The FIA has changed the way it communicates with teams about fuel temperatures after Max Verstappen was nearly caught off guard at the Spanish Grand Prix. The adjustment will be in effect from Monaco as the governing body hopes to avoid the kind of drama that has accompanied Red Bull’s last-minute recovery work in Catalonia.
According to current regulations, the fuel cannot be less than 10 degrees Celsius below the ambient air temperature at any time. Teams monitored the ambient temperature at 34 degrees in Spain, but some erupted in panic when the FIA declared it at 35 degrees shortly before the race.
Verstappen’s team therefore needed more time to bring his temperature to at least 25 degrees and in line with the rules. The Dutchman, along with Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly, arrived on the grid with seconds to spare, and some were skeptical that the Red Bull star’s car could have been driven illegally.
The FIA later clarified that was not the case, but race director Eduardo Freitas pledged to make a minor but potentially significant change from Monaco.
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In her stewards’ event notes this Friday, as reported by PlanetF1he wrote: “The official air temperature message, which is sent one hour before each practice session and two hours before the race, will now be displayed with one decimal place.”
This should give the teams a better idea of where they stand and avoid the kind of scramble that almost saw Gasly and Verstappen sent to disaster in Spain. Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto was among those to raise suspicions after Verstappen was cleared by surveillance data.
The FIA investigated the issue with Verstappen’s car but found there was no fuel violation. After the brief investigation, Ferrari boss Binotto said: “I can only trust the FIA and I’m pretty sure they are comfortable. They checked it. And maybe that’s not the right explanation either, you should ask them.
Fuel penalties have been imposed in the past, with Mercedes fined in 2019 and Sebastian Vettel disqualified from an unlikely second place in Hungary last year for finishing the race with too little fuel in The reservoir. Cooler fuel is better for the car’s combustion chambers, which could lead to a horsepower advantage.
Narrow survival did Verstappen no harm last weekend as he claimed his fourth Grand Prix victory of the season at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. In the aftermath, the Dutchman snatched the championship lead from Charles Leclerc, who was unable to finish the race due to an engine problem in his Ferrari.
But the Prancing Horse superstar regained the upper hand this Saturday as the riders dropped everything on the track for Monaco qualifying. Grid positioning is particularly important on their historic street circuit due to the difficulty of overtaking on Sundays.
To make matters worse for Red Bull, Ferrari closed the front row as Carlos Sainz took second, and Verstappen had to settle for fourth behind team-mate Sergio Perez. A late collision between Perez and Sainz ended the final session of the day prematurely.