FERRARI is at the centre of a Monaco “cheat” storm.
Rival teams believe the Italian outfit may have an illegal power boost system on their cars, The Sun reports.
And it is understood the sport’s governing body, the FIA, has ordered Ferrari to fit additional computer hardware for the Monaco Grand Prix to prevent any illegal use of F1’s Energy Recovery System.
Mercedes chief Toto Wolff said: “It is the obligation of teams to comply with regulations and this is an ongoing process.
“Legality topics come up regularly. Some are more controversial but it’s the daily business of the FIA to check what the teams do.
“I have great confidence with whatever issues are coming up, be it on the engine or the chassis, the FIA has been on top of it a lot.”
Red Bull boss Christian Horner added: “There have been rumours that people are cottoning onto.
“I’m sure the FIA has all the competence to be able to measure, administer and look at the car that’s presented for scrutinising during a grand prix weekend and it is the team’s obligation to ensure that happens.”
The ERS system is essentially a battery pack that recovers energy and redeploys it through a motor at the press of a button.
F1’s rules limit the level of the power boost but teams believe Ferrari may have found a loophole.
FIA race director Charlie Whiting does not believe Ferrari, who won the first two races and have scored three poles in a row this season, has done anything wrong.
Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel was unfussed by the speculation, claiming it was “normal” for teams to come under scrutiny.
He said: “Obviously we heard about it but it’s normal that every now and then you have something popping up. This time it’s us, but in four weeks’ time it will be for someone else.
“Ultimately I think it’s the FIA’s job to look after it and we trust them as much as the other teams trust them. But that’s it, it’s pretty straightforward. I think the talk is more from outside rather than stuff we discuss inside.”
Ferrari currently trails Mercedes by 27 points in the constructors’ championship, with Red Bull 46 points further back in third.
Valtteri Bottas left Lewis Hamilton and his other F1 rivals trailing to set the pace in an impressive performance during Practice Two at the French GP.
Hamilton was investigated for a near miss with Max Verstappen but stewards cleared the world champion of any wrongdoing.
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Hamilton ran into the run-off at Turn Four after losing control of his Mercedes, taking out a bollard in the process, and returned to the track just as Verstappen was approaching Turn Five.
On a timed lap, the Red Bull went round the outside of the recovering Mercedes, but then Verstappen himself ran off the circuit after losing grip.
Stewards said they would investigate the incident after the session but, after speaking to both drivers, revealed that “both drivers agreed that the limited rear visibility and the angle of Car 44 made it difficult for Hamilton to see the approaching car and agreed that Hamilton rejoined slowly”.
Despite Hamilton’s mistake wrecking his qualifying simulation, Mercedes still comfortably finished in first and second places.
Bottas, who had traded fastest times with Hamilton up to that point all day, ended up fastest with a 1:30.937 on the soft tyres, with Hamilton left 0.4s back on the slower medium compound.
Ferrari were third and fourth with Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel respectively — but neither driver was within 0.6s of Bottas’ benchmark lap. The Scuderia spent the day assessing new development parts, which included new front wing and diffuser.
Team boss Mattia Binotto admitted the upgrades are “not perfect”, and added on Ferrari’s performance: “We are suffering in the last sector. It’s very similar to Barcelona.
“I would say it’s not unexpected because that’s the car we have at the moment. Mercedes seems certainly stronger but the weekend is not over and there is still a lot of performance to be found. Let’s see how the track evolves and how we optimise our package.”
Verstappen’s near-miss with Hamilton meant he did not complete a representative soft-tyre lap either and so the Dutchman finished only sixth fastest, with teammate Pierre Gasly eighth.
Hot conditions — track temperatures nudged 55C during the afternoon — and gusty winds, combined with a low-grip surface, made running difficult for drivers throughout the field, with cars regularly spinning or running wide.
British rookie Lando Norris appeared to cope better than most and finished an eye-catching fifth for McLaren, ahead of both Red Bulls and within one second of the leading pace.
Despite not being happy with his MCL34 yet, Carlos Sainz was seventh in the sister car, ahead of Gasly plus usual midfield rivals Alfa Romeo and Haas.
Renault, McLaren’s engine suppliers, dropped out of the top 10 during the afternoon but the main focus of their day was assessing the impact of a significant car upgrade. Daniel Ricciardo, who was their lead runner, also ran the latest specification of the French manufacturer’s engine at their home event.
VETTEL ATTACKS F1 RULES CULTURE
Sebastian Vettel believes “everybody is to blame” for the rules in Formula 1 which led to his Canadian GP penalty and suggested the best approach might be to “burn the papers”.
Speaking soon after stewards confirmed they would not be reopening the investigation into the decision to hand Vettel a race-losing time penalty in Montreal, Vettel said: “It’s disappointing that it doesn’t go any further but, that’s it, we have to move on.”
Asked by Sky Sports F1’s Ted Kravitz what he could do now to change things for future amid suggestions of rules over-regulation, Vettel quipped: “Retire — at least then I’m not in trouble anymore!
