One of the main stories of F1 last season got its epilogue, which it really isn’t. Just before the start of the new F1 season, the FIA announced the end of an investigation into allegations that Ferrari had been blamed by Red Bull and Mercedes last year, while the FIA choose to not deciding whether Ferrari was guilty or innocent.
IS FERRARI GUILTY OR INNOCENT?
Instead of clearing the situation once and for all and whether Ferrari had violated the rules or not, FIA said in a press release that a private settlement with Scuderia had been reached, details of which would remain secret. The FIA said in a message that Ferrari will be involved in the development of carbon-neutral technologies, and will use the case to more properly monitor any future breaches of F1 powertrains.
The timeline of the launch of the news itself, which is anything but random, is also very telling. The FIA sent a controversial message to the public 10 minutes before the end of the last day of testing, when media obligations were no longer foreseen on the Barcelona track, and consequently no need to explain anything to those involved. At the same time, the day of the news coincided with the release of the second season of the popular Netflix series “Drive to Survive”, which diverted the attention of F1 media that day. F1 teams go on a long trip to Australia immediately after the Barcelona tests, with global headlines in the midst of a global coronavirus threat. There are simply too many coincidences, but there is no such thing in money-driven Formula One.
Assuming that Ferrari actually breached the rules and manipulated the fuel flow sensors, as the Italian team had alleged at Red Bull, that would have cost an extremely high penalty. Given that this would be a clear breach of technical rule, there would very likely be requests to exclude Ferrari from the Championship, which Formula 1 probably cannot afford. Ferrari is Formula 1 and Formula 1 is Ferrari, whether we like it or not.
Ferrari would likely complain of a high penalty, and continuing the process would result in the washing of dirty laundry in front of the eyes of the world public, which neither side wants. It is much more convenient to enter into an agreement that requires Ferrari to perform some kind of socially beneficial work, in the form of developing new, more environmentally friendly technologies that Formula 1 will be able to use in the future. The FIA is making a lot of money for development, and Ferrari avoids the damage it would suffer from concrete evidence of fraud.
The whole situation is extremely unusual, if not a bit bizarre. Imagine that you are going to a lawsuit against someone, and then the judge concludes a private agreement with that person, under which the defendant, together with the court, will develop a platform for a better world and the details of the arrangement will remain secret. Of course, the situation is not entirely comparable, as Ferrari was not part of the official process initiated by any of the competing teams. This is why it is all the more unusual that the FIA has disclosed the whole matter to the public in the form of a six-line statement that raises more questions than offers real answers.