The Red Bull Renault engine map controversy
Posted By: James Allen  |  23 Jul 2012   |  10:38 am GMT  |  265 comments

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.

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I have NO problem with hugely talented drivers/engineers/strategists/Team Principles pushing the limits of the regs.

#1. own up to getting slapped from time-to-time

#2. muzzle your highly paid lab rat 2 X WDC

#3. kill off your Team Advisor press association

#4. get down to business…

when the hell did unlapping oneself become a talking point??

let’s line the track with 2 foot diameter trees, 8 foot ditches, and farm houses – then let’s see what the “fans” would be chatting about this week – maybe the biggest massacre of the World’s “best drivers” in history…

and the chatter about Seb’s move being moral, ethical, and legal?? not buying into it !! not for a half a NY heartbeat !

while defending Red Bull/Seb and their program for awhile now, I have now officially gone over the edge for their incomprehensible *** Bull crap.

I am forever over it…


The whole German Gp was very unsporting for Red Bull and Sebastian Vettle and to what lengths Red Bull will go to put their golden boy on top over his team mate and other teams and their drivers.

It also puts a question mark on Red bull and Sebastian WCC and WDC in prior years.



It’s you missing the point, the FIA and teams agreed not to pursue technology related to hot air blowing as a means on achieving downforce. RedBull cheated, plain and simple. The victims are Vettel and Webber whos successes will be tainted in the years to come by the knowledge that they were driving cars with an illegal advantage.


Exhaust blowing is one thing, making the engine more drivable is quite another.

I don’t understand why the regs seems always to be half-cooked (or over-done) leaving (or leading to) loop-holes.

To fix exhaust blowing, why not state there has to be two exhaust pipes with circular orifices that terminate 100mm beyond the aftermost bodywork (like they were for many years).

As for mapping to make the engine/car more drivable – age-old issue (even the venerated Cosworth V8 had to have its throttle cam re-profiled to make it drivable initially) – so it is fine as long as they don’t exceed any defined power-torque-revs profile. In fact that sort of mapping is where the sport could contribute to ordinary motoring.

By the way is all the air for the engine pulled-in via the opening above the driver’s head? That is, there is no room for using suction to help aero?


People complain about Red Bull always been on the limit (And beyond) of legality, Yet isn’t this always the case when a team gains an edge?

I’ve been following F1 since the early 60s & can recall hundreds of examples of dominant teams pushing things too far & those chasing them doing the same to try & catch up.

The Brabham Fan car, Lotus’s un-raced twin chassis car, McLaren’s 2nd brake pedal, Various bits on the Ferrari’s of the early 2000’s, McLaren’s un-raced 2003 car, Red Bull’s flexi-wings, McLaren’s F-duct, Brawn’s double diffuser just to name a few.

All examples of teams reading the regs & then pushing right upto & occasionally over them.

If you don’t like this sort of thing then don’t watch F1 because this is a big part of what F1 is all about.


To gentlemen that associates RBR with cheating, I think you are missing the point of Formula 1. If you are not pushing the rules boundaries, and be creative in your designs, in my opinion, you shouldn’t be in F1.

Many intelligent engineers push the rules to the absolute limits so that they could bring an advantage to their respective teams. On the other hand, those special designs will eventually inspire applications on or off the race track- either directly or indirectly. If you ask me, I actually think the rules in F1 can be relaxed and should allow even more innovations and ideas.


Id like to know whats going to occur, in 2014 when you have ;

a. turbocharged engines with 15000 rpm limits

b. total fuel flow that will probably mean peak power is around 12000 rpm

c. typical massive ramp up of power from a turbo sized to deliver 800 hp or so, with a 1.6 lt engine. simply said, lagmonster. i expect the kers/electrical harvesting to impact the turbo and im not smart enough to say how, but i believe all these factors will impose massive costs as the teams figure out ways to beat their competitors.

my take: the rules makers need a 3-4 year holiday. Leave the bloody sport alone. you are influencing which drivers become dominant simply by ensuring the team with the best engineers 9and we know who that is dont we) become the most dominant team.

funny how the fia didnt play with the rules so much when MS was dominant for years.


I don’t think FIA will get things right at all, unless they hire Newey, Brawn and the top notch technical specialists to keep the rules at bay. But I kinda like it though as there’s great form in being creative and innovative which others will say it’s cheating.

