Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Circuit de Catalunya, 2020

Why the FIA struck a confidential deal over Ferrari’s power unit

2020 F1 season

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A grizzled gentleman pushes a wheelbarrow filled with a hay past a harbour customs point, as he has each morning for the past 40 years. “That’s it,” he tells the customs official, “I’m 65 today, I’m retiring.”

Says the official: “We regularly sent the hay for forensic tests, checked the tyre innards, analysed paint samples, poked into the frame’s tubes, but found nothing. What have you smuggled? We’d like to know so we can catch others.”

“Grant me confidential immunity from prosecution, and I’ll tell all,” he replies. With heavy suspicions but no proof as to what he’d been up to, the official agrees, and gets his answer: “For 40 years I smuggled one wheelbarrow per day…”

This anecdote sprang to mind on Friday evening when the FIA released a statement which rocked the F1 paddock: “The FIA announces that, after thorough technical investigations, it has concluded its analysis of the operation of the Scuderia Ferrari Formula 1 power unit and reached a settlement with the team. The specifics of the agreement will remain between the parties.”

Both the timing of the FIA release – minutes before the final pre-season test ended – and the secrecy clause provoked widespread suspicion. The old chestnut of FIA standing for ‘Ferrari International Assistance’ reappeared on social media.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Circuit of the Americas, 2019
Ferrari’s engine seemed to lose its edge in Austin
Suspicions had long lingered in the paddock that Ferrari had managed to circumvent F1’s fuel flow and/or oil burn regulations, obliging the governing body to examine the matter in-depth. However during last year’s Mexican Grand Prix an FIA official admitted to RaceFans they had checked Ferrari’s entire fuel system and were none the wiser.

As part of its investigation the FIA also checked (unspecified) Ferrari customer power units and those of another unnamed supplier. Adding to the intrigue, Ferrari appeared to lose performance in the latter stages of the season. At the time team boss Mattia Binotto denied that this was in any way related to a clampdown on Ferrari’s engine operating procedures.

RaceFans understands suspicions over the working of Ferrari’s power unit led to new rules for 2020 adding a second sensor to monitor fuel flow. To compensate for the required plumbing, a late tweak to the rules raised the minimum weight limit by a kilo. In 2021 a standardised fuel system will be introduced, further restricting what teams can do in this area.

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Investigations into Ferrari’s 2019 system are believed to have continued well into the winter break, with a ‘settlement’ seemingly reached on condition that Ferrari shared its ‘secret’ with the FIA to enable the governing body to better monitor power units and plug any regulatory loopholes. The deal suggests Ferrari’s technology was untraceable once the power unit was switched off – however this would not infringe the rules.

For its part it is likely that Ferrari insisted on confidentiality and non-disclosure of its technology in order to protect its intellectual property – or that of its suppliers – which could have commercial applications. While there is no indication Ferrari’s system was illegal – rather, extremely clever and difficult to trace – exactly what was being done remains unclear.

During the Russian Grand Prix a source suggested that Ferrari was unique in running oil-based intercooler fluids, which seep into the fuel mixture under pressure, thus boosting engine power. This theory is given credence by the final paragraph in the FIA release, which stated the settlement will “assist the FIA in other regulatory duties in Formula 1 and in its research activities on carbon emissions and sustainable fuels.”

The obvious deduction, then, is that Ferrari’s intercooler system played a performance and/or reliability-enhancing role, but that this could not be proven beyond all doubt in either the FIA’s International Court of Appeal or a higher court of law, to which Ferrari could have reasonably been expected to turn in the event of a sanction.

Accordingly, the FIA had no alternative other than to offer a ‘wheelbarrow’ deal to Ferrari in the hope of closing off whatever loopholes there were in the regulations, and enabling the governing body to monitor fuel systems. None of this will appease the critics, as confidentiality clauses never do.

However, without that settlement the monitoring of future fuel systems may well prove impossible, and Ferrari (and its suppliers) are open to monetise whatever technology they developed.

Of course there may also be implications for this year’s championship. Have the new restrictions already had an effect on Ferrari’s performance?

Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Circuit de Catalunya, 2020
The new Ferrari wasn’t as quick in the speed traps
During last week’s test Ferrari were not as quick on the straights as their rivals. Was the cause a reduction in engine power, and if so was that due to the rules changes or simply the team using less potent engine modes to guarantee reliability and maximise engine mileages?

Whatever it was, Binotto insisted the team weren’t ‘sandbagging’ and disguising their true speed. “We are not hiding so I think that’s our performance,” he said.

“It’s difficult to split on the straights what’s drag [and] what’s power. But certainly we are down on speed compared to other competitors and I think that’s affected by one way from the drag, the other certainly from the reliability programme we have in place.”

Once we see the 2020 cars up against each in qualifying, there will be less room for doubt about how Ferrari’s performance has changed, and whether it is down to last week’s surprising statement.

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2020 F1 season

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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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  • 134 comments on “Why the FIA struck a confidential deal over Ferrari’s power unit”

    1. Not a surprise or shock.

      1. When the dust settles….watch out for the new regulations “update” to cover the loophole discovered by Ferrari

    2. So pardon my english but is this not Ferrari admitting to cheating? And striking a deal with FIA to reveal that cheat without consequences?

      1. If you read the article you would know that the answer is no, not necessarily.

        1. Haters will always be haters. People rather have their feelings validated that accept facts. Ferrari outsmarted their rivals and the FIA! Instead of praise, you get trolls and conspiracy theorists!!

          1. Not at all, if indeed a deal was reached to protect Ferrari’s and their customers confidentiality then both the FIA and Ferrari are responsible for this mess and all the resulting suspicion and accusations … all FIA had to do was make it clear in their press release why the agreement was to remain confidential instead of hiding behind a wall of secrecy.
            I’m not tifosi but on F1 other sites I have defended Ferrari many times against the “cheat” claims because I believe you are innocent until proven guilty, but I’m sorry to say the way this has been handled is not good for the FIA, Ferrari, the sport or the fans.

        2. Actually, they could have just given a statement about Ferrari being guilty or not. Tech secrets have nothing do with it. They could have said, Ferrari is not guilty but due to confidentiality and tech secrets we wont release the report.
          And if Ferrari wasnt guilty they would have happily made a non-guilty statement to boost their image and counter the cheating accussations from last season.
          Non of that happened and combined with the settlement and the drop of Ferrari performance at the end of last season its clear what they did was illegal.

          1. This is what makes me suspicious. Surely Ferrari would be perfectly happy with the FIA coming out and saying “Ferrari are not guilty of breaking regulations but we can not tell you exactly what we found”. This is not what is being said though, which suggests that something illegal was going on.

            1. That’s why I think it must come down to an argument about the meaning of the rules. The FIA says the rules mean one thing, Ferrari say they mean another, and they agree to compromise on a medium penalty – but crucially, without ever ruling one is right and the other wrong.

          2. Perfect summary. If Ferrari committed no crime, then say that. Otherwise, we have no reasonable option but to assume guilt.

            1. Alternatively, using your phraseology:
              if Ferrari committed a crime, then say that. Otherwise, we have no reasonable option but to assume innocence.

      2. Ferrari found a clever loophole in the regulations and the FIA wanted to make sure no one else copied it. Ferrari agreed to tell the FIA what they did as long as they don’t reveal their secret. Not cheating, just clever innovation.

        1. Excellent summary and simplification @Dane
          I’d call the whole thing shady though

        2. That’s just one side of the story. So please explain why they (Ferrari) have agreed to pay the R&D cost for the FIA’s emissions research?

