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Formula 1 engine mapping – Your questions answered
Posted By: James Allen  |  29 Jun 2011   |  10:03 am GMT  |  67 comments

There has been a lot of talk lately about engine mapping, what with the changes made for Valencia and for Silverstone.

In Valencia the FIA outlawed the changing of engine maps between qualifying and the race, while from Silverstone onwards teams will have to rework engine maps and throttles so that there is no more than 10% throttle opening blowing exhaust through the diffuser when the driver lifts of the throttle pedal.

We’ve all got very carried away with talk of engine maps, but one reader,
Gondokmg, from South Africa, pulled us up and asked us to explain. He posted these extremely good questions the other day. So I took them to our friends at Mercedes-Benz and they were happy enough to put forward an engineer to explain.

What is the difference between an engine map (like what the FIA have now prevented teams from changing between qualifying and the race) and an engine mode (like that Vettel had switched on just before he crashed into Webber in Turkey last year) ?

Mercedes: “There is no accepted universal definition of what constitutes a map or a mode, but we draw a general distinction between a ‘mode’ and ‘mix’ settings: what the question refers to as a ‘map’ we would refer to as a
‘mode’, and what the question calls a ‘mode’ we would call ‘mix settings’.
Generally we accept that by “mode” we mean a broad description of a regime under which we run the engine. This defines the philosophy of ignition mapping, fuelling and the distribution of fuel cut strategies used to
achieve the torque that the driver demands. This is what the teams were no
longer allowed to change between qualifying and the race in Valencia.

Engine “mix” settings are detail changes to fuelling that are routinely
used during the race to reposition ourselves on the curve between fuel
consumption and engine power.”

For a race like Valencia where the off-throttle EBD is still allowed,
what stops a team like Red Bull from replacing their extreme engine map
with an extreme engine mode (still part of the race engine map) for use in
qualifing and also in the race for brief periods (e.g. at the start to
create a gap, to overtake or to defend a position)?

Mercedes: “Crucially, because all teams now use a common engine management system, there are limitations as to what any team can change with the car on-track, and these are only the engine “mix” settings. Fundamental changes to engine “modes”, where teams may chose to put aggressive or fuel-inefficient strategies into their cars for qualifying, can no longer be made for the race with the car in the garage or by the driver on-track.”

Thanks very much to Mercedes for reaching out to help bring this fan a little closer to the sport. I hope many others among you benefitted from this insight too.

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That (rear exit exhausts)is in the new rules for next year as far as I know but its not a quick fix for the engineers so what we have from Silverstone is very much a sticking plaster as it were. Thats how I see it anyhow.


I think they should be allowed to blow all they want. Hot, cold whatever. They just need to introduce a rule whereby the exhaust exits *behind* the car, thru a round pipe, after all the aero and bodywork. Too easy 😉


No wonder nothing changed in Valencia if the definition is so broad brush.

I bet the engineers found the loopholes before the rule even came.

Sounds like the whole system needs holomoginising thingy wotsit doodle-ing. (Can’t speel).


Although it will no doubt be intriguing as to who gains and loses amongst the “big 3” teams, I’m most interested in Renault. They went a completely different way with their side exiting exhaust layout to which I assume they’ll face either a bigger relative gain or loss compared to the teams around them. It will be interesting to see whether they establish themselves as the 4th team so to speak and jump ahead of Mercedes, or on the flipside whether the effects result in that bad a loss that they’re in the clutches of the midfield battle and losing out to Force India, Torro Rosso and maybe even Sauber and Williams in the lower points places.

If you James or anyone has any theories regarding whether Renault’s layout leaves them in a better or worse position relative to the others or whether it’ll be negligible please do share.


Theres a fairly simple solution to all this. ban the buttons on the steering wheel apart from for the drs and kers. You dont then need to worry about wording.

AND ideally make them change gear again but thats just a personal dislike of flappy paddles.


Do we know if teams use different engine settings for different tracks?

