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.