Lifting the lid on engine torque maps
Posted By: James Allen  |  11 Oct 2012   |  1:39 pm GMT  |  71 comments

“In its simplest form, the engine torque map is a theoretical model of the engine. It represents the torque output of the engine for a given engine throttle position and engine speed,” says Renault Sport F1 engine engineer David Lamb.

Torque maps were a hot topic in July and August when the FIA made some changes to the way teams were using them mid-season. But they are the single most important map for the engineers to use for reference when trying to make sure that the engine is optimised for a given circuit, according to an interesting note put out by Renault Sport today.

A directive from the FIA around the time of the German and Hungarian Grands Prix closed a loophole exploited by Red Bull Racing and its partner Renault, to improve gas pressure from the exhaust by lowering the torque curve. As a result the Formula 1 teams are no longer allowed to change the torque maps from weekend to weekend, so the maps used this weekend in Korea are not the ultimate expression of what an F1 engine will do, even if they are still fantastically advanced,

“Prior to this directive,” says Lamb, “We would change the torque map freely to suit the climatic conditions. For example, the engines will produce nearly 10% less torque at Sao Paulo than they will this weekend in Korea due to Sao Paulo’s high altitude. By changing the torque map to the prevailing conditions the engine response will feel the same to the driver across the season. Nowadays we have to request this torque map change from the FIA, and fully justify our reasoning.”

For an indication of how sophisticated the technology is in F1 nowadays around engine mapping, Lamb explains the different ways in which the engineers can tune the map to cut cylinders in order to give the driver consistent power and feel from the engine – or driveability, as it is known,

“When the driver lifts off the pedal the engine can be either fired in four cylinders or fully cut, depending on the level of overrun support he requires,” explains David. “When the driver goes back on the pedal from full ignition cut, you need to inject more fuel than usual to ‘wet’ the engine. Inject too little or too much and you will have a torque deficit from target, which can cause a hesitation and a loss of lap time. The initial torque demand will generally be met with only four cylinders, as you’d rather save a bit of fuel and have four cylinders firing strongly using a more open throttle than have eight coming into life rather weakly with a relatively closed throttle.

“When the torque demand exceeds that which can be met with just four cylinders, the remaining cylinders need to be fired. These will also require ‘wetting’. At this point you also have to close the throttles at a rate which coincides with the final four coming back into life – this is the tricky bit! Get it right and the driver should feel nothing across the transition, just a change in engine pitch. In all cases, the torque map is used in conjunction with other settings to govern both the fuelling requirements and throttle position.”

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Thanks for the article James but unfortunately my non-engineering brain now really hurts 🙂


To prevent the use of torque maps seems equal to

not letting teams change or adjust dampers or any other vital physical setting on the car.

Does FIA want a vanilla out of the box series with the same cars and components or the pinnacle of motorsport?

It seems hilarious that standard car racing series can do changes to the car that is not allowed in F1 cause it is too advanced.

I do feel grateful that my Ford Escort have techniques more advanced than modern F1 cars.


Fascinating...there are so many little technological tidbits like this that I love reading about.

It would be nice to have a complete picture of all the little technical details that go in to making F1 cars perform they way they do. All the dependencies and conditions of what gets turned on when and why certain design decisions were made would be mind blowing.


Great piece!

Is the change in pitch when all eight cylinders start firing what you sometimes hear from the onboard shots or is it more subtle?


Sonically, you are going from around 1000 Hz to 2000 Hz, if you assume 15,000 rpm as the point where the additional cyclinders cut in. This give you an increase of one octave. There are other frequencies that come out depending on the length of the exhaust. Different teams run different systems, such Helmholtz resonators, to tailor the torque curve rather than simple pipes for maximum power.

What Red Bull and Renault were doing with torque maps would have done two things - run long on 8 cylinders so on overrun it will be a higher pitch, and also louder as for a given fuel mixture, more exhaust energy is escaping down the exhaust rather than doing work on the pistons due to delayed ignition.




I listened out for this in Australia this year and it seemed noticeably different

Although interestingly it seemed most prominent on the Sauber's and Red Bull's - so it may have been something different


Fascinating! Whilst I won't profess to understand all of the minutiae of F1 engineering, I love the fact that it really emphasises just how much of a team effort it is to propel the car around the track at it's absolute maximum. As well as that, I imagine this is an area which will translate almost directly to development of more efficient car engines in the future - certainly more so than aerodynamics!


That's cool.

Not much more to say than that. Hopefully 2014 will see a return of some awesome stuff like that!


Spec series Spec series Spec series Spec series!

Whats next - FIA will determihne that the drivers cant change underwear between races??