          1. They arnt paying for anything. They are in the gray and the FIA didn’t like it so since they never broke a rule the FIA most likely asked how they did it and asked them to no longer do it and to keep others from knowing the loophole they kept it internal because it could give away proprietary info on the Ferrari PU. It’s not some big conspiracy like people wanna think

        3. And look how well the cheaters are doing now. Karma, Kramer!

      3. James R Sperry
        30th August 2020, 16:42

        Tax Laws & Racing Rules were made for one to find the loopholes. Only cheating when the loophole closes, then it’s time to find another.

    3. It’s ferrari showing them how they did it even when it was not cheating because fia didn’t want other teams doing the same (even if it was legal, just like this year with the Mercedes DAS)

      1. antony obrien
        2nd March 2020, 15:41

        That’s about the upsum yes. Just a classic bit of ingenuous thinking they want to close off. No cheating but doesn’t bode well for them this season. Im guessing/hoping they are not ‘sandbagging’ which implies, turning the engine down to hide true speed, they are just not turning the wick up so they can get miles done. I hope.

      2. If it wasnt cheating they should have a statement about it.
        Something like: Ferrari were within the limit of the rules and the car has been cleared. But the report stays confidential due to tech secrets.
        It would have also boosted Ferraris image and countered the cheating accussations.
        What this article sums up might be true in some cases but it doesnt make sense in this specific case.

        1. I think, for me, this is an oversimplification.

          Quite simply, like the article says, this is probably more nuanced. The FIA believe Ferrari have broken the rules, Ferrari don’t. The FIA don’t have enough evidence to prove it, so basically grant Ferrari immunity in return for supplying all details. They won’t say Ferrari didn’t break the rules, but won’t say they did, either. We will never know whether they did.

          1. Exactly. The article and none so far that I’ve tried to find address any engineering questions. The writer feebly attempts to explain how a 2 stroke engine works by injecting oil into the fuel, Come on????. A 4 stroke engine doesn’t work well with “oil” in the fuel system.

      3. @matiascasali the problem that many are having with this is that the way it is being handled by both sides gives the impression they have something they want to hide.

        As others have noted, the FIA could have quite easily released a statement that cleared Ferrari and protected any trade secrets – you do not need to specify the exact mechanism if you are concerned about others trying to cheat, but you could still make a statement on the legality of an unspecified device.

        Even this announcement seems to be something that the FIA had to be pressured into making by the rest of the field, as there are allegations in the Italian and German press that the FIA had originally wanted to shut down their enquiry into Ferrari without ever stating why the investigation was closed or whether any action was being taken against Ferrari – not just to the public, but also to the teams.

        Even in the act of shutting down the investigation, the FIA stands accused of a lack of transparency and accused of trying to hide the fact that the investigation was coming to a close – as if the investigation itself was now something that they did not want to admit had existed at all.

    4. Good article, thanks Dieter. It has at least offered a softer option than my cynical default that Ferrari were cheating. Being extremely clever with a loophole is to be commended IMO, and protecting your ingenuity is a reasonable step. It does seem as though it has had a tangible effect on their performance though. Hopefully for the sake of the championship they can make up the lost ground asap.

      1. Maybe because I not from the UK but read mostly UK-based media, that cynical default against Ferrari is quite clear. I really don’t want to analyze the reasons why (or other similar cases of this happening in the British society in general) but it’s still good to see some good sense.

        1. @nunof I’m not from the UK ;) My default cynicism has nothing to do with Ferrari being involved. It is only to do with a governing body and a team coming to any kind of a private settlement, and not coming out to declare something completely legal. Regardless of the team involved, that scenario in itself would normally put someone in the frame of mind that something was up. Please don’t assume it’s to do with Ferrari being involved :)

      2. Being extremely clever with a loophole is to be commended IMO

        Completely agree, it would be stupid for any team to discover a loophole that provides a significant gain and not take advantage of it as long it is legal. It’s a morally grey area, but as with corporate taxes and creative ways of paying less, this should not be regarded as cheating.

      3. Whether the DAS innovation is a brilliant cheat, or a brilliant innovation, depends on what team you’re rooting for. It does appear to be legal for 2020, however.

        But the one question I would love to ask the FIA is, “At any point during an official race of the FIA Formula One World Championship of 2019, did the Ferrari SF90 burn more than the allowed 100kg/hr in combustible fuel?”.

        Because if they did, they cheated. If they didn’t, they were innocent of cheating– and the FIA should say so.

        And considering what the FIA did to Renault in Singapore over an accidental violation of the MGU-K limits, Ferrari should have been disqualified.

        1. Mercedes is doing it openly, people understand what is being done roughly how it is done, and just not sure how much time/difficulty it will involve in implementing, also at what cost/gains from it to be seen yet…

          FIA announcing a settlement… A settlement in an accusation implies (which other teams accused ferrari of cheating) is there is truth the accusations! But due to the nature of it admitting (like in human cases, ratting more people/revealing the secret of theft etc getting some kind of immunity), they will not accuse the accused further…

          If FIA simply said, we investigated claims, and cleared Ferrari of any wrongdoing within the rules! Is there a statement that says Ferrari didnt brake the rules? or any mention of rules? NOOOOO

          it says

          “The FIA announces that, after thorough technical investigations, it has concluded its analysis of the operation of the Scuderia Ferrari Formula 1 power unit and reached a settlement with the team”

          Which does not state they cleared Ferrari of any foul play! In the contrary, it fuels the rumors that they knew something was up, but couldnt prove it definitively!

          “The FIA and Scuderia Ferrari have agreed to a number of technical commitments that will improve the monitoring of all Formula 1 power units for forthcoming championship seasons….”

          which means Ferrari were circumventing the rules with clever technical cheatery! Ferrari were certainly doing some stuff with sensors and/or with the fuels/mixture at the same time! But they cant reveal it because Ferrari agreed to disclose their cheat to FIA so noone can know about it, and FIA can know what to look for in the future!

          1. I’ve seen so many comments like this by people saying fuel burning is allowed that I have to say something. The technical regulations (19.4) specifically state “The only fuel permitted is petrol”. Using oil to burn in the cylinders and generate power is not allowed, it is not done openly as it is against the rules. The problem is that there is always natural oil loss in an engine – no engine would get to the end of the race with the same amount of oil as it started with. For that reason there has to be a tolerance in the amount of oil lost over any given distance which I think is currently 300ml per 100km. This does not mean that teams are allowed to use 300ml to burn in the cylinders, that’s still not allowed but the problem is that it’s not going to be possible for the FIA to always be able to tell where the oil has gone. If the FIA finds that a team is deliberately using oil in combustion then the car is in breach of the rules.

            It comes back to Dieter’s original conclusion and it completely fits with the outcome – Ferrari were doing something which was not allowed (possibly using oil or some other fluids) but the FIA wasn’t confident it could build a watertight case against them (either because it was technically complicated or possibly some potential ambiguity in the rules). Ferrari knew what they were doing was illegal but knew that they might be able to defend a case against them – at great cost to both sides and an uncertain outcome. Both sides therefore benefit from granting of immunity, sharing information and avoiding a costly and uncertain legal fight. For this to to fit it means that Ferrari likely weren’t just “cleverly exploiting a loophole” as teams often do, in this case they had found a way to break the rules without being caught.

        2. But the one question I would love to ask the FIA is, “At any point during an official race of the FIA Formula One World Championship of 2019, did the Ferrari SF90 burn more than the allowed 100kg/hr in combustible fuel?”.

          Because if they did, they cheated. If they didn’t, they were innocent of cheating– and the FIA should say so.

          I suspect the honest answer would be ‘though we believe so, we have no data to show they did, no prove’, though it would likely be ‘we cannot tell’ or simply ‘no comment’.

          If the fuel meter measurement is circumvented while running, clearly it will not show up extra fuel being used.

          That is why Dieters take makes sense; if now the FIA knows how it could be done by Ferrari, but to get that knowledge they had to promise not to punish or tell (and, even if they know it was there, like the Benetton software mode, they cannot prove it was used!) it explains the vagueness.a

          1. They did not use more than the total amount of fuel allotted, as that is easier to see with the weighing of the cars before and after.

