FIA probe fuels allegations
‘CHEATING’: FERRARI UNDER FIA INVESTIGATION FOR MANIPULATING FUEL TEMPERATURE
Gasly and Sainz both on 95 points - to fight it out for sixth in season-ending race in Abu Dhabi.
The recent issue of unexplained improved performance by F1 teams has given rise to allegations of possible regulation infringements or downright “cheating” and so far we have had no real answer.
Fuel systems are the suspect. I first became aware of such issues at the end of June this year after the second free practice session of the Austrian Grand Prix.
The Alfa Romeo C38 of Antonio Giovinazzi was the subject of an FIA investigation resulting in a €5 000 fine for an infringement of the Technical Regulations.
The steward’s findings were: “Per Article 6.5.2 of the 2019 Formula One Technical Regulations, no fuel intended for immediate use in a car may be more than 10 degrees Centigrade below the ambient temperature.
“In this case the ambient temperature was published to be 300 Celsius and the temperature of the fuel was 170 or below.”
They continued: “The team representatives acknowledged that the temperature was below that required under the Technical Regulations. Given that this infringement occurred during second practice, we impose the fine set out above.”
The reason fuel temperatures are monitored is simply to ensure that no car obtains an unfair advantage. When the temperature is lowered the density of the fuel increases and it stores more energy and therefore burns more efficiently, providing greater power output.
Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes was subject to the same investigation in Singapore last September and the fuel was found to be 11 degrees below the ambient temperature but no further action was taken in that case.
But it is not just fuel temperature that is investigated, others being the fuel delivery rate and the cars’ Energy Recovery System (ERS). Following the team’s stunning performance improvement since the summer break, Scuderia Ferrari has been under the microscope.
Several teams requested clarification from the FIA over areas where they believed the Maranello team may be interpreting the regulations in a different way and this was contributing to the gains.
It was Hamilton who commented on the loss of performance of the Ferraris during the weekend of the United States Grand Prix. Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff was reported as saying: “Certainly the three teams were much closer together in terms of straight line performance here in the US. But I wouldn’t say this is down to any specific event. It’s just a fact that we’ve won our first pole position since July, since Hockenheim and we were really in the mix.”
The FIA issued a technical directive prior to the US race following the enquiry from the other teams regarding the fuel flow rate and many linked the Ferrari’s power loss to this directive.
Wolff commented: “I think it’s very strong that the FIA issued a directive clarifying the situation, with some very clear wording. But this is a process that is standard, it has happened before and forms part of the role of the governing body.”
Yet another technical directive from the FIA was issued before the Brazilian Grand Prix and a third has been issued prior to this weekend’s race in Abu Dhabi – once more concerning fuel flow.
But this one applies to next season and states that next year all teams will be required to run a second fuel flow sensor controlled exclusively by the FIA.
Auto Motor und Sport, the German publication, has stated the governing body has “seized” relevant components of the fuel system from Ferrari, a Ferrari client and a non-Ferrari team for a “thorough investigation of the parts” by the FIA laboratories.
So far Ferrari has denied all accusations that the team is breaking the rules and regulations and has claimed the increase is the result of developments in other areas.
Interesting, but does it mean that any team who suddenly increases performance is liable to similar investigation? That would be a sad state of affairs?
After all, we saw two teams using the same power unit in Brazil comfortably reach the podium, outclassing all others.
This weekend should be an interesting one to watch.
Sadly this Sunday marks the final Grand Prix of the 2019 F1 season at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi and I am hoping to see the race of the year.
There are still a few battles to be fought, especially on the drivers’ front. Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly and McLaren’s Carlos Sainz both sit with 95 points and a possible sixth in the championship. Just 11 points further back is Alex Albon (Red Bull), whose podium finish in Brazil was snatched away through no fault of his own. He will be out to prove that was no flash in the pan.
The Constructors’ title is settled with Mercedes crowned for 2019 followed by Ferrari, Red Bull and in a fine fourth the reviving McLaren. The challenge this weekend will be between fifthplaced Renault on 91 and a charging Toro Rosso on 83. This could be the battle to watch.
Constructors’ title is settled, going to Mercedes
UNDER SCRUTINY. The FIA has seized components of the fuel system from Ferrari, a Ferrari client and a non-Ferrari team for a “thorough investigation of the parts” by the FIA laboratories, to continue the rumour saga of the Maranello team “interpreting some regulations in a different way”.
FIGHTING FIT. Renault will hope to maintain its fifth place in the 2019 Constructors’ title fight in Abu Dhabi this weekend.