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New rules could force bigger drivers out of F1

October 4, 2013

YEONGAM, South Korea (AP) — Formula One teams say next year’s weight rules for cars could push taller and heavier drivers out of the sport, and the chances of it being revised are unlikely because that would require consensus within the notoriously divided group.

The combined weight limit for car and driver will be raised by 48 kilograms (105.82 pounds), from 642 kilograms 690 kilograms next year, but the 2014 cars — which require radical changes to accommodate V6 turbo engines — are likely to be more than 50 kilograms (110.23 pounds) heavier than existing models so, in effect, the allowance for drivers will fall.

While the car-driver combination can legally be above the limit, teams try to keep as close to the mark as possible, as every kilogram extra costs about three-hundredths of a second per lap on an average circuit.

Some reports have suggested that highly regarded Sauber driver Nico Hulkenberg missed out on a seat at Ferrari next season and is being viewed skeptically by other top teams because, at 78 kilograms (172 pounds), his weight could be a liability under next season’s rules.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said the Hulkenberg situation provides a strong argument as to why the limit “is something that should be looked at.”

“Theoretically it is not a factor for us because we have got two drivers that are of a reasonable weight, but it does penalize a driver like (current Red Bull driver) Mark (Webber), who could have driven for us, or someone like Hulkenberg,” he said.

“It would be a factor in signing a driver like him, which cannot be right. He shouldn’t be penalized for being more than six foot.”

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh said the hyper-competitiveness of F1 teams and the politics of the sport meant a united front in arguing for an increase is unlikely.

“The teams now will have, and are working hard, to meet the weight limit and the team’s self-interests will prevail,” Whitmarsh was quoted as saying by Autosport. “The team that thinks it is OK will block any change, and that is how things will work I’m afraid.

“Momentarily, maybe for one or two years, a heavier driver is going to be disadvantaged. That it not what was intended but that is how it has happened.”

Taller drivers like Webber and McLaren’s Jenson Button are in a constant battle to keep their weight down. Webber was concerned that the new regulations will provide an even greater barrier for tall drivers making it in F1.

“The lighter drivers should be pushing as well (for an increase in the minimum weight), but they don’t because obviously it’s nice for them,” said Webber, who is leaving F1 at the end of the season to move into sports-car racing with Porsche.

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