F1 technicians are always in search of detailed innovations, which will give a competitive edge over their rivals, especially where the rules are not clearly worded.
At Hockenheim this weekend at the German Grand Prix, we saw an episode where an innovation from Red Bull and its engine partner Renault was allowed through because it was not covered by the rules, so even though the FIA’s own technical delegate Jo Bauer, felt he had found something in the engine mapping which was not allowed, when he referred it to the race stewards on Sunday they felt they had no choice but to let Red Bull race with it.
The Stewards’ statement said, “While the stewards do not accept all the arguments of the team, they however conclude that as the regulation is written, the map presented does not breach the text of Art 5.5.3 of the Formula 1 Technical Regulations and therefore decided to take no action.”
The F1 Technical Working group is meeting today in London and this will be on the agenda. In all probability the FIA will follow up this week with a rule clarification (known as a Technical Directive), which will outlaw the Red Bull/Renault idea before next week’s Hungarian Grand Prix, but it certainly served its purpose in Germany.
The idea was to use engine mapping to cut the torque at medium revs, which would certainly have helped with driveability in the wet conditions of practice and qualifying in Germany and would also have an aerodynamic benefit in slow corners; some of the fuel/air mixture finds its way into the exhausts to create post combustion – which blows hot exhaust gas under pressure down through the diffuser to create rear end downforce.
It’s very clever and shows the lengths teams will go to to find extra downforce. Bauer felt it was illegal because the rules say the connection between the opening of the throttle and the torque demand on the engine should be linear and in his view Red Bull was introducing a deviation in that process. Bauer had observed that the torque demand was less than at other recent races.
The rule that he felt Red Bull and Renault were trying to get around is new for this year and is designed to outlaw the practice of engines blowing exhaust gas into the diffuser even when the driver’s foot is off the throttle in a corner.
Engine maps are one of the dark arts of F1. Teams have various maps, controlled from the steering wheel by the driver; settings for fuel saving in the race, for example, for overtaking, or for setting the engine at the pit lane speed limit.