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Formula 1

Ferrari admits FIA directives hurt engine, wants more clarity

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
3 min read

Ferrari has admitted that adapting to FIA technical directives has reduced its Formula 1 engine’s performance, and believes other areas of the rules still need to be clarified.

After a run of pole positions in the second half of the 2019 F1 season, Ferrari’s engine came under increasing scrutiny and a series of FIA technical directives were issued to clamp down on potential wrongdoing around fuel-flow limits and burning oil for performance gains.

That coincided with Ferrari’s end-of-season form dropping off, while the team said in December it was adapting its engine design for 2020 in the pursuit of fresh gains.

At the end of pre-season testing at Barcelona, where Ferrari first acknowledged a loss of straightline speed compared to last year, the FIA announced it had reached a confidential settlement with Ferrari to bring an investigation into its 2019 engine to an end.

The FIA said it had doubts over the Ferrari engine’s legality but could not prove it.

When the 2020 season finally started in Austria, the works Ferraris were bottom of the speed traps which was initially put down to a combination of engine performance and drag.

Customer team Haas went on to say the engine’s qualifying mode is definitely weaker than last year.

Asked ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix to explain the engine’s drop in performance, team boss Mattia Binotto said: “The regulations are very difficult and complex.

“I think there are areas of the regulation of the power unit where maybe clarifications are still required.

“It’s an ongoing process, which has always existed in the past, will exist in the future.

“Since last year, a lot of TDs have been released, eventually clarifying some of the areas of the regulations.

“I think that through those TDs, we had to adapt ourselves. I don’t think it’s only the case of Ferrari, because looking at the power output of this season I think most of the manufacturers somehow have had to adapt themselves.

“But certainly as Ferrari we had to adapt and we, as a simple output of that, lost some of the performance we had.

“I think we’ve got more clearer situations in some areas of the regulation, and hopefully that will continue if required for the future.”

Ferrari’s setback from having F1’s benchmark engine to struggling is in stark contrast to dominant manufacturer of the V6 turbo-hybrid engine era Mercedes, which has made good gains again in 2020.

Its progress has “surprised” Honda, which was the only engine manufacturer to produce a performance upgrade between pre-season testing and the Austrian Grand Prix.

That was helped by the FIA’s regulations allowing different shutdown requirements during the coronavirus pandemic hiatus for manufacturers that operate in countries with different rules around closing periods for companies.

It is also significant because part of F1’s cost-saving initiatives around the pandemic mean no engine upgrades are allowed this year except for reliability – which means Ferrari is stuck with its underpowered product.

There is added pressure to address the shortcomings for 2021, as all manufacturers will submit a new homologation next season that will then be in place for the next four seasons as part of a slope towards freezing the engines completely.

Asked by The Race about the challenge of getting on top of its engine deficiencies in the time available, Binotto said: “The power unit development is an ongoing process that we never stopped since 2012, because that was probably when we started developing those engines.

“Now it’s a long time we have been developing them, we were doing developments as well for this season that we will not be able to introduce during the season itself because we had a long shutdown period before the start of the season.

“Which has not been the case for all the power unit manufacturers, by the way.

“But then, obviously, we will still develop and we try to develop as much as we can by the start of next season.

“And that’s one point. On the other side, as I said, I think there are still areas of the regulations that need to be clarified.

“And hopefully that may be done in order that in the future, at least, there is sufficient clarity on the regulations to make sure that we got all the same understanding.”

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