Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Yas Marina, 2019

Not enough time to issue verdict on Leclerc before race start – Masi

2019 F1 season

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FIA race director Michael Masi says there wasn’t enough time to issue a verdict on Ferrari’s fuel weight infringement on Charles Leclerc’s car before the race began.

The FIA published details of Ferrari’s failed fuel weight check 48 minutes before the start of the race. Masi pointed out this was just a few minutes before the start of the pre-race procedure, when cars are released from the pit lane to take their places on the grid.

It’s “very easy” to suggest the matter should have been handled more quickly, he said. “But we have a process to go through, a judicial process that’s quite robust. The team has to be given the opportunity to present their case.”

The fuel weight checks are done once the cars have been filled prior to the start of the race. “From what I understand it is quite an intensive process that’s undertaken to actually do the check that was done and it was submitted at the earliest opportunity,” said Masi.

“At which [point], five minutes before the pit exit opening or thereabouts, there is insufficient time to summons people, listen to them and [have] the ability to hear the case correctly. So it’s just one of those ones of the system that we have and what we’ve got to do.”

Masi pointed out that the publication of the final official starting grid, which normally happens before the pit exit is opened, was slightly delayed as the stewards considered the report on Leclerc’s car from technical delegate Jo Bauer.

“The light panels on the grid were correctly configured with what the provisional starting grid was. [But] until the stewards got the report, considered it and actually had to look very quickly at what they needed to do to go further, that’s why the starting grid actually technically came out after pit exit had opened.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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13 comments on “Not enough time to issue verdict on Leclerc before race start – Masi”

  1. Fair enough. If they need data or statements from the relevant people involved, they would have to wait until the race is over, since the people fuelling the car are also most likely the pit crew themselves, and the people managing the process/comms are likely in the pit wall or the garage control center – all of whom will be occupied with the car(s) running in the race.

    And I presume they can’t disqualify immediately without examining the discrepancy in more detail, because there might be the possibility that an error was made on the FIA side (presumption of innocence, and all that).

    The actual penalty itself is interesting, and ‘anon’ yesterday did a nice explanation of why Ferrari escaped a DSQ, due to the fine distinction that what was violated was not a technical regulation. Again, this probably points to the need to try and rationalize, clean up and tighten up the rules a bit so that interpreting them does not require a lawyer.

    1. I can accept that in all fairness to everyone a case like this should be left until after the race, especially as Disqualification is very serious and shouldn’t be done lightly. However there is also the case of being fair to everyone, so how you treat one team is how you should treat every team. Earlier in the year both Alfa Romeo cars were given post race time penalties for some infraction (and it sounded to me as though the evidence was far less solid than in this case, in fact it sounded as though the Stewards were just guessing in that case), and we had both Renault cars Disqualified for something they had no idea was a breach of the rules. Yet here, with the Stewards waving the “Cheating” and “Potential Disqualification” flags (and from Anon’s comment yesterday it sounds as though the Stewards should have clarified this wasn’t a Disqualification worthy offence) just before the race starts the very next car to check is … Not the other Ferrari car???!!!
      Now, I guess the question is “If this had happened at the start of the season, would that have given Alfa Romeo and Renault an excuse to expect one of their cars to be treated leniently”? You have to say “Yes”. And would they have been treated leniently? Nope. Again, when a Haas or Williams car is found to be in violation of some rule next year will the next car to be checked be the team’s other car? Of course! So why not in this case?
      There was also the case where Daniel Ricciardo was Disqualified from the Qualifying at the Singapore GP because of a few microseconds long power transient, which was far less significant than what happened here, yet he had to start from the pitlane.
      Sadly, the impression we’re left with is one of bias.
      I think the $50,000 fine is nonsense, but if it is THAT important then why aren’t all the cars checked?

  2. What would a mitigating factor actually be though that would require a response from the team before a ruling is made? Seems black and white that the fuel level in the car is different than what was reported. The infraction is obvious, just figure out the penalty and move on. What can the team say that would change things?

    1. @ebchicago Because it could have been an error in the way it was measured or a discrepancy with the equipment & they wouldn’t have had time to verify everything was correct before the race. It’s rare but there have been occasions where the FIA have made mistakes due to measuring something incorrectly or due to a piece of equipment been incorrectly calibrated etc..

      I believe that after the race they ran a number of checks on the car & equipment checking how much fuel was left as well as using the data from the car to see how much fuel was used during the race & re-filling the car to get an indication of what it started with.

      1. Possible, but only when the differences are small. It was 4KG and that is a lot of fuel.
        Did they removed the excess fuel is the next question that comes to mind.
        A DSQ would have been in place.

  3. Clearly needs a tolerance and a penalty to be applied immediately in the event of an infringement. I would propose having the car start from the pit lane in the event of them breaching the rule. Seems to be something very easy to fix for the future.

    1. @slowmo Thing is if they had handed out a penalty pre-race & then afterwards found that they had made a mistake then you have no way to undo it.

      See my comment above for a bit more.
      https://www.racefans.net/2019/12/02/not-enough-time-to-issue-verdict-on-leclerc-before-race-start-masi/#comment-4366877

      1. @gt-racer I don’t see why there should be any error or discrepancy in what should be a standard process with calibrated measuring equipment. If you have more fuel in than you’ve declared then even if it’s an admin mistake and genuine, you’ve broken the rules.
        I’d rather they hand out a penalty and find out later if there was an issue than not penalise a driver and have a stupid situation where you have a driver influencing the running of a race and potentially being on the podium only for it to be stripped away later. While you can penalise that driver in your example, you can’t give back time to other drivers who might have been held up by them or taken earlier pitstops to cover them that affected their races for example.
        I guess I don’t see how if the process is followed by the stewards this can be anything other than a slam dunk penalty.

  4. Masi always needs such a lot of time….
    He should start now for Melbourne decisions.

    1. nah, most likely they need more time when it’s a Ferrari involved. If this was a Haas or RP they would have probably figured it out on the spot. This seemed like a slam-dunk to me, just like missing a waybridge (even if your car is eventually found up-to-par).

  5. I call it BS, and hope in Australia all 20 cars have some wild changes right before pit lane opening.

    With everyone getting away with a fine.

  6. Although I firmly believe the car should have been disqualified, but as Leclerc had no advantage to be gained..championship settled etc, I also understand him being allowed to race, although we were told minor discrepancy but the fine was not minor…..however why was he not called back to the pits so they could rectify/check the problem?? even if he had to start from the pit lane…..at least he would have been completely legal…well by Ferrari standards

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