Horner dismisses suggestions Red Bull are using banned traction control system
Scuderia Ferrari
Posted By: James Allen  |  03 Oct 2013   |  7:25 pm GMT  |  193 comments

Red Bull’s team principal Christian Horner has dismissed suggestions his team are running a form of traction control – which is banned – on their car.

Former F1 team principal Giancarlo Minardi suggested Red Bull were using the system – which stops the rear wheels spinning and has been banned since 2009 – after watching the action trackside at the Singapore Grand Prix.

At one stage in the race, Vettel was lapping an incredible two seconds quicker than anyone else as he clinched his sixth victory of the season on the Marina Bay Street Circuit. Minardi said Red Bull’s Renault engine sounded “similar to the sound made by the engine when the traction control system was used in previous seasons”.

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton then added to the speculation in the Korean Grand Prix paddock on Thursday when he said: “If you look at the onboard [camera], he is on the power full throttle at least 20 metres before anyone else, which is a huge advantage. The last time I was able to put the pedal down that quick was back in 2007 or 2008, when we had traction control.”

But Horner said: “You’d be fairly stupid to introduce traction control onto a car that is governed by a single ECU that is granted by a tender of the FIA and that is scrupulously checked by the FIA. I can’t imagine any team in the pit lane would even entertain it.

“The electronic controls on the car are so tightly governed because it’s a controlled box we have. The settings in both the [Red Bull] cars are absolutely identical and they fully comply with the FIA rules. The FIA should be able to verify that and it’s a standard unit that all the teams are using. Any suggestion of traction control is either purely mischievous or wishful thinking.”

Red Bull’s reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel, who leads the championship by 60 points from nearest rival Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, added that his team’s system was simply better than anyone else’s.

The German said: “We are pretty proud of the system we have because other people will never figure out how we have done it. Constantly we try to improve the car, that is part of the homework we try to do.”

And off Vettel’s impressive pace in Singapore, Horner said: “The facts are he drove an incredible race, he had incredible pace and maximised the most out of the car. He was a driver on absolute peak form. Is it a distraction? No. Will we lose any sleep over it? Absolutely not.”

Alonso was also adamant that rivals Red Bull’s car is legal. The Spaniard said: “They are using something different compared to the other teams but something that is completely OK. They pass all the checks every race so it’s up to us to do a better job.

“I think this engine noise difference has been all year there with Red Bull. It’s true that maybe in Singapore it’s more obvious because it’s a street circuit and people can watch in the corners but if you go to a winter test already in Barcelona we were in the corners following the test session and the Red Bull is a different sound.”

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@GazC wrote:”I’m a bit fed up with the “it’s a stock and controlled ECU, it’s impossible to cheat”, has no one considered that there must be some sensor inputs that would affect torque. ……….I doubt that the wiring harnesses are all checked by the FIA. What about the various sensors themselves.

The FIA wrote:


8.1 Software and electronics inspection :

8.1.1 Prior to the start of each season the complete electrical system on the car must be examined and all on board and communications software must be inspected by the FIA Technical Department.

The FIA must be notified of any changes prior to the Event at which such changes are intended to be implemented.

8.1.2 All re-programmable microprocessors must have a mechanism that allows the FIA to accurately identify the software version loaded.

Acceptable solutions to verify the programmed software may be found in the Appendix to these regulations.

8.1.3 All electronic units containing a programmable device, and which are intended for use at an Event, must be presented to the FIA before each Event in order that they can be identified.

8.1.4 All on-car software versions must be registered with the FIA before use.

8.1.5 The FIA must be able to test the operation of any compulsory electronic safety systems at any time during an Event.

8.2 Control electronics :

8.2.1 All components of the engine, gearbox, clutch, differential and KERS in addition to all associated actuators must be controlled by an Electronic Control Unit (ECU) which has been manufactured by an FIA designated supplier to a specification determined by the FIA.

The ECU may only be used with FIA approved software and may only be connected to the control system wiring loom, sensors and actuators in a manner specified by the FIA.

Additional information regarding the ECU software versions and setup may be found in the Appendix to these regulations.

8.2.2 All control sensors, actuators and FIA monitoring sensors will be specified and homologated by the FIA. Details of the homologation process may be found in the Appendix to these regulations.

