photo credit: redditor /u/dunkm1n
Back in late May, there were rumors swirling around F1 that Ferrari were utilizing the HAAS F1 teams current lack of Wind tunnel Restrictions as a means to develop their own car. The story was written by Italy’s Omnicourse, and led to an inquiry by the FIA.
Ferrari International Assistance almost immediately cleared the Red team of any wrongdoing, but in October, Paddy Lowe filed an official letter to Charlie Whiting seeking clarification on several of the rules written into the Sporting Code. This 5 page letter is attached, and asked some interesting questions. Although careful not to name Ferrari/Haas the document is clearly an outline of what the Death Star (and most of the rest of the paddock) feel that the prancing horse have been up to with their American Cousins.
Because cooperating on listed parts is forbidden by the regulations, it becomes important to define when exactly one becomes a competitor, which turns out to be one of many remarkable oversights in the regulations
Of course that’s only the first of many missing definitions, all of which point to the somewhat more than underwhelming ability of the FIA to write regulations.
Apparently we here at TJ13 are not the only ones to be more than occasionally baffled by the seeming use of Google Translate to do the English version of the regulations. Drilling down a bit more, Mercedes is very interested to know about the movement of personnel between teams and if there are any restrictions on what may be shared. What they miss however is the fact that even in the listed parts table, Floor, Diffuser and Wings have no definition (or mention) in the sporting regs. (H/T @SomersF1 for that).
Equally entertaining, is Charlie Whiting’s response to Paddy. It is less than a page, and gives no answers. He states:
“I regret that I am unable to respond to your questionnaire, the questions of which do not fall within my remit, but that of the competent bodies for binding interpretations (stewards).”
Of course, that would be a not so oblique reference to tyregate which saw Mercedes’ carefully waged defense of an allegedly illegal tyre test rest almost entirely on opinions from CW himself, not that he’s bitter or anything. And the stewards’ absolutely do have the regulatory authority to make such a determination, with an appeal possible should anyone be less than happy with the outcome.
Of course, Mercedes’ are at great pains to make sure everyone understands it’s nothing to to with anyone, just that they are really, REALLY, worried that they might do something naughty by accident
It’s not you, it’s me!!
“The Heart of the Matter”
Mercedes endgame is either to ban this or allow it so they can play, too, but along the way they come across with some astonishingly ingenious ideas, like designing the surface of something is separate from designing the object itself. So, for example if you design a diffuser and I design the aero surface for it, have I designed a listed part. And if you thoroughly test that surface in a wind tunnel on, say, a different continent and elect not to use it, but I decide I like it, who gets charged with wind tunnel time for that, me you or both of us? Dancing on the head of a pin to be sure, but certainly more than a bit of history behind this.
“Request of Settlement of a Matter”
The document Mercedes submitted to the Stewards is much more comprehensive than the letter Paddy sent to Charlie. It is eleven pages of legalese, along with copies of Paddy’s initial letter, Charlies response, and copies of Appendix 6 & 8 of the sporting code, totaling 33 pages. This was put together by a legal team, not Paddy.
The Stewards now must make a series of decisions that has the potential to impact F1 in massive ways. If interpreted liberally it would essentially allow for the formation of partnerships that would destroy the Listed Parts table and make a mockery of current wind tunnel restrictions, though the argument could be made that by allowing teams to cooperate, costs could be cut for both sides. On the other hand, it would in essence give Bernie his customer teams and there are clearly downsides to that as well, at least from the point of view of many midfield teams. It is likely no surprise then, that one of the 3 stewards this weekend, Steve Stringwell, has extensive judicial experience, not only as a Justice of the Peace, but as Chairman of the MSA Judicial Panel. He is also Permanent Chairman of the Stewards for Porsche Supercup with the nickname “Judge Dredd”. On second thought, perhaps it’s no wonder Mercedes waited till now, with the only unanswerable question being did the chicken of Mercedes’ quest come before the egg of Stringwell’s appointment. Or maybe it should be other way round?
Regardless, the floor has been opened to all comers and a decision will be rendered pre-race. Looks like Mercedes have finally figured out how to give us an exciting Grand Prix.
Abu Dhabi GP stewards:
DEPUTY PRESIDENT, FIA INSTITUTE; DIRECTOR, GLOBAL INSTITUTE FOR MOTOR SPORT SAFETY; DIRECTOR, AUSTRALIAN INSTITUTE OF MOTOR SPORT SAFETY; F1, WTCC STEWARD; FIA WORLD MOTOR SPORT COUNCIL MEMBER
PERMANENT CHAIRMAN STEWARD FOR PORSCHE SUPERCUP, RENAULT 3.5 SERIES , BRITISH TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP F1 DRIVER
FORMER FORMULA ONE DRIVER AND WORLD SPORTSCAR CHAMPION
The stewards have officially received Mercedes “Request for settlement”, and have invited any other teams to join their inquiry, which Force India have promptly done. This is little surprise, as FI would be the likely “B” team Mercedes would use in the same vain as Ferrari is using HAAS.
We will know more in the morning, however according to Charlie’s letter, if anything changes in the interpretation of the Code, the matter will have to go before the Strategy Group and the F1 Commission. That can only go poorly.
The full documentation is linked below, order of document:
1-2 Stewards response to Mercedes inquiry.
3-12 Mercede Inquiry letter
13-18 Paddy’s letter to Charlie
19-20 Charlie’s response to Paddy
21-23 Stewards decision from 2013 as defense of stewerds responsibility
24-33 copies of appendix 6 & 8 from Sporting Code for reference.