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FIA clarifies engine mapping regulations

NEWS STORY
25/07/2012

Mat Coch writes:

For the second time this season Formula One's governing body has been forced to clarify the technical regulations after reigning world champions Red Bull were found to be exploiting a loophole.

In Germany it became apparent that the Milton Keynes squad had developed a specific engine map which failed to deliver the engine's full torque. Instead the excess energy was expelled from the engine as a gas, which was then directed over the rear of the car. In essence Red Bull had reintroduced exhaust blowing, a concept the FIA had worked hard with the teams to outlaw at the end of 2011.

The FIA referred Red Bull to the race stewards in Hockenheim, which admitted that while unimpressed by the team's arguments what it was doing was not against the letter of the law.

However, today the teams received a note from the FIA clarifying the regulations, which stipulate the tolerances within which teams are allowed to alter their engine map.

In Germany it's believed that when Red Bull drivers used anything less than 100% throttle the drivers did not receive the equivalent torque value from the engine. For example, if the drivers had 80% throttle one would assume they'd receive 80% of the engines available torque. It's believed Red Bull's engine map for Hockenheim produced somewhat less than this figure, with the additional energy blown over the rear body work.

The note sent by the FIA to teams says that "above 6,000rpm, the maximum engine torque may vary by no more than 2%."

However, the note did not stop there, also citing ignition retardation, which was another way via which teams gained an aerodynamic benefit from the engine, saying "the ignition angle may vary by no more than 2.5%."

Put simply it means from this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix, when Sebastian Vettel applies 80% throttle he will receive no less than 78% of the engine's potential. In Germany it's believed the Red Bull was outside of these figures.

To help police the new clarification it's believed teams have been asked to submit an engine map from the first four races of the year, which will be used as a baseline in determining if any deviation is in excess of the figures above.

This clarification, the second the FIA has been forced to publish as a result of Red Bull's development methodologies, is a symbol of a growing rift between the reigning champions and the governing body. While Christian Horner claims the technical questioning is simply a by-product of the team's success there are growing questions over why one team is perpetually at loggerheads over the technical regulations while rival front runners manage to stay out of the headlines and still win races.

While in itself it is not a difficult task to change an engine map it remains to be seen what, if any, affect the clarification has on Red Bull, or its rivals for that matter.

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