The FIA has responded to seven non-Ferrari powered teams who have challenged the settlement in the complaint launched over the manufacturer’s engine last season. The Mercedes, Renault and Honda teams have written to the governing body e expressing their “strong objection” to the confidential deal.
They say they will “pursue full and proper disclosure” and “reserve our rights to seek legal redress”. Mercedes, Red Bull, McLaren, Renault, Racing Point, Alpha Tauri and Williams all released identical statements to that effect on Wednesday morning.
In a joint statement, they said they were “surprised and shocked” by the FIA’s statement concluding its investigation into the Ferrari power-unit in 2019.
It added: “An international sporting regulator has the responsibility to act with the highest standards of governance, integrity and transparency. After months of investigations that were undertaken by the FIA only following queries raised by other teams.”
“We strongly object to the FIA reaching a confidential settlement agreement with Ferrari to conclude this matter. Therefore, we hereby state publicly our shared commitment to pursue full and proper disclosure in this matter, to ensure that our sport treats all competitors fairly and equally. We do so on behalf of the fans.”
In response, the FIA said, while it was “not fully satisfied” at the end of its extensive investigations into Ferrari’s power unit, it decided that “further action would not necessarily result in a conclusive case due to the complexity of the matter and the material impossibility to provide the unequivocal evidence of a breach”.
Ferrari has denied the allegations saying their 2019 car adhered to the regulations. While the FIA say they could not be certain that the PU was ‘operating within the limits of the FIA regulations at all times.’
Ferrari’s statement said, “The FIA was not fully satisfied but decided that further action would not necessarily result in a conclusive case due to the complexity of the matter and the material impossibility to provide the unequivocal evidence of a breach.”
The non-Ferrari teams have raised three questions
- Does the lack of punitive action against Ferrari mean that the car was legal at all times in 2019?
- If so, why not say so? Why the need for a “settlement”, and what was that settlement?
- What confidence can teams have in F1 if the FIA is not able to conclude a technical investigation without saying whether the car in question was legal or not?
The dispute began ahead of the United States Grand Prix when the FIA issued a rules clarification in response to a detailed series of questions from Red Bull. These centred on whether it was possible to interfere with the mandatory fuel-flow meter in ways that made it bypass the regulation limit of 100kg per hour.
The clarification made it clear that any intervention with the mandatory fuel-flow meter that could lead it to exceed the maximum permitted fuel flow would be against the rules. Suspicions rose in qualifying when Ferrari’s run of six consecutive pole positions came to an end. The team did not set a pole position in any of the remaining two races in Brazil and Abu Dhabi either.
Teams are likely to see that as an admission by the FIA that it is not capable of policing its own regulations – a highly unsatisfactory position for a competition that is based on fairness and equality of opportunity.
As such, it is likely that rivals will not accept this latest step from the FIA as a satisfactory conclusion and will seek further explanations.