For example, how does a low speed circuit like Monaco compare with a high speed circuit like Silverstone? More power, more torque or always a combination of the two?


With the engines working less, due to no off throttle use, I wonder if the time lost by having less downforce, will be offset by having to carry less fuel for a race, thereby having less tyre wear too. Either that, or they’ll have more fuel to play with, letting them run the engines with a higher fuel mix anyway?


I thought Ronspeak had disappeared. It is alive and well at Mercedes.


The FIA is only involved in the matter of off throttle blown exhaust as a favor to Ferrari just as it was in 2006 when it deemed illegal the Renault Mass Damper as a moveable aero device.


>in 2006 when it deemed illegal the Renault Mass Damper as a moveable aero device

Which was such a travesty that words failed me. Might as well have said the steering wheel was one too, since it moves the front wheels which definitely affect the aero.


Is it any wonder anyone new to F1 can be totally put off? Re mapping,mode,mix,ECU. Its beyond many and to add each team has a different interpretation,surely mode is the outcome,re-mapping is the way,and mix is the combination,why make it so complicated….


F1 is supposed to be the high-tech form of car racing after all, so you would expect it to be complicated..


It’s the engineers’ jobs to make their car go faster. If this is done in a safe way (i.e. not by using your hand to cover of a hole in the cockpit – F-duct) and they do not break their annual budget doing so consuming more fuel, then who can be against it? By the way, if you burn more fuel, this would imply that you would need more fuel at the beginning of each grand prix, thus carrying more weight. The net benefit from the hot blown diffuser has to be there. In this context, I say all credit to the engineers, too bad the FIA wants to punish the inventive minds in this wonderful sport.


Sorry probably not the best area for this.

On min 3 of qually 3 for Rosberg Martin brundel said Rosberg hit the soft limiter. What is a soft limiter??? I’ve heard of a limiter but what is a ‘soft’ limiter???


He was refering to the 18k RPM if I remember right.

And so were the Ferrari. I was actually keeping an eye on those RPM.



I thought I’d read somewhere that Christian Horner had said Red Bull didn’t use hot blowing so they would be unaffected? Could be a smokescreen of course….

Suspicion is that McLaren and Ferrari do use hot blowing so if CH is right then RBR may actually have a bigger advantage when this is implemented.

Not sure it was right to tinker with the regulations part way through the season. I can see the sense in banning it as it is wasteful and leads to a development war that has no real benefit outside of F1 (assuming you take the view that F1 technology should eventually filter down). Not sure of the costs of constantly changing engine mappings (or whatever they are called), exhaust outlet designs, changing cooling methods, etc but I’m sure its not cheap. But given that the FIA were planning to enforce “normal” exhaust outlets, etc next year they could have just waited.



do you (or your contacts) have a feel for if the Renault engined cars or Merc/Ferrari will suffer more.

I’d heard the Renault system (as the first ones to do mid last year) was more effective/advanced.

As in if 0.5 (Helmut Marko) second per lap comes off redbull, does only 0.3 come off McLaren and therefore a relative gain.

I’d also always thought that the Cosworth cars didnt the retarded system, but that is actually not the case. They do.

All very interesting. We’ll see in the coming weeks.

Thanks, Andy

P.S See you tomorrow at MTC.

Graham Passmore

Based on the response from Mercedes-Benz, it seems to me that ‘mix setting’ adjustment on the modern F1 car is an electronic equivalent of manual choke adjustment such as we used to have on our road cars in the decades gone by, and that I still have on my gas engined lawn mower & snow blower.


Cheers Graham, I’d completely forgotten about the lost art of “manual choke adjustment” on road cars… and what a bind it was 🙂 Gawd bless my little ol’ 205 – long may it rest in “garage heaven”.


Understand that engine mapping of all sorts was devised by Lucas Industries many years ago because computers in those days could not calculate injection timing and fuel timing fast enough to keep up with engine speeds, load etc. An engine map is like a look up table and much faster to use than an algorithmn. Takes a fair bit of testing to map it out properly.