Xhrist almighty! What a bunch of control freaks!

If FIA want a spec series they could just *buy Indycar!


Indycar has free development from race to race of it's Honda, Chevrolet and Lotus engines, that's certainly more than F1 currently has.


"As a result the Formula 1 teams are no longer allowed to change the torque maps from weekend to weekend"

I don't get it - So is changing torque maps banned or not banned?


As it said in the article - they can change it, only after applying for permission from FIA - with a good reason!


James do you have any insight into why Kimi gets the lotus upgrade this weekend and romain won't? A little unfair...


I'd like to say all fair comments but.. I recall Lotus having this 2 races ago somy assumption is that they aren't short of parts. Also both Lotii had incidents last weekend folks :p

DanWilliams from Aust

Agree with the above comments, but on a more serious note, I believe Kimi tests Lotus' upgrade in FP1 against the previous setup on GRO's car with the intent that if theings go well, then GRO will get the upgrades bolted to his car as well at later in the weekend. This is what Lotus have done with the DDRS system.

Unfortunately, as the DDRS system has been a failure so far, Kimi's weekend keeps getting comprimised as he spends the first practice sessions testing something that doens't ultimately get raced and he has to quickly get his car setup in the last prac session and quali.


Pretty obvious isn't it??


not worth upgrading a car that will be trashed by the 3rd corner!


Cause he would just break them running into someone on lap 1 anyway...


Perhaps it is because of the possibly that Grosjean may not finish the race or even a few laps which would leave the team with little data in race trim.

Raikkonen gives them a more reliable chance of solid information, in the race at least.


Because Romain wont get past turn 1 with it intact!

In all seriousness, it's probably because they only have the time to produce one set of the updates and maybe a few spares and since Kimi is in the title hunt they've given it too him. Not exactly an uncommon accurancy.


That is a rhetorical question right?


It makes perfect sense that Kimi is the one that gets the upgrade package if they have only one available. No need to be rocket scientist to draw that conclusion?


lol, why do you think?

Kimi is 3rd in the world championship, still with an outside chance of winning it. If Romain gets to the 3rd lap that will be an achievment.


And btw *this is much more 'relevant' to road cars and fuel ecomedy and 'being green' than microscopic 200mph aero tweaks!

Craig in Singapore

Exactly, and yet the artards at FIA have essentially banned it! Go figure!


That is absolutely amazing what they can do with these engines. Just trying to visualise all this


Nice article. Could it explain the differences we have seen between drivers in the same team, from race to race, depending on "driver style"?


Funny, can't they use this cylinder cut tech as a crude form of traction control?

Also, with the throttle maps, the drivers can have more resolution across a small window of throttle actuation, in essence, giving the driver more control over traction. For example, the first 10mm of throttle movement will only increment the throttle opening by, say 12%, while the remaining 60mm of throttle movement will open the throttle anywhere from 13-100%.

Is there a clause in the FIA regs whereby the throttle valve operation, in relation to the accelerator pedal, has to be linear?


The pedal feel must be uniform from 0-100%, but the effect can be non linear, but since the Red Bull maps were banned, the FIA are demanding the maps reflect maximum figures, rather than pre determined figures. They are all fly by wire now so the actual throttle pedal position does not really relate to the throttle at all anymore! It would be more accurately described as a "go faster pedal".


Excellent question. Pretty sure this is how Renault engined cars turn a torque /power disadvantage ( compared to merc engined cars) into a tyre preserving advantage. Merc also have more powerful KERS so double whammy for rear tyre degradation .


I don't believe the relationship has to be linear. As I understand it teams had to submit reference map in July from one of the first four races of 2012, from which they can only vary plus or minus 2 percent for the rest of the year.


I believe the thrttle maps being used as a form of traction control was part of the reason for the rule clarification back in July.


As I understand it, that's what all the fuss was about earlier in the season. The torque generated needs to be linear throughout the full range of throttle positions.

Or something like that.


It is impossible for the torque to be linear! It will be a torque CURVE. What they are saying is that the curve must be consistent from one race to another and across the engines used by each car.

More especially the regulators want to see the same characteristics as revs increase as when they drop - so they can put a stop to last years overrun exhaust gas blowing.

If you look at a performance graph for any engine that can be "chipped" you will find that, after such chipping, the torque curve will be quite different and, sometimes, quite irregular.

Most "chipping" services simply program the engine map to be tight against the emissions limit.


Taking a peek, I don't believe the throttle response to the pedal needs to be linear:

There is a reg that at first glance appears to state that torque response to the accelerator pedal needs to be linear at any given engine rpm:

"5.5.5 At any given engine speed the driver torque demand map must be monotonically increasing

for an increase in accelerator pedal position."

