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F1 tweaks rules but double points set to stay

By Alan Baldwin

LONDON (Reuters) - Formula One looks set to go ahead with a controversial decision to award double points for the last race of the season after the governing body announced various rule changes on Thursday but not the one many fans had hoped for.

The International Automobile Federation (FIA) said in a statement its World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) had met in Geneva and approved several amendments to the 2014 sporting regulations.

There was no mention of double points and an FIA spokesman could not say whether the subject was even discussed.

The BBC reported earlier that the proposal was raised at a meeting with team bosses and Formula One's commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone on Wednesday but no attempt was made to overturn it.

Red Bull's quadruple champion Sebastian Vettel, who won his fourth successive title last year with three races to spare, has called double points "absurd" while a significant number of fans have derided the idea as a gimmick on social media.

Caterham team owner Tony Fernandes told reporters this week that the change, designed to keep the championship alive for as long as possible, was a "fake fix" for greater problems troubling the sport.

Those include the financial troubles afflicting many competitors, with a number of drivers having to race for free or bring sponsorship to secure a seat, and rising costs.

AFFORDABLE FUTURE

The FIA has pledged to introduce a cost cap from 2015 and said on Thursday it was determined to "assure a healthy, affordable and spectacular FIA Formula One World Championship for the long-term future".

It said Wednesday's F1 Strategy Group meeting, attended by Ecclestone and teams and chaired by FIA President Jean Todt, had agreed unanimously "that cost reduction and cost control regulations will be presented to the WMSC in June 2014 for introduction in January 2015".

One cost-saving measure announced for 2015 absolved teams from the need to design their own suspension and brake ducts to be considered a constructor.

Other tweaks for 2014 included increasing the minimum weight of the cars, without fuel, by one kilo to take heavier Pirelli tires into account.

In 2015, the minimum weights will increase by another 10kg to 701kg - a change that will at least bring some relief to the taller and heavier drivers who are at a disadvantage this year to smaller and lighter rivals.

Team personnel working in the pit lane will have to wear helmets during qualifying as well as the race and stewards can now impose a five second time penalty that can be taken before work is carried out on the car in a pit stop.

In a sign of just how problematic teams expect the new turbocharged V6 engines and energy recovery systems to be, each team will this year be allowed six 'jokers' to break a 'curfew' designed to prevent mechanics working all night.

"This is to allow more flexibility for working on the new engines and cars," the FIA explained.

In 2013, the last year of the highly reliable and far less complicated V8 engines, teams were allowed only two such exemptions.

The FIA also moved to outlaw tire warmers from 2015. Previous attempts to ban them foundered due to safety concerns, with drivers worried about racing on cold tires.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis)

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