Whitmarsh and Horner clash


Martin Whitmarsh and Christian Horner clashed at today's official press conference in the wake of further changes to the blown diffuser rules.

Earlier this morning, the FIA revised the rule regarding how much exhaust flow Renault could still use when a driver is off throttle following claims that the initial 10% granted would lead to reliability problems. Consequently, it issued a new directive allowing Renault, which supplies Red Bull, Lotus Renault GP and Team Lotus to use 50%.

However, concessions had also been made to Mercedes, which, other than its own team, supplies McLaren and Force India. In the case of the German manufacturer, it was allowed to keep firing half its cylinders as engine over run in an attempt to ease pressure on the crank case.

Basically, the engines supplied by Renault and Mercedes, indeed all four current manufacturers, work differently thereby making it impossible for the FIA to come up with a 'one size fits all' directive.

At this afternoon's press conference however, Whitmarsh and Horner clashed, leading to Lotus boss Tony Fernandes describing the whole episode as shambolic.

"First of all there was a technical directive which effectively turned it all off," said Horner. "That was obviously met with reticence by the manufacturers and it has been very much a manufacture issue.

"Certain teams were then allowed to have fired overrun, to fuel their overrun, of which there are also, obviously, secondary benefits through the exhaust plumes and thrusts that that creates but that was permitted," he continued. "Obviously Renault presented their position to the FIA, and let's not forget that this is an extraordinarily complex matter, to demonstrate that precedent is there that, for purposes of throttle blip and reliability, that cold air blowing open throttle was a necessary part of the operation of their engine, otherwise it would cause serious issues. It would be unfair to allow fire overrun and not allow the same parameters for another engine manufacturer.

"I think it's a very, very difficult job for the FIA to pick their way through this and I think all credit to them, they've looked to try and be as fair, balanced and equitable as they decreed that they would be through the technical directive, to come up with the solutions that they have. We're not totally happy with the solution that we have, that's for sure. I'm sure Martin isn't with his and I'm sure there are a lot of conspiracies in the paddock that these are the reasons why Red Bull is performing or McLaren is performing, or some cars aren't performing. That's just circumstantial at the end of the day. The fundamentals are that the engine manufacturers have been treated in a fair and equitable manner."

"I'm sure people set out to do that," replied Whitmarsh. "I think there have been about six technical directives on the subject so far and it's moved around and when the goalposts are moving partway through a practice session, then I think it makes it quite difficult.

"I think that with the benefit of hindsight, it would have been better to make changes at year end," he continued, "which I think Christian would agree. I think that to do this and to do it in a fairly cloudy and ambiguous and changing way inevitably, in a competitive environment, every team feels that it's been hard done by. At the moment, I think potentially a lot of teams will end up making the argument to cold blow. Renault have been in that domain for some time, other teams haven't and don't have that experience but we're talking about a very substantial performance benefit here."

"Why is it any more of a performance benefit than fired overrun?" said Horner. "At the end of the day, Renault is allowed to fired overrun for reliability purposes. If you can operate your engine in the same way as the Renault, then you are welcome to do it. The secondary effect I think it is wrong to suggest that there is a benefit beyond that."

"No, but clearly if you've got, under braking, your throttles are open 50 per cent then it's a reasonable benefit," said Whitmarsh. "There's a lot of gas going through and I imagine that all engines will end up doing that, which I think isn't what was envisaged when it was said we're going to stop engine blowing.

"The fact that we are having this discussion, it's messy," the McLaren boss continued, "and I think the intention people believed was that we were going to stop exhaust blowing when the driver didn't have his foot on the throttle. I think that was the simple concept but that concept has been deflected and therefore it hasn't been clear and the fact that these things were only coming out during the course of today is fairly extraordinary.

"Nonetheless, I'm sure we will remain calm and pick our way through," he continued, "but I think it's probably better to make changes to the regulations between seasons, not in-season and also make changes to regulations that are clear and unambiguous. I think, at the moment, a lot of people are clearly getting emotional about the situation and I can understand why: it's frustrating for the engineers not to know what it is that we're allowed to do, because these changes by cold blowing you're getting 30, 40 points of extra rear downforce in braking and that's quite an attractive thing, so if you can do it, then you're going to try to do it, aren't you?"

"I read the technical directive that said four-cylinder fired overrun was permissible for certain competitors and that, I think, includes your engine," said Horner. "As far as we understood, before Renault were allowed their parameters, obviously there was a significant advantage going to any Mercedes-powered team. As you can see, it's a massively complex subject. I think the one thing that Martin and I will agree on is that it should have been addressed at the end of the year, but unfortunately, here we are."

At which point, Tony Fernandes proved to be the voice of reason, echoing the thoughts of many. "Could I just say as someone who is very new to the sport, I think it's a little bit of a shambles that we're having these kind of discussions, which I think you don't have that in many other sports," said the Lotus boss. "The rules should be very clear, everyone should understand them and they should be pretty black and white.

"I think that one of the dangers of the sport is changing the interpretations," he continued, "it's really got to be black and white and I think it can be. If you look at GP2, it's very clear. I run a GP2 team, we don't have these kind of situations. Of course Formula One is technologically advanced and you need all that sort of thing but I think the regulators of the sport need to make things clear so we don't have this 10 per cent blowing, 50 per cent blowing, hot, cold, in between etc, and teams and engineers have clarity.

"Even over the last few months we've heard of all the controversy in football but the rules in football are clear, it's black and white, it's easy for the spectators to understand and I think that's a really big challenge for the sport because a man in the stand - I don't understand anything that these two have just said, God knows about all the spectators over there, so that's just something I wanted to add, as someone relatively new to the sport. I think it needs to be simpler, and I don't think it makes a huge amount of difference to the people who are watching it."

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Published: 08/07/2011
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