Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo, Red Bull Ring, 2019

Alfa Romeo fined over fuel error on Giovinazzi’s car

2019 Austrian Grand Prix

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Alfa Romeo have been fined €5000 after the team was found to have used excessively cool fuel in Antonio Giovinazzi’s car.

The FIA found Giovinazzi’s fuel was more than 10C below the ambient temperature, the minimum limit specified by the rules, during second practice. As the offence occured in practice, the stewards chose to levy a fine on the team.

Alfa Romeo’s fuel was found to be “more than 13C below the ambient temperature recorded by the FIA appointed weather service provider one hour before the second practice session,” the stewards noted.

“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 ten degrees centigrade below the ambient temperature. In this case the ambient temperature was published to be 30 degrees centigrade and the temperature of the fuel was 17 degrees or below.

“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.”

This article will be updated.

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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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  • 22 comments on “Alfa Romeo fined over fuel error on Giovinazzi’s car”

    1. 50 000 fine for a nonsensical offence in Practice
      cost cutting, eh?

    2. …no fuel intended for immediate use in a car may be more than ten degrees centigrade below the ambient temperature. In this case the ambient temperature was published to be 30 degrees centigrade and the temperature of the fuel was 17 degrees or below.

      I don’t understand why this rule exists. I’m sure there’s a good reason why it does, and I know I’m taking a risk in saying this, but I think it’s almost on the verge of stupidity. It seems to say you should keep your fuel in a black tank outside and where the sun can get to it, not inside, in a white tank, or in the shade. Fuel isn’t just one chemical, it is a mixture of chemicals, and warming up the fuel can affect the composition of it, and how it flows, which would affect fuel flow meters. If I was Alfa’s fuel supplier I’d be tempted to try and design the fuel so it’s Octane rating increased when the fuel was warmed up to meet the FIA fuel temperature requirements. Teams might even need to put heaters in their fuel tanks to warm the fuel up. Isn’t that a safety issue? Isn’t the reason they determine fuel capacity by weight so as to not be influenced by expansion or contraction of the fuel as temperature varies? Also, who decides where this “ambient temperature” is measured? The shaded side of a building is cooler than the side exposed to the sun. Under a tree, behind the garages, or in the middle of the race track will be different from in the pitlane. Or is it a temperature taken from the local weather bureau’s measurement in the local metropolis? I think the 17 degrees temperature is a far more responsible fuel storage temperature than 30 degrees. I’m sure this wasn’t what Sebastian was thinking about when he said some rules need to be burned, but I don’t see any performance advantage in having fuel that’s at 17 degrees or even at 7 degrees compared to fuel at 30 degrees. I think the Stewards should give Alfa their money back.

      1. I’m guessing but I think that the reason the fuel has a minimum temperature is to prevent teams from using excessively cooled fuel to cool the air in the combustion chamber, thereby increasing its density, increasing the amount of fuel that can be burnt per charge, and ultimately increasing power. It would have the same effect as a supersized intercooler.

      2. @drycrust, as SammyH notes, when it comes to evaporative cooling effects, lowering the fuel temperature confers a benefit in terms of cooling the air-fuel mixture – particularly given the very lean air-fuel mixtures that the teams use now. That is what this particular regulation is intended to address.

        1. anon / SammyH – would you know the reason why they don’t want teams doing this? It seems like a cool (pun intended) optimization for power, so is the FIA concerned about safety or cost? Are they worried about teams lugging around liquid nitrogen equipment to achieve this, and running the risk of that scene from Terminator 2? (couldn’t help that reference, we’re in Austria, and we have an Arnie soundalike in the pitlane).

          1. @phylyp, part of it does seem to be a safety aspect, as some teams were supposedly going to fairly lengthy extremes in the 1980s to chill the fuel – there were rumours of some teams cooling the fuel mixtures to as low as -40ºC or -50ºC before the current restriction of 10ºC below ambient temperatures was introduced (around 1985, I believe, was when that rule kicked in). The irony is that, in some cases, running the fuel at that low a temperature started to impact the viscosity, such that some teams then began installing heaters on the fuel lines into the engine to ensure that it had the right viscosity and vaporised correctly.

            Some of the other fuel manufacturers did find ways around that issue, though, but some of the additives that were being added to the fuel mixtures to prevent them from freezing or gelling at those temperatures were quite toxic organic compounds – although admittedly the base fuel mixtures were already highly toxic and carcinogenic in their own right (which was why they were eventually banned) – so part of it was a safety measure to avoid that toxicity risk.

            Part of it is also based around cost concerns too, not just in terms of the lengths that the teams might go to in order to cool the fuel, but also in terms of the spending that the fuel suppliers might go to in order to come up with compounds that have the right properties at very low temperatures.

      3. The cooler the fuel gets it condenses so technically you could carry more. But I don’t see the advantage of it in practice.

    3. Injectors work on volume not mass so I assume that it’s common for teams to actively cool with the aim to have their fuel very close to 10 degrees below the FIA figure.

    4. Back in the Trans Am series, Team Penske used to cool their fuel with dry ice. They could get an extra gallon in the size limited fuel tank. Yes, that was volume based. F1 today is mass based for a bunch of reasons.
      SC is right, this is practice not the race. Cost cutting …. just tells you why the FIA has such a big contingent at races. Lots of policing to be done.
      Yes, Alfa should get their money back.

      1. I had a similar reaction… Why on earth do they have this rule? Isn’t fuel measured by weight to stop teams benefiting from changes in volume?
        The only reason that the rule might make sense is because of the fuel flow regulations. Weight is also used in that rule but the two FIA approved fuel flow sensors both appear to measure volume. Is it possible the rule is there to prevent teams taking advantage of that?

