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Suspicions remain high over F1 engine legality

Mat Coch

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Sunday 19th July, 2020 - 10:07am

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Sebastian Vettel

Suspicions that some engine manufacturers are circumventing the regulations linger in the Formula 1 paddock despite measures introduced by the FIA during the off-season.

Over the winter, Ferrari and the FIA agreed a secret deal following an investigation into its 2019 power unit.

A number of technical directives were introduced during the course of last season in an effort to curtail any dubious practices, with additional sensors now monitoring key aspects of the power unit.

However, suspicions remain high with the FIA admitting it receives frequent tip-offs from within the paddock.

“We are always given information by teams, worried that maybe some other team may be doing this, that, or the other,” explained Nikolas Tombazis, Head of Single Seater Technical Matters for the FIA.

“It’s almost on a weekly basis we receive some form of comment.

“A percentage of those things may be paranoid or fears, but a percentage of those perhaps have an element of truth, so we systematically prioritise them based on how likely we think it is.

“It’s something we look at and then come to another resolution.

“I wouldn’t say there’s any major one on at the moment; like, any major fears that are a huge concern as a breach of regulations, but there are some small ones we have to look at.”

Ferrari appears to have been the one heaviest hit by the introduction of new sensors, and last year’s technical directives.

“It’s quite evident that we lost some power,” Guenther Steiner, whose Haas team uses Ferrari engines, told Speedcafe.com.

“Even Ferrari, I think, admitted that at some stage.

“So, I know as much as you about what happened last year with the FIA and these things. We are not involved.

“We get an engine, it’s a closed package and we just need to live by it, but we were about half a second slower in qualifying (in Austria) this year than last year.

“So I don’t know where it comes from and exactly what it is, but for sure, the engine is not more powerful than it was last year.”

For its part, Ferrari suggests all manufacturers have experienced power loss as a result of the clarifications and additional sensors.

“I don’t think it was only the case of Ferrari, I think looking at the power output of this season I think most of the other manufacturers had to adapt themselves,” Mattia Binotto, Ferrari’s Team Principal, said.

“Certainly as Ferrari we had to adapt, and as a simple output of that we lost some of the performance we had.

“I think that now we’ve got a clearer situation in some areas of the regulations, hopefully that will continue if required for the future.”

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff strenuously rebuffed the suggestion that his outfit was impacted to the same degree.

“Another complete bullshit story,” Wolff asserted.

“There’s a clear regulation on power units.

“There have been clarifications in Austin (2019 United States Grand Prix), what is allowed to do or not, which were important, but nothing that was in any way surprising, because if you comply to the regulations that was anyway clear.

“I think the irony of the story is that we were pushed by some of our competitors to absolutely new levels.

“It brought us to almost burnout last year, to develop and innovate in a way to be competitive on track.

“I think we made a substantial jump in performance from 2019 to 2020 because we needed to last year, and that is a little bit ironic for me.”

Mercedes has won both the opening two rounds of the 2020 season, while in Hungary cars carrying its engine locked out the front two rows of the grid.

Sebastian Vettel is the leading Ferrari contender, alongside team-mate Charles Leclerc on the third row.

In the contructors’ championship, Mercedes has already established a commanding lead over Renault-powered McLaren and Honda-powered Red Bull. Racing Point sits fourth with Ferrari fifth.

Alfa Romeo is the next-best Ferrari powered squad, sitting eighth in the standings with just two points to its name.

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