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Massa clears up Barcelona fuel mystery
Massa clears up Barcelona fuel mystery
Posted By:   |  21 May 2009   |  6:06 am GMT  |  64 comments

Two weeks ago Felipe Massa’s hopes of a podium in Spain were wrecked by a strange situation with the refuelling of his Ferrari, which meant that the team believed he was running out of fuel and was telling him to slow down in the closing stages of the race. He lost places to Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso.

Massa track.
When we spoke to him after the race he and the team had not worked out the reason, but yesterday he explained what happened,

“What happened to my car especially in the last race was something that I never saw before. We had the fuel in the car but the car was reading wrong numbers, so the refuelling machine was putting the right fuel in, it was reading the right numbers of the amount of fuel that went inside but the car was saying to the engineers, to the telemetry, that all the fuel was not inside.

“Then we changed the refuelling machine, we did exactly the same thing, and we again had the wrong numbers, so maybe I saved fuel for nothing.”

A very frustrating situation, unusual too.

This weekend the Ferrari should be pretty competitive, so Massa has another good chance to get that first podium of the season.

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Didn't Felipe end up stopping somewhere on the track after the chequered flag? I don't think he was able to bring the car back to the pit, presumably because he ran out of fuel...

In any case they really need to clean up their act, especially if this will be their last season in F1 🙂


So when his car stopped out on track after the finish it wasnt because he ran out of fuel? Dunno which is worse, more reliability problems, or him lying about the fuel problem?!


But, didn't his car stop on the outlap? I remember him parking on the side of the road.


If that was the case and his car did infact have plenty of fuel inside, why did he stop on the slow down lap - apparently out of fuel?


Didn't Massa run out of fuel on the slowing down lap and didn't Alonso overtake Massa when Massa's car stuttered, low on fuel?

I thought also that the team had weighed the refueling rig during the race and that's where the idea that Massa was low on fuel had come from. If not, where did these reports come from?


Very interesting decision making progress. A double failure of the same part on the two fuel rigs in the garage VS a single misread issue on a F1 car in a race. I'd know which I bet on - all to easy in my armchair 🙂

Ferrari play safe to guarantee some points. History will record if this is a sound decision or a costly missed opportunity.

The fact that it threw them at all is a concern. i.e. What did Lola do in 1960's when the fuel gauge broke?


It seems to be another excuse of Ferrari...


But then Massa stopped even before reaching the pits after the race, so do the car electronics automatically stop then engine when the sensor says no fuel even when there is fuel present?


Didn't Massa pull up at the side of the track during his in-lap at the end of the race? Why would he do that if his car didn't actually run out of fuel? Seems a bit odd to me.


but we saw him stop on track on the slow down lap, an unrelated problem? or did he run out of gas?


But it's quite strange Massa said that as we know he had to park his car on the track after the race was ended. How could Felipe save fuel for nothing if he hadn't got enough fuel even to go back to pitlane? Is it just me or isn't it clear fuel was not there?


this is strange ... If I remember correctly I see Massa to stop on track after finish ... why he stop there if this story is true?


I wonder why Massa stopped out on track if he had plenty of fuel?


Why did he stop on the in lap then??? Has the car got a low fuel fail-safe?


I bet ProDrive wouldn't make a silly mistake like that.
Is Ferrari getting too old for F1 - starting to make little mistakes and finding it difficult to concentrate on the racing?


Didn't he stop on track on his in lap? Or did I imagine that!? 🙂


Question. So why did he stop out on the track if he hadn't run out of fuel?!?! Strange...


If this was the case why did he stop on track before completing the cool-down lap? Surely if he had enough fuel in the car he would have made it back around to the pits.


Then why did he run out of fuel on the slow down lap if he supposedly had plenty?


I'm sure if this had happened to Rubens the conspiracy theorists would be having a field day.


Why did he not reach the parc ferme then? he stopped mid-way rite?


If his car still had fuel in it, then why did he stop on the slowing down lap, after crossing the line, and not continue back to the pits?


Then again, his car did stop at the track after the chequered flag. Doesn't this signify that he really did ran out of fuel as the car won't move anymore?

Massa said that "maybe I saved fuel for nothing", meaning he could continue to the end with normal pace but I don't think the electronics system would shut down the car if the reading reads empty fuel tank, right? If there's still fuel, the car would still move, isn't it?