Ahhh! You spoke the name of he who must not be named! I’m going to have to go read some NASCAR news now to clear my brain now, thanks to you.

Before you ask. Yes I do drive a British Leyland era Jaguar. Why else would I have such a reaction.


Don’t tell me your Lucas Opus control box stuffed up!



This proves that the FIA is just clamping down on way too detailed stuff to even the field (is that what F1 technology is about?).

Let’s just say they will all go slower some more than others.

The thing is though, if in Silverstone RBR are dramatically slower (meaning they won’t finish in top 2) and this continues, many will see it is the FIA manipulating the outcome of the championship to gain more viewers.

If anyone but Vettel/RBR win the titles, it will be considered a hollow title because the FIA fixed it with this. It would have been perfectly normal to ban them from the next season…not half way (F-duct, DD/DDD, etc).


Yeah but who want’s Wetal to win, anyway? Not me!



FIA didn’t ban something on the RB7. They banned a certain feature which all or almost all teams are using.

As I understand this, Renault would suffer the most, not RedBull.

Nobody is trying to stop RedBull in particular. I am a Ferrari fan, but I hope all these measures are not directed to slow RedBull. It won’t be fair.


I suspect the new regulation would also cover “cold blowing”, where the fuel flow stops under a closed throttle, but incoming air still flows into the cylinder and is pushed out at great force by the pistons. Thus, the blowing into the diffuser does not involve “exhaust gases” per se.

Red Bull claims they have never used “hot blowing” as some of the other teams have, but only “cold blowing”. If so, they may be affected far less than some other teams.


Thanks James, when time allows an even more in depth dissertation on engine control would be appreciated.

Andrew Halliday

This is the sort of story that make JAF1 stand out from the rest. It’s great that you can put a general reader’s questions to one of the teams, well done James keep up the good work.


I cant get my head around this! The best i can come up with is that the best off throttle blowers will loose most in qualifying as they don’t need to carry many laps worth of extra fuel. I guess we will see if the RBs Q3 performance come mainly from blown defuses, or DRS or both!


Thank you for this new design that I find most clear and practical. I finally found my favorite blog of f1. I just change my computer screen and I make my choice for the 2011 Championship:

I hope that Jenson will win more races this year …

Francesco Lanza

It probably will hurt red bull more than other because they say red bull are more advanced with this system, but the question is will it affect Ferrari and Mclaren to? I think so, red bull will lose performance but so will Mclaren and Ferrari there for red bull still will surely have the faster car no?


Largely depends on whether Horner was telling porkies when he claimed they’re not hot-blowing. If he wasn’t, they’ll lose a lot less relative to Ferrari and McLaren than many expect. Either way, it could potentially upset the whole balance of the car, as by Adrian’s admission it’s a key part of the concept.


All teams using a blown diffuser will lose performance. If RBR are gaining an advantage of .5s from theirs, while Ferrari and Mclaren gain .3s from theirs, yet Ferrari and Mclaren are .2s down on pace compared to the RBR, all cars are now theoretically equal in terms of pace.


I don’t understand the answer to the 1st question :

ignition mapping : is that the timing of the ignition ?

distribution of fuel cut : does that mean how much fuel & when fuel is injected into cylinders for ignition ?


yeah igntion mapping is basically saying when exactly the spark plug should fire. I think its mapped against the throttle position and is relative to Top Dead Centre IE when the fuel/air mixture is at maximum compression.

The fuel distribution is the map of when to inject fuel and for how long. This is used to control the Air/Fuel Ratio.

You use a combination of the 2 to make your engine run more efficiently by running lean (reduction of fuel in comparison to air) but changing this also means you need to change the ignition map to cope and it also leads to a reduction in horsepower and torque output.

Difficult to explain without knowing how much you know about the inner workings of a 4 stroke engine and the suck,squeeze,bang,blow principle.


Thanks for a very useful post. Love the new design!

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