Each and every component of the control system will be sealed and uniquely identified and their identities tracked through their life cycle.

These components and units may not be disassembled or modified in any way and seals and identifiers must remain intact and legible.

8.2.3 The control system wiring loom connectivity must be approved by the FIA.

All wiring looms must be built to ensure that each control sensor and each control actuator connected to the ECU is electrically isolated from logging-only sensors connected to either the ECU or a team data acquisition unit.

In general, there must be no active or passive electronic component in the control loom. Exceptions (e.g. termination resistors) must be approved by the FIA before use.

Additional wiring guidelines may be found in the Appendix to these regulations.

8.2.4 If sensor faults or errors are detected by the driver or by the on-board software, back-up sensors may be used and different settings may be manually or automatically selected. However, any back-up sensor or new setting chosen in this way must not enhance the performance of the car. Any driver default turned on during the start lockout period may not be turned off before the end of that period……..



I’m a bit fed up with the “it’s a stock and controlled ECU, it’s impossible to cheat”, has no one considered that there must be some sensor inputs that would affect torque. I.e. It’s perfectly possible to modify or disconnect sensor inputs that would cause the engine torque to be limited via the legal map. It’s not all about what happens inside the ECU. I doubt that the wiring harnesses are all checked by the FIA. What about the various sensors themselves.

I’m a systems and software engineer. There’s always a way to get around a stipulation of you can’t change the software. Especially if you know how it works.


it has been revealed that RBR had submitted some changes for programming the ECU recently and that those requests had been given the all clear by the FIA.



wow lots of ideas here, my top idea is related to a piece wrote on here about the hydraulicly joined front and rear suspension acting on high aero loads to keep the front of the car off the ground, what if the same system was used -when the rear suspension compressed under sudden accleration force, a blow off valve – thresholded/adjustable, controlled clutch slip…………


A bit of a history lesson : In 1994 when the Benetton team were targetted after Senna’s demise mostly for political reasons, Benetton along with other teams were asked to hand over the ECUs to FIA. Benetton hesitated as did Mclaren as they suspected the information will be shared with others, especially Williams.

When FIA found out commented part of traction control code on BOTH Mclaren and the Benettons. It was explained that since TC was banned as a part of 1994 regulations, majority of them simply commented out the parts of ECU code that handled traction control.

When such distractions did not stop Schumacher, they made some other fantastic allegations that the TC could be initiated by a series of steps by the driver during the start. Ofcourse, nobody could ever prove any of these allegations, and no one talks about the same commented TC code found on Mclaren’s ECUs either.

When all attempts to stop Schumacher failed, they resorted to banning him for 4 races for a variety of reasons. A draconian sanction of 3 race ban for not obeying the blackflag when FIA knew that Benetton were still talking to the FIA about the penalty, a further 2 race ban for the same offence. And then a worn skidboard ban because the wooden plank under Schumacher’s Benetton was found a few mm wear beyond the regulations. Explaining that the plank wore because of a spin on the kerbs during the race did not budge FIA.

Then there was the fuel rig controversy for which Benetton were blamed for endangering their crew and gaining unfair advantage. Ofcourse, Benetton later proved that 6 out of 10 teams had removed the filter as asked by the rig manufacturer.

Bottomline, when you win once they all love you. But when you win twice they start hating you. Thats what happened to Schumacher and Benetton back in 1994.And that is what RBR and Vettel are going through today.

Btw, i wonder why no one talks about Mclaren being found with a hidden mechanical pedal in 1998 which did nearly the same job as traction control ?

Hamilton has let himself down by adding to these baseless allegations against Vettel and RBR. He already tried belittling Vettel’s achievement in Singapore by saying “you can see he is not flat out in the corners, so it is very easy for him”, and now this new comment about traction control.


The TC rule is written simply:

9.3 Traction control :

“No car may be equipped with a system or device which is capable of preventing the driven wheels from spinning under power or of compensating for excessive throttle torque demand by the driver.

Any device or system which notifies the driver of the onset of wheel spin is not permitted”.

It does not state ‘electronic’ or ‘mechanical’, just ‘system or device’. That throws out most theories I’ve read so far.