Noticed year in year out it has been the same, somehow, somewhere there will be rules broken and it will never change. There has never been the spirit of F1 rules, but I’ve been enjoying F1 for many years.

Looking forward to Hungary.


Hi James,

Will we have an clarification or any rule change on engine mapping before Hungary race so that we are clear with the rule and other teams also can take advantage of that rule change.

What if the teams are given clarifications after hungary i.e. in the summer break..will Redbull be asked to run their engine maps with older configurations as the rules are not clear yet or all the other teams will modify their engine mapping in order to get traction control coming out of corners and less wheel spin…


Cards are marked for this weekend, I’d expect a TD as long as they can draft it in time.


I am a Ferrari fan and let me be very honest. If it was Ferrari, I would not crucify them in this forum for pushing rules to the limit. In fact, I would praise them for being super smart and bold to do it. So, Red Bull did nothing wrong…they did something that was on the limit, but did not cross it and therefore they were not penalized.

Now, I would assume that the clarification is going to follow and either Red Bull will stop doing it or other teams will start doing it.

So….I would also assume that all people complaining here are not red bull supporters and are rathrer upset that it was not the team they support that came up with a performance advantage, be in right on the border of rules.

I think they are super smart…..


It is interesting to read the opinions of the posts here and one cannot help think that a lot of them are based more on team/driver preferences and emotions rather than the actual question of rules and regulations. So let us say McLaren were doing it, then the McL supporters would be claiming it as ok, not ‘cheating’ as some have suggested. (insert your favourite team name for McL). If the internet were around for the last 50 years then we would be having this discussion every year.

Firstly I would like to see Webber do well and win races however one cannot help feel for him that when RB ‘fiddle’ with the EBD and engine maps etc that it seems to hurt him but suits Vettels style of driving. There is more than just a coincidence that his loses pace when these aides are added to the car IMO. Given this, one could say that I am against what RB are doing. However I am not.

RB is doing what every team, past, present or in the future would do if given the right resources. They are not cheating as some have exclaimed, they are however looking for any advantage they can in F1, within the regs and within the spirit that is F1. F1 is about innovation, it is about engineers doing what they do best and it about getting the most speed out of the package to the guidelines.

Has any RB device been determined to be illegal and failed any tests? NO (that I am aware of). Have loopholes been closed and clarifications made by the FIA or Technical Group. YES. Has this occurred to other teams in the past as well?. YES.

To the people that they say RB are cheating I would then suggest that they should look at past champion drivers and cars that have been found to have used illegal items/designs. Do we proclaim that they should be stripped of there championships since they cheated or had illegal systems on their cars? One particular team and driver come to mind.

Was Chapman a cheat? NO. Was Brawn a cheat?. NO. Did they push the boundaries? YES. The list goes on.

There would be very very very few teams that actually went out and consciously cheated. (apart from Bennetton who we now know did). Are RB cheating?. NO. Are people who are criticising RB for pushing the boundaries wrong?. In my opinion, YES.

I say well done to RB whilst the others, except Ferrari, are still playing catch up.


I love the comments, the bias that is shown is unbelievable. It was reported but not widely commented on that Mclaren had been using the floor flex limitations to the max and the FIA had told them in Barcelona that they were taking advantage off the regulations. They had been doing this for a few races.

My question to all of you is why didn’t you go on about that then.

Hypocrisy and double standards

Rules are there for clever people to circumvent that is not illegal or morally bankrupt it’s reality

If it falls within the rules it’s not illegal obviously it might not be there intention but it points more to the people writing the rules not being as smart as the people that have to work with the rules,


The frustration many have over Red Bull exploring legalities on engine mapping is not that they are pushing the limits, in my opinion. Instead, I think it’s just based on visibility. Engine mapping is invisible to fans—aside from what some of us are sharp enough to hear when cars are off-throttle—and thus hard to understand or geek-out on. It’s effectively computer code.

On the flip side, this year’s rules for exhaust placement have made aerodynamic design—exhaust bulges, ducts and coanda effect shapes—a feast for the eyes. Same thing goes for pullrod suspensions, ductless brake cooling, and Williams’ small gearbox. We can all see it, and we can thus relate to it. You can’t say that about computer code.

Tom in Adelaide

I’d hate for F1 to end up like cycling, where everyone feels they have to cheat to be in the running.


sorry to double dip chaps but i have one other small query. how do RB reduce torque below that which is supposed to be normal at a mid range point of throttle depression.? surely that would be a function of gearing et al and nothing to do with engine revs.

obviously i am struggling…bear with me.


