How bent was the 1994 Benetton?

It’s a well known rumour in F1 circles that the 1994 Benetton was, in technical terms “a bit bent”.

First there was the Hockenheim refuelling fiasco.  The investigation after the race concluded that the stnadard FIA fuel rig had been modified by removing an o-ring in order to increase fuel flow.  Briatore first claimed this had been done with the approval of the FIA, but later the team pleaded guilty and blamed a junior technician.

Then there were the penalties incurred by Benetton at the British and Belgian Grand Prix.

But throughout the season there were suspicions that teams had circumvented the new traction control ban.  Ferrari admitted to using “power reduction” technology at the 2nd race of the season in Aida, but the real bombshell went off at Benetton.  The FIA inspectors found traction control code  in their engine management software which had been hidden.  The Benetton explanation, which was accepted by the FIA, was that it was deactivated and not used.  I had the pleasure of doing a kart race a few years ago with a chap who worked on shock insulation for racing cars and worked with Benetton during that era.  He told me that the car was “cheaty as anything” but obviously that’s just unsubstantiated gossip.  However he did say that the code was loaded into RAM so it disappeared when the engine management was switched off.  The thing is that how much gossip do you need before you believe it?

Well up to now these things have remained in the history books (and websites) and given the benefit of the doubt, but in light of the recent Renault race-fixing controversy perhaps it’s time to revisit.  Once more under the murky leadership of Flavio Briatore, a team has shown that rules are there to be broken and bent and this puts the events of 1994 in a somewhat different light.  Without the protection of Max Mosley this time, the team was punished and Flavio handed a lifetime ban.

And so to the main reason for this article.  A 1994 Benetton has appeared for sale on ebay, boasting “The car is in condition as in the 1994 Formula One season with paddle shift and traction control. The car is in racing condition, with the painting and sponsoring scheme as in 1994.”

Hang on a minute! It has traction control that was deactivated and not used? Hmmmmmm…..

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