Mercedes back down but Ferrari’s other rivals continue FIA fight over power unit settlement

2020 F1 season

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Mercedes is no longer part of the ‘gang of seven’ teams which was pressing the FIA over its settlement with Ferrari over last year’s investigation into the legality of its power unit.

However RaceFans understands the majority of the remaining teams are still backing efforts to clarify with the FIA whether and how Ferrari might have broken the regulations last year.

Mercedes played a leading role in uniting the seven non-Ferrari powered teams in writing a letter to the FIA stating their strong objections to the deal, the terms of which have not been revealed.

The remaining teams are said to be extremely disappointed to have lost the world champions’ backing. One team principal told RaceFans Mercedes “were the prime movers [behind the letter], then they pull out and hang us out to dry.”

Insiders have revealed Ola Kallenius, chairman of Mercedes owner Daimler, intervened following discussions with Fiat Chrysler and Ferrari chairman John Elkann. At Kallenius’s request, Mercedes F1 CEO and team principal Toto Wolff began moves to pull the team’s support for the collective action.

An Italian source says that agreement was then struck between Kallenius and Ferrari CEO Louis Camilleri due to the “bigger picture”. Daimler, BMW and Fiat are believed to be cooperating on autonomous car technologies, while Elkann was concerned that the mud-flinging was damaging Formula 1’s image.

The second fuel flow meter operates downstream of the first and its data is encrypted
How the FIA’s new encrypted fuel flow meter targets Ferrari’s suspected ‘aliasing’ trick
The remaining teams are understood to be concerned by the questions of transparency which they believe have been raised by the FIA’s handling of the matter. This is especially concerning to some in light of the new Financial Regulations – also known as the budget cap – due to be introduced next year.

“If they [the FIA] can’t police Ferrari’s fuel system, how can they police their budget?” asked one.

In their letter, addressed jointly to the FIA and F1 commercial rights holder Liberty Media, the teams raised several points which they feel FIA president Jean Todt failed to fully address in his subsequent response.

The teams are considering their next steps, which could include publishing their original letter, or pursuing legal action to compel the FIA or F1 to disclose the terms of the settlement.

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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...
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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41 comments on “Mercedes back down but Ferrari’s other rivals continue FIA fight over power unit settlement”

  1. It might not be logical, but I’m currently more disappoibted in Mercedes than in Ferrari.

    1. Sonny Crockett
      17th March 2020, 10:19

      Is Mercedes positioning itself in anticipation of a wave of protests re: their DAS system?

      Perhaps they’ve agreed a truce with Ferrari behind the scenes?

      1. RBR was already going to protest DAS and Rear brake ducts for Australian GP and they are hell bent on protesting those 2 things on Mercs as soon as the season starts.

        1. Great plan, protest Mercedes + protest Ferrari, and RBR are in with a clear path to the title.

          1. @jureo well, that theory does only work if the FIA accepts those protests to begin with – if they are rejected, then Red Bull is in exactly the same place as before.

            Furthermore, that also assumes that there isn’t the risk of those teams launching their own counter protests against Red Bull – it’s not as if other teams wouldn’t do the same thing to them either.

    2. I think Mercedes have taken the pragmatic approach.
      The whole circus will be damaged by these allegations and it is better the matter is just allowed to die.
      Other teams have found ways to cheat in the past or found loop holes to exploit and were never caught or punished.
      It doesn’t mean Ferrari cheated, they might have found a loop hole, and extracted every advantage, that is now closed.
      Ferrari have modified their system and don’t have that advantage anymore, so it is best to move on.

      1. I wish it was a loophole; I would even applaud Ferrari for finding and using one.
        But if it was cheating then for the sport’s sake it needs to be investigated and reported by the people in charge.
        Even if FIA strongly believes it was cheating, but cannot prove it, then they should report what they claim could have happened and why they cannot prove or disprove it. And then they announce how they make sure this (potentially undetected rule breaches) cannot happen again.

        1. PS I think that part of Mercedes’ position is to get Ferrari’s support for Wolff to step up to FOM’s role.

          Anyway, not happy with what Mercedes is doing. And as a Mercedes driver I hereby officially declare that I will not buy a Mercedes anymore but switch over to VW* as they at least admitted to cheating.

          *that’s their Stuttgart subsidiary of course.

          1. I think that part of Mercedes’ position is to get Ferrari’s support for Wolff to step up to FOM’s role.

            @coldfly – I’ve heard this theory offered up by others as well. However, it is Olla having the team back down, not Toto. If it were Toto making this horse-trade, I can see the reason behind it. Do you see a significant enough advantage for Mercedes in having Toto get the top FOM job for them to go down this route?

            (Just to head off a potential rebuttal point – a comparison to Todt at FIA isn’t a good one, since the FIA has a significant presence in the automotive arena even outside motorsport, so getting a Mercedes – or, as it happened, Ferrari – man into the FIA would have better value).

