Formula 1 Scrutineering

When Charlie Whiting, the FIA Technical Delegate responsible for Scrutineering, rolls up at a Grand Prix on the Wednesday before the race, accompanied by a full-time assistant, two technical specialists - one in computers and software, and the other in fuel analysis - and nearly three tons of sophisticated measuring equipment costing the best part of a quarter of a million pounds, it would be logical to assume that the FIA is out to catch Formula1 Teams cheating. It is not. It is out to persuade them not to even try.

Nothing devalues a sport more than the spectre of participants cheating the regulations that govern it. Among the FIA's responsibilities are not only ensuring that it is not possible to get round or deliberately contravene the necessarily complex Technical Regulations, but also convincing the World that no competitors are doing so. Since the abolition of Driver Aids and Active Suspension in 1994, the temptation to gain the proven advantages of these systems is enormous. It is the job of designers and engineers to gain the maximum possible performance within the regulations, and while no car has been shown to have raced with deliberately illegal systems, some have been extremely near the line and one or two have inadvertently crossed it.

In the last 18 months Max Mosley and Charlie Whiting have put together a set of carefully worded changes to the Technical Regulations; procedures to carry out regular monitoring and random checks on the eligibility of the competing cars; and have invested in the hardware, software and expert personnel to implement them. Finding irregularities in the software of the Benetton last year, and in Elf fuel samples in Brazil that did not match their prior-approved test sample, may not have generated good publicity for Formula 1, but they served clear notice that the FIA can and will catch anyone who puts so much as a toe over the line.

Of course, with the sophistication and complexity built into the current breed of Grand Prix cars, it would not be difficult to temporarily configure one to be outside the regulations and provide some small advantage in performance. 20 litres of special fuel for a Qualifying series of laps, or modified drive-by-wire software downloaded for just one run, and you might get away with it. But you would be betting the company on gaining a few tenths of a second. With draconian penalties for pre-meditated breaking of the rules, and the Technical Delegate armed with the powers to dismantle any car or take away parts or samples to ensure compliance with the regulations at all times, the risk is probably not worth it.

There are two sides to Scrutineering - safety and performance. The bulk of checking that the cars meet the extensive safety criteria, laid down in the regulations, is carried out away from the circuits. Witnessed frontal and side impact tests and static roll-hoop and nose push-off loading are used to qualify the monocoque design. Individual mouldings are subsequently weighed and subject to various load-deflection checks to ensure that they meet the same standards achieved in the full inspection. An FIA "smart label" l is moulded in, incorporating a transponder that can be interrogated so that records can be maintained on each monocoque.

At the circuit safety checks are limited to confirming that the cars to be raced have been through these procedures and that vital apertures through which the driver must pass to escape from the car have not been encroached upon by the latest black box to be added inside the cockpit. New car/driver combinations have to be checked for an egress time of under 5 seconds. Mandatory safety equipment is inspected and the rearward view through the rear wing checked. It's a very long time since anyone in Formula 1 has been caught deliberately braking a safety regulation, but regular checking sometimes catches items that have been overlooked in the effort to get to races. Scrutineering of these features takes place during the Thursday before Practice, in an atmosphere of co-operation between teams and scrutineers.

To ensure co-operation when it comes to the checking of features that affect performance, there is a useful Article in the Technical Regulations:

Article 2.6 - Duty of Competitor

It is the duty of each competitor to satisfy the scrutineers and the Stewards of the Meeting that his automobile complies with these regulations in their entirety at all times during an event.

With all those areas that determine the performance under continual pressure of development, the main part of Charlie Whiting and his team's work during a race weekend is to give the competitors the opportunity to satisfy him, at all sorts of not-always-convenient times, that they comply with the regulations concerning:


Aerodynamic devices - dimensions and rigidity

Engine capacity

Fuel specification

Control systems - especially driver aids


Refuelling systems

Weight: Any time during Qualifying and immediately after the race cars can be weighed and must not be less than 595 kg including the driver. All the drivers are weighed at the start of the season and their weight is entered into a computer to allow the total to be calculated when the cars are checked without them at the end of the race. Until this year, when the minimum weight did not include the driver, their recorded weight was used to calculate the car's total when the driver was aboard, as in Qualifying. It was desirable to tip the scales as low as possible, and their was no real way to cheat this. This year the reverse is true and so a high official weight for the driver would allow him to race under weight by the amount equal to the difference between his actual weight and his official weight. If the temptation proves to be too great to resist, drivers need to remember that Charlie gets up early - in Brazil he weighed all the drivers who finished........It is now standard practice to weigh them after every race.