I wonder if Massa stopped on the in-lap after the race intentionally, so the car didn't completely run dry and stop. Given how F1 engines can't start if they have cold oil in them I wouldn't be surprised if running completely empty on fuel is bad for them as well.


I thought that Ferrari had told Massa to stop on the in lap to make sure he had enough fuel in the tank for scrutineering?

Captain Soviet

Massa stopped on track because the team told him to. You are required to have one liter of fuel left in the tank for fuel sampling purposes. By the way, this is true across all FIA categories, cause it was mentioned in the WTCC second race this past weekend. Ferrari were afraid that he wouldn't have enough left in the tank if he made it all the way back to the pits, so they told him to stop out on track.


Him losing a place to Webber was unrelated wasn't it? I though Webber stayed out longer on his middle stint and made up sufficient time to come out of the pits quicker and take the place.


I believe he stopped on the in lap to avoid draining the tank and being disqualified for not providing a fuel sample. But surely Ferrari could have looked at the fuel left in the rig, especially after it happened the second time. There is nowhere else the fuel could have been if it wasn't in the rig, the team seem to be getting slacker by the race


Do you guys not read comments? Not a single comment here doesn't ask the same question about him stopping on outlap! Wow you think you were the only one who noticed that? Let's wait for an informed decision instead of making these comments painful to read!


I'm no Ferrari or Massa fan but come on people there is no conspiracy.. Why are so many people ready to stick the knife into them?

He was told to stop after the finish line. See Autosport article by Adam Cooper "Massa was then told to park after crossing the line to ensure that he had some fuel in the tank for the mandatory FIA sample"


Even Eddie Jordan commented on this situation during the Red Button Forum.


Massa stop in the track during the in lap, under instruction, to conserve some fuel for the FIA inspection. All cars must provide a sample (three in fact, one for the team and two for the FIA) for analysis.

If the tank was empty, and there was no fuel for analysis, then this would be an infringment and a penalty would be dealt.


Maybe the Engine Managment did shut the car down because it thought it had no fuel? Its feasible I suppose
Depends how the electronics are set up.


This is just speculation, but it might be that if the car's systems believed it had run out of fuel, it shut itself down to prevent any possible damage to the engine or other systems in the car.


A certain amount of fuel (can't remember how much and can't be bothered to look it up) must be in the tank to pass post-race inspection. Maybe that's why he stopped.

Markle SchuMarker

Surely it can't be good for an engine to clatter around with no fuel? Therefore when the electronics say the fuel is about to run out, the engine shuts down so it can't damage itself? Could that be why the car stopped?


The ECU is set to turn the engine off with only a fuel sample in the tank left for inspection. If the ECU was faulty then it turned the engine off even with more fuel left in the tank.


I think he stopped because he was told to by his Engineer to ensure that he would have enough fuel for the FIA fuel check. (I read this somewhere earlier in the week).

James, we wil be in Monaco this weekend, are you able to recommend any places to hang out? We are sorted for Quali and the race, but just wondering where we may find any of the teams in the evenings?

Can't wait!!


Just a thought, is it possible that Massa stopped on purpose? Does the car still get weighed,? If not Ferrari could have told Massa to stop as they may have felt they where beyond the weight limit and would have been dis-qualified.

Just a thought!


Whats the issue with moderation of this blog? Posted hrs ago still not put up yet.

Anyway, Massa stopped out on track not due to lack of fuel but was told to stop by team as to to ensure that he had some fuel in the tank for the mandatory FIA sample.

Stated in another rep website and commented on during the after race forum on TV.

So no consipiracy people, however i do think the moderators of this blog seemed quite happy to stop my earlier post to allow this to continue.

Markle SchuMarker

Moderator problems? Everyone really did think they were the first to comment on massa stopping, and the rest thought they were the first to answer. Now i think i'm the first to comment on the problem.


Felipe, baby, that is really really so sad. 🙂


He should not have stopped out on track unless he had actually run out of fuel or had another technical problem.

Here's the regulation (from sporting regs):

43.3 After receiving the end-of-race signal all cars must proceed on the circuit directly to the post race parc
fermé without any unnecessary delay, without receiving any object whatsoever and without any assistance
(except that of the marshals if necessary).
Any classified car which cannot reach the post race parc fermé under its own power will be placed under
the exclusive control of the marshals who will take the car to the parc fermé.


