Another insidious FIA conspiracy?

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren-Mercedes, Post-season, 2006, BarcelonaThe FIA needed a supply of standard engine control units (ECUs) for the new, 2008-era F1. But instead of getting a third party to supply them, they’ve got one of the teams to do it.

It’s a stinking great controversy! No doubt they’ve palmed off the contract to bosom buddies Ferrari, who’ll steal a march on the technology over their rivals and dominate Formula One for years to come.

Thing is though, the contract hasn’t gone to Ferrari – in fact, I don’t think they even applied for it.

McLaren, allied with software behemoth Microsoft, will develop the technology. Yes, the same McLaren run by Ron Dennis, a man whom Max Mosley has frequently traded verbal blows with. What’s up with that?

Luca di Montezemolo, Jean Todt, Ferrari, Monza, 2006If it had been Ferrari, not McLaren, that had won the contract to supply the standard-issue ECUs to Formula One in the future, the conspiracy theorists would be having a field day.

The suggestion that the FIA are deliberately soft on Ferrari, F1′s oldest and most prestigious team, has rumbled around for at least the eleven years that Michael Schumacher was ensconced at the heart of the team.

From his meaningless punishment after the scandal at Jerez in 1997, to the mysterious banning of Renault mass dampers and Fernando Alonso’s preposterous penalty this very season past, there has been a whiff of something not quite eight about the governing body’s attitude towards the Scuderia.

The issue of standard ECUs is vitally important because, simply put, it is these that govern how the engine and other systems on the car interact with each other. Standard ECUs are the holy grail for F1 purists because they offer the tantalising prospect of doing away with driver aids such as traction control, which diminish the sporting value of Formula One.

Microsoft Website 2006It seems fundamentally strange that a component as crucial as an ECU should be left to a single team to manufacture and distribute. The identity of Microsoft McLaren Electronic Systems was only recently revealed by Autosport, though they had won the contract three months ago.

But, reassuringly, Microsoft MES have already been producing this technology and supplying to other F1 teams for 15 years.

Perhaps not a conspiracy then. But a potential bone of contention if Alonso and Lewis Hamilton start romping away with wins next year?

You betcha.

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