I say that noone will ever find it because there is nothing to be found. Seb / RBR are just too darn good at the moment.


Hi James,

Any chance of a technical article on the ECU. I’m very curious as to how a generic ECU is used across many different engines and car configurations.

I am a software developer, and and I remember one of my professors for a course in safety critical systems touched on the topic of software/ECU in F1, and basically implied that its not possible to govern the source code correctly without a uniform test bed – I can’t remember if he meant the cars and source code are needed on a test bed, or a generic car to test the source code.

Anyway, he basically said its too difficult to check for cheating by examining source code (I imagine the source code would include the engine maps). The professor is a leader in his field and has even done work with/for NASA so he’s basically one of the best at what he does.

I hope this makes sense, it was 2-3 years ago while I was at uni, so I might not have recalled all the details, but it is along the right lines.



Have a look at the website: http://www.mclarenelectronics.com/

The system is basically HIL. It is easy to set up a simulation environment in software. Since you were involved in safety critical systems. You might be interested to know that the FIA used LRDA.com for the forensic analysis of the various “events” surrounding Bennetton and others.


Hi Iain,

Thanks for your response. I couldn’t find anything on LRDA.com, website does not exist.


No company would provide the proprietary source code of its products to its customers. I suspect your professor is talking about cases where each team develops its own solution.

As for the generic ECU working on diffent cars/engines, it shouldn’t be a problem as long as they comply to the same interface/protocols.


I would have thought the source would have been compiled by McLaren Electronics software guys and provided as part of the sealed box ecu. Then the setting/defining of the actual engine maps would be handled by the team/engine software guys within the boundaries of the fixed ECU.

Basically maps and source code are quite different I think, the maps are the data and rules that define what the engine should do based on all the various parameter and sensors, air temps/pressures, ignition, throttle position, etc etc.

The sourcecode is kind of the operating system (or firmware) that interprets and handles the data in the map. I know many modern engines run a standard communications data bus called CAN Bus and aircraft use something called 1553 data bus so maybe F1 has it’s owner standard comms protocol that all engine manufacturers use which would then allow the FIA control via the standard (fixed firmware/variable map) ECU.


Sure thing.


look forwards to this one.


As I’ve said before anyone that doesn’t think Red Bull has found some new way of improving traction out of corners.. Should resume leaving their teeth below their pillows !

We have so many of the usual Lewis badgers [mod] here also saying he’s bitter , twisted and he will change his mind tomorrow– when really all he is doing is stating facts And can anyone here please tell me who wouldn’t be a little disappointed driving with the speed and skill he obviously has- and still come up 1,2- or whatever speed diff is..!. Red Bull are to be commended for again pushing the boundaries and perhaps even redefining them and maybe we might even see another rule change occur as a result of this.

We then have a Seb rubbing everyone’s noses in it like some smug 8 year old that was just handed his brand new bike with all the bells and whilstles. I have never liked this guy and I doubt I ever will no matter how much he matures. Success is fantastic and you could never begrudge anyone their time in the sun. [mod] Like MS before him – it’s not about the sport or the respect ( despite his words). He’s only there to collect stats and he doesn’t care what it how he goes about it… Something I never like in any “sportsman”.


Regarding car development Vettel is a class above Hamilton. Only Alonso Comes Close.


On the other hand, apart from his quirky humour, he seems really mature.

After he has won everything for 3 years, Alonso and Hamilton have taken every opportunity to downplay and question his every achievement. Yet Vettel has mostly ignored them and quietly gone about his own business. It’s only now that he has responded in any way for so long. How is that arrogant. He celebrates enthusiastically as he should given all that he has achieved, but he has hardly tried to put down anybody as other have tried to do to him.

Even if Vettel and Reb Bull have managed to make their car better than everybody else’s, how justified are those cribbing about it. Isn’t that what F1 is about.

Also just complaining that has to be something unfair about the car without being able to say exactly what it is reeks of desperation.


You need to recalibrate that humor sensing brain of yours. Seb is obviously joking.


