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Restricting the restriction

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I was reading an interesting story at AUTOSPORT about Mercedes GP boss Ross Brawn's view of the Resource Restriction Agreement (RRA) that the teams agreed to. The RRA is supposed to limit the amount of resources--read money--the teams spend on their Formula One program and to those ends the knock-on effect would be a slimmer, more austere racing series.

Has that worked? Well that may be in the eye of the beholder. Some teams have suspected that Red Bull Racing may have creatively interpreted the RRA guidelines in their process and according to Brawn, those that lead are usually those that are accused.

"If you recall the days of traction control, people not knowing whether people did or did not have it, there were all sorts of accusations going around. And because we could not disprove it, somebody could come along and say 'you have traction control' and we could not disprove it until we got standard ECUs. Then the problem went away and nobody talked about it anymore."

Brawn's experience with this accusation was born from the traction control accusations are still felt as he lead Benetton's F1 team to two world championships in 1994 and 1995 under allegations of illegal traction control. A case of the best team being accused of infractions? Perhaps but Red Bull Racing maintains that everything is on the up and up.

Ross Brawn suggests that there needs to be a standard applied to not only the the methodology but the numerical value or portion of the agreement:

"What we need with RRA is an independent audit of both the methodology and the numbers so we can all be comfortable,"

To those ends, I've wondered how the Formula One Teams Association (FOTA) would measure the RRA. FOTA was keen to reduce the expense team's face when attempting to win world championships but if there is no accountant scouring the books of each team, which would be unlikely, then there is no real way to determine where teams bury their costs.

I've argued, perhaps inappropriately, that a manufacturer could easily complete testing in their road car divisions that benefit the F1 program and no one would be the wiser. The teams P&L would not sure the expense and the benefits would still be gained.

Ideally Ross is correct but Red Bull's accusers feel they've interpreted the RRA in a manner that allows them to fuel their program with money that other teams have not due to the interpretations. Until a program is developed that measures the cash flow and expense structure of the teams, it would be very difficult to divine the expense of a team by looking at the output of their operation.

The black art of aerodynamics can have serious Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) time that is hard to measure unless you sit with the team each hour they work on a computer. Ultimately it's a very challenging issue and one which would benefit the smaller teams if the RRA could be accurately applied across FOTA. Perhaps it can but 2012 has its own looming discussion with the renewal of the Concorde Agreement that makes all of this a moot point if it isn't accomplished. The control of F1 is at stake.