Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer used an amusing gas analogy to describe his role in the meeting the team principals held with the FIA in Canada.
A row started when the FIA introduced a technical directive (TD) setting a metric for oscillating movement amid the “porpoising” and bouncing caused by the new technical regulations.
Ground effect aerodynamics were brought back this season, meaning that aerodynamic design across the board had to be reimagined by engineers and, as expected in a new regulatory era, some teams got it spot on while others did not.
Surprisingly, Mercedes were one of those that struggled to adapt, and George Russell and Sir Lewis Hamilton have been suffering from heavy contact with the track surface as a result.
Not only has it been costing them a significant amount of time on the straight, but it has also become a safety concern with the backs, necks and heads of the drivers being subjected to increased loads and impacts.
Now, for safety reasons, if any team goes over the limit set by the governing body in terms of oscillation, they will be asked to raise the ride height of their cars, but there is a debate as to how much bouncing is considered too much.
As a result, it is plausible that every team could be forced to raise their cars, and that could cancel out the advantage Red Bull and Ferrari have over Mercedes at present.
Those two teams feel that the ruling is unfair, and that Mercedes are using safety as an excuse to get the FIA to help them get back to the front having ultimately made an uncompetitive car this season.
Red Bull boss Christian Horner said that the directive should have gone through “consultation” first, while Mattia Binotto of Ferrari stated that the TD is not “applicable” due to the fact that they are designed to give clarity over the regulations, not to change them.
The issue was brought up at the meeting between the team bosses and, as one might expect, things got a little heated, so Szafnauer sat back and watched the chaos unfold.
“I was at the meeting. I was more like, an inert gas than a combustible one,” he said.
“At that meeting, I just sat back and watched the others, the hydrogens in the room. I was more of a helium.”
The Romanian-American affirmed that teams attempting to sway the opinion of the governing body is a normal part of F1.
“But yeah, you know, everybody does what they can to influence the FIA, FOM [Formula One Management] to write the rules in such a way that suits them – and that’s been going on forever,” added Szafnauer.
“You know, sometimes it happens in front of the cameras, but mostly it happens behind the scenes. So we all try to pull in our own direction, and it’s understandable.”
There were rumours during the Canadian Grand Prix weekend that Toto Wolff got into an argument with Binotto over the issue in the presence of Netflix cameras.
Szafnauer cannot say for certain whether the behaviour of his colleagues might have been different had the cameras not been in the room.
“I don’t know, the cameras were there so it’s hard to know,” he stated.
“Had the cameras not been there, would the same combustion have happened? Maybe, but it’s not a controlled experiment so it’s hard to know.”
It is not yet known whether the data collected at the Canadian Grand Prix will be translated into any new regulations this weekend, but nothing new has appeared in the technical regulations yet.