ever, and I'm sure we can put some more pressure on them," Alonso said.