            There is a regulation of the rate that you use the fuel, and they were exceeding this, thus generating more HP. If this limit was not in the rules, the cars could generate a lot more HP. What Ferrari learned is how to capitalize on the fuel management, using more that the limit on the straights, and get the speed advantage, then back off on the slower sectors, thus using the total allocated… They had a way to erase these excess consumption rates from the F1 once the engine was switched off… thus the F1 only had data on the total usage…

    5. Conspiracy theorists will look for a fake conspiracy, and Ferrari haters will hate, but this section of the article should be at the start to put those in their tracks:
      ‘The deal suggests Ferrari’s technology was untraceable once the power unit was switched off – however this would not infringe the rules.
      For its part it is likely that Ferrari insisted on confidentiality and non-disclosure of its technology in order to protect its intellectual property – or that of its suppliers – which could have commercial applications. While there is no indication Ferrari’s system was illegal”

      1. Then there should have been a statement about Ferrari operating within the limits of the rules.
        Would have also boosted Ferraris image and countered the cheating accussations.
        No one is expecting a report with tech details.
        We didnt get any clarity which can basically mean 1 thing. Doesnt take a conspiracy theorist to come to that conclussion.

      2. But the announcement didn’t say Ferrari’s fuel system was found to be legal, did it?

      3. The main problem I have is that if Ferrari exploited a loophole in the rules then totally fair play, and quite right to keep the technology secret, but this whole story is pure speculation and guessing at what Ferrari did or didn’t do and unfortunately non Ferrari fans struggle to see past the fact they had to make an agreement and so looks guilty and Ferrari fans can’t accept the reasons why people would assume this. The FIA dont always share the technical details of something they deem legal and so they could have sad it was legal if it was without stating the specifics. If it was a loop hole exploited then fair play just say they had found a loop hole and now we have closed that off for the future.

    6. The option they blatantly cheated by influence on the sensor due to high powered cabling next to it, still stands.
      No restrictions on cabling, so according to the rules no breach, but pure cheating.

      1. lol

        no breach, but pure cheating

        1. But yet DAS is “no breach, it’s innovation. The FIA are ruining the DNA of F1 by banning it next year.”

          1. Harold Wilson
            2nd March 2020, 18:08

            If you can’t see the difference between DAS ( which the FIA has not rules is illegal for 2020) and what Ferrari may or may not have been doing, requiring the governing body to enter into a secret settlement with a team on the grid, then you really are blind.

    7. If everything found was legal, grey area or not, FIA would have stated that the engine was completely legal. Now thats not what they are saying, but they made a “settlement” with Ferrari, what will cost Ferrari a lot of money en effort. Why? On top of that, it is top secret.
      If ther engine did not comply to the rules, they need to be scrapped from the results and the other teams get the money Ferrari took for prizes en end positioning. Remember Renault with their brake balance, immedietly disqualified for that race. This smells like hell, Todt ex-Ferrari Boss, now the boss of Fia, his son Nicolas, manager of Leclerc.
      Sneaky Maffia methods are happening here. I would be surpriced if this is not ending up in courd because the other teams can not and will not accept this openly corruption. Allowing that team to get away with all the cheating will destroy F1 as a fair sport and could mean the end of it.

      1. Like it or not, you need evidence to prove a claim if you want to go to court. My suspicion is ambiguity about something would favour the defendant unless you had found something far worse as well. Also, “a settlement” could mean the FIA paid Ferrari, although I don’t think that was the case, or that maybe there was a “two-way” exchange of money.

      2. Unfortunately, no one in the FIA or Ferrari will actually rat out on the details of this deal. It goes without saying that Ferrari found a way of beating the sensors, and instead of having constant investigations, they just declared their cheat in strict confidentiality with Ferrari International Assistance.

        It doesn’t matter what agreement they reached… Ferrari will still fail to win the championship in 2020 as they have the past two seasons with all their cheats.

    8. Playing ‘Angel’s Advocate’, what’s in it for Ferrari to settle under these circumstances if there was ‘nothing to see here’?

      1. Answering the angel’s advocate question, it could be an innovative technology with possible applications elsewhere, so intellectual property.

        1. If the ‘innovative technology’ was legal then FIA could just have said: ‘nothing to see here!’
          And if I were Ferrari I would have demanded FIA to say so, @bealzbob.

          I cannot come up with any reason why Ferrari would enter into this settlement which is based on ‘having done nothing wrong’.
          Please help our ‘angel’ to find a good defence.

          1. Exactly. I’m stumped by this.

          2. Sonny Crockett
            2nd March 2020, 17:12

            I’m with you on this.

            It sounds to me like Ferrari have done a deal with the Feds and turned informant!

            1. Says the man who drove around Miami in a fake Ferrari !

            2. “Says the man who drove around Miami in a fake Ferrari !”


            3. Sonny Crockett
              3rd March 2020, 9:02

              Don’t tell Tubbs! ;)

          3. @coldfly – I’m not trying to carry Ferrari’s water for them but I’ll give you request a shot.

            Perhaps there was still room to exploit this (technology, process, loophole, workaround). If they release the info, other teams may pick up the baton, so to speak, and find ways to exploit the idea this season as well. The FIA would prefer it stays quiet so that other teams don’t use it, Ferrari–surely under increased scrutiny in this specific area of their car’s design–also don’t want others using something they can no longer use.

            And whatever was being done may not have been ‘legal’ but it may not have been ‘illegal’ either. Again, maybe Ferrari would rather their antics be spread in detail, and FIA would prefer no copycats.

            That was my attempt. I am not sure I can come up with another hypothetical.

            1. your request…

              …would rather their antics NOT be spread in detail…

            2. That’s the problem. FIA can say that the engine is legal and they are not obliged to give out the detail to others. Why the FIA didn’t do that? why they must reach a settlement?
              Like, if this is untraceable, then why the settlement? It is like they can’t find anything wrong with a suspected criminal but then the criminal make a settlement to reveal on how he did the crime. It makes zero sense.
              Personally, I think that Ferrari were found guilty. Yes, FIA probably doesn’t exactly know how Ferrari did it, but you don’t need to know exactly how a gun works to know that a man has used his gun. In this case, probably FIA found a discrepancy between what goes in and goes out, thus the engine must have done something illegal. They don’t have to know how Ferrari does it to deem it illegal. But maybe they reached a settlement so Ferrari can avoid punishment and at the same time let FIA know on how they did the cheating thus can create a rule to prevent this from happening again.

              Also I see someone (not the one I’m replied here) suggested that maybe Ferrari paid FIA or maybe even FIA paid Ferrari, which is ridiculous. Why FIA need to pay Ferrari since it is within FIA right to check Ferrari’s engine? It is like saying the governing body should paid a settlement for any athletes that were checked for doping. Totally stupid train of thoughts. Next time a police pull me over just to check my papers, they better compensate me if they don’t find anything suspicious.

          4. @coldfly

            Agree completely. If it was legal, Ferrari would have shouted it out from the mountain tops about how they were wronged. The FIA would also issue a public apology for their favourite team. The fact that they reached a settlement, just spells ‘Shady deal’. Ferrari haven’t won a championship in 14 years.. of course they’re going to cheat… it’s just a part of their DNA. Funny thing is.. they still weren’t even close to beating Mercedes, and infant got beaten by a Red Bull as well.

            1. * instead

            2. @todfod

              Funny thing is.. they still weren’t even close to beating Mercedes, and infant got beaten by a Red Bull as well

              The funny thing is that you don’t realize that Ferrari finished ahead of RBR in the championship for the past 3 years.