The equipment used to weigh cars and drivers is manufactured by Captels in France. Each of the four weighing platforms is supported on four cantilever, strain-gauged load cells, with full temperature compensation. The output is summed electronically to give a total weight, rounded to 0.5 Kg. They are calibrated to a Gravity Reference of 9.80471 metres/sec/sec at a Latitude of 43.56 N. Why? When weighing was carried out by counter-balancing a known mass, it did not matter what the value for gravity was locally. Since the introduction of electronics, mass is no longer measured. Modern weighing systems measure the force exerted by gravity on the mass, and thus are sensitive to local variations in the gravitational field. Because the Earth is orange shaped, gravity varies with Latitude to the extent that at Interlagos, Brazil at Latitude 22 S, it equals 9.78778 metres/sec/sec, whereas at Silverstone, Latitude 52 N, it equals 9.81266 metres/sec/sec - a variation of 0.25% or 1.5Kg in the weight of a car. Quite enough to disqualify a car. So the scales are re-calibrated at each circuit to compensate for changes in the strength of the gravitational field.

Cars to be weighed during Qualifying are selected randomly by computer. Eight to ten cars are weighed and key dimensions checked during each of the sessions. The process takes around 2 minutes and so does not significantly delay drivers; in spite of the occasional gesticulations that emanate from the cockpit.

Aerodynamic devices - dimensions and rigidity: The old flat patch at the entry to the Pit Lane, on which the cars were weighed and measured, has been replaced by a new, purpose built weighing and measuring platform. Made almost entirely in aluminium, the 2.3metre x 4.8metre structure was designed and manufactured in the USA by Buckeye Machine Fabricators Inc., Ohio. For transportation it breaks into two halves which are doweled and clamped together. The platform is levelled up on adjustable feet, using a laser levelling system. The four weighing platforms are built in, and can be slid independently sideways on linear bearings, being locked in place pneumatically.

The car to be measured is pushed up ramps onto the platform and placed on the weighing scales, and the weight recorded. When this is complete the weighing platforms are unlocked and the front and rear of the car are moved sideways until the centrelines of the car and measuring platform coincide. The car is next aligned longitudinally so that the front axle centreline lines up with reference marks on the platform.

The area of the platform approximately in the shadow of the sprung parts of the car can be raised up on pneumatic cylinders, and is free floating in pitch and roll. Mounted on it are 5, fixed aluminium bosses, 30mm diameter x 14mm high, which engage in the 50 mm diameter holes in the skid block (also known as the "plank"), the positions of which are laid down in the Technical Regulations. A sixth, 40mm diameter, boss is mounted on the rearmost section of this floating platform, which is free to slide longitudinally. The sixth hole in the plank is referenced to the front edge of the rear wheels, and so when the boss engages in it, and is pulled fully rearwards, the rear section of the platform is also referenced to the rear wheels.

The platform is raised until the top surfaces of the 6 bosses come up against the lower surface of the monocoque, which is the Reference Plane, as defined in the regulations. The floating part of the platform is now parallel to and 14mm below the Reference Plane. For 1995 the regulations were changed so that all height measurements are now relative to the Reference Plane, and not the ground. This was done at the request of the Chief Designers, to make their jobs easier and enables this new equipment to be used for all measurements.

The car is now ready for checking. Marked on the fixed and floating platforms are longitudinal and lateral grid lines relating to all critical length and width dimensions, referenced, where appropriate, to the front and rear wheels. No measuring scale is needed to dimensionally check the car. A series of machined aluminium or CFRP templates and GO/NO-GO gauges is used to check every dimension covered by the regulations, even plank thickness - see diagram - and the results can be witnessed by the team's engineer.

