FIA in regulation shambles again


The Italian GP saw the farce that is the FIA’s relationship with Formula One at a new level.

Given the uproar over Pirelli tyres following Spa, wild claims that drivers’ lives are on the line, the FIA decided to ensure the age old habit of team’s operating tyres in an unsafe manner must stop.

F1 Team’s have for time and memorial ‘pushed the limits’ in regard to everything technical, which includes running camber angles and tyre pressures which are marginal and even beyond the recommended tyre manufacturer’s operating window.

This lead to Jo Baur and his team checking the tyre pressures of the Ferrari and Mercedes cars when they were on the grid, less than 5 minutes before the off.

Jo discovered that both Mercedes car tyre pressures on the rear tyres were beneath the pressure limits set by Pirelli. Dutifully Jo and his team who work for the FIA, reported this to the FIA as breach of the technical regulations.

Rob Smedley was adamant this breach should see Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes disqualified from the Italian GP, despite Hamilton’s claims it was a minor breach of just 0.3Psi which had not affect on performance.

“It doesn’t matter what it is,” said Smedley. “If it’s 0.3 or minus 10. When you have a technical regulation, you have to stick to that technical regulation.

“With wings we measure them and we get them to within half a millimeter of the regulations, but they are half a millimeter within, we don’t go outside the technical regulations.

“And if we did go outside and we were caught going outside then we would be disqualified.

“There’s a technical regulation and that’s in place in order that you don’t infringe it.

“So where do you go with wings? What do you do with car heights? What do you with your power units? Is it alright a bit, but it’s not alright a lot?

“We all abide by that technical regulation. If we all added a little bit then all of our cars would be two seconds quicker.

“If I took a little bit in every single area of the car, the car would be two seconds quicker, so we don’t take a little bit anywhere.

“There’s a technical regulation and they’ve infringed the technical regulation. End of story.”

Pat Symonds took a similar line when questioned by SKY. He used the example of the ‘plank’, stating it was either legal by one millimetre or illegal.

The FIA race stewards and Charlie Whiting deliberated the matter and decided that the FIA (ie himself) had not clearly communicated the appropriate protocol’s to determine if and when the tyres were indeed under inflated.

Mercedes were off the hook.

Interestingly, Charlie Whiting is responsible for communicating to the teams the FIA’s expectations with regard to technical regulations and directives, and this should be done with precision and in a way where an absolute line is drawn in the sand.

A Formula One car is either technically compliant – or not. And failing to comply with the technical regulations results in a simple decision. Exclusion from the on track session where the breach occurred.

Remember 2014 – Australia? Daniel Ricciardo was disqualified because the fuel flow on his car exceeded the allowable limit. Whether it was 1% or 0.0001% above the limit, this breach saw the Red Bull driver lose his podium place and awarded a ‘DSQ’.

Oh… and for the record, whatever the ratification procedures for F1 regulations within the FIA, Charlie is ‘Mr. F1’. He recommends and writes the proposed regulation changes and of course is the master author of all technical directives.

Charlie’s draft regulation for the engine homologation date for 2015, happened to unfortunately not include the date for this regulations deadline. In many organisations this would be viewed as incompetence.

The result is that engine manufacturers have this year been allowed to develop their engines during the season – something at complete odds with Charlie’s intentions.

Following the Jules Bianchi incident at the 2014 Japanese GP, the FIA decided that they would introduce a virtual safety car to limit the speed of F1 cars – but only through the sector of the circuit affected by an incident. This would protect marshals working in the affected area.

The actual result? Charlie has devised a protocol that does not deliver this. Cars are now forced to drive the entire lap at a reduced average speed and as we saw in Silverstone, this means the affected sector is not really protected.

This average speed solution means cars can drive flat out for periods during the lap, and in Silverstone, Lewis Hamilton approached the scene of a stricken Toro Rosso at a pace which meant had his car left the circuit, it would probably have instantly killed a marshal with a direct hit who was working less than 10 metres from the circuit.

In Monza, we saw the FIA (Jo Baur) report a breach of the technical regulations – remember breaches of the tech regs are black and white and result in a DSQ. The FIA (the stewards) then decided the FIA (Charlie) had not properly regulated how this breach should be measured – and therefore excused Mercedes from their breach of the regulations.

