The FIA Formula One Race Director, Safety Delegate, Permanent Starter and head of the F1 Technical Department Charlie Whiting has denied that members of the Mercedes team were thrown under the bus during the FIA’s ‘investigation’ into the legality (or not) of Ferrari’s energy recovery system.
Refusing to call it an investigation, the FIA sought to look into Ferrari’s ERS – which it was claimed was delivering more than the permitted 120kw of power from its MGU-K – after the issue was brought to its attention by Mercedes. At Mercedes, technical boss James Allison, had been alerted to a possible issue by former Ferrari engine man, Lorenzo Sassi, who had been recruited from Maranello. However, Toto Wolff was incensed that his team members had been identified, claiming that Whiting, and thereby the FIA, had effectively thrown them under the bus.
Not so, insists the Formula One Race Director: “I didn’t think it was any secret. In fact when we had a little chat with the guys (journalists) yesterday, it was they who came up with the Ferrari man’s name. I don’t think it was any secret. The fact that James… it was wrong to say that he was a whistleblower or something like that. He just, as many engineers do, came up to us and said ‘this guy started working for us and he says this team might be doing that’, and we go and check, and it’s not the case. This is a regular thing. It was just one of those normal conversations that you have with somebody: ‘We think Ferrari may be doing this, this and this because of that’, and we went and checked, and we thought ‘actually they could be doing that, so let’s have a check and make sure’. It’s taken us a little while to get to that, but as I say, it’s a pretty routine kind of thing for us, for people to come to us, especially when they’ve had staff members come from another team. Don’t forget Lorenzo, his information is at least eight months old, which in Formula One terms is quite old,” added Charlie Whiting, referring to the period that the Italian spent tending his garden after leaving Ferrari.
Asked to explain the delay in confirming the legality of Ferrari’s DRS, Whiting said: “I prefer not to use the word investigate, we were really trying to get to the point where we would be entirely satisfied. But the power being delivered to the MGU-K is correct: “It was difficult to explain exactly what we were seeing,” he admits. “That’s why we kept going through it with Ferrari, because it’s a very complex and totally different system to everybody else’s. In much the way we do with the other bits in the car, we have to understand these things and it took us a bit longer to understand what was going on. Their duty is to satisfy us that the car complies, as you know, but they’ve been finding it hard to satisfy us. But by the time we got to here and looking at data, software changes that were implemented, it becomes clearer exactly where we were and after the first day of running we were then able to say ‘OK we’re happy now. We understand it now’.” – he concluded.