FIA probe fuels al­le­ga­tions


The Citizen (KZN) - - Motorsport - John Floyd

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

Pic­tures: Getty Images

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.

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