Teams threaten legal action over FIA engine ‘settlement’ with Ferrari

There used to be an old joke going around the F1 paddock that FIA stood for ‘Ferrari International Assistance’, especially during the dominant Michael Schumacher years, where no teams, perhaps bar McLaren, could get anywhere near to them.

Of course, this was always said with a large element of tongue in cheek, and nobody could doubt the genius of Schumacher or the tactical nous of Jean Todt and Ross Brawn at the time. Under the surface, however, there was always some element of thinking ‘how the hell do they do that?’

Now, following on from a surprise statement released by the FIA on Friday that they had reached a “settlement” with the Maranello-based team regards their often dominant 2019 power unit, seven rival teams have released a counter-statement expressing their dissatisfaction into the matter.

Despite the fact that Mercedes enjoyed another dominant season, comfortably winning both drivers’ and constructors’ titles, Ferrari enjoyed a sudden straight-line advantage during the middle part of the season that raised more than a few eyebrows. Of course, Ferrari never admitted to any breach of regulations and, when a new double fuel flow sensor ruling was issued during the USGP weekend in response to a query Red Bull query about the FIA’s fuel flow device (whether the sensor could be tricked with electrical pulses to go beyond 10kg per hour undetected), one wondered whether this was a deliberate question as to the legality of Ferrari’s PU.

Unsurprisingly, the somewhat blasé nature of the FIA’s statement that they had reached a settlement with Ferrari but that the “specifics of the agreement will remain between the parties” did not sit at all well with the other teams, leading to the following statement being issued.

“We, the undersigned teams, were surprised and shocked by the FIA’s statement of Friday 28 February regarding the conclusion of its investigation into the Scuderia Ferrari Formula 1 Power Unit,” read the joint statement from McLaren, Mercedes, Racing Point, Red Bull, Renault, Scuderia Alpha Tauri and Williams. “An international sporting regulator has the responsibility to act with the highest standards of governance, integrity and transparency.

“After months of investigations that were undertaken by the FIA only following queries raised by other teams, we strongly object to the FIA reaching a confidential settlement agreement with Ferrari to conclude this matter.

“Therefore, we hereby state publicly our shared commitment to pursue full and proper disclosure in this matter, to ensure that our sport treats all competitors fairly and equally. We do so on behalf of the fans, the participants and the stakeholders of Formula One.”

What happens next could take many different twists and turns, although the end of the statement read that if they are not happy with the FIA’s next move, a messy legal battle could result. They could be either seeking a reprimand or a more detailed explanation into what the Ferrari settlement entailed.

“In addition, we reserve our rights to seek legal redress, within the FIA’s due process and before the competent courts,” concluded the statement.

Fans of Ferrari and indeed many fans of Formula One will argue that without the historic Ferrari name, the sport is nothing. But racing must always remain competitive and fair, with no ‘Ferrari International Assistance’ involved. One more for fans of a good conspiracy? Jean Todt is the president of the FIA.

Otmar Szafnauer, Chief Executive Officer and Team Principal, Racing Point F1

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.