        1. Yes “by weight”! But, the fuel mass flow is calculated from the speed of flow (via ultrasound reflection time/doppler effect) and the “known” density or specific gravity if the fuel. However the fuel density is stated at or within a temperature range. Thus to get a greater fuel mass flow per second you cool the fuel before flow measurement, the volume would be correct but the fuel denser, thus of greater mass.

    5. Ok, rules are rules, no questions… but since when “one hour before second practice” started to be considered as “immediate use”?

    6. density changes with temperature and pressure… since the (ambient) pressure will be same for everyone, so if they change the temperature of the fuel, they can change the density… e,g, reduced temp will increase density! and that will have more effects!
      in simple scientific terms: d=density, m=mass, v=volume,
      so reduced temp will give increased density! fuel supplied at specific mass! here is how it effects the pic!
      fuel weighted at lower temp, given say 100kg of fuel… regular fuel density will be around 0.71-0.77Kg/L
      so lets say at ambient temp d=0.72 and at 17C lower temps, 0.75… so v=100/0.75 for 133L and ambient temp v=100/0.72 is 139L thats 6 Litres difference… imagine you are given 139L fuel at ambient temp, then you cool the fuel, you get 133L of space in layman terms, so you can send more fuel through the same injector hole due to compressed molecules, now you have higher pressure due more mass flowing through the same holes!
      think of air fuel ratio and compression ratio… if your fuel is already compressed (less volume) you dont need to stress your engine/parts as hard to get higher compression/flow rates, or at same stress level, you can have more fuel in there from the same fuel flow without going over fuel flow limits :)
      if you get away with fia tests (meaning go unnoticed) and if your engine is very efficient! you can run your car faster for same amount of fuel flow or cooler and efficient at less fuel flow…

      1. more mass flowing through the same holes

        @mysticus – erm, its been ages since I’ve had to worry about science/physics in this manner, but the fuel flow sensor wouldn’t be too happy about additional mass flowing through, would it? It is capped at 100 kg/hr. And when below the limit, it would be easier to just run the fuel pump faster.

        Also, cooling the fuel to increase its mass seems like a lot of work when teams routinely underfuel cars (they could achieve the same result by fueling up a little more).

        I’d say the reason given above about cooling the charge air seems more plausible than being able to increase fuel density for thermal efficiency.

        1. It only measures volume, mass is calculated from that.

          There is no way I can think of to measure mass flow of a liquid. Except perhaps via measuring the force exerted by the remaining fuel in the bladder relative to the forces acting on the car (ie acceleration, braking and cornering). From this the remaining mass of fuel can be calculated and compared to the previous reading 1 second ago. This would need strain gauges to monitor all forces applied by the bladder/fuel mass against the known forces on the car at any instant. Complicated but doable nowadays with the available computing power.

          1. Just thought of a way!

          2. @rpaco

            no, mass doesnt change only you remove or add more of it…
            density and volume changes! here is what happens: if you cool the fuel, you make it more dense, so your fuel takes up less space for the same amount of fuel!

            the part where the cheating can happen: flow rate is measured by volume, than gets converted to kg/L with known density at (known) ambient temp, and volume (fuel tanks are measured in volume too). i dont know if every car is weighted before the race or randomly selected? assuming it is not checked/measured every race, (lets assume my previous example 100kg fuel limit is imposed as before) 100kg fuel known to take up 139L (space) volume! but since you cool it, and fit 139 L fuel to your tank, you actually take 104KG fuel… when fuel sensor measures your flow rate, it will measure correct flow rate but you could/can be burning more mass for the expected volume due to cooled more dense fuel!

            this assumes that all cars are not measured before start but randomly chosen at the end or maybe before the race?
            see what i mean?

            because flow rate (which is a function of volume) can be tricked with density to temp, hence the rules stricting weight/mass which cant change! if temp is measured and density and volume is known, so weight will come up and find whether you are cheating or not!

            1. @mysticmeg
              Yes you already made my point earlier thanks, elementary physics! However you did not notice that what I wrote was in accord with your verbose and unnecessary explanation.

              0) Yes the given mass of a mass remains the same mass unless added to or subtracted therefrom.
              1) Yes the mass flow rate as measured in F1 does change with temperature (thus density) for the same volume flow rate.
              2) I referred to the diminishing mass left in the fuel bladder as a possible way of directly measuring mass flow rate regardless and Independent of volume or temperature.
              3) I ponder a method of directly measuring mass flow of a liquid, and one that must eradicate any influence imparted by the vehicle movement and indipendant of gravity, perhaps centrifugal/petal force could be employed as it is the product of mass, speed and radius. Maybe it already exists in the world of liquid fuelled rockets.

        2. @phylyp
          “but the fuel flow sensor wouldn’t be too happy about additional mass flowing through, would it” it would, because it doesnt car about mass, it cares about volume, flow rate measures volume, you cant measure mass flow while it is in motion, you can convert to mass with known temp/density values due to flow goes through a known hole (area) size… unless there is temp sensor inside the fuel tank and is available to stewards at any time? fuel flow sensor will measure litres with known (at expected temp limits) density, it will than convert to kg/litres values… with cooled fuel, you can def use more mass than expected if you are not caught (either measured independently, or if fuel temp sensor is a std item installed by fia to every car, and its data is available to stewards at any time)… assuming a fuel temp sensor data is not available to stewards, it gets randomly measured? if it was, then you can technically make a light circuit that lights up every time fuel temp is outside boundaries…

          1. @mysticus @phylyp Thank you for your very interesting discussion. While I’m still sure Alfa Romeo weren’t trying to cheat when they were caught with fuel at the wrong temperature, your points do raise interesting questions.

    7. This is the BS about F1 that everyone hates…. It’a BS!

    8. RocketTankski
      29th June 2019, 10:33

      He parked up too close to the Iceman

    Comments are closed.