The FIA has responded to the joint action undertaken by seven F1 teams regarding the confidential settlement reached by the governing body with Ferrari.
The agreement between the FIA and Ferrari was published last Friday and sought to put an end to the former’s investigation of the latter’s 2019 power unit amid suspicions that the Scuderia’s engineers had found an innovative ploy to circumvent fuel flow limitations.
However, the settlement’s terms were deemed confidential by the FIA, a lack of transparency that prompted an angry reaction from all non-Ferrari teams who are threatening legal action to achieve the full disclosure of the agreement.
The FIA responded to the teams’ group action on Thursday with the following statement:
“The FIA has conducted detailed technical analysis on the Scuderia Ferrari Power Unit as it is entitled to do for any competitor in the FIA Formula One World Championship.
“The extensive and thorough investigations undertaken during the 2019 season raised suspicions that the Scuderia Ferrari PU could be considered as not operating within the limits of the FIA regulations at all times. The Scuderia Ferrari firmly opposed the suspicions and reiterated that its PU always operated in compliance with the regulations.The FIA was not fully satisfied but decided that further action would not necessarily result in a conclusive case due to the complexity of the matter and the material impossibility to provide the unequivocal evidence of a breach.
“To avoid the negative consequences that a long litigation would entail especially in light of the uncertainty of the outcome of such litigations and in the best interest of the Championship and of its stakeholders, the FIA, in compliance with Article 4 (ii) of its Judicial and Disciplinary Rules (JDR), decided to enter into an effective and dissuasive settlement agreement with Ferrari to terminate the proceedings.
“This type of agreement is a legal tool recognised as an essential component of any disciplinary system and is used by many public authorities and other sport federations in the handling of disputes.
“The confidentiality of the terms of the settlement agreement is provided for by Article 4 (vi) of the JDR.
“The FIA will take all necessary action to protect the sport and its role and reputation as regulator of the FIA Formula One World Championship.”
In summary, the FIA believes it has the law on its side according to the institution and regulators’s own legal “Judicial and Disciplinary Rules”.
However, the question of the legality of Ferrari’s engine in 2019 remains, with the governing body admitting that it does not have the ability to clearly prove the Italian outfit’s potential regulation transgression. Which begs the $100 million question: is Ferrari still breaching the rules?
It’s unlikely given that the very aim of the settlement was to ensure that the FIA, based on the knowledge it acquired during its investigation, has at least the means to prevent the red squad from tempting fate and its engine from infringing the rule book
But the controversial case has also clearly demonstrated that Formula 1’s engineering complexities – or rather the expertise of Ferrari’s engineers – have surpassed the FIA’s competence.
The ball is back in the teams’ court…