IN­SIDE F1 / Eg­mont Sippel on all things For­mula One

ABU DHABI

Driven - - Contents -

Hav­ing clinched the F1 world ti­tle for the sixth time in 2019’s penul­ti­mate race in Brazil, Lewis Hamil­ton had free reign in Abu Dhabi to clock up an­other em­phatic Grand Prix vic­tory, the 84th of his il­lus­tri­ous ca­reer. Back at the ranch, though, Fer­rari was in the thick of F1 shenani­gans again.

And so the 2019 F1 sea­son drew to a close in Abu Dhabi, with Lewis Hamil­ton clock­ing up an­other hugely im­pres­sive vic­tory – his 11th of the year and, once free of the pres­sures of chas­ing ti­tles, also one of his most dom­i­nant.

Abu Dhabi also de­liv­ered Hamil­ton’s fifth pole of the year, yet – sur­pris­ingly – the Brit didn’t end up as 2019’s ace qual­i­fier.

That hon­our be­longs to young Charles Le­clerc, who joined Fer­rari from Alfa Romeo/Sauber, only to clock up seven poles – two more than six-time cham­pion Hamil­ton, and five more than Le­clerc’s own team­mate, quadru­ple F1 world cham­pion Se­bas­tian Vet­tel.

Ten cham­pi­onships then, be­tween Hamil­ton and Vet­tel, and their tally of 2019 poles equalled by

young Charles. That’s im­pres­sive for a guy who only turned 22 this year.

FUEL TRANS­GRES­SION

Abu Dhabi, though, was not a case of smooth sail­ing for the young Moné­gasque. He out-qual­i­fied team­mate Vet­tel once again, but the No. 16 Fer­rari was good for fourth on the grid only.

That be­came a start line slot of third when pole-sit­ter Hamil­ton’s team­mate, Valt­teri Bot­tas, was de­moted from sec­ond to last, cour­tesy of an en­gine re­place­ment.

This lit­tle bit of good news was off-set, again, by news from the FIA’s F1 tech­ni­cal del­e­gate, Jo Bauer, that an in­spec­tion done on the vol­ume of fuel in Le­clerc’s car shortly be­fore the race would

be re­ferred to the stew­ards, for later con­sid­er­a­tion.

The fuel reg­u­la­tions spec­ify that teams should, prior to the race, de­clare the amount of fuel they in­tend to put in the car for the lap to the grid, the for­ma­tion lap, the race, the in-lap and any fire-ups that would be needed – and on Car No. 16 Fer­rari had un­der­stated the vol­ume of on­board fuel by 4.88 kg.

Why is this im­por­tant, then?

FER­RARI AND FIA FUEL DI­REC­TIVES

Well, nowa­days, F1 cars are al­lowed a max­i­mum of 110 kg of fuel per race. Fill up the tank with more, and such a car can burn off more fuel – yield­ing more power – dur­ing the course of the race.

Fer­rari, in the grand­est of op­er­atic Ital­ian ways, played – or feigned, we would never know – in­no­cence. They claimed that their cal­cu­la­tions re­mained true, even after the race, when the fuel re­main­ing in Le­clerc’s car tal­lied with the orig­i­nal dec­la­ra­tion.

The FIA dif­fered and slapped a 50,000 euro fine on the team, with­out pe­nal­is­ing Le­clerc, who fin­ished third, be­hind Hamil­ton and Ver­stap­pen.

Red Bull’s Helmut Marko called the penalty “a joke” and there are signs that Marko’s con­cerns car­ried some water. After Spa and Monza – where the su­pe­ri­or­ity of Maranello’s power unit was most ob­vi­ous – Mercedes-AMG team man­ager Toto Wolff had this to say:

“Right now, Re­nault, Honda and our­selves are at about the same level. Only Fer­rari stands out, and in a pretty se­ri­ous way.”

Ever since Sil­ver­stone 2018, var­i­ous the­o­ries have been floated as to the Fer­rari’s power ad­van­tage. Ahead of Sin­ga­pore this year, Red Bull’s Chris­tian Horner ad­mit­ted that his team had queried the FIA.

And in Austin, a new FIA tech­ni­cal di­rec­tive re­lat­ing to fuel flow im­me­di­ately less­ened the straight-line speed ad­van­tage Fer­rari has en­joyed over the pre­vi­ous two years.

All of this led, in quick suc­ces­sion, to two more FIA fol­low-ups re­lat­ing to fuel and flammable liq­uids. In Helmut Marko’s mind, Fer­rari still had the gall to over­step in Abu Dhabi. In Austin, Ver­stap­pen even ac­cused the Scud­e­ria of “cheat­ing”.

HUMDINGER IN STORE

The long and the short of it all is that 2020 will dawn with all guns drawn.

Red Bull, Marko warned, will cer­tainly be on the FIA’s case about Fer­rari, whilst his own en­gine sup­plier, Honda, seems to have found their stride in F1. Com­bine this with de­signer Adrian Newey’s well-proven acu­men, espe­cially on the aero front, and Red Bull – with young gun Ver­stap­pen lead­ing the charge – should be a po­tent fac­tor.

So will Fer­rari, who has learned some hard lessons in 2019, espe­cially in terms of front wing aero­dy­nam­ics.

And so will Mercedes, who has re­lent­lessly out­per­formed the rest since the dawn of F1’s hy­brid era.

Strap your­self in, then; 2020 will be a humdinger. Here’s the teaser for 2021: Hamil­ton might move to Fer­rari!

THIS IM­AGE: Fer­rari has re­cently been at the con­tro­versy. Again.

THIS IM­AGE: An­other em­phatic win for Hamil­ton at the sun­set of the 2019 sea­son.

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