By retarding the ignition timing and/or leaning the air/fuel ratio. This is done by writing an apropriate map into the ECU and having it selectable by the driver. (Along with other maps he may be instructed to select according to the circumstances throughout the race).



thanks for the explanations chaps but i am still confused. my research tells me that torque is related to engine revs. if, as has been stated, that in the mid range[of engine revs] there is less torque being delivered to the wheels then there is also less exhaust gases being generated. how can that aid downforce directed via the bodywork to the diffuser as there is less volume? there has been no suggestion of OTB in anything that i have read.

thanks again


Torque is a function of volumetric efficiency, it is the physical turning force that the engine can develope measured in lbs per foot, (Old school), or newton mtrs or whatever you work with. Horse power/killowats/geegees/BHP,(etc) is a mathmatical calculation based on a formular, eg bhp (brake horse power) is torque (in lbs/ft) multiplied by rpm devided by 5250. Torque/volumetric efficiency tends to drop off as rpm exceeds the point where the design of the engine causes the breathing to be unable to keep up with the rpm increases. The engine can still rev higher and continue to do good work, due to gearing, but the torque is falling off, there reaches a point where if you exceed certain rpm the torque is so much reduced that the engine has stoped producing useable power. (So you change up a gear). Your power calculation can continue to increase even though torque is dropping off, (a function of the rpm increase), but there comes a time when the calculations show power is declining, so it can be seen that max torque point in the rev range will be at lower revs than the max power point in the rev range.



Must give penalty for Red Bull. Every race they breach policy, after the race they give some unwanted explanation. This is not sporty behavior.


Maybe it’s time to simplify the formula! Cut out all the detailed rules and allow the teams to be innovative how they make the car work within a few strictly defined specifications. That way they wouldn’t be continually trying find little wrinkles in the regulations. I do appreciate that some of the rules have a cost cutting motive, but surely over-complicating the regulations makes it more costly for the teams to push the parameters?


Here are the tires you have to work with, here is how much gas you get to run the race, here is box that your car must fit inside of…. Go for it boys!


I had the luck to be part of the FIA Rally TWG during many years. Usually these meetings are attended by FIA technical people, some high profile FIA staff, and a representative and an engineer of each team/manufacturer.

You could not believe how incredibly smart those engineers are. They are miles ahead of everyone there, and when you suggest a writing for a rule, they already are viewing the loophole. Some times it opens a heated debate between engineers from different teams, something really interesting to see. I think most technically oriented F1 fans would love to see those sessions on live TV!

These engineers, among the best in the World, are paid to be bright, and if they would see any advantage opportunity in what’s not written, they would take it. This is why FIA is appointing more and more high-profile ex-F1 or ex-WRC engineers to be their technical men.

The beauty of motorsport at this level is this engineering race too. Without these bright men you would have never seen wonderful machines as the 1978 Murray’s Brabham BT46B “Fan Car”.




Christian Horners comments and attitude towards Lewis Hamiltons overtake of , are telling.

Whilst he agrees the Hamiltons pass was legal , he was miffed that it affected his driver.

Perhaps he might like to consider his traction control and diffuser blowing might be legal , but it affects 23 other drivers and there teams , not to mention the fans and supporters of all the teams who aren’t Red Bull.

Can’t have it both ways Mr Horner


i cannot understand how or why people are getting upset with Redbull over this……its kinda their job to find loopholes in the regulations and push the boundaries.

You cannot blame them in any way for trying – you have to lay the blame squarely at the FIA.

Its a similar problem with accounting or law in America Versus UK. In America, the rules of accounting and the law are very prescriptive, as a consequence theres much more rules….but also more opportunity to find loopholes around them – hence the litigation culture in US.

In UK, the rules are based on principles and intent of the rule/statute. This is what is required in F1 rules – if you clearly word what the intent of the rule is, then it would be impossible for teams to find loopholes and get away with it on a technicality, they would have to comply with the intent – in this case, no blowing of diffuser, period, whatever the situation.

i cannot understand why the rules of F1 aren’t written in this way.


a) Because it’s not that easy: What exactly means “no blowing of the diffuser”? Does it mean that no part of diffuser gas may enter the diffuser at any time? How would you like to measure that and which concentration is okay and if you say: 0%, how do you deal with the exhaust gas coming from the car in front that flows around the car behind?