Well done Felipe for not moaning - there are many on the grid who would have done! And fantastic sporting spirit last year when the championship was snatched under his nose through no fault of his own on the last corner of the last race (Singapore)

So this is where Ferrari need to spend more of their £400 million per annum (or whatever) then!


I find the whole saving fuel call odd. I always hear about how drivers know their cars so well that they can feel differences in weight distribution and performance. I think Massa should have known from the feel of weight in the car that he had enough fuel. Though the team radio conversations were probably confusing the issue. I think that's palatially what caused the argument over the radio with his race engineer.


Aren't the ECUs a) standardised and thus a (relatively) cheap non-compete part and b) made by McLaren and Microsoft?

I'm surprised there aren't more cases of unexpected, uninformative and near-impossible to reproduce in testing failures.


As well as the fuel sample, people seem to be forgetting that running out of fuel can damage the engine, which they may have to use again, so for those two reasons Massa stopped at turn 3


well it is odd.
not the first time fuel level sensos have failed...but usually they just check the rig emptied its load, and what the load it had been charged with was. if it aint in the rig, it aint on the floor...its probably in the car.
i guess for whatever reason they were unable to confirm that the fuel went in the rig, and that the rig delivered its load. A team management issue i'd say...ferrari proceedure seems to be slipping


Felipe, baby, stay cool!

It's not been a good season for Ferrari so far, and when Spain was dubbed as THE weekend to see an improvement in the cars, they must have been gutted with the final placements of their drivers. With so many problems going on you just have to hope that they stay switched on and concentrate on improving the car, rather than starting to point fingers etc.

Can't wait for this weekend's racing.


Well anyway that's a pretty serious problem and not the only one lately with Ferrari.


Don't be a revisionist James. Webber didn't pass Massa as a result of the fuel problem.

Otherwise, good piece as usual.


lost a place to Webber?????


I agree. If deliberately stopping the car before reaching parc fermé is an acceptable thing to do then every team would do it and save a little bit of weight in the last stint.


Exactly, the computer shuts of the engine when the sensor indicate there is less than a certain amount of fuel left in the tank.


Every car needs to have at least 1.5 liters of fuel left in the tank for the FIA to perform comparative tests on it. If you run out of fuel you risk to be disqualified.
That's why the computer turns of the engine when the sensors say that the limit has been reached.

Honestly guys/girls, before pointing fingers you better learn a thing or two about the technical and sporting aspects of F1.


I suppose one can stop a car also without running out of fuel.
No need to be arrogant and call others liars without the slightest proof!


Yes, Webber jumped him at the second stops

Thomas in Adelaide

Looks like you are the only one who didn't notice how this comment section works buddy.


The problem was that everybody commented on the obvious fact before seeing anybody elses comments. Perhaps the moderator should not have approved them all?


nicely said dude...
ferrari have high standards for themselves and this year certainly doesn't seem to be their year...
people should go easy on them instead of blaming for every single bit of mistake... I agree there have been some stupid mistakes but it just doesn't seem to go right for them.

every team goes through this phase...
mclaren in 2005, even though the car was good, it would give up due to engine failure, tyre deflation or wateva....


YAY! finally someone with a bit of knowledge amidst all this "why did massa stop then? huh? huh? huh?" madness.


This Moderator was a little harried this morning when he found that a Bot has bugged the code for the website (now clean!). I offer that in apology for the Massa "overload". Markle, you and Geoff can haggle over who got me first - Mod


No, watch the replay. He didn't run out of fuel after crossing the line, he pulled off and turned the car off himself. Presumably because the team told him to in order to hide their mess-up and make people think he actually did run out of fuel.


I would guess that it is quite possible for the engine to stop when the system says there is no more fuel. Maybe the engine or some components in the fuel system could be damaged running on air (or vacuum) and therefore it would cut the engine off to avoid damage, even if there was fuel still present.
How does one measure fuel in a rubber balloon? I suspect that it is just a pressure sensor and nothing like a road car device with a float. OR it may simply be a mathematical gauge with a flow meter which measures flow outwards.
Any tech detail available James? (or anyone?)

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