            3. @tifoso1989

              Maybe read my comment properly… I said “beaten by a Red Bull” … which means one car.. which = Verstappen > Leclerc > Vettel

        2. Yeah, too bad there’s no internationally recognized method of protecting an innovative technology.

          If there was, Ferrari could easily tell everyone what they did.

          1. Indeed

            I too don’t really believe that any technology to circumvent such sensors and thus use more fuel has much legal innovative uses in the automotive world (and illegal, outside sports, diesel gate like, is unlikely if car owners can see what fuel they are putting in!).

            I suppose if the use is shady or illegal, keepin/claiming it to be a secret is better than a patent would be.

            That part of this article gives me a bit of difficulty.

    9. ATPIT it appears rather silly of people to level accusations of cheating at Ferrari. They have not been charged and they have not been found guilty of anything!!! The fact that they were not deemed illegal says it all. I am reminded of this explanation….
      Truth is not an opinion.idea or emotion. Truth is a binary concept of, yes, it happened or no. it did not ha[pen. To entangle opinion with truth is the beginning of a lie. Just consider it.

      1. That’s the way things are in F1: if Mercedes does it, it’s clever; if Ferrari does it, it’s cheating.

        1. @paeschli Given how many Ferrari fans were claiming Mercedes were cheating with DAS and the FIA were helping them out with it, I’d say it’s not hard to argue the opposite of what you said.

          As far as we know at the moment, based on whats be written on both cases, neither team has cheated, Mercedes DAS system is completely legal and Ferrari haven’t been found to have been cheating with their engine/the FIA cant prove exactly how they are cheating in a court of law.

          It’s simple really, if another team (who isn’t your favourite team) does something that will make them faster and your favourite team hasn’t then the fanboys scream cheating.

      2. You’re onto something kenji.
        Only Ferrari (and maybe FIA) knows the binary truth.
        The truth we all know is that we see smoke (secret settlement rather than a clear outcome); only Ferrari knows if the binary truth is a real fire behind it all.

        What I also know is that if I were Ferrari, and had I not cheated, that I would have demanded FIA to finalise their inquiry (knowing that there was nothing to be found) rather than entering into a secret settlement.

        Thus it is only logical that most keen observers now think that the binary truth, only known by Ferrari, swings in one direction.

        1. @coldfly

          What I also know is that if I were Ferrari, and had I not cheated, that I would have demanded FIA to finalise their inquiry (knowing that there was nothing to be found) rather than entering into a secret settlement.

          Well said ! However, the FIA were not able to finalize their inquiry in the first place.

          1. kenneth moxon
            6th March 2020, 20:37

            Now let’s try this for size, all engines burn or use oil, OK we know that, and that is regulated, so if an engine manufacturer knows this, (these engines are dry sump) but as the crank case has positive pressure , you just vent the oil vapour into the vacume side of the airflow then you get more volume, above each piston you don’t burn any more oil you just use the oil vapour to in crease volume ie more powerful bang to make it simple, what do you guys think

      3. You took the words right out of my mouth. Sensible comment.

      4. The FIA did not say Ferrari did anything illegal.

        But they didn’t say Ferrari didn’t do anything illegal, either.

        And if Ferrari was truly within the rules, they should have said, for Ferrari’s benefit.

    10. The comment section section also looks to be running on boiling hot intercooler fluid.
      Like Dieter many rf users speculated the same on this subject. I was hoping for a scoop.
      Even if we may never know, we should hear whether Ferrari has been negatively impacted by the noises coming from the paddock.
      Silent rivals, Ferrari was stopped, chirpy rivals, ferrari won the political battle.

    11. In 2021 a standardised fuel system will be introduced, further restricting what teams can do in this area.

      Of course because you can’t have teams or suppliers innovating or been clever in the modern era can you.

      Such a joke this GP1 era is!

      1. antony obrien
        2nd March 2020, 15:46

        Its called formula one for a reason, there is a formula the teams adhere to and its been like that from the beginning. So if you mean ‘this era’ as is in from 1950 i’d say you were wrong.

      2. @roger-ayles But if the rules say that the fuelflow meter is installed to make sure that no more than 100kg of fuel per hour is delivered to the motor. If Ferrari comes up with a feature that allows them to trick the fuelflow meter so that it can use more than 100kg of fuel per hour, how would you call that then? Ok, maybe not outright cheating, but most certainly not playing by the rules.

        Article 5.1.4 of the 2019 F1 regulations says the following: “Fuel mass flow must not exceed 100kg/h”. So if Ferrari invents something that makes the fuelflow exceed more than 100kg/h, because they are fooling the fuelflow meter, are then doing something illegal? I would argue that they would.

        1. You could argue they’re not cheating, based on an extremely pedantic reading of the rules, because fuel flow is what the meter says it is.

          I don’t think either interpretation is clearly correct; the rule is badly written and ambiguous. That’s why we have a settlement instead of a clear ruling that one is right and one wrong.

        2. I think the issue is potentially ‘fuel’ getting into the cylinders via the airflow, but not ‘fuel’ as in what’s in the fuel tank, but some sort of combustible substance which has some other ‘primary’ function. The fuel sensor would never detect it because it can’t measure that. Say, some sort of bi-metal fitting that ‘leaks’ at operational temperature in a specifically designed way.

          Another possibility is maybe some novel way of ‘pulsing’ fuel flow above the limit in between sample periods of the fuel sensor, if they could sync to the way the sensor samples. I’ve not checked enough of the datasheet to see if that’s doable though.

          1. Weren’t the rules changed last year to say only the fuel in the fuel tank, which has to pass the fuel meter, can be burned? (to stop oil burning and other tricks) @mysticarl

        3. I’m reminded of the Red Bull flexible wing– the wing passed the load tests, which were designed to ensure no wings were flexing, but the idea that a wing could pass the load test, and still flex sufficiently on track, was one that the FIA hadn’t considered.

          Similarly, I suspect that Ferrari was complying with the 100kg/hr fuel flow rate– but I suspect their engine was combusting at a higher rate than that.

          1. If that is the case then Ferrari shouldn’t get into a settlement and just ask for FIA to deem its engine legal.
            I’m not knowledgeable enough about the rules, but I think that even if the fuel flow meter number is within the rules, there is probably other rules that can deem their engine illegal like the discrepancy between input and output. FIA might not know how Ferrari did it, but something obviously didn’t match. This is different that RB flexi wing where they only needed to pass the test. Yes, the flexi wing is ignoring the spirit of the rule, but it doesn’t actually break the rule while this Ferrari engine is legal from fuel flow number, but it is probably illegal in other ways.

            I think that is why Ferrari and FIA reached a settlement. FIA will not told that Ferrari engine is illegal in exchange of Ferrari told FIA on how they do it, which is probably a win-win solution for both of them. Ferrari got away with cheating and FIA got an insight on how Ferrari did the cheating, thus can create something better to prevent it. Maybe without the information from Ferrari, someone could perfected this cheat in the future to the level that is practically undetectable.

      3. @roger-ayles I will continue to defend Liberty and Brawn with their necessary and agreed by the teams movement towards cost savings until I hear an actual better solution that isn’t simply ‘this isn’t F1.’

        I am not against innovation, but I am against the vast imbalance between the have and the have not teams that has made F1 unsustainable. I’ll take a slightly truncated F1 and a more driver vs driver series to none at all, any day.

        Specifically with this fuel flow meter thing, is that really how you want your Champion to have won? Because of a trick fuel flow meter? Hey I get that it is cool that innovators can come to with amazing stuff, and the driver is part of the team, and therefore some would say a win is a win and they did a better job. But really? I guess I’m more about the driver having more effect than relying on a trick fuel flow meter to then get the accolades and take home the trophies. Hey it happens right? Look at Button with the blown diffuser? Anybody think Button is one of the greats though?