And does it mean that blowing over the diffuser (to suck the air out of it) rather than into the diffuser is allowed?

B: It opens the door for arbitrariness:

For example I find it awkward that the mass damper has been deemed a movable device to alter aerodynamics. Normal dampers are movable and they alter the aerodynamics too. Even the steering that will move the tires, which will change aerodynamics. The mass damper was, in effect, a device that stabilized the car by calming the suspension movement. This is exactly the same thing what the “Inerter” does, which McLaren introduced, and that can be found in every Formula one car today. Thanks to that device no one needs a mass damper anymore, but why is the mass damper illegal and the Inerter is not?


It doesn’t open the door for arbitrariness – thats exactly what it doesnt do, if you wrote rules stating clearly the intent of the rule, rather than specifically, as the FIA rules do, how each rule should comply with specific parameters.

Its those specific parameters which allow teams to find loopholes – obviously for certain things like dimensions, engine output etc. can be specified, but in grey areas like blown diffusers, instead of saying somewhere ‘no part of the diffuser to be blown by any kind of exhaust gas’ they put in a badly written rule which Redbull managed to get around, and got away with it, literally, on a technicality in the wording. This would not have happened if the intent of the rule was written as a main heading.

You could easily put clarifications in response to your questions, for eg ‘no blowing of diffuser from gas which the car is producing itself’….so that would sort out your query about if gas is coming from another car…

Also you’re forgetting that if the intent was ‘no blowing of the diffuser’…that would automatically force teams to place the exhaust somewhere where no gas could possibly blow on the diffuser i.e. they would all end up placing the exhaust so it stuck out the back somewhere.

Thats the power of writing the intent, it puts a plug in the gaps which prescriptive rules leave open.

regarding the mass damper, to answer your question:

extract from Racecar Engineering magazine

While the FIA’s banning of TMDs on aerodynamic grounds was tenuous, but matched common understanding of the system at the time, was more related to fears that ever heavier and complex TMDs would be fitted creating a safety fear should they break loose. The Inerters advantage is that they are lighter and a recognisable part of the suspension, thus are well contained within chassis in the event of an accident. Again Sam Michael explains “These are different to mass dampers and fully legal because they are part of the suspension system”.



Well said. I agree the FIA need to have better rules written in areas where they don’t want any issues. Pretty silly to leave out a sentence that states that the torque map between the 0% throttle and 100% must be linear.

Why is Red Bull the issue here? The holes in the floor, according to the wording of the rule presented stated that a hole is OK in the floor but you must not be able to see the car through it from underneath. Everyone else had put razor thin lines to technically make them the edge of the floor.

Double diffusers were Brawn using the same thing to get an advantage. J-Dampers by Renault were the same.

Where would F1 be without each team, and lets not pretend it’s just RBR trying to push the rules.

Different where it’s specifically excluded, Benetton Option 13 in the ECU or Renault’s Crashgate….

You want to put RBR in the same league as an organised race fix with a crash, or a ‘hidden’ option to allow TC???

This is not the same, it is interpretation of badly written rules. I am sure the FIA could employ a few more lawyers to write better rules and we wouldn’t have this discussion



i cannot understand why the rules of F1 aren’t written in this way.


because controversy is great for the business. F1 will be debated all week long… keeps interest.


Lets face it. Most of the people complaining about the innovations that Red Bull (Newey)has made are Hamilton fans. They don’t like the fact Vettel is beating their wonderboy.


Very good site and the people on comments seems to know a lot of the technical details. I’m just a huge F1 fan and curious about the techinical details. I would just like to say that with these cheating, RB is adding good points to their pocket. They need to be punished, or there is no sense to have regulations. They are achieving what they want, as every race is another gamble, and the points are still valid one after the other. As someone said, Brawn GP won a title with an illegal car, and the excuse was: the next year we fix things…


We need to stop saying the cars are illegal. They’ve been ruled legal.

If further rules / clarifications get written post race that just means that the cars need to change for the next race. It does not mean the car previously was illegal.

I don’t think it’s fair on the drivers of teams to call their cars illegal when they’ve been signed off as legal.


Red Bull are pretty much like any other racers out there .. they see a hole and they go for it. Meanwhile tell me all about how F ducts, double diffusers, brake vents with flip ups, etc were any different, except that they were perhaps more aggregous. It was that same outlandishness that in the end made them all legal.

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