          2. In my defence, I said ‘part of’, @phylyp ;)

          3. @coldfly – hey, not challenging you. I am genuinely curious if there might be a reason that hasn’t occurred to me but has to you.

      2. There was no “loophole” in the cheating that Ferrari did, It was tantamount to stepping on the FIA scales to hide their underweight cars, it was cheating full stop. There is no proof that Ferrari has changed their system because the FIA has not released that information.

      3. Mercedes know their only competition comes from Ferrari, cheat or no cheat. If they just run away with the championship, that is no story for Mercedes.

        Ofcourse the likes of Redbull would beg to differ. Also you have to wonder if Ferrari can compete in the coming seasons without resorting to underhand methods, as they’ve clearly done in the seasons upto now.

    3. Why? Mercedes still beat them and their WCC position cannot be improved upon like it may be for the others.

      On top of the that the cheat has been found out and closed down. No brainer.

      1. Ever thought of upholding the credibility and fairness of your sport?

  2. Cash is indeed king. It’s not who you know its who knows you. I scratch your back, you scratch mine. The little man will forever get screwed in this world. Lost a bit of respect for Merc after reading this article but am I surprised? No.

    1. No surprise. Merc is just as dirty and ruthless as Ferrari. You don’t become 5 times double world champion because you’re just a good sportsman.

      The difference between them is Merc use media, especially their youtube channel, very clever presenting themselves as very open and honest and build that belief into people. Toto might strike as gentleman and a cool guy but those are the eyes of a “killer”….just look at his CV :D

      1. Bruno Verrari
        17th March 2020, 9:51

        Worse – optimized by Torger Wolff…

      2. Toto clearly is the marionet, not exactly the killer type.
        After Toto made a call with head office Mercedes in Germany he pulled out of the Australian GP and now the news comes out CEO’s decided Mercedes/Ferrari need each other in the bigger scheme of things and therefore the ‘puppets on strings’ shouldn’t argue about such minor issues as Ferrari cheating… Mercedes won both titles, they don’t need to be part of this.

      3. The difference between them is Merc use media, especially their youtube channel, very clever presenting themselves as very open and honest and build that belief into people.

        Very good point. How you play the media game makes a huge difference, something Ferrari still struggle with.

  3. Cash is King! “and that’s all folks”

  4. An Italian source says that agreement was then struck between Kallenius and Ferrari CEO Louis Camilleri due to the “bigger picture”. Daimler, BMW and Fiat are believed to be cooperating on autonomous car technologies, while Elkann was concerned that the mud-flinging was damaging Formula 1’s image.

    Hamiltons words still ring load and true, Mercedes and BMW are looking for partners in a project that will cost tens of billions to develop and put to market. They are in negotiations with Fiat currently to get involved and fiat are very keen to increase there technical know how for a market that is projected to be worth around 190 billion by 2030. They are behind currently in developing autonomous tech.
    The mud-flinging was definitely hurting ferraris image, it’s the attempted cover up that hurts F1.
    I’m pretty sure the scandal will be buried behind the on going Covid 19 issue. Wouldn’t be surprised if Renault drop out as well, as the Fiat Renault merger is not dead.

  5. Without the clout of Merc this challenge is over. Unless Horner has something up his sleeve.

  6. Adam (@rocketpanda)
    17th March 2020, 9:57

    Actually had a lot of respect for Mercedes for leading the charge for transparency about this messy buisness, especially when in many ways they had nothing to gain but now the idea they’ve backed down due to their own ‘secret deals’ with Ferrari just taints them too. So it was bad, but now you’ve ‘spoken’ to them, it’s all okay? Get in the sea.

    I hope the remaining teams continue to fight for some truth and honesty about all of this. THIS is damaging F1’s image. It doesn’t look trustworthy; it looks dishonest. It looks like the rules will apply for some but not others in the name of ‘damaging the sport’s reputation’ – that potential cheating is allowed if you’ve got cash and that the rulebook is basically the Pirate’s code – more of a guideline than a rule.

    Its a pretty gross and disappointing look.

  7. Yeah Adam, I concur, it´s both gross and disappointing.

    I wrote a piece awhile ago in which I in essens said that people must stop this BS calling the FIA, Ferrari International Assistance, and pointed to the fact that the FIA constantly changed the qualy rules in the early 20´s in an attempt to stop Ferrari (Michael Schumacher) from Winning.

    And as that did not work finally agreed to banish tire changes during the races, which would and gave the Michelin shod team a huge advantage. And hence that Ferrari was on the backfoot and Alonso (who was and still are a fantastic driver) could secure the WDC.

    The deal between the FIA and Ferrari is more than shameful, and with this on top of it, it will damage F1’s image, for sure as Felipe Massa would have said.

    1. @jccase just as there are those who claim the FIA changed the regulations to stop Ferrari and Schumacher winning, so too you will find complaints that the FIA introduced rules that helped Ferrari and Schumacher keep on winning.