The FIA (the stewards) then issued a recommendation to the FIA (Charlie) to sort out the confusion.

“Stewards determine that the pressures were at the minimum start pressure recommended by Pirelli when they were fitted to the car.

Tyre warming blankets had been disconnected from their power source as is normal procedures and the tyres were significantly below the maximum permitted tyre blanket temperature at the time of the FIA measurement on the grid and significantly different temperatures from other cars measured on the grid.

The stewards decide to take no further action.

Neverthess the stewards recommend the tyre manufacturer and the FIA hold further meetings to provide clear guidance to the teams on measurements.”

TJ13  documented extensively the errors in judgment and failure to enforce regulations by FIA delegate and race director Charlie Whiting at the Japanese GP in 2014. These failures contributed to the death of Jules Bianchi.

The problem with a whitewash investigation, as was conducted by the FIA following Bianchi’s crash, is that those who are incompetent or in need of training continue to operate in an erroneous fashion and lessons are not learned.

The FIA as a regulator of Formula One is not fit for purpose at present and the simple solution would be to retire the kindly old man with the white hair – and get someone who knows what they are doing.

39 responses to “FIA in regulation shambles again

  1. I miss ‘ol Jean-Marie Balestre. Even Max Mosley disallowed Schumacher’s win at Spa in 1994. Just for challenging the FIA and losing, he was banned for Italy and Portugal. I guess they had rules and consequences back then?

  2. Whiting has spent too many years as the Dwarf’s lacky. He and the FIA lawyers are quite capable of writing rules that don’t have loopholes, but I’m convinced he leaves them in to benefit certain teams. He never had a problem in outlawing the mass damper used by Renault. When Ferrari failed to get their copy to work, Whiting banned it. The Red Bullies front wings never once flexed on Whiting’s rig, but they certainly did on the track.
    F1 needs a clean out, Bernie, the stewards, Whiting and his mates would never be missed.

  3. Just as a matter of disinterest, how far back is anybody able to track the pushing of the limits on camber angles and tyre pressures?
    In other words was there any recommendations published prior to Porelli Paul showing up with his cheesy poofs?

    • Well you might remember Silverstone 2013 with the exploding tyres. There were teams were running tyres in the opposite rotational direction for which they were designed as well as beyond pressure and camber recommendations according to Pirelli.

      • I recall it well Matt……Thing is, I don’t recall so much direction being bandied around in the Goodyear days or the Bridgestone days or probably any other tyre manufacturers days. In fact I’d suggest that until Bernie prevailed upon Pirelli to fark up the show there were none.

        But Pirelli, having often come close to scoring an own goal on several occasions, have prevailed with FIA backing cause Bernie says so and they can all save face.

        • Funny, my recollection of the waning Bridgestone days were of increasing boredom. But I didn’t follow the sport as closely back then so I would call it more of an impression than an opinion. Also, gin.

          Regarding tyre manufacturer recs, well, there must have been some, but back then you paid your money and took your chances. Run your tyres outside recs and it was your own damn fault if something went wrong.

          Sadly, we have no real idea what Pirelli might have brought to the sport not only because of Uncle Bernie, but also due to the fact that they can only test their tyres on a lawnmower only on days that don’t end in a y.

      • Don’t blame that all on Pirelli, drivers were exceeding track limits there too. They kept cutting tires on the back edge of turn 4. If turn 4 curbing was not the culprit for all the tire failures, why was the curbing corrected after all the blowouts?

  4. The reference to Australia 2014 is in no way similar to what we saw yesterday. Red Bull despite many warnings throughout the race, chose to ignore those warnings and persisted to breach the rules because they felt that their readings was more accurate than the FIA’s.

    Are we forgetting that they had also without the permission of the FIA drilled holes into the fuel flow sensors? Their disqualification was self inflicted.

    As for Pat and Rob’s comments and examples used, I’d assume that for guys who have been in the sport for so long, they would’ve used such daft examples as a wing and plank. Neither of which legality is affected by such things as ambient track and air temperatures.

    • Yes, the various details of the two issues are not similar, they never are, but they are similar to the extent that they were both considered technical (not sporting) breaches and in that context the associated punishments would be similar. At the time of the above quotes, I believe “what type of punishment” was being ascertained and debated. There are no shades of grey in F1 with proven technical breaches, it’s DSQ. I feel that’s all they are saying.

