Over the last few years, since the hybrid formula began, the teams have found ingenious and complex ways to increase their power output from these ridiculously complicated engines.
Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault and Honda have from the beginning accused each other of tricking the engine regulations with finger pointing that one or the other has faked more power by exploiting the grey areas of these regulations.
For example, in the beginning, there was fuel flow rates, the first trick and one that Red Bull came up short on in Australia 2014, denying Ricciardo a podium on home turf.
Then there’s the oil burning fiasco. Ferrari and Mercedes were suspected of using engine oil for combustion as a means of sneaking into the fuel some performance-enhancing additives from the oil.
After which Ferrari was accused of manipulating the energy flow measurements with its two-part battery and thus drawing more than the permitted 120 kilowatts (163 hp) from the electric accumulator at short notice.
We’ve also heard numerous rumours that elastic lines were installed in the petrol system so fuel could be buffered in order to inject more than 100 kg/h if needed.
According to AMuS, Germany’s best F1 content provider (in this Judge’s humble opinion), this winter yet another new theory on illegal performance improvement went around the paddock.
These last few weeks, teams have been requesting many clarifications from the FIA representative Charlie Whiting for the fuel accumulator, which can store up to 0.1 litres of petrol between the flow measurement of the FIA and the high-pressure pump.
For example, in the Q3 laps during qualification, more fuel could be injected during acceleration than allowed. According to expert calculations, this results in 4.5 percent more power. According to the conspiracy theorists, this secret reservoir can be used to when needed.
“This winter there have been more technical directives on this subject than ever before.” claims an anonymous team engineer in the paddock.
For some time now, fuel lines have been examined for their flexibility and possible hidden reservoirs by the FIA and Charlie Whiting. Indeed the FIA uses high-end measuring technology for this purpose.
The accumulator device is now limited to 0.1 litres but the teams have argued a little too hard for a reverse on the decision stating that a buffer is needed to compensate for pressure peaks in the fuel flow.
Now the FIA has allowed the teams to go back to using an additional tank outside the safety cell to maintain the operation of the engine in case of pressure fluctuations. Originally the quantity was limited to one litre. Now it is only 0.2 litres in order to second guess and outstep the engineers from using this as yet another loop-hole and hiding place for fuel, therefore extra power.
It appears that the FIA will introduce a new weighing procedure to prevent the teams from using more fuel than allowed by analysing the entire car.
Set for 2019, the maximum of 100 kilograms per race distance is of course mandated, and the FIA will use this weight as a baseline to confirm the flow rate measurements. An elaborate process proves just how serious the FIA is about the accusations that more fuel may be injected than allowed.
How the FIA will try and identify Q3 cheating
One hour before the pit lane opens on race day, the FIA commissioners chose a car at random, weigh it with the amount of fuel chosen by the team, pump out the fuel, weigh the car once empty and the amount of fuel pumped out separately, then have the tank refilled. The same procedure is carried out after the race.
If there is a difference in the flow rates determined by the measuring valve, the competitor will be tested. During the check on the FIA scales, the car must be fitted with marked control tyres so that the teams do not hide weights in the tyres in between to compensate for a petrol fraud. It seems that the FIA has already practiced this procedure three times in 2018. Mercedes, Ferrari, and Red Bull each had to park a car for the last three Grand Prix of the season for the test.
In addition to this, and new for 2019 is another test to check for oil burning. This is limited to 0.6 litres per 100 kilometres but the new measure is sure evidence that the governing body simply does not trust the teams with oil whatsoever.
During the race, the oil consumption can be calculated quite accurately due to the long distance but for qualifying, this is more difficult because of the small quantities involved. Tiny measurement errors in the output of the engines can make big differences when grid positions are determined by fractions of a second, and that’s why the FIA has now decided that the auxiliary oil tank must be completely empty for quali.
Further to this the FIA also controls cars more strictly than ever before. Over the winter, FIA technical director Nikolas Tombazis received all CAD drawings of the new cars from all teams and asked the engineers questions relating to the submissions. It’s said that each talk with each team lasts around three hours.
To think that in just five years the FIA has to go to such lengths to stamp out secret modes for qualifying in this era of no passing on track. Perhaps the FIA should mandate for simpler engine regulations for 2021 after all, rather be swayed by the teams to keep the current hybrid units. Let us know in the comments below.