Hippo’s View From The Waterhole: Have Ferrari Lost Their Status as FIA’s Golden Child?

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snarky_hippoFor many a year FIA was translated by fans as Ferrari International Assistance. Yet, the last clear-cut case of Ferrari favoritism could be tracked back to Spa in 2008, or perhaps Austin 2012, although the gearbox tampering in Americaland was technically just a really cynical use of a clear loophole in the rules.

If you look at it, the times when FIA let Ferrari get away with everything seem to be in the past, which on paper is a good thing, because nobody wants another farce like the Malaysian GP in 1999. Except that we had one again last night. Like back then in 1999 a team was caught with a technical infringement on both cars and instead of being punished for it, FIA’s testing measures were blamed.

That’s the second time in two years that Mercedes gets off lightly for blatant cheating and the sad thing is, they need anything but such help at this time as they are already sucking the very life out of F1 as it is. If a reader is so inclined, I might suggest a trip through the archives of the second half of the 2013 season and count the comments of how utterly meaningless Red Bull’s wins are, because they just qualify on pole and disappear into the distance.

Uh, what exactly did we see yesterday? Right, exactly the same, with the added twist that both Mercs can pull it off simultaneously. Had Rosberg’s engine not gone boom and been older than the dinosaurs to begin with, there is little doubt we would have seen another Mercedes one-two.

Which brings me to the fact that for the third time since 2013 Merc was accused of tampering with the tyres. The first incident was the illegal tyre test at Barcelona. They were ‘punished’ by being excluded from the young drivers test, which was a laughable punishment for a massive breach of the rules.

The second one was the use of tyres in the wrong rotational direction, as practiced by several teams in mid-2013, a practice ‘invented’ by Mercedes’ Ross Brawn and later copied by other teams, believed to have contributed to the disastrous string of tyre failures at Silverstone 2013. It was subsequently banned. In fact since then a clear rule had been installed that required teams to run tyres within the limit defined by Pirelli before each Grandprix.

Since then we’ve never heard anything about a team tampering with the tyre limits, even if the judge doesn’t tire of trying to make us believe otherwise. There was no rule change after Spa. Pirelli merely made the limits tighter and teams were informed that even small infringements would be treated as serious rule breaches.

Before the weekend, teams were told to raise the tyre pressures by up to five psi, which prompted loud protests from the teams as the suspensions are designed to get the tyres up to temperature at lower pressures. The result would have been higher degradation and less grip. Loudest among the protesters were Mercedes, Lewis Hamilton in particular. So one has to forgive me for being suspicious if that very team then get’s caught with too low pressures.

Fact of the matter is, there is no way for Merc to come out of this not looking either like blatant cheaters or blithering idiots. If their excuse is true and the discrepancy was down to tyre warmers not being plugged in, you have to ask why the heck they let their drivers’ tyres go cold five minutes before the start in an era were tyre temperatures are king? Rosberg was 1.1 psi under, which translates to thirty degrees temperature loss. Now that sheds an interesting light on his streak of bad starts lately, doesn’t it? Does that mean they send Rosberg out on tyres deliberately under-heated to make sure he doesn’t challenge his team mate?

For a team to let the tyres cool down so close before the start is sheer idiocy or, more likely, a preposterously lame excuse for being caught cheating. And how come neither of the Ferrari’s didn’t have that problem? Did they run their tyres needlessly pressured too high? That doesn’t sound like the Ferrari team we know. So I guess it’s down to the fact that Ferrari don’t let their drivers start the race on cold tyres then.

No matter how you look at it, a stale taste remains after Monza and the notable absence of criticism from some who screamed bloody murder about McLaren, Ferrari or Red Bull pushing the rules to the limit, makes them look a trifle hippo-critical if they now try to blame the whole farce on FIA instead of the team that – at least in my opinion – deliberately cheated and tried to use the unfairly acquired advantage to preempt a possible time penalty by pressuring their driver into taking unnecessary risks towards the end of the race.

If nothing else, Mercedes look every bit as cynical and calculating as we Germans are often accused of being.

50 responses to “Hippo’s View From The Waterhole: Have Ferrari Lost Their Status as FIA’s Golden Child?

  1. d by several teams in mid-2013, a practice ‘invented’ by Mercedes’ Ross Brawn “….

    Hippo who’s to say that this practice was not invented whilst he was in charge at Ferrari or say at Brawn?

    And ‘blatant cheating’?…. Hippo we get it, we all know you hate all things Mercedes. But let’s calm down with your usual boisterous behaviour.

