Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Baku City Circuit, 2018

Mercedes’ rivals “fooled” FIA and Liberty into 2019 fuel limit change

2018 F1 season

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Mercedes’ rivals fooled the FIA and Liberty Media into increasing F1’s fuel limit for next year, according to one of the manufacturers’ customers.

Force India’s chief operating officer Otmar Szafnauer believes rival engine manufacturers duped the governing body and the sport’s commercial rights holder in order to cut Mercedes’ performance advantage.

Szafnauer described the decision to increase the fuel limit from 105kg to 110kg next year as “wrong” and “illogical”. The level was originally set at 100kg in 2014 then increased to 105kg last year.

“I can half-understand going from 100 to 105 because the car was changed so significantly,” said Szafnauer. “The dimensions changed, the downforce level, the drag, the wings got bigger, I get that.

“I get saying we didn’t anticipate all that when we set the level at 100 [so] let’s go to 105. I can understand that, that’s logical. But to just go from 105 to 110… that’s illogical.”

Szafnauer believes F1 has lost sight of the reason why fuel use was restricted when the V6 hybrid turbos were introduced four years ago.

“We were given a target for a good reason and those reasons were to force cars to be more efficient. We were given a fuel flow restriction as well and that was such that the power train would become more efficient. I think those reasons are still here today and all those efficiencies [that] those restrictions drive are still relevant in the world and we shouldn’t have changed it.

Driver murals, Baku City Circuit, 2018
Azerbaijan GP practice in pictures
“We only changed it because some of the engine manufacturers and teams [who] didn’t do [as] much a good job with the efficiency lobbied the FIA and they got their way. I think that’s wrong.

“If you don’t do a good job, should you do work harder to do a good job within the rules that everyone agreed to or should you change the rules?

“That’s what I don’t like: ‘I didn’t do a good job, I’m going to change the rules.'”

The FIA said the higher limit would allow drivers to “use the engine at full power at all times”. Szafnauer disputed this.

“We’re still going to save fuel,” he said, adding teams will continue to tell drivers to back off “if the quickest way to the end is to not put as much race fuel in.”

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“This is only an issue at a few races,” he explained. “We always lift and coast, we always save fuel. Even at those races where capacity is not a limiting factor. So that’s a bunch of nonsense.

“I think it’s just wrong. They fooled the FIA and Liberty and what they’re really trying to do is regain a competitive advantage that Mercedes have. That’s what it’s really about.”

Szafnauer suggested the return of exhaust blowing onto aerodynamic surfaces, which at least one team is doing this year to increase the power of its rear wing, may also have prompted the push for an increase in the fuel limit next year. “Some people believe that exhaust blowing causes you to use more fuel,” he explained.

The FIA has indicated it will clamp down on exhaust blowing through changes to the rules in 2019.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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15 comments on “Mercedes’ rivals “fooled” FIA and Liberty into 2019 fuel limit change”

  1. That’s rather self-contradictory.

    1. And by ‘that’, I mean Szafnauer’s statement.

  2. I think his point is that it’s wrong from the perspective of F1 as an efficient sport. But I take your point that rivals wouldn’t have asked for more fuel unless burning more was actually the fastest way around, NOT lifting and coasting like he suggested.

    1. I think if you’re allowed to burn more fuel for the race the fastest strategy might still be to use that extra fuel for more power early on, make the car lighter asap, and lift and coast at the end when there is little action anyway. Even without any fuel restrictions I believe this is the best strategy, better than driving all out all race. Only switching to full electric power solves this as the car doesn’t get lighter by burning off fuel.

  3. Says the guy using the most efficient engine and does not want the rules changed because “efficiency matters to the world”

    1. @pyon, he’s not the only one who has questioned the decision though – Ericsson and Alonso have also said that they think that the change isn’t going to have any benefit either.

      They have both pointed out that teams already routinely short fuel with the current fuel limit – if the teams are choosing to put 100kg into the car with a 105kg limit, they’ll still only put 100kg into the tank even if there is a 110kg limit. Realistically, there seems to be only one manufacturer that might benefit, which might be Honda – their engine is reportedly still the thirstiest, and it seems that they are the only ones who are currently using the full fuel allowance.

      1. On the one hand it’s logical that ti would be people who were at the top with the efficient engine who complain – since they don’t have as much to gain. On the other hand I see his point – If the fuel was really that tight, would Renault be able to be blowing that rear wing?
        And off course the argument that it won’t change fuel saving at all (as several drivers immediately pointed out), because they have been doing that for ever when they were not refuelling because it is just faster to put in less fuel on most tracks.

  4. In the races where the fuel amount was not critical the teams will still keep saving fuel and will not start with full tanks. In the races where it was close to the limit we may see very little change. But in the few races where the fuel saving was a big issue now it is smaller issue because of this change.

    I think it is a win and a good change. Now the teams have enough fuel to race more and drive harder and focus less on fuel saving in those few races where fuel saving was a big issue and in the rest they can keep starting the race with full tanks or with less than full tanks. Not all races have the same fuel requirements. In some races you need more fuel and in some races you need less fuel. And in some races you needed more than 105kg. While doing little bit of coasting is faster in those races the drivers had to coast all the time just to finish the race.

    This is a good change because at the very least it puts the teams in control how much they want to drive slowly and save fuel. And most importantly the cars don’t need to excessively save fuel all the time just to finish the race in those few fuel critical races.

  5. Yes, but……. if Mercedes has more fuel available then they can run harder. Where do they lose in this? Efficiency is efficiency and if you are most efficient with 105 kg then you will also be most efficient with 110kg and hence faster.

    1. More fuel means you are slower at that start because the car weighs more and it adds more wear to the tyres.

      Practically every form of motorsport involves fuel saving.

  6. I agree with him.

    1. Which part?
      He is contradicting himself.

  7. Maybe Szafnauer should have worked harder to lobby the FIA not to change the rule.

  8. If the cars are in any way having to account for fuel limits and it’s affecting the racing, even a little bit, then increasing the fuel amount by 5 kg is worth the *very small loss* of fuel efficiency. Szafnauer sounds like he’s just bumming out because his Merc engine will have lost a small advantage.

    When are these teams going to get in their heads that if F1 doesn’t start prioritizing what good for the SPORT, rather than what’s good for a few teams in the short term, that they’ll all be out of jobs in few years.

  9. Pook (@michaeldouglasparkergmail-com)
    29th April 2018, 22:42

    Lets make F1 interesting again. Less rules about fuel or anything else.

    Bring a car that meets weight requirements but uses an engine of your choice or making, no electronics, no power anything, no aerodynamics aside from a small single plane front wing, and an immoveable small rear wing. Much more mechanical grip. No safety hoops.

    Other than that each team can do what they want. Unlimited horsepower. No driver aids. No radio (pit boards only). Whatever tires or fuel you think are necessary to make it from start to finish quickest, refueling in the races, or not. In other words open it up to making great racing again and less of a testing ground for the latest engineering.

    On the track remove all paved runoff areas. Gravel only. Everything should be less forgiving and less like a video game. More brutal all around.

    I have been a fan for 45 years and the recent politically correct, tame, all corporate all the time racing is getting boring. It has to be more rough around the edges again with drivers that feel what the car needs through the seats of their pants and are able to translate it to mechanics.

    No tire warmers. Less pit stop crew. Still fast but maybe not as fast. They should consider this stuff for the upcoming overhaul.


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