Engine capacity: Swept volume checks on engines are not performed on a regular basis, and are usually carried out at the manufacturer's premises on an engine sealed at the circuit. However Charlie Whiting has equipped himself with a cunning device that can be inserted through the spark-plug hole, and which expands to measure the bore of the cylinder. The stroke is measured using a depth gauge, also inserted down through the spark-plug hole, while the engine is rotated slowly.

Fuel specification: The controversy over Elf fuel samples, analysed and found not to match prior-approved samples, was well covered in Steve Bunkhall's article in Racecar Engineering. It came about because the FIA turned up in Brazil with a brand new Mobile Fuel Testing Laboratory and Fuel Analyst, Bob Mackison. It is possible that this was not anticipated by everyone.....

The concept of holding, away from the circuits, the potentially lengthy discussions on whether a particular fuel meets the specification, laid down in Article16 of the Technical Regulations, and only comparing the fuel used at a race with an approved sample, leads naturally to the type of tests that need to be carried out at the circuit. To approve the fuel a full analysis of its constituents must be made and this requires the use of a Mass Spectrometer. Measurement of the mass of the individual molecular ions permits the precise determination of the structural formula of the organic compounds that make up the sample. Additional tests of the kind that motor manufacturers carry out are applied to ensure that the fuel used in Formula 1 is suitable for use in road cars. However it would not be practical to repeat this process for all samples taken from cars during a Grand Prix weekend, nor is it necessary.

Instead the approval sample is "fingerprinted" and the "print" put into a data bank. At the race three 1 litre samples of fuel are taken, usually during Qualifying, or just before or after the race, and sealed. One sample is then "fingerprinted" by Bob Mackison, using the same equipment as used for the approved sample, and the results compared with "prints" in the data bank. If there is no match the Stewards of the Meeting are informed and the saga begins. The sample tested is put through the full Mass Spectrometer analysis back in the UK and one of the other samples goes to an independent laboratory for analysis. The third sample is for the competitor from whose car it was taken, to have analysed. The results pass into the hands of lawyers and the ensuing argument bears remarkable similarity to those heard in criminal courts over actual fingerprints, and will be heard even more vehemently in the future over human DNA matching.

Bob Mackison performs two tests on each sample: Density measurement and Gas Chromatography. Density is measured to 0.01% in a PAAR DMA48 Density Meter. 2 millilitres of the fuel are injected into the machine and held at a constant 15 C in a glass U-tube. This is vibrated by a piezo actuator and the natural frequency measured. The natural frequency is directly proportional to the mass of the U-tube, with the fuel sample in it, and as the volume is known the density can be calculated. Calibration is checked by injecting a reference sample of Dodecane, a density calibration fluid.

The FIA uses a Hewlett Packard HP 5890 Series II Plus GC controlled by an HP 3365 Series II ChemStation PC. The latter runs the test automatically, records the data and displays the Gas Chromatograph. Just one microlitre of fuel is injected, vaporised and mixed with the mobile phase or carrier - Helium. The Helium is filtered to remove all traces of Oxygen and hydrocarbon that would otherwise modify the analysis. The mixture is split so that one fiftieth is carried by the Helium along a 30 metre x 0.3 mm diameter glass capillary tube, internally coated with the stationary phase, substituted polysiloxane, to a thickness of 3 micrometers. The capillary tube starts at 30 C and is raised to 280 C over 60 minutes in a precisely controlled profile. The various compounds present in the sample emerge from the tube at time intervals dependant on their components, and are detected by a flame ionisation detector (FID). The Hydrogen/Air flame of the FID ionises the hydrocarbons present and a highly sensitive ion detector signals their presence. The timing of any given detection signifies the component, and the amplitude.v.time (area under the curve of the plotted trace) signifies the quantity. Analytical software lists the characteristics of each detection event and provides a highly detailed "fingerprint" of the sample.

The whole process takes an hour, and so Bob Mackison is pretty busy during and after the race in order to complete the checks on samples from three cars and enable the Stewards to confirm the race results.

Control systems - especially driver aids: In the interests of an ordered life for all concerned, the procedures for checking that the control systems and software on the cars cannot perform any illegal functions have been formalised, rather than continue the remarkably effective pre-emptive strikes of last year. While the process does not require any elaborate hardware, it does involve a great deal of hard work. The task has been entrusted to LDRA Ltd., specialists in checking software integrity, who's team of engineers headed by Dr Alan Prudom are armed with powerful notebook PC's.