        Brawn wants to see quality innovation that forwards F1 with meaningful advances that more than just the top teams can afford. He’s not that interested in an advancement because a team’s lawyer found a missing comma and therefore won the day on a technicality. Is that kind of ‘innovation’ really helping make F1 more sustainable?

        Hey sorry this isn’t still the times of ridiculous excesses of separate quali engines that have been shaved down internally such that they’d blow up if they tried to run them for a race distance, but these are different times. Try not to fall into some mindset though that all innovation in F1 is gone. If it was, the teams wouldn’t have agreed the new terms for 2021 for they don’t want to be too spec either and neither does Brawn. It’s a very difficult balancing act. Suggestions?

        1. @robbie You are hitting the hammer right on the nail there. The thing I want to add is that Brawn also wants to see the predictability being decreased. Of course there will be fans who only accept a race being good when their favorite driver wins, but I so much love races where the underdog wins, where the usual winners are left empty-handed. That is why rain races are often so much better, because it introduces a greater degree of unpredictability and on top of that, to a certain extent also puts more emphasis on the skills of the driver rather than the strongest engine or best chassis. We want the winners and champions to be the best driver and not only the driver in the best car with the best engine.

          Introducing the budget cap would be a means to introduce less predictability and level the playing field so that driver skills are going to play a bigger role again. I am in favor of that.

    12. It beggars belief that well educated and trained technicians within FIA did not recognise
      blatant cheating when they saw it. The only pleasing aspect to this extremely smelly situation
      is that, no matter how much they broke the rules, Ferrari failed miserably to dent Mercedes
      dominance of last years season.

    13. I think it’s easy for fans & other teams to point fingers & claim there was cheating, But if you can’t prove it or even figure out what was actually been done then you don’t have anything & therefore can’t really penalize anybody.

      In that situation what do you do? You can leave things as they are & continue the uncertainty & constant accusations or you can do what was done & reach an agreement to put a stop to what was been done (If it’s something the FIA didn’t like) which will in the long term close the matter.

      1. Except the concessions would flow the other way, from the FIA to Ferrari, as Ferrari are – per your hypothesis – being asked to stop doing something that hasn’t been proven illegal, thereby being forced to give up a competitive advantage.

        Instead of Ferrari participating in eco initiatives, if the FIA said they’re buying a fleet of Ferraris, I’d accept your argument, and others similar to it.

        1. +1

          And that’t the part of this entire thing that people are ignoring.

          If the FIA wants you to stop what you’re doing, it is you who should be compensated, not the other way around.

      2. This is why, transparency is you know, important. If they were to be found innocent then the FIA need to show why. The FIA already know what it is they did, legal or not.

        That its a “settlement” doesn’t help either. If you’re innocent, why do you need a sealed settlement? FIA would just need to say their system is okay then move on.

        The lack of openness on what happened is likely worst than what Ferrari actually did.

      3. If I did something that is probably illegal but they can’t deem it illegal, then why I need to settle? they can accuse me all they want and I wouldn’t care.

        What I think actually happening is that while FIA can’t find something illegal in Ferrari engine, they probably have other means to stop Ferrari from using its illegal advantage. Maybe like we saw last year where there were discrepancy between the declared fuel and the actual fuel, thus if Ferrari want to keep using their trick, FIA can always test Ferrari every time and probably will found that discrepancy every time. If this is the case then the trick is practically unusable, thus instead of keeping the trick, they probably let FIA know on how they did it, thus FIA can prevent other team to do the same thing. This might not benefited Ferrari directly, but you don’t know if Merc, Renault, or Honda try to employ the same trick with only Ferrari targeted by the FIA for that trick. Basically if I can’t use the trick, anyone shouldn’t be allowed to use the trick.

    14. ”To compensate for the required plumbing, a late tweak to the rules raised the minimum weight limit by a kilo”
      – So this means that for this upcoming season, the minimum overall car+driver weight will be either 741 or 744 kg (depending on whether the equivalent figure for last season was 740 or 743).

    15. Ferrari use Shell fuel and lubricants and only they can help the FIA with “… carbon emissions and sustainable fuels..”

      Perhaps we’ve been misled and need to look at Shell’s involvement in this secret agreement.

      1. I actually think the same. It looks like some they found some trick which allow to overcome, in some amount, the “kg” limitation in the 100 kg/h fuel flow rule. This may also explain why the need of a second sensor flow.. and perhaps Ferrari will help to put it in some clever location within the power unit.

      2. I also had thoughts along the same line. I remember Binotto saying that their gains on are mostly down to their fuel development to which Horner said that their fuel smells like “grape juice”. But hey, it’s just an observation. It means nothing at this point.

        1. Will be interesting to note if the grape juice smell is gone this year

      3. Good point. Could explain this weird ‘settlement’. Shell just too an important player to have withdraw or be kicked out.

    16. No one willing gives up an advantage in exchange for less, that’s pretty much what is being claimed here. Based on this article, the FIA couldn’t prove that they were doing something right or wrong, so why give in? Why give away your advantage to then agree taking on the expense of paying the FIA’s emissions research R&D cost?

      1. Exactly. Also, nice pic of Brother Malcolm.

    17. I love how amongst UK fans, “innovation must be protected at all costs” when Mercedes find a loophole but when it’s Ferrari, it’s cheating and they should be kicked out of the Championship :D

      1. Say what you want about DAS but its out in the open, everybody knows what it is and can debate the legality openly. Pretty much most controversial systems are like this.

        Ferrari’s system, nobody know what it does and a “settlement” is needed for some reason. If its legal, just show it then give them a pat on the back.

        The opaqness of the situation is likely worse than what Ferrari actually did.

        1. the mirrors on the “wings” were banned inmediatly and everybody could see it….while the rims were not banned… the das is not banned.. is like anything silver get a pass

          1. the mirrors on the “wings”

            They broke the rules though. In fact the FIA let Ferrari run with an illegal car in Spain. Kinda ruins your argument.

            As for DAS, or the wheel rims. What rule did they break exactly? Or have you deemed them illegal purely based on the team that came up with them?

      2. @petebaldwin The difference between cheating and loophole is a penalty.

        If Ferrari had found a “loophole” then they wouldn’t be punished. Ferrari now has agreed, as a punitive measure that they have to spend resources on helping the FIA. Are you seriously suggesting they agreed to a penalty if they only found a “loophole”?

        Mercedes didn’t get any punishment.

      3. @petebaldwin the nationalistic card doesn’t really seem to apply here, because there are articles in a wide range of other European countries, such as in France and Germany, that have questioned why there has been such secrecy over this deal and whether Ferrari have been up to something.

        Even parts of the Italian press that would normally be more sympathetic to Ferrari have been asking why the press release is so ambiguous and have questioned whether the FIA is pulling its punches because it either lacks conclusive evidence, or whether it might have obtained information in a questionable way and cannot reveal how it got it without compromising itself.

        There is a sense of unease and disquiet that cuts across multiple national boarders – suggesting that this is somehow about “UK fans” kicking up a fuss doesn’t really hold water when you see that questions are being raised across a wide range of nations and across a broad sector of the fan base.

        1. The reason for the secrecy of this agreement is because Ferrari are too big (to F1)to “fail”. Ferrari were caught cheating, probably either fooling the fuel flow sensor (highly illegal) or “burning oil” from the intercooler(slightly illegal) or both. But Ferrari are such a huge part of F1 that if they were openly charged and found guilty of cheating all of F1 would suffer greatly. So, “for the greater good” Ferrari were given this back door to escape public punishment and embarrassment.

          1. @ Megatron M12 It’s exactly this sort of comment that i draw particular attention to. Do you have data to support your accusations or are you merely expressing an opinion? Have you seen the final documents between Ferrari and the FIA that bring this matter to conclusion. If not then i suggest that you preface your comments as being mere speculation. Nothing wrong with that as it maintains the integrity of free speech.

