The FIA has explained why Honda was allowed to work on their engine while the other manufacturers weren’t during the lockdown.
Italy was one of the nations hit earliest by the COVID-19 pandemic, and therefore one of the first to enter a lockdown, meaning Ferrari had to down tools.
Honda though was allowed to continue to do so, so much so that they showed up to the first race in Austria with an upgraded power unit.
In the eyes of many, including Mattia Binotto, this was unfair. However, Nikolas Tombazis, the head of the FIA’s single-seater affairs, has now explained that the decision was taken as the Japanese manufacturer may not have been able to work over summer.
“The shutdown for Honda was a bit different to the shutdown for the rest of the manufacturers. Not in terms of duration, but in terms of when it happened,” he told Autosport.com.
“The reason for that was that all teams and all power unit manufacturers accepted that during this extraordinary condition with the lockdown, no team or manufacturer would get added lockdown compared to others just because they happened to be in a particular country which was worse hit by COVID and therefore happened to be at a disadvantage.
“That was mainly relevant for example when Italy went into early lockdown and the UK were behind. We said all the lockdowns had to be equal: there cannot be a team or a manufacturer that has an advantage or disadvantage from them.
“Japan had a completely different evolution of COVID and the lockdown situation. We didn’t know when we agreed these rules in early April whether Japan would have a lockdown in the summer, depending on how COVID evolved in Japan.
“So we had to give some flexibility for Honda to have the shutdown a bit later.”
The FIA’s priority was to ensure that all four manufactures were allowed to work on their engine for the same period of time throughout the season.
Therefore, if Honda ceased development along with the other three in spring, they would then have to do the same if Japan entered a lockdown in summer.
In the eyes of the FIA, this was not a feasible situation, and one they were keen to avoid.
“We didn’t know when we agreed these rules in early April whether Japan would have a lockdown in the summer, depending on how COVID evolved in Japan. So we had to give some flexibility for Honda to have the shutdown a bit later,” Tombazis added.
“If they had a legal requirement to go into lockdown in July in Japan, [it would have been hard] then go back to the European teams and say, ‘by the way, we need to lock you down another month because Japan is locking down.’
“That’s why Honda was able to do some work while the Europeans were in lockdown and they are making up for this now.
“It’s not perfect because you can’t produce a regulation which is perfectly equitable when people are in different circumstances. But that’s the best we could do with it.”