The off-track battle is heating up between Ferrari and their Formula rivals in amid suggestions the great Italian team has been ‘cooking the books’ with their PU which had been the benchmark until the horsepower went AWOL last time out in Texas.
Sebastian Vettel said in Brazil that Max Verstappen – accuser in chief – was out of line with his recent accusation of Ferrari cheating and deemed the Dutchman “unprofessional” and “immature”.
However, this time not prompted by Red Bull or another team, the FIA has issued a second technical directive believed to be aimed at how Ferrari’s powerful 2019 engine works.
“We just want things to be fair in Formula 1,” a Honda official is quoted as saying by the Swiss newspaper Blick. “We are not talking about five horsepower, the difference is more like 50hp.”
For his part, Verstappen has heeded the warnings of Red Bull and his father by staying quiet in Brazil, although he did say it is “good” that the FIA is getting to the bottom of “what is not allowed”.
Vettel said: “It’s not about silencing anyone. I guess if we go back to normal here then we should be able to win, and that’s more important.”
Ferrari officials have explained that the clear performance drop in Austin was not about the engine, but about running extra downforce and a lack of pace for other reasons.
Charles Leclerc said in Brazil: “It’s not my motivation to educate our opponents. In the team, we know that everything is alright and that we have done nothing wrong.”
However, Ferrari may actually be hitting back in the off-track technical battle. Corriere della Sera reports that Ferrari asked the FIA for an explanation about a Mercedes innovation.
The query reportedly concerned an innovation near the rear suspension that might help to keep Mercedes the difficult Pirelli tyres in the operating ‘window’ which the FIA confirmed to be legal.
Meanwhile, Leclerc has denied that his new PU for Brazil is to test developments for 2020, “I will get an engine of the same specification that I used before the problems in Austin.”
After that failure, Leclerc had to revert to an earlier specification with a lot of engine life that Ferrari says compromised his performance, “There is nothing new in it but it should help in qualifying and the race. The pace will be similar, but I will get some advantage.”