            1. The gps data is compelling, Ferrari had an unprecedented spike in acceleration in the non drag limited region portion of the acceleration curve. Since the mguk has been maxed out at 120kW for every manufacturer since 2015, that extra power could only come from the ICE which requires more efficiency (legal) or more fuel flow(illegal). Oil burning was clamped down on previously, and highly monitored, so that is ruled out. And then we have the fact that Ferrari were for quite a long time burning thru 10% more fuel during a race than Merc. Where was all that fuel going? For anyone who has worked in engine tuning, like myself, it is clear as day. Just like the FIA, I knew they were doing it, I just don’t know exactly how. Ferrari’s PU was confiscated and run on a bench and it was proven. Case closed for me. But like I said, too big for F1 to be outwardly convicted of cheating so it had to be done this way.

            2. @megatron

              that extra power could only come from the ICE which requires more efficiency (legal) or more fuel flow(illegal)

              This is easy to prove as the teams always make sound analysis in every GP of their rival PU’s and as a result they can simulate the power band of the ICE. The RPM of the Ferrari ICE doesn’t change between race mode and qualy mode which only adds more ambiguity to the mystery.

      4. There’s a big difference between the Mercedes DAS system and Ferrari’s undisclosed system, in that we all have a general idea on what the DAS system does, I believe there’s even Youtube footage showing it in operation, and that it doesn’t appear to breach any current rules. When it gets to Melbourne the Stewards will have a look at it and most likely clear it.
        It could be that Ferrari’s undisclosed system also doesn’t breach any rules, but if it didn’t why didn’t the FIA say “all above board” and why “the settlement”? The addition of rules to the Technical Regulations (not yet gazetted) suggests there was some trickery involved.

    18. If everything to do with was innovation and loopholes and nothing illegal, why a secret settlement. The wheel Barrow deal idea is rubbish. If there was no chance of getting punished why tell anyone? What are they gaining out of this? If its future immunity then that’s proof they did cheat.

    19. This still seems to miss the point. A settlement is what people agree instead of having a lengthy fight. It seems most likely that Ferrari were doing something that isn’t in dispute as a matter of fact, and whether it’s legal or not comes down to an interpretation of the rules. If that’s the case then the issue could be dragged through the courts for years – literally. (Not quite the same, but the footballer Omer Riza has just had a final ruling on a case dating back to 2008 which went all the way to the ECHR.)

      I pointed out last season that there is precisely this kind of ambiguity in the rules on this subject.

      “5.10.5 Any device, system or procedure the purpose and/or effect of which is to increase the flow rate or to store and recycle fuel after the measurement point is prohibited.”

      Obviously there’s a question about the meaning of ‘flow rate’ – is it the measured or actual rate? The sensor doesn’t measure fuel flow directly, but by using the density for the measured temperature to calculate it based on flow-speed past the sensor. If the temperature it’s using is higher than the actual fuel temperature, there’ll be a discrepancy between measured and actual flow.

      1. I was just reading through the rule book and found the same paragraph. It got me thinking whether “fuel” classifies as a “device”, “system” or “procedure”. The intention of the rule clearly is to cover “anything”, but by writing it like they have it’s kind of unclear. If Ferrari together with Shell have managed to come up with a chemical composition of fuel which the fuel-flow meter have difficulty reading how would that be looked upon?

    20. The intercooler theory sounds plausible and fits the criteria of “difficult to catch”. It suggests Shell were probably involved and maybe even came up with the idea originally.

      The only thing that puzzles me is why the statement the FIA issued wasn’t explicit about the fact Ferrari had done nothing wrong. You’d have thought both parties s involved would have been at pains to stress that, since the way it’s worded does give the impression that there may have been foul-play.

      Why not state that Ferrari found a clever loop-hole that the FIA have decided to close in 2020/21 in order to allow for better monitoring of fuel consumption (since technically oil seepage into the fuel mixture takes you over the prescribed limit), whilst protecting Ferrari’s technical innovation through a non-disclosure agreement that allows for future commercial applications.

      If something like that is the explanation, it seems odd not to come out and say so directly.

      1. Wellbalanced
        2nd March 2020, 18:51

        Exactly. That’s what puzzles me about all this

      2. There’s a fairly simple explanation: each party believes their own case is the more reasonable, but doesn’t think the other’s case is completely unreasonable.

        I would guess that Ferrari said they broke the rule the FIA meant to write, but not the one they actually wrote, and that it’s not clear who would win a long fight about it.

    21. If the Ferrari engine was within the rules then the FIA could simply have said so. And without giving details the intellectual property, if there is such, would still be protected.

      In fact the FIA should have been able to say the investigation is complete and no rule breaking has been uncovered. Still would protect intellectual property.

      Why didn’t they?

      The teams will want an answer to that question before this is all put to bed.

      1. This is exactly what I’m thinking, well put.

        It kind of goes the other way around as well, doesn’t it? If they did find something illegal or in a grey area of the rules they could have said so. And if so also stated why that didn’t result in a straight up penalty, perhaps because the specific infringement did not have a penalty specified or whatever. The fact that they put forward such a non-descriptive statement makes them look like they are hiding something which others would dislike, or that they are quite simply not able to impose the rules that they themselves have instated. Either way it makes them look bad.

      2. @ Witan…Isn’t that what the FIA actually did? If ‘it ‘ was illegal then they would’ve been free to say so and levy penalties. The fact that they didn’t say that, by extension, says that there was nothing illegal. True, the wording appears ambiguous but only the FIA and Ferrari can provide any further explanations. Speculation is running rampant but the other teams can lodge protests if they so wish. Will they? My guess is that they won’t. Why? Because they have no concrete evidence of illegality.

        1. kenji, they might not necessarily have been free to say that it was illegal, as there have been reports in the French press that Ferrari was threatening to do exactly as Dave suggests a few posts up – that, if the FIA did declare what Ferrari had done to be illegal, Ferrari would then resort to legal action and drag the whole affair through the legal system, most likely draining the financial resources of the FIA in the process.

          1. @Anon….They [FIA ] have deemed other teams to be illegal quite openly,and frequently. Renault springs to mind. They penalised Ricciardo for having a one thousandth of a second spike in the fuel sensor!!! Now considering this then there seems little basis for the Ferrari cheating hypothesis put forward by so many people who i would dare to say have absolutely no idea of the real intimate facts of the case. Binotto stated on more than one occasion last year that they were the most tested team in the pitlane and that they had never been found to be running an illegal car. The fact that Ferrari were prepared to seek a legal outcome says to me that they were on solid ground and i tend to agree with them. They may have been running a questionable system but that can only be deemed as mere speculation on my behalf. I am not a Ferrari follower but i do support their proclaimed innocence and rights until proved guilty.

    22. crazy all this over fractions of fractions from a racing series where the cars get basically about 5 mpg anyways. no one cared before and now its out there like the world will stop spinning because Ferrari figured out (within the rules) how to burn approx 3 or 4 liters of oil during the course of a race.

