According to Wikipedia, “Charlie Whiting is the FIA Formula One Race Director, Safety Delegate, Permanent Starter and head of the F1 Technical Department, in which capacities he generally manages the logistics of each F1 Grand Prix, inspects cars in parc fermé before a race, enforces FIA rules, and controls the lights that start each race.”
However, Whiting stated in February 2014 to editor in chief of thejudge13.com that he was “the FIA – as far as Formula One was concerned”.
When pressed on the matter, Charlie revealed, all F1 regulations ‘go through him’ whether sporting or technical, and that he has the final say on what is recommended to the World Motor Sport Council along with interpretive regulations not requiring the sanction of the WMSC.
Of course the F1 strategy Group and Commission have arrived on the scene since Charlie’s statements. Yet the rules governing the engine development, were agreed long before the advent of the new Formula One governance structures – which by the way appear illegal under previous rulings from the European Commission.
According to Autosport, the current situation regarding engine development regulations is as follows.
No date was set for the current manufacturers homologation of their engines for 2015. This means they can alter their engine design by around 48% of what they presented to the FIA in 2014 – throughout the 2015 season.
Charlie and the FIA intended that this work would be done and completed prior to the first race of the season; in effect the engines should be homologated (agreed) at the end of February 2015 and would again be frozen throughout the year.”
“In a note that was sent from the FIA’s Charlie Whiting to all teams over the Christmas period, it was made clear that the upgrades would be allowed to come on tap at any point over 2015,” Autosport report.
“As it is not specifically stated… when a power unit may be modified in accordance with appendix 4 [of the technical regulations], we feel that the weighted items (32 in this case) may be introduced at any time during the 2015 season,”
The failure to specify the intention that engines should be frozen before the first race of 2015, is an oversight of significant proportions by Whiting and the FIA.
Charlie has now issued an opinion that, “The basic homologated power unit will remain that which was homologated for the 2014 season, including any changes made in accordance with paragraph 1 (c) of appendix 4 [of the sporting regulations].”
So the intention of the FIA regulations to freeze engine development beyond the first race in 2015 will now not be enforced.
However, Charlie and the FIA have also failed to regulate on when new engine manufacturers should deliver a homologated engine.
John Noble of Autosport states Charlie’s opinion as follows. “Although the regulations do not specifically state dates for the Japanese car maker to submit its homologated unit, the FIA is standing by its view that it must stick to the February 28 date that the current manufacturers faced last year”.
So we have the intentions of the FIA regulations discarded for the current manufacturers, yet Honda are expected to comply with similar intentions – which are also not regulated.
Whiting sent a note clarifying the position which states, “As the existing manufacturers were obliged to homologate their power units by 28 February 2014 it would seem fair and equitable to ask a new manufacturer to homologate their power unit before February 28 2015”.
We therefore consider this to be a requirement for a new power unit manufacturer.”
This may appear to be an equitable position to take regarding the Honda engine, yet Ron Dennis and Honda will clearly argue, the intention of the FIA is not being upheld so far as existing engine manufacturers and their 2015 engine development freezes are concerned – so why should Honda and McLaren be held to a similar intention of the regulations, which is not clearly stated.
In motor sports, the sanctioning body to race in a given category must homologate a vehicle. This means the FIA must agree a Formula One car and engine fits the specification to be allowed to race.
The regulations stated that the 2014 power unit (PU) would comprise of 66 ‘token’ components – that are weighted individually between one and three depending on how important they are.
Ahead of 2015, five of these tokens were ‘frozen’ completely – but there was scope to review the 61 remaining items if a manufacturer felt improvements were needed.
Engine manufactures are allowed to select 32 of these ‘token’ components and completely modify them for 2015.
Autosport claim that all the 2014 F1 engine manufacturers are now free to develop/redesign around 48% of their 2014 engines, but Honda are not allowed this freedom. Yet the failure to differentiate between engine homologation and ‘engine development freeze’ is crucial to what will be.
Under the current regulations, Honda can theoretically present the FIA with an engine specification which can be agreed (homologated) as suitable to race in Formula One at he end of February and can then design/develop 32 tokens worth of the engine components as can the other PU suppliers, throughout the season.
In fact, due to the oversight of Whiting and the FIA, Honda could argue, they are allowed to present an engine which fits the specification of the new V6 Turbo regulations – have it homologated – and then continue to develop the whole of the 66 tokens throughout the 2015 season. This is not forbidden by the regulations for a new manufacturer.
This gives Honda leverage, and the most likely outcome will be, Honda will present an engine for homologation (agreement) prior to the first 2015 race – and like the other manufacturers will be able to redesign 48% of the PU throughout the year.
Given Whiting’s role in F1 on behalf of the FIA – once again questions of competency are unavoidable.