It goes without a question that the settlement agreement entered by the FIA and Scuderia Ferrari regarding the legality of the Maranello PU has caused enormous unrest within the paddock. What does the latest FIA press release tell us about it?
In case you missed it, Scuderia Ferrari came under scrutiny during the 2019 Formula 1 Championship for an alleged irregularity in fuel flow to the Power Unit. In order to verify the validity of the accusations, the FIA implanted a second fuel flow meter in the car and carried out extensive tests, going as far as impounding the engine.
After months of speculation, the Federation finally concluded the investigation by entering a settlement with the Italian outfit, whose details were not disclosed. In light of this, non-Ferrari powered teams expressed informal complaints on the transparency of the proceedings, to which the Federation only recently replied.
What we can tell
From a technical perspective, chances of getting answers on the matter are slim to none. Let's start with the rule of law. Article 5.10.3 and 5.10.5 of the FIA Formula 1 2019 Technical Regulations read as follows.
"All cars must be fitted with a single fuel flow sensor, wholly within the fuel tank, which has been manufactured by the FIA designated supplier to a specification determined by the FIA. This sensor may only be used as specified by the FIA. Furthermore, all fuel delivered to the power unit must pass through this homologated sensor."
"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."
Insiders tell us that the inefficacy and inaccuracy of the FIA-provided sensor is common knowledge within the paddock. Said sensor, sources say, is incapable of correctly measuring the laminar flow of modern F1 fuels (which, as it stands, every team independently supplies) and is faulty when it comes to sampling intervals. The inability of the FIA to provide for an accurate, trustworthy measuring instrument has resulted in teams possibly exploiting this "breach in the system" to their own advantage. Which is why the Federation had absolutely no intention of going any further in the proceedings.
The legal perspective
A "dissuasive settlement agreement" eventually boils down to a pact with which the parties respectively concede to some of their requests. As we know, Ferrari has promised to put their resources in the hands of the Federation to improve the faulty fuel flow sampling system, while the FIA has not disclosed what was "conceded" on their side. It is not unreasonable to believe that further investigation would have resulted in severe sanctions for the Scuderia, possibly a disqualification, which both parties could not sustain, neither economically nor in terms of image.
Pages and pages could be written on the lack of transparency of FIA jurisdiction, but what was done is in perfect compliance with Article 4.ii of their own Judiciary and Disciplinary rules and is, in fact, customary in most arbitration courts worldwide. Whether the other Formula 1 teams are going to accept this is, however, still all to play for.
Written by Aurora Dell'Agli