We spoke about the controversy from this weekend’s US Grand Prix centered on Ferrari’s power performance and the FIA technical directive that was issued after a Red Bull inquiry.
The issue at hand, as we mentioned here, is the intervalic measurement of the fuel flow and that a team might possibly be increasing the fuel flow between measurement intervals. This would require some serious work by the propeller-heads back in Maranello but clearly the FIA said this would be against the rules.
While Mercedes boss Toto Wolff pulled up short of alleging that this is where Ferrari had found their performance and straight line gains, that didn’t stop Max Verstappen from wading into—more like diving into the deep end—the controversy after the race by telling Dutch TV:
“That’s what happens when you stop cheating, of course. But yeah, they had a good look at it. So now we have to keep a close eye on it, of course.”
“Not surprised, at all, about it,” he added. “After what came out. That explains everything.”
There are two sides to this and I can see both. On one hand, it would take an enterprising team to come up with this solution and you have to hand it to the innovative way of riding the regulations to the letter of the law while flouting the spirit of the law. Kudos to them if they truly found a way to pulse the fuel flow in a manner that always showed correct flow rates when a measurement interval occurred.
On the other hand, that’s a gimmicky way to find true pace and performance to take the fight to your rivals and beat them through sheer engineering genius by producing a power unit that is, on balance and within regulations, better than Mercedes Honda and Renault. Simply finding a way to feed more fuel to the ICE than your rivals is crafty but not a long-term performance solution built on a better engine.
This comments didn’t sit well with Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc who quickly rebuked Max:
“I think it is a joke to be completely honest,” said Leclerc.
“He has no clue. He is not in the team.
“We know exactly what we are doing. I don’t know why he is speaking. He doesn’t know anything about us.”
All of that said, much of this is being discussed on the basis that it is true. I have to admit that their lackluster performance in Austin on Sunday does leave on scratching their head on the heels of this FIA technical directive.
However, Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto has a very easy explanation for their lack of pace and poor results that does not insinuate they were flouting the regulations.
“I read and I heard a lot of comments this weekend about a technical directive and the impact on our cars,” Binotto said. “I heard comments at the end of the race which I feel are very disappointing.
“As a matter of fact I believe yesterday we were very close to pole position as it had been in the last race.
“I think Seb could have scored pole, but maybe was a bit too cautious in one corner.
“Charles had a clear problem in the morning, losing FP3 completely, and then had a downgrade on the engine we fitted on the car.
“Overall, looking at his performance in Q3 and what could have been done, without the issue in the morning, I am pretty sure that he was potentially on the pole as well. So I don’t see where the problem is.
“If I look at the race, certainly the speed on the straight was not our issue whereas we had clear problems with the grip of the car in the first stint with both drivers.
“It is the type of comments that are completely wrong in the sport. It is not good for the sport and I think everybody should be a bit more cautious.”
There will be some who do not believe Mattia and others who do but the only way to really be sure is in the final two races. If Ferrari are still struggling for straight line speed and performance that simply isn’t on par with what they have show since the summer break, then perhaps one might feel slightly justified in thinking they were playing games wit the fuel flow.
If the performance advantage returns in Brazil and Abu Dhabi, then perhaps a rush to judgment was premature. Regardless, if the next two races are lackluster and tire issues are blamed, there is just enough room for doubt.
HAt Tip: Autosport