`Shambles` at Silverstone as FIA perform u-turn
Silverstone: The build-up to the British Grand Prix almost descended into farce on Saturday when Formula One`s ruling body the FIA performed another ungainly u-turn on its technical rules on the eve of Sunday`s race.
As defending champion Sebastian Vettel clocked the fastest time in the morning`s final free practice ahead of qualifying, many eyes - and camera lenses - were focussed on the stewards` room where Red Bull team chief Christian Horner stormed in to protest.
"I am going down to speak to Charlie (Whiting, the FIA race director) about it," said a testy Horner as he marched through the paddock.
"I am not saying anything else.." It was the same story as he left following an exchange of views. "No comment at this time," he snapped.
This pantomime scene followed Friday`s hilarious, if ridiculous, act of public bickering between Horner and his McLaren counterpart Martin Whitmarsh over the FIA`s decision, taken during Friday`s practice action, to allow Red Bull a special concession in the latest tightening up of the regulations.
That row centred on the new engine rules that ban the deliberate use of engine exhaust gases to improve rear down-force, and therefore grip, notably when the driver is not pressing down on his car`s throttle - a practice that, it was believed, contributed towards Red Bull`s clear performance advantage this year.
Initially, the FIA banned all use of `blown` exhaust fumes in this way, but the teams responded with pleas ostensibly based on ensuring safety and reliability of their engines, due to their needs to continue with at least a partial use of these exhaust fumes.
In this process, the teams running with Mercedes engines - including McLaren - were allowed to let their engines over-run under braking, thus creating some `blown exhaust` even when the driver was off the throttle.
This concession to McLaren left Red Bull fuming with outrage and led to their own pleas for equality, based on a need for 50 per cent throttle usage under braking for teams with Renault engines.
They argued safety and reliability needs, but mainly equality.
This concession, on Friday, sparked the public row between McLaren and Red Bull and was followed, on Saturday morning, by the FIA`s decision to withdraw the concession given to the Renault-powered teams on Friday.
The Red Bull team garage was immediately in uproar.
Horner, visibly angry, and technical chief Adrian Newey, together with a Renault engineer marched through the paddock to see the stewards `for clarification`, F1-speak for an unofficial protest and further rumpus.
The matter had been considered carefully on Friday evening and overnight by the FIA race director Charlie Whiting, who had carried out consultations with the teams` engine representatives.
He wrote to the teams on Saturday morning to clarify the issues.
It meant that while McLaren (and all Mercedes-engined teams) could continue to taking advantage of their concession and allow four cylinders - of eight - to over-run under braking, Red Bull (and all Renault teams) had to revert to using a maximum of 10 per cent of their exhaust under braking.
The overnight u-turn was widely regarded as a victory for the Mercedes` teams, but many fans, large sections of the media and further numbers of seasoned paddock observers were left bewildered.
Team Lotus boss Tony Fernandes described the series of events as "a shambles.