Teams are offered two options for having their systems checked and approved. Either they can have the whole system inspected and the software checked, line by line, and a copy of the machine code kept by the FIA for comparison at any time during a Grand Prix; or the system is inspected prior to the season, but the software is not. However an upload can be demanded and it is then held by the FIA for a full check if deemed necessary. The deterrent effect of knowing that software may be uploaded from the car and read at any time is enormous. Because of the pace with which changes are made to software and the sensitivity to issuing copies of commercially valuable algorithms, most teams, and their engine partners, have opted for the second of the options. The FIA maintains a set of dual-key safe-deposit boxes, one for each team, to protect sensitive material.

Hardware inspections focus on three prime issues: firstly, does the wiring lead to and from where it should - particularly that connected to sensors and actuators (wheel speed sensors and the drive-by-wire throttle are closely scrutinised)? Secondly, it has to be established which of the units (black boxes, dash display, steering wheel etc.) are passive and which are active (able to output signals in response to inputs). Finally the architecture of the active units is analysed to ensure that when an upload of code is performed on them, ALL the code is accessed. The whole task has been made harder with the introduction of local area networks, using CAN protocol, in which the various units are linked by one or more data buses in the interest of reducing the number of wires snaking around the car. To establish what goes where, it is now also necessary to read the software.

Any piece of hardware that plugs into the car when it is stationary has to be checked, as does any sign of radio frequency links from the pits.

System software is inspected to ensure that uploading, de-compiling and comparison software do not eliminate or modify the control software in any way. Especially important are checks to ensure that it is not possible to download an illegal program into RAM which is overwritten and lost when the system is switched off and then on again.

Control software for the engine and chassis systems takes a minimum of three man-days to interpret and verify. It is an eye-straining, brain-fading exercise that has to be carried out in order that the world will eventually accept that winning teams are not cheating in Formula 1. All the control system checking must be done away from the circuit and involves experts from teams, engine suppliers and electronic system suppliers as well as those from LDRA. The main activities at the circuit are following up on new features and changes, and random software uploads for comparison with approved code or for later inspection.

Tyres: With only one tyre company, Goodyear, involved in Formula 1 at the present, scrutineering the tyres is relatively straightforward. The seven sets for each driver for the event are marked up by applying the car number to the side wall, in a colour unique to that Grand Prix. The paint is no ordinary paint: apply a reagent to it and it changes colour; you will not find it in the local hardware store. Every time a driver leaves the pits all four tyres are checked for the correct markings. An additional set of tyres can only be issued, and marked, upon handing back a marked and unused set. Control of tyres is handled by a team of scrutineers from the organising club, reporting to Charlie Whiting.

Refuelling equipment: Much has been written about the missing Benetton filter in their refuelling rig at Hockenheim last year. The basis of the refuelling regulations are that each team shall use the FIA specified, Intertechnique designed and built refuelling equipment. The flow rate of the system is governed by the pressure difference between the pressurised reservoir, in the rig, and the car's tank, and the flow losses in the valves, filters, hoses and nozzle. It is set at a nominal 12 litres/second by setting the reservoir pressure to 1.1 bar (16.2 psi.). Any attempt to speed up the fuel delivery time would involve either modifying or removing any flow restriction, such as the famous filter, or increasing the pressure.

Pressure is controlled by a high-flow pop-off valve and can be checked easily, and at any time, by attaching a gauge to an access point on the front panel of the rig. Scrutineering of the equipment consists of occasional inspections to ensure no unauthorised modifications have been made, and spot checks on pressure during the race.

The work of the Scrutineers is not unlike that of the Police. The Organising Club's personnel are the Bobbies on the beat, cheerfully but firmly organised and directed by Sergeant Michel Lepraist. Charlie Whiting is the Detective Inspector, and this year two Forensic Scientists have been brought in on the investigation. Much of the time is taken up with routine work and there are plenty of forms to fill in. Every now and then the Detective Inspector taps his nose and heads off down the Pit Lane. Maybe it is no coincidence they are dressed in blue.

Their job is, quite simply, to ensure that competitors and public alike believe that motor racing at it's highest level is a Sport.

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