Formula 1 body's startling admission in Ferrari 'cheating' controversy

Formula One's governing body says it suspected Ferrari's engine wasn't always operating within the rules last year but it lacked conclusive evidence.

With a threat of legal action hanging over the start of the new season, the Paris-based body explained on Thursday it had therefore ended a technical investigation by reaching private settlement with the Italian team to avoid lengthy litigation and an uncertain outcome.

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The confidential outcome, announced last week on the last day of pre-season testing, angered non-Ferrari powered teams who issued a joint statement on Wednesday demanding clarity.

The season starts in Melbourne next week.

Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto, pictured during winter testing at Barcelona. (Photo by Javier Martnez de la Puente/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The BBC reported the seven teams had responded to the FIA's latest statement with another joint letter, this time confidential, demanding answers by a given deadline to a series of questions.

It said the concerns included why the FIA felt unable to prove doubts about the engine's legality and whether last year's championship finishing order should be called into question.

FIA investigation finds no Ferrari smoking gun

The FIA said earlier "the extensive and thorough investigations undertaken during the 2019 season raised suspicions that the Scuderia Ferrari PU (power unit) could be considered as not operating within the limits of the FIA regulations at all times.

"The Scuderia Ferrari firmly opposed the suspicions and reiterated that its PU always operated in compliance with the regulations," it added.

"The FIA was not fully satisfied but decided that further action would not necessarily result in a conclusive case due to the complexity of the matter and material impossibility to provide the unequivocal evidence of a breach."

It said the confidentiality of the settlement agreement was provided for under the sport's rules.

Ferrari's engine was the subject of speculation last year, with rivals suspecting the team were circumventing fuel flow sensors to gain performance.

The Italian team, overall runners-up last year with three race wins, had started the season as early favourites after impressive times in testing.

The performance appeared to tail off, however, after the FIA issued several technical directives concerning fuel flow sensors later in the year.

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