FIA still have trouble policing engine legality

Date published: September 18 2020

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FIA technical director, Nikolas Tombazis, has said the governing body still has continued trouble policing the legality of teams’ power units.

The FIA has issued a series of Technical Directives over the past year in an attempt to clamp down and close the number of loopholes which the complex regulations allowed through interpretation.

The latest of which was TD/037-20 which limited the usage of engine modes, requiring teams to run the same ICE mode in qualifying and the race.

But, Tombazis has conceded that if a driver changes engine settings every lap, the FIA are still going to have a very hard time determining what is legal and what isn’t.

“Unfortunately, it is no longer as simple as in the days of the V8 engines,” Tombazis told Auto Motor und Sport.

“Back then, all that was needed was to make sure that the maximum speed was maintained, that the engine dimensions were correct or that the fuel specification complied with the rules.

“The problem with the current power units is that although the hardware may be completely legal, it is still possible to operate them illegally.

“To do this, we have to continuously monitor countless parameters via the software, signals and sensor messages while driving.

“If a driver changes the engine settings every lap, it becomes difficult to regularly check the operation of the engine every lap to make sure that the rules are being followed exactly.

“Especially in special moments of a race, for example the lap before a pit stop or after, or when overtaking.”

Formula 1 general

Tombazis gave an specific example of how a Technical Directive can be introduced to protect the integrity of the sport but how hard it can then be to police it.

He added: “We have limited oil consumption to 0.3 liters per 100 kilometers to prevent oil from being used in the combustion process. However, we do not measure this consumption over the entire distance, but after each lap.

“It is forbidden to exceed it at short notice and then save it again later. If you now switch back and forth between different engine settings, it is extremely difficult to track oil consumption at all times.”

Although the complexities give Tombazis and the rest of the FIA headaches, he would not have it any other way.

He said: “If our job was limited to just checking the length and width of the car, my job would be much easier, but I wouldn’t like it as much anymore. With the complexity comes the challenge.”

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