Charlie Whiting, the FIA Formula One Race Director, Safety Delegate, Permanent Starter and head of the F1 Technical Department, confirmed to the press after the Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday that the investigation into the Scuderia Ferrari ERS scandal was brought to the FIA’s attention by two ex-Maranello employees who are now working at Mercedes. This has raised questions about anonymity when filing a complaint to the FIA.
As reported by media during the last two weeks, Mercedes asked the FIA for some clarification into Ferrari’s battery, claiming that the Italian side may have modified their battery to produce extra power in way that violates the regulations. It’s not unusual for teams to question the legality of other teams, especially rival teams like Mercedes and Ferrari. The FIA took the appropriate action to investigate the issue. Charlie Whiting revealed that the investigation was prompted by Lorenzo Sassi and James Allison, both of whom are retired Ferrari staff members. Sassi served as Ferrari’s chief engine designer until he was fired from the team back in July of last year, at which point he was recruited by Mercedes. Allison worked with Ferrari as the Technical Director before taking a leave of absence in the summer of 2016 following the tragic passing of his wife. Mercedes hired Allison for the same role for the start of the 2017 season.
Mercedes management Toto Wolff responded to Whiting’s comments, saying that only the team should have been linked to the investigation, not the specific staff members within it. “If you say that a team has done that, it’s perfectly fine, that is modus operandi,” explained Wolff. “But picking out individuals, and putting them out there is, I think, not the right thing to do.”
The investigation into Ferrari’s car has been concluded with no evidence to prove the claims against Ferrari. Given the age of the information provided by the ex-Ferrari employee that started the investigation process, it was unlikely that any cheating would have been discovered on the Ferrari car.
However, the complaint shows that Ferrari may have cheated in the 2017 season or at least planned to cheat. Naturally, since the season has concluded, there is no way to investigate issues from last season.
The lack of confidentiality in the FIA’s handling of the Ferrari ERS investigation could be a risk for both Allison and Sassi, as it could be possible for Ferrari to pursue legal action if any activities breached the non-disclosure agreement that employees in the industry must sign. However, such action is unlikely since it would require Ferrari to admit to breaching the regulations.