It’s not just the arrogant words of multi 21, or the [mod]followed- saying he respected Mark then attacking him only days later. He didn’t have to say he respected him I the first place !- because everyone knew it was lie in the first place !. There are many, many things when he crashes into back markers – it’s quite often his fault – but he’s quick to blame others..We all know he’s on the limits, but better drivers don’t carry on that way and when they are wrong they say it..they don’t make them selves out to be better than they are. These are NOT humorous events and quite often Sebs face is anything but happy.
I think maybe you need to recalibrate your common sense and don’t confuse it with humour- most people can tell the difference. Thanks all the same..


Sorry, man. I only meant that Seb is joking about having TC. It’s just one approach dealing with the press.


Seb’s a great guy. Too bad you have not seen him genuinely reach out to school children, and made their F1 outing a truly educational experience as opposed to mere cynical marketing and publicity.


Vettel has never been anything but humble in public. I dont know where he rubbed anyones nose it in. So what if he collects stats. Every driver worth his salt wants to be in the record books. Sounds to me someone cant accept their obvious hero getting beaten every year. I’m not even a big Vettel fan per se but you gotta give credit mate. The kid can bat a bit 😉


It’s the finger camera business everytime.. The “get him out if way comments” and “I respect him as a driver” – when clearly he does not.!

I do rate Seb as a top driver and I did vote Fernando as best of 2012- and I think less of Fernando than I do of Seb. Not that anyone’s going to loose sleep over it, but I’m definitely someone that can look beyond personalities for results! “Getting beat every year” does not make you the 2nd or last best driver either does it..I think Bianci drove exceptionally well for a rookie and we saw very little if him- But the bit we saw was always good.. Perspective..not whether you win or loose but how you play the game


I too voted Alonso best in ’12. I think Seb will get my vote this year however. Your comments above are fair and I respect them Elie. The “get him out of the way” comment (from Seb) was poor form. Mark was driving to a time determined by the team to ensure a safe 1-2 for the team.

The finger thing is now his signature move and he can hardly stop it now. To stop it would be to give in to the ‘booers’. I think if he flashed the finger once per victory/pole I would be happier. Seems he wants to give every photographer a chance to catch it 😉

I respect Seb and all the other drivers but I admit that his post-race in-car screaming is a bit too much to take…. every time. Compare Webbers post-race in-car last time he won Monaco. A quick thank you and not much else. The all-time award for in-car must go to JB when Braun won the WCC. As a singer, JB makes a great driver 🙂

Have a good weekend mate.


re your last para – you have got him wrong.


I hope I am James.Maybe it’s just the way he comes across. Kimi sees something genuine in him-that counts for a lot really.


Elie…..I have never agreed with you and sometimes I like to tease you with negative Kimi comments…..BUT this time you have got it in one! Your final paragraph sums up vettel to a tee. His general behaviour, comments and basic lack of respect to his fellow competitors ( and team) when things didn’t go his way make him unpalatable to me.

Remember this elie. Sennas 3 is held in higher regard than Prosts 4 and schumis 7. if vettel wins 8 titles I’m 100% sure that kimis 1 and Fernando’s 2 (he’s my guy) will also be held in higher regard!


And so what if the red bull is fitted with illegal systems……if the scrutteneers can’t sweep it under the carpet, they will simply apply the ‘red bull get out of jail free card’….which goes like this-“So yes it’s technically illegal however we have decided you can keep the points u got in this gp. Even though it was gained by a car that was found to be in breach of the rules….just make sure the illegal bits are removed for the next race”. Remember the holes in the undertray at Monaco was only ‘discovered’ after the car was lifted by crane and photographers snapped up the evidence) just like 2010, 2011 and 2012 they keep getting away with it


It’s all down to engine mapping. You can hear that Red Bull are blowing the exhaust twice as much as every other team in the paddock. All they have to do is limit the power output at for example between 10k and 14k rpm to limit wheelslip. Therefore being able to put the power down earlier.


Giancarlo Minardi DID NOT suggest Red Bull were using traction control: he said that there was a sound which was like that of traction control.


It’s amazing how many ideas for loophole TC are presented here. Teams should hire you, smart people.

Red Bull doesn’t have TC, they have Vettel.


When Vettel goes to another team and dominates to the same extent he is now, then I will believe that he is the key component. Until then, Adrian Newey’s Vettel-mobile will get the credit.


He is. Just look at what Webber can accomplish.