      In this case, Mercedes are not in breach.

      Rob and Pat, in my opinion, are correct. If Hamilton WAS in breach, he should be DSQ’d for whatever reason said breach eventuated. It’s black and white. Read what they say carefully… but in the end, he’s not in breach.

      It’s also my opinion that Mercedes are “not in breach” on a technicality. That being said, it’s also my opinion that Lewis didn’t have any substantive performance enhancing tyre pressure. So, for F1, I feel it’s the correct decision; though it’s curious the different standards by the same stewards (at the same event) between the junior categories and F1.

      And on we march.

      • But that is the thing – Mercedes are in breach of the rule, as written.

        And that is the question we should be asking – do the stewards have the authority to disagree with a rule or should is their purpose to apply the rules to the letter?

        I do agree that there is a technical ‘excuse’ and the rule should have been written in such a way that both temperature and pressure were measured so the pressure at typical working temperature could have been calculated.

        • The issue is the rule thats written. When do the tyres have to meet pressure? I would say thats rather important to note but it doesn’t appear that it does. A bit like dates that engines must be ready for???

          • Exactly, the rule appears to just say that before the start they must be at or above a certain pressure.

            I’m sure every single car would have low pressures at some point before the start – if you go back far enough. An hour before? A day before?

            But of course they can’t measure the pressures on the grid just before lights out – can’t see the drivers being too happy behind held on red for 2 minutes while Jo Bauer trotts out with his pressure gauge.

          • And according to Mercedes, the tires were checked by the Pirelli engineer and were within the required limits when they were fitted before leaving the pits.

          • So, do Pirelli or the FIA police the rules?

            If correct tyre use was controlled by the engineers Pirelli embed in each team then there would be no issue to discuss here.

            The tyres aren’t sealed so it is quite possible for a team to reduce the pressure right up until the point where they have to step away from the cars on the dummy grid so saying they were fine when the car left the pits is pretty meaningless.

    • Be that as it may, the tires where under a certain set limit. In other words illegal. That the Fia doesn’t know how to write rules doesn’t matter… but they did write one and mercedes didn’t comply. They will change the rule now since they where proven wrong at it but for monza 2015 that rule counted… and if you break it you are at fault. Simple as that.

      • be that as it may, the tires where under a certain set limit. In other words illegal. That the Fia doesn’t know how to write rules doesn’t matter… but they did write one and mercedes didn’t comply…

        Simply untrue.
        To measure pressure on the grid, rather than in the garage where it can be done at the prescribed maximum temperature (and under which controlled conditions Mercedes was fully in compliance), is an obvious absurdity, and the FIA have merely recognised this.

        If you disagree, I suggest you consider Boyle’s law.

        • Not untrue at all and surely the best time to measure is with the tyres on the car at the point where the teams have less opportunity to lower pressures at the last minute.

          The facts are plain – the tyres were under pressure before the start of the race. This means the rule – as written – was breached.

          You are right though that the rule is absurd, or at least badly written. It would be easy enough to measure temperature and pressure and calculate back, but then surely it would be easy to tap in to the telemetry and measure pressure throughout the race, albeit maybe not with the same absolute accuracy.

          • Simplest to measure pressure under controlled conditions – ie in the garage.
            Then if you really worry about teams gaming the system fit a seal on the valve.

            That the FIA had failed to specify a reliable testing procedure, when even a GCSE student knows that pressure varies with temperature, is presumably why they felt it prudent not to enforce the letter of a very poorly drafted regulation.

            As for those arguing that some form of ‘advantage’ was gained, tar would be true one on the (sensibly named) warm up lap.

          • While I agree in general, there are two different arguments here. You claim it is untrue that the tyres were illegal. No matter how badly worded the rules are, under those rules the tyres were illegal.

            As for not enforcing the rules, I wonder what the process was here. It reads as if the stewards (employed by the FIA) told the rule-makers (employed by the FIA) to get their act together.

            If that is really what happened then the disorganisation is incredible. I wonder though if someone higher up had words in the stewards meeting and came to a solution which had the least long-term damage.

      • Unlike measuring the width and weight of carbon fiber, tyre pressures are seriously affected by temperature changes. Pirelli supervised the filling of the tyres at a certain condition. The FIA should have followed Pirelli’s own proceedure. But they chose to do it under a different condition and a continuously varying condition, which is madness. Perhaps they even used a different pressure gauge and failed to note the margin of errors subject to change in temperature.

