The FIA has changed the way it communicates with teams about fuel temperatures after Max Verstappen was almost caught at the Spanish Grand Prix. The change will come into effect from Monaco as the governing body hope to avoid the kind of drama that came with Red Bull’s last-minute salvage job in Catalonia.
According to current regulations, the fuel must not be less than 10 degrees Celsius below the ambient air temperature at any time. Teams monitored the ambient temperature of 34 degrees in Spain, but some panicked when the FIA declared it to be 35 degrees just before the race.
The Verstappen team therefore needed extra time to bring his temperature to at least 25 degrees and in line with the rules. The Dutchman made it onto the grid in seconds alongside Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly and some were skeptical 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 promised to make a small but potentially important change from Monaco.
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In his stewards’ event notes this Friday, as reported by PlanetF1, he wrote: “The official air temperature message, which is broadcast one hour before each practice session and two hours before the race, is now displayed with one decimal place.”
That should give teams a better idea of where they stand and prevent the kind of tussle that nearly saw Gasly and Verstappen crash in Spain. Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto was among those raising suspicions after Verstappen was cleared of the surveillance data.
The FIA investigated the problem with Verstappen’s car but concluded that 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. You checked it. And maybe that’s not the right explanation either, you should ask her.”
Fuel penalties have come in the past, with Mercedes being fined in 2019 and Sebastian Vettel being disqualified from an unlikely second place in Hungary last year for finishing the race with too little left in the tank. Colder fuel is better for the car’s combustion chambers, which could result in a performance advantage.
Narrowly surviving didn’t hurt Verstappen last weekend as he clinched his fourth Grand Prix win of the season at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. The Dutchman Charles Leclerc, who was unable to finish the race due to an engine problem in his Ferrari, snatched the lead in the world championship.
But the Prancing Horse superstar was back on top this Saturday as the drivers dropped everything for qualifying in Monaco. The starting grid is particularly important on their historic street circuit, as overtaking can be difficult on Sunday.
To make matters worse for Red Bull, Ferrari closed the front row as Carlos Sainz finished second and Verstappen had to settle for fourth behind teammate Sergio Perez. A late collision between Perez and Sainz brought the last session of the day to an early end.