Yesterday’s volte face by the FIA on the exhaust blown diffusers has sent out some confused messages to fans about what’s going on behind the scenes.
I’ve been in touch with engineers and with the FIA today to get to the bottom of it and here’s my take on what’s happened here.
Then last night, almost a week later, he wrote to the teams again saying that the clampdown was on hold and that it would be discussed at the next Technical Working Group meeting, due to take place the week after the Canadian Grand Prix.
The timing is not unusual for the FIA; they often bring in sudden changes for the Spanish Grand Prix. Last year it was the winglets in front of the sidepods, in 2001 it was the re-introduction of traction control and there have been other examples.
The reason is that, by making a change for Spain, in May, it gives the FIA and the teams time to digest the changes in time to draft suitable rules for the following year, which must be done by June 30th.
As it stands now, this topic will be on a packed agenda for the TWG meeting in mid June, as there is a lot of 2013 rules content to wade through as well.
So now the question is why does the FIA want to clampdown on engines blowing exhaust gas on the over run?
Well it’s not very efficient for a start. It increases fuel consumption and is not environmentally a very attractive thing to do. It’s also an area which has zero relevance to the road car industry or to society generally.
While Red Bull and Renault are to be applauded for their innovation, it’s a road that Jean Todt’s FIA doesn’t want the sport to go down. Whiting said in his original letter that they feared an escalation and where that might lead. Better to outlaw the practice now and then make sure its written into the 2012 rules.
Also the cost of the blown exhaust “arms race”, as the engineers describe it, is high and it’s money that is going out of the sport, paying exhaust makers.
As things stand blown diffusers are still allowed in the 2012 and 2013 rules, but one wonders whether this might be the start of a move away from the whole concept. Also the turbo engines of 2013 will not work so well with the devices anyway as the turbos and the generators for the hybrid system will take a lot of the energy out of the exhaust gas.
Although Red Bull’s Christian Horner said yesterday that this might have been triggered by a rival team seeking to reduce Red Bull’s advantage, engineers I’ve spoken to today say that there is no indication that this is the case. It looks more like something the FIA want to see outlawed.
Tim Goss, the McLaren designer said today in a Vodafone phone in that the ruling, once it has been clarified and the method of policing established, would mean a loss of performance not just for Red Bull and Renault, who pioneered this technology, but for all the leading teams who have been making use of it for some time.
“I think all of the major teams are up to the same tricks with regards to engine mapping. Certainly we exploit them,” he said. “If the latest guidelines that the FIA have given us on use of engine to drive exhaust systems came in then it would be a performance setback to us. I know it would almost certainly be a performance setback to our major competitors.
“As to whether it affects us more than our competitors is impossible for me to say. I know what we get out of it and we get quite a substantial benefit, but I imagine it would be just a sizeable a setback to our competitors as well.
“We’re just working to the latest set of guidelines from the FIA – I think we can react to whatever they tell us reasonably promptly – and for the moment it would appear that the FIA have decided that it’s quite a complex matter and that they need more time to consider how they will try and police it. So as a result it looks like at the Spanish Grand Prix it will be business as usual.”