Burning the Mid-Season oil

Photo by: www.kymilman.com/f1

There was a piece over at Autosport that caught my attention for a few reasons. In short, the article discusses a letter from unnamed teams to the FIA seeking clarification on what they believe Ferrari may be doing to gain their power advantage—burning oil from the intercooler for increased combustion.

The article meanders through a few concepts over the issue at hand and then mentions last year’s challenge to Ferrari’s ERS. In the process of explaining the current concern, as well as last year’s complaint, the article then seemingly veers into the editorial realm of questioning the FIA’s efficacy and process sans the late Charlie Whiting.

I am unclear if this concern was coming from team members who are suggesting the FIA’s insistence that any concerns need to be formally lodged as a protest—and this is a departure from Whiting’s more effective governance—or if the article is questioning the efficacy of the FIA because it is following its procedure for challenging possible regulatory infractions.

The article goes on to describe how Whiting would hear complaints and formal protests and act on both whereas the current position is that if teams have a concern over Ferrari’s intercooler, they can file a formal protest.

If the article is offering editorial wrapped with news, then it leaves it up to we readers to determine which is which and for my part, I tend to think that many things will change sans Whiting. One of those elements may be the notion that mere hints and allegations aren’t enough to launch casual, informal inquiries so the FiA can have a rummage around Ferrari’s garage without a formal reason for doing so.

Let’s be honest, I would rather be able to quietly send a letter to Michael Masi suggestion that Red Bull are possibly doing something dodgy but never have it revealed that I started the accusation confident in the knowledge that Michael would dig in at Red Bull and poke around for any infraction despite no formal protest. I can see where these “letters” could be used to create confusion in other teams if they were always acted upon. I’d send a letter every 14 days just to keep my competitors frosty.

What the article fails to recall was a way that Ferrari did this without lodging a formal protest yet exposing a real issue that was eventually banned.

Remember the old days of “seeking clarification” from the FIA over a design concept you thought your competition was using but you couch it in a way that implies you are going to institute the design and you simply want to make sure you would be deemed “legal”?

That’s what Ferrari did regarding the FRIC system Mercedes were using. Ferrari knew Mercedes were using this system to great effect so they compelled the FIA to make a ruling on it by simply sending them a letter saying that Ferrari were keen to use this design and they merely wanted to know if they would be in compliance with the regulations in doing so. Brilliant move.

Ferrari not only listed the FRIC system they thought Mercedes were using but several permutations around that concept of the FRIC system to encapsulate any errors they may have due to the lack of granular knowledge of the system Mercedes were using. In short, they didn’t give the FIA much wiggle room to avoid the issue because Ferrari hadn’t described the Mercedes system exactly.

The late Charlie Whiting was forced to respond saying that in the view of the FIA, they would deem these systems to be contravening the regulations. You can see our thoughts back in 2017 on the Ferrari letter here.

If team(s) believe Ferrari are burning oil, then perhaps they should have used Ferrari’s own game against them and asked the FIA to clarify the intercooler design, oil content allowable in the cylinder head (which I believe they did address), intercooler oil leakage management, et. al. Just to make sure they were compliant for 2020 you know.

Hat Tip: Autosport

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Didn’t we use to call this “diesel”?


Is Ferrari’s advantage to use that previous tactic for a rules change or the inability to see that from its rivals? You’d think someone in management along Paddock row would mimic that FRIC precedent to move against Ferrari’s newfound advantage. Or do the other 9 teams simply fear Ferrari’s widely-believed incestuous relationship with the FIA?