x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

There was never a dull moment off the track, too

Double diffuser, budget cap issues and a change of guard at the top were among a few of the off-field dramas during the year.

Max Mosley was embroiled in controversy in 2009 and decided not to stand for re-election as president of the FIA.
Max Mosley was embroiled in controversy in 2009 and decided not to stand for re-election as president of the FIA.

If the racing on the track in Formula One this year was exciting the drama off the track was nothing short of volatile. The drama began with the dispute over the legality of the double diffuser design on the Brawn GP, Williams and Toyota cars, with Ferrari leading the protests. But eventually the legality of the design was upheld and pretty soon virtually ever car had the double diffuser.

Things, though, got extremely ugly in the summer between the teams' association, Fota, and the sport's ruling body, the FIA , and particularly the organisation's president Max Mosley. The row was over cost-cutting in Formula One and the FIA's attempt to force in a budget cap of £27 million (Dh158m) which would encourage new teams to enter the sport. The teams rejected having the idea imposed on them and insults were traded through the media between both parties and there was a threat of a breakaway series for a while before eventually it was agreed that the teams would commit to cutting costs themselves and that Mosley would not stand for re-election.

Despite the decision to drop the budget cap for next season, four new teams will be on the grid in the shape of US F1, Campos, Lotus and Virgin Racing, and the extra cars can only be good news for the entertainment value of the series. Flavio Briatore, the Renault team boss, had been a fierce critic of Mosley, but suddenly in September he was the one coming under attack as evidence emerged that Nelson Piquet Jr had crashed deliberately, under orders from the team in the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix to engineer a safety car period that would allow his teammate Fernando Alonso to win the race.

The story had come out after Piquet had been sacked for poor results, but the Brazilian gave evidence against both Britatore and Renault technical director Pat Symonds that led to the former being banned for life from the sport and the latter being given a five-year ban from having any involvement in it.