Yes like almost winning the 2010 title without team support……and being quicker in the beginning of 2012 when the blown diffuser wasn’t at its best. Oh and let’s not forget the mysterious ‘handbrake syndrome’ mark seems to keep getting. Especially when he’s up the front


Eureka moment to my above post.

Traction control via a switch.

Since the accelerator pedal is now controlling a potentiometer, its easy to add a resistance before the the potentiometer/volume control which then reduces the voltage output to the ecu even though the accelerator pedal is still in use.

To make a traction control function this extra resistance is pre-determined by the data logger dictating the best place on the track for it to operate.

The operation is via a timing circuit which effectively switches the resistance in and out so many times a second. The operation of which is selected by the driver pressing an on /off switch at a given point on the circuit.

So our driver arrives at a given corner, switches on the timing circuit which is then seen by the ECU as a rapid acceleration and deceleration. At a given point the timing circuit is switched off and the driver continues without it in circuit, until the next lap.

The extra resistor can also be varied so it could be used in more than one corner.


i reckon that method could easily be detected in logs/telemtery that the ECU generate, people would see un natural TPS behaviour that would not be humanly possible.

as said before , a better system would be to use KERS charge/drag to slow engine down out of corners if it detects a loss of traction. pretty sure KERS is controlled by there own/KERS ECU


Traction Control and ECUs’ an explanation.

Anyone that saw last weekends Moto GP race will have seen the result of a traction control failure, when Dani Pedrosa was clipped by Marc Marquez going into a corner. This broke the cable to the rear wheel speed sensor on Pedrosas’ bike which when he applied power going through the corner caused him loose control and crash.

What is Traction Control ?

When a driver turns the wheel to change direction, if the speed is too high for the front wheels to provide enough grip, the car will understeer or not turn enough. To counteract this the driver will lift off the accelerator and as the car slows the speed will match up with the grip level of the front wheels and the car will turn, however, at this point the rear is now sliding sideways as the rear wheels do not turn. This leads to an oversteer or too much turning input and the correction is too reduce the amount of steering and or accelerate to transfer grip back to the rear wheels.

Manual traction control, is the drivers use of the accelerator to govern the speed in the corner.

What is an ECU ?

With the recent release of the film Rush, the cars at that time used mechanical carburetors and distributors. The carburetor governed how much fuel is delivered to each cylinder and the distributor governed when each spark plug fired.

Fuel injectors require a voltage to operate and therefore require a control unit to switch them on and off at the right time. The control unit can then also replace the distributor and control when the spark plugs fire. This is referred to as engine mapping, since you can now have different carburetor and distributor settings stored in the ECU memory.

Traction Control via an ECU.

The ECU itself does not have a traction control function, it uses sensors to monitor the engine and adjust the fuel input and ignition timing of the engine.

Traction Control is about cutting the power momentarily to reduce oversteer.

Putting the two together requires the ECU to react to an oversteer situation; which a computer will do faster than a human.

Going back to our Moto GP example and we know that an external sensor monitors the rear wheel speed to cut power as traction is lost.

Traction Control with a standard ECU.

The key here is the input to the ECU, aka the accelerator, which is no longer a wire from the pedal to the air inlet manifold, but a potentiometer or volume control; as you turn up the volume control the engine revs higher by the changing electrical voltage across the potentiometer. The ECU then outputs this information to a rev counter so the user can monitor the engine performance.

As a crude form of traction control, an external microprocessor can be used to tie these two function together, so that any sharp rise in revs or the electrical voltage ouput from the ECU, can be countermanded by a reduction in the electrical input to the ECU from the accelerator potentiometer. In effect a switch to cut power as traction is lost.


Hi James

I have just one question Why was the sound only coming from Vettels car and not Webbers ?


But why does his car sound different to webbers?


As Mark Gillan says, there is no way of knowing what they are doing, one person’s view sitting in a trackside suite only tells part of the story. Even the other teams don’t know for sure what that are doing

But as Gillan adds, the FIA has the ECU situation fully under control, so it’s not traction control as we know it. It must be a mapping ruse


There’ a very interesting article on how Red Bull might be using their engine mapping to achieve a legal form of traction control here:


As the engine mappings are effectively fixed, it will be difficult for other teams to copy.

