F1 | Ferrari Case: The Story So Far
Updated: Mar 12
Mika Salo's words about the sanction that was given to Ferrari claimed quite some concern in the motorsport environment. Here are the reasons behind it.
sebmotors.info's explanation on Twitch
Introduction. Last Tuesday night (22nd of February), in a Twitch conversation with the fellow Finnish racing driver Kristian Sohlberg, Mika salo affirmed this (according to Racing News 365):
"Alfa Romeo suffered from Ferrari's misconduct last year, because they had Ferrari engines and had to use less fuel, so I think Alfa will be pretty good this year when they get to use full power. (...) Ferrari is coming with a new engine. (...) I don't know if it's a new engine, but they're allowed to use it to its full power. Having to use less fuel was their punishment for being screwed over last year.”
All of this refers to the secret sanction that the FIA and Ferrari agreed at the start of 2020 because of the irregularities in the 2019's Ferrari Power Unit. But now let's try to put all the pieces back in the right order.
Who is Mika Salo? Mika Salo drove in F1 for 109 races, 6 of which with Ferrari in 1999 as a replacement for the then-injured Michael Schumacher. He is now active as an FIA Steward and has been present in many of last years' races as a Race Steward. On that Twitch Live with Sohlberg, he was giving his opinions on Kimi Räikkönen's chances with Alfa Romeo this year. Alfa Romeo has Ferrari's engine supply and this is why his comments touched on this story.
Charles Leclerc in 2019 © 2016 Scuderia Fans
What happened in 2019? Almost at the end of a 2019 season (before the Mexican GP) in which Ferrari had a sudden improvement right after F1's traditional summer break, a request for clarifications was sent to the FIA because of suspected usage of oil in its intercooler. This usage actually is not forbidden. On the other hand, what is forbidden is the usage of any kind of fluid in the combustion chamber. When the circus moved to Austin, a more important request for clarifications on the flow-meter was sent by Red Bull to the FIA. Doubting more precisely whether Ferrari respected or not the 220 pounds/hour (100 kilos/hour) limitation of the fuel flow rate.
Comparison of the Qualifying's Results from Mercedes & Ferrari in 2018 & '19
Actually, Mercedes backed off. This is a table made by the website "P300.it", in which the qualifying results from Mercedes' and the Ferraris in 2018 and 2019 are compared. Taking then a closer look into the third and the fourth column, we are able to see how much the 2019 Mercedes did lose up to their 2018 predecessor from Belgium onwards. The races in which Ferrari had the upper hand on the silver counterpart. It is surprising to see in the fourth column, that actually Ferrari had a consistent gap to their 2018 predecessor all year long. Without any sudden improvement whatsoever. It is then assumable (but not verified), that Mercedes decided to focus more on the developments for the following season in a moment in which the season was being dominated faire and square.
"FIA CONCLUDES ANALYSIS OF SCUDERIA FERRARI FORMULA 1 POWER UNIT"
© 2021 FIA
How did the FIA answer to the request? The picture on top is how the FIA answered in a completely unexpected way, on the 28th of February of 2020, in the evening right at the end of the pre-season testing. A release to which all the F1 teams apart from the Ferrari-engine-supplied ones answered with both a joint communication and a private letter. The content of the latter one was not released to the public. The picture below is - on the other hand - how the FIA answered to that joint communication. The reason of the confidentiality of the agreement lays in the fact that the FIA - in order to explain the nature of the infringement - would have consequently revealed too much for Ferrari to compete in a fair and sportive way against the others. As a consequence the rivals manifested a loss of trustworthness from the FIA (even though each of these teams has plenty of past experiences of infringements).
"FIA STATEMENT FOLLOWING COMMUNICATION FROM SEVEN F1 TEAMS"
© 2021 FIA
The Possible "Spy-Story". An article come out in Italy in July partly outbreaked what came up after Salo's comments: according to the piece written by the Italian Corriere della Sera's Giorgio Terruzzi, an episode of espionage is what triggered the FIA's analysis. His source was reportedly a technician from the FIA who preferred to remain anonymous. This FIA employed claimed that the analysis was inducted by a rival team, which already looked weird because the ways to gain these informations was illegal. And then the sanction would have been a secret compromise: zero development in many important areas. It would have otherwise been impossible for the FIA to verify such irregularities if not thanks to leaks.
Today, Mika Salo's Claims. Today all of this looks quite shocking. If everything that was reported here was true:
-this year Ferrari would actually make a big progress from last year's flaws;
-it would be even more interesting to know the unknown. Is a reduction/suspension of the car's developments enough for a sanction? If the sanction implied all this, why wasn't it made public? So that each team would have known that if they did wrong, they would have paid painfully for their mistakes.