    • Because Pirelli say themselves that Brawn invented the practice during the Pirelli era (in 2012 IIRC)

      As for the cheating – I deliberately added “in my opinion”. You should know by now that Hippo Rants are not meant to be diplomatic essays. I think they cheated, so I wrote exactly that.

      • In fairness you’re only saying they’re cheating as you (much like the FIA it seems) don’t seem to understand how gasses work. You could test a car once it’s tyres have cooled to ambient temps and their pressures would be in the region of 15psi, but yet that still equates to 19.5psi at 110c.

        Tom Clarkson told us that the FIA also had the temps of the tyres when they took the pressures but didn’t seem aware of the fact that pressures drop with temperature. Someone jumped the gun here looking for brownie points, oops!

        I don’t know how anyone can say this is cheating, they followed something to the letter of the law, how is that cheating?

        • Read the article again. Yes, pressures drop with temperature, but – especially in Rosbergs case – the temps would have to have dropped so far down, it would reflect very badly on them, so either they were about to send out Rosberg with seriously cold tyres, or it was all just a fairy tale to cover up a blatant cheat. Ferrari were measured at the same time. Why were their tyres not cooling?

          • I don’t know what process they use to heat/warm the tyres over time on the grid. They will have just completed the installation lap to the grid at a steady pace, I think they have to do that on the race tyres these days. That will allow the tyres to cool, I guess it depends how soon after he arrived at the grid they tested the tyres.

            The temperatures recorded matched the pressures, that’s why no penalty was given, they simply had done not a single thing wrong.

  2. F1 has always been thus.

    Lawmakers frame the rules.
    Engineers engineer loopholes to exploit badly worded rules.

    Anyone who paid attention to physics and chemistry lessons at secondary school will know that there are international standards set for measurements of temperature and pressure.

    So if you set maximum and minimum of these to be met in some technical regulations in a sport, you had better make sure that you define very precisely how and when and by whom those measurements are to be made and recorded.

    Factor in to that the phenomenon known as the “observer effect”.

    • “Lawmakers frame the rules”
      Well, yes, but. What sort of dimwit lacking even a basic understanding of elementary physics makes a rule that involves measuring pressure under circumstances where temperatures are all but certain to vary?
      That said, Mercedes were at best cynically exploiting this incompetence (on the assumption that if caught out they had an excuse) and at worst (my own judgement) cheating.

    • The “observer effect” was discovered by some other clever Germans – before the Mercedes engineers:

      1. Werner Karl Heisenberg: Über quantentheoretische Umdeutung kinematischer und mechanischer Beziehungen

      2. Erwin Schrödinger and his cat: Die gegenwärtige Situation in der Quantenmechanik

  3. p.s. The same applies to the Olympics, Tour de France, or any other world class “sport” you car to mention.

  4. Hippo, I’d add just that on tire pressure measurements: have the FIA measured the temperature too? I imagine it’s hard to have a grasp of inner air temperature, but the rubber temperature (as non-symetrical as it may be) can give a rough idea.
    The new tire pressure guidelines seem to me like something very “cheat-able”. So they should have 19.5 PSI in working conditions, how can one measure that? I can quote a number of IEC norms written just as poorly. Pirelly could post a function of pressure=f(temperature) and all will be clear; except for where exactly the temperature is to be measured.

    • I think if they are measuring pressure, it would have not much meaning without the temperature. Looks like they made the mistake of not taking the temperatures, which is really weird.

        • Compliant in the way they were below maximum allowed tyre warmer temps of 110°C. Still leaves the question of why they have let Rosbergs tyre cool down to 88°C, which would be the only explanation for being at 18.4 psi as opposed to the required 19.5.

          • Given how hard the Mercs are on tyres was it a deliberate plan to run the tyre “cold” knowing it would warm up? If started at the “proper” temperature would it overheat? It supposedly that tyre that takes the strain. Doing that might make a lap or 2 difference on wear maybe? Might have counted in the end?

  5. How is it acceptable for FIA that F1’s official tyre supplier gives out a free test to Mercedes F1 team?

    “Rosberg was 1.1 psi under, which translates to thirty degrees temperature loss.”
    If this part is accurate, it is amazing….

    • Since I did that math it’s accurate assuming that at 110C the pressure of the tyre was 19.5 psi. 110C is the max temp of the tyre warmers and would have been the temp at which the tyre was measured in Mercedes garage before being fitted to car

  6. Naive question. But if they were tampering with the tyre pressure, why only one tyre, why only the rear left?

    • They only measured one tyre. There’s no telling what the pressure in the other three was. It doesn’t matter though. If your front wing is too wide, it doesn’t matter either how compliant or not the rear wing is.