      For example, the ban on beryllium alloys in 2001, which Mercedes had been using to manufacture their pistons, forced a fairly major redesign; until then, Mercedes had been able to produce engines with a longer piston stroke, giving them a performance advantage over Ferrari. Some did suggest the move was a political one aimed at hurting Mercedes and nullifying any engine performance advantage they might have otherwise had.

      1. Beryllium alloys are very poisonous, so the ban on using that was not a surprise to anyone, except for Mercedes (read: McLaren), who acted as they were, and complained loudly but to no awhile. That stuff is really nasty and should without a single doubt be banned. Mercedes should not have used it in the first place, but in those days, almost no-one (at least within F1) cared for the environment.

  8. It was supposed to be: “in the early 2000´s”..

  9. Of course money talks and in a major motor sales recession even before these immensely economically damaging responses to the Covid-19 virus, the problem for the car manufacturers is only going to get worse. So of course money talks between those manufacturers who have a partnership to develop the ‘next big thing’ in cars, bigger even than electric or hydrogen engines.

    Only speculation, but I wonder if Elkann gave Mercedes the full story of the FIA statement while continuing the partnership in autonomous driving. After all there is a need for trust and transparency between the partnership of Fiat Mercedes and BMW.

    If Mercedes has got the full story on a confidential basis it would make sense that they no longer need to pursue the issue and it’s dog eat dog in Formula One as we are all well know. I’m alright Jack I’ll pull up the ladder. Does anybody think Red Bull, Renault, Williams would not have done the same in the same circumstances.

    Not nice but then Formula One politics is not nice and never will be and never can be. Just look at the nasty politics in any sporting club even when money is not involved.

    1. The details of the settlement are confidential between Ferrari and the FIA. If Ferrari would have shared some of its details with anyone else then it would be in a real trouble legal wise. Mercedes didn’t have the guts to enter a political fight with Ferrari and especially the FIA (Jean Todt).
      This is the second slap in Toto’s face in less than 4 months time (the first one was the veto against him replacing Carey). I don’t know if some might still insist that the “Magnificent Seven” can create an alternative championship without Ferrari.

      1. You may be right on the disclosure, or not. We don’t know the terms of the settlement. Ferrari must have been able to inform its board, key shareholders and FIAT who share a controlling board of which Elkann is chairman.

        The bosses of two enormous automotive empires talking………big stuff. Ways are found if needed.

        1. and FIAT

          That would be ilegal, even if Elkann is part of both entities there is no ownership or legal (AFAIK) link between them to share such information.
          Elkann would be making a major misstep if he shares confidential information of one company whilst exercising a formal role for another company.

          1. * illegal

          2. Clauses in that settlement certainly restricted information flow but I doubt very much it restricted the flow of information to the chairman of the company controlling Ferrari not least because that settlement may have cost the company money in one way or the other.

            Hiding financial liabilities from the mainboard would be illegal.

          3. ?? Witan ??

            the company controlling Ferrari not least because that settlement may have cost the company money in one way or the other.

            FIAT does NOT control Ferrari, nor has it any financial investment in Ferrari (at least not reportable).
            Yes Exor has a stake in both companies, but that does not mean that they can ‘cross-fertilise’ information from one company they invest in to the next.

      2. Don’t forget there was a third slap in the face for Toto when he was instructed by the Mercedes Boss to do a u turn and vote against running the Oz GP.

  10. A big nothing, media is more upset than the teams.

  11. MB (@muralibhats)
    17th March 2020, 15:58

    Well played Mercedes. You still have your representations in your customer teams over the fuel flow matter and still can try to save yourself over the DAS investigation.

  12. This is the reason why manufacturers don’t stay in F1 for very long. A company like Mercedes spends a lot to create and keep a good positive image. They cannot be involved in cheating at sport. Sadly, cheating runs through the DNA of F1. For some strange reason Ferrari don’t appear to have a problem with bending the rules, in fact it’s alleged they get away with cheating for the good of F1. There’s an element of not beating your boss at golf, in how the FIA deals with Ferrari and Renault.

    I expect there will be a whispering campaign taking place now to blame Mercedes for the cancelled Aussie race and accusing Ferrari of cheating without evidence. The usual candidates will be repeating the nonsense for years, as they have with tyre testing 7 years back and even LH’s win in Brazil in 2008.

  13. It would seem rather irresponsible and/or flawed for Mercedes to back down on their earlier statement and leave the other teams out hanging dry, having driven this agenda from the front, but I see their point. The cooperation between their respective automotive brands needs to supersede theirs differences in F1. If it’s something that can be handled between them, then let them sort it out within themselves. The other teams have a right to protest, but they should do that without crying foul and blaming Mercedes. If dissatisfied, they can appeal as separate entities or one, though I see without Mercedes in the picture, it’ll not be easy.

    1. You just don’t fight for the sake of fighting to the bitter end.
      The issue was not with Ferrari but with the FIA.
      It is the FIA’s actions that was bringing the sport to disrepute.

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