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Tuesday, May 10, 2005

The BAR Verdict

Read the official decision of the FIA Court Of Appeal here.
Now the appelate court has mentioned a number of articles in the FIA Formula 1 technical regulations relevant to the FIA's appeal. Let's have a look at some of them.

The first is Article 1.9. This provides the definition of "Weight". It says that this "Is the weight of the car with the driver, wearing his complete racing apparel, at all times during the event."

Furthermore Article 1.10 provides us with the definition of "Racing Weight" and this "Is the weight of the car in running order with with the driver on board and all fuel tanks full." In the appelate court's ruling they use the term 'running order' to refer to the Article 1.10 racing weight.

When talking about the BAR situation, it is the Article 1.9 "Weight" of the car that is under consideration, not the Article 1.10 "Racing Weight."

Now furthermore, there is Article 4.1 of the technical regulations that provide: "The weight of the car must not be less than 605kg during the qualifying practice session and no less than 600kg at all other times during the Event."

In addition, Article 4.2 provides: "Ballast can be used provided it is secured in such a way that tools are required for its removal. It must be possible to fix seals if deemed necessary by the FIA technical delegate."

There is no mention of fuel in Article 4.1. Neither is there any mention of it in the definition of "Weight" in Article 1.10. And this, according to the FIA appelate court's ruling, is what the BAR team tried to argue. That the weight of the car is really its weight plus whatever remains in the tanks.

But according to the appeals court the only way to guarantee compliance to Article 4.1, is to weigh a car completely drained of its fuel tanks. And after doing so, the BAR-Honda was found wanting and tipped the scales at 594.6 kg.

Another interesting point in the ruling points to BAR's defence strategy. BAR apparently provided them with fuel consumption data, which the court appeals ruled: "the presentation of the team of fuel consumption data cannot guarantee that the vehicle complied at all times with the minimum weight requirements of Article 4.1"

According to the ruling 8.2 kg of fuel remained in a "special compartment within the fuel tank" and "a further 2.46 kg remained in the bottom of the fuel tank" after BAR confirmed that the draining process had been completed.

BAR I think sought to use the argument that this remaining fuel ensured the car complied with Article 4.1. But the Court Of Appeal ruled that if the fuel is likened to ballast then it contravenes Article 4.2 that states that any ballast must be "secured in such a way that tools are required for its removal. It must be possible to fix seals if deemed necessary by the FIA technical delegate."

Now you could be cheeky by saying that well, to drain the fuel you need tools or pumps but I think that hugely goes against the spirit of that regulation. And of course you can't fix seals on to petrol.

But as I said previously, for BAR to be thrown out, the court must find that BAR has knowingly committed fraud. But in light of Article 4.1 that makes no mention at all about fuel in the car, its hard to prove BAR's intentions. The ruling implied that BAR should have sought clarification of the rules but states that they did not do so as per the rights. The court therefore ruled that BAR "show at the least a highly regrettable negligence and lack of transparency."

But of course in court, its what you can prove that counts and the FIA cannot prove that BAR had malicious intent. But the real world outside court is different. Many have branded the BAR team as deliberately cheating, including Spanish GP runner up Fernando Alonso. And many, many more on various websites and forums.

Me, I think they should have worded Articles 1.9, 1.10, 4.1 and 4.2 better. At least specifically mention fuel in those Articles to avoid ambiguity.

Others allege that the FIA appeals court ruled according to the wishes of Bernie Ecclestone who condemned them as cheats but thought that a couple of race bans would provide sufficient punishment. Well, he would wouldn't he? He needs 20 cars on the grid.

At the end of the day, a highly contentious decision but I think I'd side with the Court of Appeals on this one.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

But the only team not understanding the 1994 clarifications, that fuel could not be counted as weight is BAR.

And the rules and regulations that you quote can't really stand on their own, some series have specific rules mentioning that fuel can not be counted, and some does not.

Not having them mention, does NOT exlude the teams from the International Sporting code (by memory, not sure what the real name is).