However, that's not quite the same thing as requiring a 1:1 correlation between throttle body and accelerator pedal.

Slow Hand Luke's Brother

Is this Torque Map combined with an already similarly explained, from Renault, Pedal Map both not just a very clever form of traction control but without the sensors to detect wheel-spin?

Very clever stuff but I dont think it is road car relevant, because road-cars can have the much simpler traction control that has, what they call a closed loop.

Good insight again James and thanks.


Of course is is a form of traction control! I ahe been saying this for years.

Ever since direct wheel sensors were banned they have become very expert at every other possible way traction can be controlled. They have so much data that they can easily tell when traction is being lost. The moment a wheel starts to lose its grip the engine revs rise more quickly than would be possible were traction maintained. Together with such tightly controlled differentials and the knowledge that the lesser loaded wheel (inside when cornering) will always lose grip first traction control is actually very sophisticated and practically impossible to ban.

Back on the original topic torque maps have a degree of tolerance - all engines lose performance as they age. With the degree of sophistication, knowledge and experience the engineers use on these engines you can be sure they are manipulating absolutely every tolerance they can to the limit.

Slow Hand Luke's Brother

PS I used to compete in motorcycle trials and a throttle with a cam shaped barrel has much the same effect as you are talking about.

The first half of twisting the throttle moves the carb slide only about a quarter to one third of its movement. After that slide opening increases massively in relation to throttle position.

You need the fine control at low throttle positions to get grip in trials competition, once you start taking a handful of throttle its revs and/ or speed you are after and therefore there is less need for precision.


I think this is what red bull were doing which is why the rules were changed


This post is GOLD. thanks James.

DanWilliams from Aust



Fascinating! It is amazing what needs to be put in place to save the fuel, provide appropriate torgue, and consistent feeling to the driver. People who come up with these solutions are definitelly not being given enough credit.

If we can have a peek at how would the same be accommodated with V6 turbos that would be great. Although, I don't think anybody would lift the lid on those in a hurry. 🙂


That is one of the geekiest (i.e. coolest) things I've read on this site in a long time. Goes to the core of why I love F1 over other racing series.


I have a problem with this..........

Yes it is very very clever and we have all known that various technologies have come and gone, but this it is this sort of thing that is causing F1 problems - costs to spriral at of all control and create boring races.

We are getting closer and closer to the engineers actually racing each other and the driver making very little difference.

I appreciate we have to have progress but lets face it it is much more entertaining when the field is more even and we get a great race. Instead we get a team or engineer perfecting mapping, torques or aero better than everyone else and the end result is Vettel in 2011.

I would like to see it go back to much more basics and let the drivers do battle because if I think of my top 5 races they all involve drivers banging wheels and not Vettel winning by 3 minutes because of a widget in the engine that no other engineer has thought of.


'boring races':

I guess this is a matter of opinion.. when a team dominates, it's because they've found a way to make their car faster than the rest; legality aside, it's a testimony of the dominating team's innovative solutions which makes F1 different from other racing series; so, when a team is dominating, its supporters are cheering but the rest complain.. i guess it depends on who you ask

'engineers racing each other'

well, innovative technology is at the core of F1, and if you're not a fan of technology, there's little to be said; the Constructor's Championship rewards exactly this

drivers making very little difference":

look back at the Senna / Prost days in late 80's, the fans loved that era despite McLaren's dominance because the Senna vs Prost competition was entertaining; Red Bull's 2011 dominance was because Webber couldn't match Vettel, so don't blame Vettel

maybe we haven't had good pairing of drivers at the top teams because


Driver making little difference.....tell that to Lotus!


Excellent Post! Thanks James!

rob in victoria bc



Great article... Love this nerdy stuff


James thank you so much for this article!

The last paragraph explains something I've wondered for a long time - often when you watch an onboard lap (usually the pole lap) you can hear the pitch of the engine change during acceleration almost as if the driver has accidentally gone down a gear - this now appears to just be an example of the complicated torque mapping, and probably the point where the remaining cylinders kick in.

Great stuff!


I think you have missed the point!

When accelerating hard there is no way the engine will not be using every available bit of power out of all 8 cylinders. The only time you will ever see an F1 car accelerate using only 4 cylinders will be on leaving the pits when not actually racing or behind a safety car.

I believe the concept of using only 4 cylinders came from Mercedes. If you remember a few years back the Mercedes engines couldn't survive a long pit stop. Then all of a sudden, in the last couple of years of refuelling, the 2 McLaren cars could suddenly survive waiting at the end of the pit lane for minutes as they vied to be the first cars out in the "fuel burning" phase of quali 3.