“That was a joke. I’m sure people will just pick it up, but I don’t really care.”
Even before the stewards’ Friday announcement, attention around the sport and among current and former drivers had turned to the regulations concerning wheel-to-wheel racing.
Vettel has again called for a change to the culture, although suggested tweaks to the wording of regulations may not be sufficient.
“We have so many pages in our regulations that if you want I think you find the paragraph that suits,” said Vettel.
“Everybody is to blame. The problem is we are heard with these things. This started a long time ago when it was about ‘oh, did he cross the white line, use too much kerb?’ — let us do what we want.
“If you are unhappy with how we race or how we drive, then build different tracks. It’s as easy as that. Don’t build car parks with lines and kerbs on it, like that one.
“Anyway, it is what it is. As I said, there are too many paragraphs. But what do you change, how can you change? Just burn the papers.”
After hearing Ferrari’s representations and reviewing their ‘new’ evidence at the French GP, Montreal stewards ultimately gave short shrift to the Scuderia’s review challenge.
Mattia Binotto, Ferrari’s team boss, suggested the sport and its fans had lost out through the stewards standing by their original decision.
“I think there is no doubt that as Ferrari we are all very unhappy and disappointed,” said Binotto on Friday night.
“We are disappointed, certainly for Ferrari, but we are disappointed for the fans and for our sport. I do not intend to comment any further.”
Renault to reveal ‘true pace’
This article was originally published by Sky Sports and reproduced with permission
Welcome to FOX SPORTS’ live coverage of the Formula One French Grand Prix.
Daniel Ricciardo will be able to look to the stands and see a sea of yellow, much as he did in Melbourne, this weekend as his Renault team are welcomed to their home grand prix at the Circuit Paul Ricard.
Renault are providing him and teammate Nico Hulkenberg with some major chassis upgrades to go with the increased power they’ve put on show during the last couple of rounds of action.
They are hoping these changes will be the ones to bring them a lot closer to Red Bull, having seen both of their drivers beat Pierre Gasly in Canada last time out.
So far this season, it’s been very difficult to see real evidence of Renault making good on its pre-season aim to pull itself clear of the midfield and close the performance gap to the top three teams.
But this weekend in its home race at Paul Ricard, we get to see – arguably for the first time – what the true potential of its 2019 car/engine package is.
After an early season that was badly disrupted by a design fault in the engine that led to a con-rod failure for Nico Hulkenberg in the second race, and further compromises in bringing aero developments onto the car at the Enstone chassis base, Renault thus far is solidly in that midfield and its average qualifying deficit to pole is over 1.5s.
For this season Renault aggressively pursued a big power increase from its power unit to close the big deficit to Ferrari and Mercedes that had built over the previous two seasons.
The initial 2019 engine as raced in Melbourne and Bahrain was around 50bhp more powerful than that of 2018, which would have been competitive with the 2018 Ferrari and Mercedes engines.
But those manufacturers had of course found gains of their own for 2019. GPS analysis suggested that Renault was between 25-27bhp down in qualifying for those opening two events, but closer than that in the races. That qualifying deficit would typically equate to around 0.2s of lap time, whereas in those two races the car was an average of 1.86s off the pace, giving an order of magnitude measurement of the car’s chassis shortfall.
Furthermore, it was also evident that the new MGU-K unit had a reliability issue. Things became even worse when Hulkenberg suffered his con-rod failure late in the race at Bahrain. This latter problem took Renault Sport completely by surprise.
Team boss Cyril Abiteboul later conceded that the winter development programme had been so focused on finding extra engine performance that some shortcuts had been taken in reliability testing. As the cause of and solution for the con-rod problem was found, the power units had to be run in very conservative modes in both China and Baku.
A new spec of power unit was introduced for Spain, with modifications attending to both the MGU-K and con-rod issues. This too was run fairly conservatively in that race, just to establish that the modifications had worked. It was let off the leash from Monaco onwards.
Monaco is the least power-sensitive track on the calendar. The following race in Montreal represented a much better test of the effectiveness of the power upgrade – and the results were encouraging. Although Daniel Ricciardo’s fourth-fastest grid slot was flattered by problems for both Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas, the 0.8s deficit to pole, at 1.183%, was the smallest of the season to date. Ricciardo and Hulkenberg took a solid six-seven in the race, with no reliability issues.
With a major – and overdue – aero upgrade set for this coming weekend (believed to comprise new front wing, barge boards, floor and rearranged cooling that has allowed an enhanced airflow-accelerating coke bottle profile for the rear bodywork), everything seems nicely poised to show the Renault’s ultimate potential.
If such a major upgrade was worth as much as 0.5s, it would potentially take the Renault into some very interesting territory, very close to Red Bull (on the assumption that the team or Honda hasn’t found their own significant gains).
A lot could be hanging on this performance for Renault. The team is under pressure from the board to show evidence of progress at a time when participation beyond 2020 and into the new contract with Liberty is being discussed.
This article was originally published on Sky Sports and reproduced with permission.