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FIA meteorology - The cool fuel saga gets set to go to court

Published by Mr. C

In less than two days time, the FIA's Court of Appeal will convene in London, to hear McLaren's case against the result of the Brazilian GP. The conclusion of the hearing should offer a bit more clarity as to why two teams, both of whom were suspected of running fuel below the minimum specified temperature during the race, were completely exonerated by the stewards following post-race scrutineering.

At the time, the argument BMW put forward to the stewards was - while the temperature of their fuel may have dropped more than 10°C beneath FOM's ambient temperature (the one shown on timing screens), the FIA's independent weather data supplier noted that the ambient at the time was in fact much higher, and therefore the fuel did not fall more than 10°C below ambient.

The thing is, the FIA's reading is not the measurement understood to be the one followed by the teams, that being the one that is provided by FOM on the third page of the timing screens (and also repeated on the weather and speed tab of internet Live Timing). However, FOM's figure appears to be somewhat fallible.

During the post-Brazilian Renault podcast, Pat Symonds claimed that:

The equipment that is used to display the temperature on page 3 of the timing screens is very, very old. It's not cared for, it's not been calibrated for years.

- Pat Symonds

To further back this up, Ted Kravitz suggested after the race that:

Either the air temperature probe was in the sun (air temp should always be taken from the shade) or it was not calibrated correctly.

When the race started, the FOM screens showed the track temperature as 62 degrees. That would've melted even my trusty Dr Martens boots.

For reference, the FIA data is supplied by a company called Météo-France, and has been since the FIA asked them to start providing accurate information last year. The majority of teams contribute to the cost of this service, and one has to wonder why?

Another obvious question would be, given that F1 is such a technology-focused sport, why is it that Formula One Management cannot be trusted to calibrate their own electronic equipment, especially the bits that the regulations specifically rely on? And finally, why do the teams readily accept this?

I wonder if the FIA anticipated a problem like the situation in Brazil occurring, and thus implemented their own back-up solution. Agreed, the timing couldn't have been worse, but I believe that the FIA may have pre-empted problems, and provided the ideal answer.

With any luck, Thursday's appeal will clarify the details and clear both teams of any wrongdoing.

As a final thought: one has to wonder how it is that the Bernie Ecclestone owned Paul Ricard circuit, manages to obtain weather data from a certain company called Météo-France, yet at the same time FOM president Bernie Ecclestone still didn't rate said comapnies services enough to use them during race weekends.