The change in noise you refer to will be down to gear changes, resonance frequency changes or quirks in the audio pickup.


Wonder what are the reasons the FIA put forward to ban the variation of the torque map. There should be ample reasons to stop technical progress and innovations in motor racing.


One of the reasons the FIA want to control torque, and throttle mapping is because they can be used as a rudimentery form of traction control which was banned a while back.

Banning traction control was, at least partially, seen to be a way to put more focus on driver skill.


Its because its intrinsicly unfair to the teams with stupid ppl that can't figure it out.

So it'll get banned because

a) we didn't think of it therefore its unfair

b) we can't make it work therefore its unfair


Why didn't anyone thought of producing a mini series about these F1 engineering marvels? They don't have to reveal secrets, just layman terms and simplified graphical interpretations of the general concepts, blow by blow interjected by it's development timeline across the race calendar to reveal how it impacted the championship. Interviews with the people involved, drivers, experts and even FIA. Just like some TV series, how'd they do it, unwrapped or mythbusters.

Craig in Singapore

The FIA would ban it


Now it makes sense why Webber has all those bad starts. They keep forgetting to enable 4 cylinders firing instead of the full cut.


is disappointing that they are stopping this. I hope the new engine in 2014 won't have to deal with this.

On an unrelated point, I am not looking forward to the crappy turbo V6 sound. Why can't they use beautiful sounding engines like L6, Boxer, L5, V10, V12?


For myself I will always believe that the whole engine freeze thing was a waste of time and gave no encouragement to technology that could have gone onto road cars. Give each time a certain amount of fuel for the weekend and leave the engine free. That way we could see who could get the most power from the least fuel with the greatest reliability.


It's been tried already. It was called group C. The FIA banned it...

DanWilliams from Aust

This article is great, really shows us the level that F1 is at. And we all know this is only the surface as the engineers don't want to give too much away.

Imagine how boring the tech side of F1 would be if they switched to elec power like they keep talking about...


Thanks James as always amazing great articles.

Keep up the good work.

when are you coming to work in Australia!!


It's traction control and thats illegal...simple.


Preventing traction control is impossible. This is all about exhaust blown diffusers.


Does anyone know if this fixed engine map mean that they are no longer able to run fuel saving or max power modes?


I'm confused ! The thing about varying ECU curves for torque is/has been common in almost every modern day automobile. In the olden days, we had to tune to carbs to make it breath better at high altitude, there by giving us just as much torque/power as we would have at a lower altitude. These days based on the throttle position, quality of fuel,speed,altitude,temperature, the on-board ECU adjusts or varies its graphs factoring in all the above mentioned conditions. I'm not surprised by the cutting off the power for cylinders either, at stop and go traffic conditions, most semi-hybrids (especially bulky american SUVs) employ similar tactics of firing partial cylinders, and then re-firing all of them when the vehicle picks up speed. Not to mention, this has been around in Motogp since the 90s where Yamaha and Honda would constantly experiment with both firing order of the cylinders, and firing of the cylinders themselves to give them better corner speed advantage.

I'm sure F1 engine maps are much more sophisticated than what has been described in this article. But then again, thanks to FIA's stupid ban on engine development, i would not be too surprised if it isn't. After all, a Toyota Prius has a much sophisticated energy reharness technology than KERS in F1 cars.


Sounds similar to what VAG are doing with their new engines which shut down cylinders for cruising.


Fascinating article and especially so to me as a garage owner! But this type of torque mapping by shutting down cylinders has been used on many road cars for years as traction control, with an added bonus of more economy under cruise conditions. Someone else pointed this out above but really what is the difference between torque mapping and traction control?

One brings the torque in gradually, one stops the wheels spinning under sudden throttle openings. A very fine difference there surely!


I would suggest its more to do with Kimi having 10years experience at developing F1 cars . Don't forget people you loose time setting up these devices & it jeapodises a race weekend if its not done right. Already Kimi went backwards on Friday before going forwards on Saturday & yes ultimately he is 3rd in the championship so if the parts are limited an they work it makes sense to get them on his car first


"James do you have any insight into why Kimi gets the lotus upgrade this weekend and romain won’t? A little unfair…"

This is one of the biggest reasons why I kept meeting people who don't consider F1 as a sport.

I am not upset about it for the record, far from it. I know exactly why Kimi got it.

But in any other sport, like swimming for example, you are not allowed to wear certain things because it could give you tiny advantage, how can you call this a sport?

We have Fernando performing extremely well this season. And there is Vettel, who is doing a very good job. How can you possibly say who really is the better driver? Just a thought.

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