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The Recent Fall of Ferrari F1

The Recent Fall of Ferrari F1

Ever since the conception of Formula 1 in 1950, Ferrari has been participating in motorsport with unprecedented levels of success. 

Over these 70 plus years of racing, Scuderia Ferrari has achieved an astonishing 25.4% win percentage for the Constructors’ Championships, in teams get points for when each of their cars cross the finish line, and a 21.1% win percentage for the Drivers’ Championships,in which individual drivers get points for finishing races. 

Despite this phenomenal track record, the Ferrari F1 team has recently hit somewhat of a hitch in their performance in the sport, centered around their controversial power unit in the 2019 F1 season. As a result, Ferrari finished an uncharacteristic sixth in the Constructors’ Championship in the 2020 season, as opposed to second in 2019.

Every aspect of an F1 race car is dictated by the FiA (or Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile), a governing body that writes the ‘formula’ that all F1 teams must follow when constructing their vehicles. One such rule is the maximum fuel flow rate: the amount of fuel that can be fed to the power unit of each car.

The FiA regulates this figure at 100 kilograms of fuel per hour, which is monitored by an anti-cheat system that is required in each vehicle. This system works by monitoring fuel entering the engine that doesn’t exceed over 100 kilograms per hour at a set time interval.

For example, the anti-cheat system would check the fuel flow rate every other second to make sure it is within legal bounds.

In 2019, Ferrari’s F1 car, the SF90, showed extreme displays of speed compared to rival cars on the track, and soon other teams grew suspicious that Ferrari wasn’t playing by the rules. In November of that year, Red Bull Racing submitted a technical injury to the FiA, asking if exceeding the fuel flow rate during periods of time in which the anti-cheat system wasn’t monitoring the fuel flow rate would be legal.

Returning to the aforementioned example, this would mean that the fuel flow rate would remain under 100 kilograms per hour every other second the anti-cheat was monitoring the flow, but exceed it every other second it wasn’t. The result, decreed by the FiA, was that this would be an illegal practice within Formula 1 racing.

Coincidentally after this ruling, Ferrari’s performance in the following races was subpar compared to their pre-ruling races. This was most notable in the straights — whereas it had been common to see the SF90 overtake competing cars when driving in a straight line before, the Ferrari now looked more like a mid-tier vehicle.

Combined with the already poor cornering ability, Ferrari’s car after this ruling was charting speeds that were a shadow of its previous iteration. To this day it is unresolved whether or not Ferrari was using this loophole around the anti-cheat system, but it is not difficult to connect the dots when looking at the events in the controversy despite Ferrari’s denials.

At the start of the 2020 F1 season, another bombshell struck the F1 community within the form of a FiA announcement. As it turns out, the FiA had continued to conduct investigations of the offending Ferrari engine, and according to the FiA, “the specifics of the agreements would remain between the two parties.”

Furthermore, at the end of the announcement, it was said that Ferrari was to help the FiA “in other regulatory duties in Formula 1”, which could be interpreted in many different ways. At the end of the 2020 season, Ferrari finished with a record so poor that it was the worst performance from the team since 1980.

Although the 2021 F1 season doesn’t seem like the prestige racing team will return to their former glory, it is important to not count them out for the rest of their racing career. Tens of racing teams have come and gone over the 70 years of the sport, but Ferrari has been a consistent contender ever since the inaugural season.

After drastic changes in car design and regulation planned by the FiA for the 2022 season, Ferrari might find themselves in a better position to get back to the front of the grid again. 

The Recent Fall of Ferrari F1 Written by Tony Cao

Edited by Jay Devon & Thomas Braun

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