  7. I m very cynical about F1 and the powers that be….so who ever Bernie see s as capturing the populist zeitgeist at the moment gets his favor and the benefit of the doubt.
    At one point Ferrari and Micheal captured that moment and Bernie allowed them to get away with alot.
    In 2009 he thought Brawn under dog story could revive f1 fortune,and allowed the DD and therebye diluting the prestige of world championship by allowing an average journeyman in button to wining to win it.
    Then Redbull and Vetell garnered his favor, because he thought Veteel could be the next Shumi in terms of global popularity,unfortunately Vettell has little charisma and his sarcastic smerky attitude only impress old white men.

    And now Lewis is the one that has his Favor finally,after alot of hard work promoting himself and giving F1 that much needed cross over appeal with the fussion of style,,art and Hollywood glamour .

    • Wow. For a cynical you place much trust in a man who pays a PR company for promoting himself and gives F1 the “much needed cross over appeal with the fussion of style,,art and Hollywood glamour” 😀

  8. “Rosberg was 1.1 psi under, which translates to thirty degrees temperature loss.”

    Where did you get this info / correlation from… what is your source?

    Assuming that the temp drop / pressure relationship is linear (which it most likely isnt, but on my 15minute tea break I sadly dont have time to research… 😉 that would equate to a temperature drop on Lewis’s car of 0.011degrees….

    Ok so this then throws up 2 issues… 1, why the difference between the 2 cars, and 2, c’mon, 0.3psi and 0.011dgrees on an area that is by its very nature “variable” and under external influence. Yes, I get the analogy with wing dimensions or ride height, but to expect such accuracy on something that can change without personal intervention is at best, optimistic

    • In Hamilton’s case it were 6°C under the max tyre warmer temperature, in Rosberg’s case over 22°C – I think mattpt55 riddled it out by calculating it.

      • Correct, as I stated in reply to early commenter one uses the Ideal Gas Law PV=nRT and then goes from there. I assumed 19.5psi and a temp of 110C as that’s what Mercedes clearly demonstrated to the stewards was the case when tyres were fitted to car. I then found the value for volume .091m3 online for volume of tyre and solved for amount in moles of gas. With that number I then solved for unknown temperature with the pressures reported by FIA. Simples

        • Its simpler to use Gay-Lussac’s Law; P1/T1 = P2/T2, so long as you measure temperature in Kelvin. Assuming Mercedes did inflate the tyre to 19.5PSI at 110C then that same tyre would be 19.2PSI at 104C. You could, as some clearly do, say that temperature is not relevant and the tyre should always have been above 19.5PSI. So the FIA could test at ambient temperature, say 25C. Then a “legal” tyre would be at least 25PSI at its working temperature. Is that safe?
          I don’t know, nor care, whether Mercedes were sailing close to the wind or even blatantly cheating. The point is trying to regulate pressures without understanding that for gases pressure and temperature are effectively the same thing is stupid and testing different car’s pressures at different temperatures isn’t fair. Forget Ferrari vs Mercedes, what if they check Hamilton’s PSI first and its marginal but by the time they get round to checking Rosberg’s his temperature has dropped and his PSI is too low and he’s DQd. Could easily have happened.

          • That would’ve saved me some time, LOL but happily enough the answer you get matches my own, so math. Ideal Gas Law and Boyles Law were beaten pretty firmly into my head in high school so it was my first thought.

            But your larger point is really the one to make, that there is no pressure without temperature and whilst I could see the FIA cocking this up royally as they are, well, they are what they are, I cannot believe Pirelli would have screwed it up this badly, though. I have never seen the stewards tell the rule making body to get their act together before, but that is what they have done.

  9. Just a question but i believe road cars can now be filled with nitrogen which is not affected by temperature therefore maintaining a constant pressure, so why can’t F1 use the same technology ?

    • Regs say:

      12.7 Tyre gases :
      12.7.1 Tyres may only be inflated with air or nitrogen.
      12.7.2 Any process the intent of which is to reduce the amount of moisture in the tyre and/or in its inflation gas is forbidden.

  10. you have to ask why the heck they let their drivers’ tyres go cold five minutes before the start in an era were tyre temperatures are king…

    Maybe because they have a warm up lap ?


    • Why don’t others let their tyres cool down then? The tyre warmers heat to 110°C. The working temps are closer to 120°C and hard to keep up during formation laps or behind the safety car. Sense – your argument makes none.