The other point is that there are no controls on when KERS harvests power, so that system (within its regulated energy limitations) can also be used to smooth power.


Very interesting. It would seem it should only be good for this season then, b/c it relies on a lot of factors that will not be the same for next season.

Of course, they still had the best aerodynamics in 2009 (aside from the DD diffuser), when they weren’t exploiting the EBD, so they should still be top dog aero-wise next season.


If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck… And it controls traction… It is literally ‘traction control’.


Wouldn’t that be quacktion control?


Very good 🙂


You’d think Webber would be at least getting second place in races if Red Bull had traction control. Also, Red Bull has only had the best car at Bahrain, Montreal and the last three races.

Did they only decide to switch traction control on for the last three races?

It’s really sad that this is what the sport had become. Vettel will go down as one of the top three drivers of all time but it’s completely unappreciated and not acknowledged. In fact you have his rivals like Hamilton casting aspersions and alluding to Vettel using TC in no uncertain terms.


I thought that Vettel was doing something counter intuitive with his driving that allowed him to exploit whatever it is Red Bull have added to the car. Any chance you could ask Mark if Seb is driving the car differently during Ten’s Webber Report this weekend James?


Does anyone know which part of the F1 regulations covers Traction Control?

Is it regulation 8 covering electronic systems (see below)? If this is the only relevant bit – then an engine mapping solution is not illegal.



Try this one:


9.3 Traction control :

No car may be equipped with a system or device which is capable of preventing the driven wheels from spinning under power or of compensating for excessive torque demand by the driver.

Any device or system which notifies the driver of the onset of wheel spin is not permitted.


If a driver can get onto the power 20 meters before any other driver is he not controlling the traction by default ??


TALK ABOUT SPORTSMANSHIP. Vettel has none. Vettel has a responsibility to get people to watch the sport and be a role model. He is none. Are you saying that kids or racers in lower categories watching f1 aspiring to one day compete in F1 need to not show respect to others and only think about themselves. Than yep your are right Vettel shows heaps of respect. vettel has lost respect in the gerenal public due to not his racing, [mod]. Tell me this what sort of role model is he. If your fast enough, nothing else matters. yep the other people on the posts are really immature aren’t they or maybe stating the truth.


I think what you are not considering [mod], is that we have one of the fastest (imho the fastest) man on the grid, saying that “looking at the onbord..”, he could just remember of that kind of drive when he had traction control.
So, forget about your opinions about Hamilton, we have an expert in driving the fastest cars in the world, talking in an interview about his perceptions about other car and driver. And you think your “guesses” or love or hate by Hamilton is more important? Crazy…
But back to the facts, he is not saying is traction control, he is just saying that TC was a system he knows that provided that help exiting corners. Maybe it is tc, maybe is another device that provides similar benefits. And maube is legal…
One last point is that we have other big names of f1 giving feedback about it, and also refering to traction control (since canada, where I think they were testing in Webber’s car). We have fans from the Singapore gp talking (and showing the video) about the sound.. And last: we have Vettel lapping 2secons quicker than anyone else!!
Do you believe (even Vettel’s supportes/fans) that he is 2s faster than anyone else? If he is not, the car is 2s faster? How? Newey is simply a super duper genious and all other engineers are dumb?
Sorry, but from all the points people think RB having tc (or similar tech)is crazy, I still think is the least crazy idea of all other above!


I find Alonso’s comment very, very intriguing in the context of my ongoing suspicion that Alonso will NOT be in Red next year; I think he could be blue; will Luca pay him out to NOT drive? will he go (to Red Bull) if there was the opportunity?

With that comment, supporting RED BULL!!! I think he’s going.


The picture of Horner, says it all, for me: does this not look like a man who would do anything that he most likely could get away with, to win?

Does Red Bull have the technie genius who could find a path, if one or more exists, through the uber-complex KERS system that retards and selectively boosts tire spin without showing clearly (enough) on the ECU to prove they are using it?

This is Formula One.


“The picture of Horner, says it all, for me: does this not look like a man who would do anything that he most likely could get away with, to win?”

Brawn… Whitmarsh, Dennis before him… the Ferrari guy?

I could go on.


yes, you have it right on; but it is Horner who is on top now. (I don’t know about Whitmarsh)

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