Former F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone says that the FIA has left teams with no choice but to sue the governing body over how it has handled the row about the legality of Ferrari’s 2019 car.
Following complaints from other teams, the SF90 was closely examined by the FIA during the course of last season with the focus being on its fuel-flow system.
Rival teams suspected the car of dodging restrictions on the rate of fuel that a car could use during a race, explaining the sudden jump in the performance of Ferrari’s power unit mid-season.
Ferrari denied the allegations and appeared to have been cleared of any wrong-doing by the FIA. But last week, a statement from the FIA revealing that it had reached a “confidential settlement” with Ferrari over the matter reignited the controversy.
Red Bull motor consultant Dr Helmut Marko said that losing out on second place in the constructors championship had cost his team about $24 million in potential lost prize money.
“We knew from our GPS data that something was wrong. We didn’t have enough evidence, so we didn’t officially protest,” he told F1-Insider.com.
And now Ecclestone has waded into the debate, saying that the way the FIA has handled the matter leaves it open to being sued by the seven non-Ferrari affiliated teams.
“The teams have to sue the FIA,” he insisted this week. “It’s about millions that I think they [the teams] deserve back in money.”
Ecclestone was unimpressed by the FIA’s argument that it had lacked concrete evidence to bring charges under the sporting regulations, and the reason it opted for a confidential settlement with Ferrari instead.
“If Ferrari were clean and innocent, why did they even agree to a deal with Jean Todt? That alone seems like a confession to me,” countered the 89-year-old.
He maintained that the row would never have been allowed to escalate to its current proportions back in his time as F1 supremo.
“There were often fires that I, as a kind of top firefighter, had to put out,” he acknowledged.
“In my time, however, it was always possible to find a common consensus between the teams, the FIA and myself. But it’s too late for that now.”
The FIA maintains that its right to reach a confidential settlement with a team is part of the sport’s disciplinary regulations introduced by President Jean Todt in 2010 to protect the sport’s image or in the event of a unwinnable legal dispute.
But in a response to the FIA’s initial statement, the seven teams not using Ferraripower units threatened to take further action over the matter “within the FIA’s due process and before the competent courts”.
“The FIA threatens to discredit the entire sport in which we all invest huge amounts of money each year,” thundered Marko. “That can not be tolerated any longer.”