  11. That article is nearly as rabid as Pat Symonds interview on Sky yesterday, where he stated that Mercedes should be disqualified for breaching the safety rules and endangering everyone on and around the track. Gawd, anyone might have thought Toto had arranged for a deliberate crash to enable the Mercedes No 1 driver to win.

    One the question of safety. Shouldn’t the FIA official who discovered Rosberg’s tyre was 1.1 Ilbs under pressure have stopped the start until the pressures were corrected? Didn’t he have a duty of care to ensure Rosberg wasn’t driving an unsafe car.

  12. I stand by my point yesterday. If the rule is that the pressure must be this or that than all the bullshit of temperature related issues is not worthy… maybe the rule is set up wrong but yesterday the Mercedes was illegal. And the Fia need to clarify that rule but nonetheless yesterday that rule was on order. And that the Fia doesn’t know that pressure and temperature are related that’s not right but this farce is even worse.

    • It is “worthy” when the temperature is what affects the pressure. Because of how much of a role that plays, it means that the rule IS wrong if they haven’t ascertained at what point they’re going to measure the tyre pressure. If they were over the legal limits when Pirelli inflated them under set conditions, then by your logic at that point they were legal so they can’t then be ‘illegal’.

      • That’s what I’m saying. The rule is wrong. But no matter how wrong, it is a rule. Ferrari didn’t break the rule and mercedes did. Who’s fault is that? Mercedes…

  13. Another FIA uck fup! Another rule rushed through without careful consideration. No change there.
    When are the tyre pressures supposed to be at the correct value? In the pit garage? On the grid? Throughout the race? Is it an average value throughout the stint on that tyre? And don’t the teams have real time monitoring of the pressures throughout the race? So it easy to check what they are.

  14. The steward’s decision really is weird on this issue. How? Read below, I got this from the GP2 website.

    “Mitch Evans, who finished the session in P2, has been excluded from the results after it was found that the tyre pressure of his RUSSIAN TIME car was below the minimum required. The New Zealander will be permitted to start tomorrow’s feature race from the back of the grid, and this promotes Series leader Stoffel Vandoorne to a front row start with Alex Lynn now starting from P3.
    Sergio Canamasas received the same penalty as Evans after the tyre pressure on his Lazarus car was also found below the minimum required. As a result the Spaniard, who had qualified ninth, has also been excluded from the results and will be allowed to start from the back of the grid.”

    How the same stewards decided that no further action is required for mercs while DQ for the GP2 boys is weird. How consistent can they get?

    • Given Mitch’s pace that decision effectively cost him a race win. There is a desperate need for consistency by the rulemakers.

    • Russian Time isn’t needed in F1 to supply engines to keep enough teams in F1. Simple as that. Merc got away with [rule] murder in 2013 after blatantly violating the rules and continue to do so. Build engines and you can do everything unpunished…

  15. I don’t know if Ferrari has lost prestige (which has always been folishly exagerated) or simply picks it battles more carefully, but I do know old Schumacher-Brawn-Todt Ferrari would never in a million years let McLaren take a win at Monza with cars which somehow failed tech inspection.

    Times change.

  16. Slightly off topic. Talking about tyre pressure, could it be considered a danger to the driver and other drivers if the car had low pressures, which could cause a “blowout”. If the officials noticed it could they not black flag the car? But my main question is… When was the last time a driver was actually black flagged during a race, and for what reason?

  17. From Motorsport – (its not too hard to find proper research before calling people cheats)

    In what appears to be a case of miscommunication, the FIA had not been informed that Pirelli usually accepts the earlier measurement – with the tyres fully heated in their still connected blankets – as its definitive official “starting pressure.”

    When Bauer did his extra checks, it was at a stage when Pirelli had already accepted the Mercedes tyres as “legal”, while knowing that, with the blankets disconnected, the temperature and pressure could only drop.

    So in effect it would seem that Bauer was wasting his time by measuring pressures in the last few minutes before the start, with the blankets disconnected.

    Given that the FIA is trying to police the situation at the request of Pirelli – and has to take all the parameters that Pirelli sets at face value – it would seem that perhaps the tyre maker didn’t quite get its story straight.

    Indeed, Pirelli confirmed to the Stewards that Mercedes had complied with its own requirements, vis a vis its blankets plugged-in measurements.

    Once this became apparent the Stewards decided that, while there was an anomaly in the pressures recorded by the FIA, there was also a grey area in the procedures and timing of the measurements.

    The Stewards also accepted that once the cars started moving, the tyres heated up again, and the pressures went up. Indeed, data from the cars showed that throughout the race the Mercedes tyres stayed well above the minimum requirement, and the FIA was satisfied by that.

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