        • Top-level pressure meters have a margin of error of 0.01 psi. You’d guess FIA doesn’t use something worse than that in a sport that fights about thousands of a second.

          • They also require inbuilt temperature compensation to achieve that accuracy – unfortunately the compensation is to ambient temperature. So to get an accurate reading the pressure gauge would have to be inside the tyre. Alternately any reading has to be temperature compensated externally to the gauge, using the difference between measured and ambient temperature.

    • Fortis 96, nicely put but need to add to the last part. The wings and plank can be affected by temperatures. If the tyres warm or any part of the suspension is heated we have expansion…things move if we like it or not. Every measurement has to be considered at a given temp,even the humble tape measure has a label stating its 20 deg set calibration. As a fan of the red boys I do have to admit to wanting the result to be turned around but we have to be clear on how the FIA take these readings. A simple trackside test won’t cut it in court as there are too many variables. IMHO Lewis won the day, he drove well and the result should stand.his last stint when he had to push just showed what that car and driver was capable of and my team need to really pull the plug out next year to bring the fight a tad closer.

  5. And once again Todt is nowhere to be seen or heard. At first I thought he prefered to be discrete, now I wonder how far and long will his (incompetent) disinterest go.

    • Why should Todt be seen, or heard, on this matter? I’m at a loss as to why that would be an issue. He’s the president of the FiA, not an F1 steward.

        • Sure, yes, of course… I understand F1 is a significant portfolio in the FiA’s mandate. That’s not in dispute. I’m just curious at to why the president of the FiA would need to step into this matter. It seemed to sort itself out, rightly or wrongly. Many will disagree, many will agree, it’s sport, it’s life.

          I suppose my comment is born of a place where I’ve noticed Jean Todt having much blame laid at his feet for things that either a) have their fundamental roots during the tenure of Max M (financial issues / revenue disparities) and b) are of a commercial / promotion / track nature which is the universe of FOM / CVC / Bernie. On many occasions, I’ve felt like it’s blaming Obama for Iraq, even though he might (or might not) be continuing to mismanage what was an impossible situation. So, why would Todt bother speaking to such things? On many occasions (not specifically your comment), such blame laying shows a lack of understanding of the history of the sport and the pragmatic operational functions of it presently.

          In relation to this case specifically, I’d ask, “if Todt needed to get involved, wouldn’t that in and of itself point to a larger issue?” Additionally, with the multitude of opinions from the paddock, it’s probably wiser to let it all play out. I also suspect Todt wants Whiting to hang himself, metaphorically speaking, which he’s doing a superb job at.

          Anyway, it’s all fun and games isn’t it… until someone gets hurt, of course.
          Just to clarify, I don’t think Jean’s a great (or good) FiA president; but not because he didn’t get involved with Lewis’ PSI issue, or lack thereof.

  6. 2013 illegal tire test, now this. i guess thats the perks of being a world champion just like ferrari in early 2000s and rebdull in 2010s.. anyway in all this i guess the teams are growing bigger than the FIA and they’re not respecting the governing body…

    • It seems more like it’s a case that the governing body implemented a knee jerk procedure to deal with a knee jerk ‘solution’ brought about by Pirelli. If the tyres were set above the legal minimum limit by Pirelli in the garage, but then the FIA decide to test the tyres again at an arbitrary later point without taking into account the differences in temperature that will occur, that seems more like the FIA not really having a full understanding of what they’re dealing with rather than deliberate cheating taking place.

  7. I agree with Toto Wolff:

    “…. the Mercedes chief has demanded a rethink about when precisely tyre pressures are measured before a grand prix.

    “You check the tyre pressures in the tyre heaters when you put them on the car,” said Wolff. “This is the moment, because you could say ‘when is the moment you should check them? Five minutes? Eight minutes from the end, when the red lights go on?’

    “I think it is about defining the procedure – and the moment when those pressures are checked – in the future.”

    “We don’t know why we had such a discrepancy. At the end of the day, it can cost performance if you have one tyre that has a different pressure than the others.”

  8. So the rumors of Tom Brady in the Mercedes pits are true?
    I believe the Patriots used a similar defense.

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