Last Friday, Formula 1's regulating body the FIA announced that it concluded a technical investigation into Scuderia Ferrari's suspiciously powerful 2019 engine by way of a confidential "settlement." Infuriated, every team not using Ferrari's engines—and that's seven of the paddock's 10—published an open letter to the FIA demanding "full and proper disclosure" of its settlement with Ferrari. Thursday morning, the FIA published its response to the letter—and it'll only throw grapefruit-scented fuel on the fire because the FIA effectively admitted it couldn't catch Ferrari with its pants down.
The FIA's statement admitted that its "extensive and thorough investigations [...] raised suspicions that the Scuderia Ferrari PU [power unit] could be considered as not operating within the limits of the FIA regulations at all times." The regulatory body added that while it doesn't buy Ferrari's claim that its engine is entirely on the up-and-up, it wasn't certain it could prove wrongdoing, so to avoid drawing out the already months-long debacle, it arranged the settlement that is now the subject of so much controversy.
"The Scuderia Ferrari firmly opposed the suspicions and reiterated that its PU always operated in compliance with the regulations," stated the FIA's release. "The FIA was not fully satisfied but decided that further action would not necessarily result in a conclusive case due to the complexity of the matter and the material impossibility to provide the unequivocal evidence of a breach."
"To avoid the negative consequences that a long litigation would entail especially in light of the uncertainty of the outcome of such litigations and in the best interest of the Championship and of its stakeholders, the FIA, in compliance with Article 4 (ii) of its Judicial and Disciplinary Rules (JDR), decided to enter into an effective and dissuasive settlement agreement with Ferrari to terminate the proceedings."
The FIA's settlement can be interpreted at least two different ways. Some may see forcing Ferrari into a settlement without conclusive evidence of wrongdoing as a power play; a show of strength that it can arbitrarily shut down suspected rule breakers even without understanding exactly how the rules were broken. On the other hand, resorting to measures like these could be seen as showing weakness, as incapability to keep up with how teams are interpreting the rules for their own benefit. As for how the teams see the FIA's move, we'll likely find out when they release their inevitable collective response.
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