    23. To drag out the concept (again) that “History Oft Repeats Itself ….. ”
      The Brabham Fan Car, legal for one race then not legal any more.
      Colin Chapman’s dual chassis ground effects car, within the “rules” then banned.
      Williams was kicking butt with their active suspension, out with that.
      Just because something gets banned, doesn’t mean it wasn’t legal in the first place. Not that I am defending Ferrari, but it appears they did come up with a novel way to get additional fuel into the engine.
      The regs, as of 2019, were very specific and had been added to, several times I believe, to prevent teams from running “flexible” fuel lines that could store small amounts of fuel between the Flow Meter and the injectors. Note, at 1000 psi, even stainless steel fuel lines are quite “flexible”. Make it long enough and there is room to store a few CCs.
      It may seem insignificant, but a couple of CCs for use at max power situations, could be very useful. A little software manipulation and you can hold the pressure in the lines back until you need it.
      Consider 100 kg/Hr is 28 g/sec. Increasing this by 2 g over a 2 second period (net 1 g/sec) would be worth about 27 HP for 2 seconds, based on the IC engine outputting 750 BHP.
      Does this sound like the margin that Ferrari seems to have enjoyed.?
      Burning either engine oil, or coolant fluid is a possibility, but there are now rule clarifications in place to pretty much end that.
      My bet, they found a way to store fuel at pressure in the fuel delivery system. Since they are looking to protect the intellectual property of their their suppliers, this also points in that direction. What road relevance is there in burning intercooler fluids, but managing direct injection fuel systems …. yep.

    24. Dieter-I love everything about this, especially the parable you chose to define it.

    25. Here’s a thought for you all… What if Ferrari actually WANTED the ambiguous press release? It would tie in nicely with the ‘apparent’ lack of straight-line speed as if they’d lost some secret advantage, but what if they haven’t and the issue in question is less significant than it appears, and they just ran the car heavy and all turned down? I’m almost certainly wrong but could this be some absolutely world class sandbagging, with the FIA duped into playing the game? As I say, just a thought…

    26. Totally unnecessary mess…
      If it were legal, then there was no need in such clumsy statements, and FIA could announce that everything was fine and Ferrari were just too clever.

      But they didn’t. Which in my book clearly means that the system was illegal (quite possibly untraceable). And FIA just decided not to publicly say Ferrari are cheaters (with probably hell of consequences), because guess what – F1 and Ferrari shares will probably plunge after that, and of course poor FIA employees can’t afford loosing “lobby” money.


    27. As an aside, I assume the second fuel flow meter is specified to work without interfering with the first one or operates in a different way. After all, we wouldn’t want to discover that at some critical fuel flows, e.g. 100 kg/h, the fuel flow meters suddenly went silent and the Stewards weren’t able to determine whether anyone was exceeding the fuel flow rate.

      1. One can assume that the second meter is a back-up and a means of ensuring there is no funny business with the main meter. Depending on where it is located in the system, it could indicate variations due to elasticity in the hardware or in the fuel itself.
        Sort of hidden in the new regs, is a specification that a team can only purchase a specific number of meters, and no more.
        C. Horner once made reference to teams buying a hundreds of meters to make sure they got the ones that flowed the most. Even a 0.4% error will mean 3+ HP.

    28. i dont know, seems to me like the author did some cheap shots at Ferrari setting the reader mindset with the smuggler(criminal) story, other sites were more impartial, giving the idea that is was probable that FIA had something but couldn’t prove it and Ferrari had their side of the story that FIA couldnt refute, so instead of going in a long term legal battle they simply settled, it was the cheapest way

    29. Even if they were cheating, which we dont know for sure, if I were the FIA Id let them do it cause nobody is going to get close to Mercedes. F1 needs competition. And in any case Ferrari will find a way to choke even if they do. Have a faster car.

      1. That just gives Mercedes every motivation to not let this vague and unclear statement be the last we heard about it though.

    30. We know Ferrari was cheating because at the end of last season they were told to shut it off and they suffered a drop in performance.
      The interesting thing to me is the fact that when the PU is switched off something happens that the FIA didn’t like but is legal. I am guessing that some performance metrics are cleared from memory so they can’t be reviewed after the race. Not sure how a second flow meter fixes this. And not sure why they just wouldn’t be required to save all of the metrics.

    31. @jimfromus
      Ferrari mysteriously lost performance only in the US GP, they were mighty on the straights in both Abu Dhabi and Brazil.

      Not sure how a second flow meter fixes this.

      The second fuel flow meter readings are not available to the teams, they are only available to the FIA.

    32. If Ferrari had done anything outright illegal, the FIA would have no direct incentive to hide that. (Liberty might, because it reduces championship competitiveness temporarily). It would also have plenty of disincentive, since for a governing body, outright cheating is one of the worst things that can happen to it, in terms of credibility and being the sort of entity others will work well with. Even being a monopoly has limited protection for this. This applies even if the ban is prospective due to Article 2.5 of the Technical Regulations (i.e. the item is allowed this year but banned next year), although in that case the technology only has to be revealed between the last race when it is permitted and the first when it is banned.

      It cannot be the intercooler theory, because that is banned by Article 5.2.1, “The use of any device, other than the engine described in 5.1 above, and one MGU‐K, to propel the car, is not permitted”. The intercooler system cannot interact with the engine in any way to propel the car, only to support it (i.e. by cooling it). If Ferrari had been seeping oil into the engine, that would have been a slam-dunk disqualification.

      Dave, there are rules about how cool fuel is allowed to be relative to ambient, and this is taken into account in the regulations and the mechanisms that enforce them. Had the fuel been unacceptably cool, that would have been a slam-dunk disqualification before bedtime on the day it happened.

      @rekibsn, Esteban Ocon was disqualified from the 2018 US Grand Prix because of a single fuel mass flow blip, that lasted less than a lap due to recalibration attempts. None of that was considered mitigation for the offence by the FIA. Having overage at least 44 times (in the case of the race with the smallest lap count), in a pattern that indicates permanent recalibration was not attempted, would be impossible for Ferrari to defend itself from with a straight face. That would be a slam-dunk disqualification, before bedtime on the first race/qualifying day of breach. (If it had been noted in practise, a penalty would still have been issued, but disqualifying someone from free practise is pointless).

      @jimfromus , the engine data goes directly to control ECUs, so there’s no possibility that it could legally be cleared from memory by a team before the FIA has seen it. If Ferrari had interfered from that, it would be a slam-dunk in the FIA Court of Appeal, and the FIA wouldn’t bother with these elaborations.

      If Ferrari had been completely within the letter and spirit of the rules, the wording would not need to be this vague. The FIA has no incentive not to clear a team in the same way that it has cleared others in such circumstances. (Note that Haas, despite also having one of its engines taken for investigation at the same time as Ferrari, is not mentioned anywhere in this statement, as you’d expect to happen to a completely innocent party investigated alongside someone whose situation is more complicated. Also that if the team was getting different engines to Ferrari, that would be a direct breach of regulations that the FIA would have no incentive to hide. That means whatever happened isn’t in the engine or shared electronics, otherwise both of them would be discussed in the “settlement” piece).

      There is no formal mechanism by which the FIA can give an entire team immunity under the regulations, though it can give it to individuals (e.g. Nelson Piquet and “Witness X” in the 2008 Singapore crash ballet, which also demonstrates that the FIA is not obliged to reveal an immunised source). As such, whatever this is, cannot be because Ferrari as a whole was granted immunity.

      If someone within Ferrari used the immunity rule to provide important information, the FIA would be able to take that into consideration. However, nothing in the Statutes allows it to provide a secret penalty, or even a secret judgment. So whatever the settlement is, it’s not a punishment and not an admission of guilt on Ferrari’s part. Unfortunately, this is where Dieter’s theory might (emphasis on might) run into trouble. The wheelbarrow metaphor requires that the barrow-pusher admits there is something that the customs official knows is illegal, otherwise he’d not have anything to offer that official should the offer be accepted. “My secret is that I enjoy pushing wheelbarrows and someone’s been paying me to bring them this much hay every day for 45 years” would be a bit of a letdown after starting so dramatically ;)

      Why iwould Dieter’s theory “might” run into trouble, rather than “definitely”? Because the aims of customs officials and sports governing bodies are a little different. Customs officials know that there is no incentive for them to be creative or proactive with their monitoring. Nobody will thank them for investigating (let alone arresting) someone for importing something that is not banned (assuming the legal system permits anything not specifically banned), even if it is obvious to the customs official that only harm will come from the item’s importation. After all, the running of a country is too complex for one person to do alone, especially someone with only a very limited professional perspective of what the country’s needs might be. Hence, a custom officer’s job is to carry out the orders of a group of people who makes the laws of the land (usually with intermediaries such as bosses and ministers).

