By Alan Baldwin
MONACO (Reuters) – Ferrari were cast into the spotlight at the Monaco Grand Prix on Thursday after Formula One rivals questioned the legality of the energy recovery system on the Italian team’s car and the governing body was reported to be investigating.
The sport’s official website (www.formula1.com) said the governing International Automobile Federation (FIA) had asked Ferrari to “run an extra piece of hardware” so they could monitor the system.
“This weekend, the FIA will monitor the system in operation before analysing data and making any judgements,” it added.
The website added that, while there was no evidence of the sport’s most successful team breaking the rules, rivals had expressed concern Ferrari might be boosting energy flow beyond the permitted limit.
The web page was later amended to say the FIA had “reportedly asked” Ferrari and that “reports suggest” the governing body would monitor the system.
The FIA would not confirm an investigation was under way and a Ferrari spokesman said the team did not comment on media speculation.
Niki Lauda, the retired triple world champion who is now non-executive chairman of Ferrari’s main rivals Mercedes, said last week that the FIA needed to investigate.
“Any race in which grey areas remain grey can be a lost race. The FIA has to clarify these unanswered questions by the race in Monte Carlo,” the Austrian told Germany’s Bild am Sonntag newspaper.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff and Red Bull’s Christian Horner were asked about the rumours in a scheduled news conference after Thursday’s first practice in Monaco.
“We have legality topics come up regularly. Some are more controversial but it’s the daily business of the FIA to check what the teams do,” said Wolff.
“It is the obligation of the teams to comply with the regulations and this is an ongoing process…and as far as I understand this is a process that’s taking place as we speak and we will see what the outcome is.”
Horner expressed confidence in the FIA’s ability to “measure, administer and look at the car that’s presented for scrutineering and during a grand prix weekend.”
Ferrari’s four-times world champion Sebastian Vettel, who is 17 points behind Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton after five races but won in Monaco last year, said such speculation was to be expected.
“It’s normal that every now and then you have something popping up,” he told reporters. “This time for us…but in four weeks’ time it will be for someone else.
“Ultimately I think it’s the FIA’s job to look after it and I think we trust them as much as the other teams trust them.”
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ed Osmond)