      Sports governing bodies, on the other hand, have a strictly defined area of influence. If the FIA espoused a legal opinion on the raising of chickens, people would be puzzled – unless of course it was to say, “Raising chickens on a circuit during a Grand Prix weekend is against our rules as we don’t want our marshals having to waste time removing them before cars start running”. The area is small enough that it is possible for the FIA to start thinking of the “spirit of the law”.

      Remember the FIA put in a rule for 2021 allowing it to ban things that are blatantly using loopholes. I think this is a big factor in how this was able to be resolved, and why the FIA and Ferrari aren’t still discussing this.

      They can’t use this directly against Ferrari because it’s not 2021 yet. But they can use it to stop practises that are within the regulations, by indicating there’s an incentive to switch direction early. (I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Mattia’s talking about the effects of 2020 developments on 2021, and this may have been Ferrari’s incentive to settle. No point setting 2021 engine development in a direction the FIA will declare a loophole in 2021, and risk losing the entire regulation cycle’s chance of winning the title because of something so easily avoidable).

      If Ferrari did not break the letter of any rules, its IP cannot be shared. If there is insufficient evidence to proceed to the FIA Courts about this, the FIA isn’t even allowed to give general information about the nature of the systems involved beyond the bare minimum (since this didn’t come from a team protest – had it done so, any information in the team protest itself that wasn’t IP could be, and some version usually is, shared). Had the FIA said what exactly was involved, Ferrari would be in its rights to counter-sue (it probably wouldn’t, but the risk is there and the FIA has a duty to protect itself against pointless legal risk).

      Add to this that English is one of the most analytically inexact languages of the world, and the FIA does not have a 100% record on clearly expressing what its regulations mean in practise. Also, teams routinely have differences of opinion over the interpretation of certain regulations, even when the FIA appears to have made its opinion on a given matter clear.

      I think one of three things occurred here:

      1) Dieter’s hypothesis (which is in the option space). Basically, it was done to get information to help with future enforcement. We will never know if Ferrari’s system was inside or outside of the regulations. Ferrari’s incentive to do this rather than go to court, if it is innocent, would be to enhance its relationship with the FIA. (Yes, governing bodies strive to be neutral, but doing things that lead to better understanding of a govening body’s thinking process is helpful to a team’s situation). Its incentive if it is guilty is obvious. In both cases, the concept of individual immunity would be invoked to prevent further disclosure. I’m not sure how the FIA could avoid revealing the nature of the breach if there was one, however. I’m inclined to believe that not only did the FIA not find a breach itself, but if Ferrari knew of one, they didn’t directly tell the FIA what it was (at most, they hinted at what it while stating directly how it could be stopped in future).

      2) Ferrari’s car was illegal under at least one interpretation of the letter of the law, but is legal in at least one reasonable interpretation of the letter of the law. (In other words, it is analogous to the “When is a hole not a hole?” question with the double-diffuser on the Brawns in 2009). The FIA did not have enough information to be sure of winning the case, but did have enough to attempt one. Ferrari wished to avoid the loss of time associated with taking the case to the FIA Courts and/or the risk of losing said case. The FIA wished the same – it also didn’t want the loss of time (in case other teams start doing whatever the issue was while waiting for a verdict), or the risk of losing the case.

      Therefore there was mutual interest in a settlement (based purely on avoiding anyone going down that same path) that did not require a court case. Since no protest was made and the courts never received an application, this is about as precise a release as the FIA could make. (This theory assumes that at least one thing that the FIA has done since starting the investigation, most likely post-season, already prevents the same misinterpretation).

      @drycrust, I would assume the two fuel flow meters are designed to work independently without interfering with one another. If they did interfere with each other, it would defeat the entire point.

      3) Ferrari’s car was legal by the letter of the law, but Ferrari and the FIA disagreed with the spirit of the law (said difference may not even be the thing the FIA started investigating Ferrari’s engine for, if the true problem was found later in the investigation). The “settlement” is a clarification of that spirit, and the FIA thinks the other teams already share its understanding of that spirit (thus negating the need to inform them of what it is). Remembering that in 2021, the law against loopholes means that the “spirit of the law” becomes an actual thing, then “settlement” makes sense for the wording (because it’s a preventative measure to ensure no breaches occur next year, rather than a suggestion that it is for things that have already happened). This also gives the FIA time to figure out how to apply whatever was discovered in the investigation and settlement to enforcing the rules (provided no car changes are needed from the teams).

      This, for me, is my prime hypothsis. The FIA was able to use the “no loopholes in 2021” rule to resolve the ambiguity. Because Ferrari’s interest in resolving this could plausibly be in the future, rather than present or past. If Ferrari and the FIA agreed that no letter of the law had been broken based on heretofore-seen evidence, the fact that teams haven’t been told what was broken acts as implication that nothing was (based on the FIA requirement to disclose known illegal items).

      Stating it directly is technically superfluous (although it would have been good PR practise). That ambiguity would have helped prevent others from trying the same thing… …if others had known what the “same thing” was. If others don’t know, they’re not going to be tempted to come up with fiddly interpretations of the ruling that would mean the FIA has to spend another 4 months in 2020 dissecting anyone else’s engines (I cannot imagine that was a fun task).

      I’m not sure the FIA is in a position to disambiguate these options yet, without breaching long-standing confidentiality rules about discussing things that are legal (given no proof of guilt exists) and/or breaching identitifying information of anyone who may have “whistleblown” (noting that there may be special incentive for the FIA to keep it secret if the whistleblower is senior management who, for example, don’t want to downtalk their subordinates in public).

      We may never know what Ferrari did last year that warranted so much investigation.

      1. Just a small clarification, I wasn’t suggesting cooling the fuel, but exploiting a small temperature difference between the temperature measurement point and the flow sensor.

        As a crude illustration of the concept, imagine the fuel runs through a pipe in the engine bay, shielded from airflow, to the temperature sensor, and then through a bit more fuel pipe that’s right in the cooling airflow to the flow sensor.

        It’s just occurred to me that really this all comes down to regulating the wrong thing. The holy grail of road engines is one which can produce huge power or amazing economy on demand. Limit F1 cars to a certain amount of fuel per race, and let them decide how to use it.

        1. Dave, that would not be legal either, as the cooling can only be done before it goes in the car. F1 cars are also fuel-limited – Kevin Magnussen was disqualified from the 2018 USA Grand Prix for using more than the permitted 105 kg of fuel (the reason this didn’t result in him running out of fuel is because a pre-specified amount more is allowed for the purposes of getting to the grid, doing slow-down laps and having a fuel sample at the end). Good imaginative thinking though.

      2. A la C an excellent post. Well done.

        1. @kenji Thank you :)

      3. @alianora-la-canta My suspicion is both flow meters are the same type built to the same specification and industrial standards, and since they emit sound, then it is logical the frequency emitted could be the same. It may well be “user” can select what frequencies are used, so maybe this isn’t an issue, but it could also be the manufacturer didn’t give the user that option. A lot depends on how quickly the sound attenuates within the pipe, but since it is ultra-sound, if the half wavelength of the frequency used was close to the diameter of the pipe then sound could travel quite well without much attenuation. Meaning, as you suggest, that the two units could interfere with each other and, yes, that could defeat the purpose.

    33. That is a really interesting perspective.

      A lot better than the other trash i’ve read on the subject.

      Not sure I agree with those kind of agreements being made between a controlling body and a team.
      But if there was that much grey area, then i guess its tough call for everyone involved.

      It has set a precedent though, which should be interesting within itself.

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