I’m not really sure what the original meaning of the word ‘loophole’ was, but it has come to mean the exploitation of a law or regulation, and Red Bull are the masters at this.

I can’t help wondering what would have happened if Adrian Newey had decided to become a Tax Lawyer instead of an Engineer, but if I worked at the Inland Revenue I wouldn’t bother checking his Tax Returns – you just know it would be legal. Not what was expected, but legal.

Photo: Red Bull Racing

And so, just one race before the summer break, the FIA have announced that the Red Bull engine map is not legal. The FIA has issued a clarification of Article 5.5.3 of the Technical Regulations, which strikes me as a bit unfair.

This is not the first time that Red Bull have suffered – there was the flexible front wing theory back in 2010 when the weight used to test deflection was doubled (the Red Bull took that in its stride and carried on flexing). And there was the slot in the floor, that the team had to fill before Canada.

Small things maybe, but F1 is about adding together miniscule amounts of time. And Red Bull are good that, only for the FIA to come along and say “Ah, but that’s not what we meant”.

Well, say it properly the first time then, or be prepared to admit that you got it wrong (as you did with the Mercedes Double-DRS) and let the team keep using it.

F1 teams invest fortunes trying to get as close to the letter of the regulations, and they should not be penalised for doing that. Red Bull should be allowed to use this development for a limited period of time (three months, three races maybe?) but they should be allowed to benefit from their ingenuity. The regulations should say that minor clarifiactions may be issued, to take effect after a certain time.

Instead, a clarification has been issued with immediate effect. Although according to section 2.2 of the regulations: “Changes to these regulations may only be made in accordance with the provisions of The 2009 Concorde Agreement” so presumably the Concorde Agreement has a bit that says “if the FIA gets arsy about something, it can clarify regulations whenever it likes”.

A bit of consistency wouldn’t go amiss here – remember the 2009 fiasco about the word “impervious” where (to paraphrase) a sieve is considered impervious as liquid doesn’t actually pass through the metal, it goes through the holes. That’s where the double diffuser idea came from, and it may have made Jenson Button World Champion, but was it fair?

On too many occasions, the FIA act randomly. The Mercedes DDRS was legal, but contravened the spirit of the regulations outlawing F-Ducts. The Red Bull map is legal, but contravenes the spirit of outlawing exhaust-blown diffusers. And there was Lotus’s (née Toleman) system of anti-dive on the front brakes, outlawed pre-Melbourne. That struck me as legal too.

Anyway, plus ca Change, as they say in the Place de la Concorde. Red Bull’s engine map is illegal, and Red Bull say it makes no difference.

But one prediction – each time Red Bull has one of these exhaust-blowing gizmos on the car, Mark Webber’s performance drops off (see Barcelona, Hockenheim). I expect to see him on the podium in Budapest.

Photo: Red Bull Racing

Geoff Collins

Geoff Collins

Badger GP writer and blogger at The Starting Grid
Geoff Collins is Badger GP's resident F1 historian. He has raced Formula Renault and FF2000, and was a founding member of Eiger Racing, a Formula Renault team before working at Virgin Racing/Marussia. He occasionally vents his spleen on StartingGrid and is currently producing a feature film.
Geoff Collins

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  1. I hope your right and that Webber is on the podium. And I hope in the spirit of F1, FIA learn to write rules as they mean them to be understood, rather than relying on teams interpretation of them.

  2. Avatar of Geoff Collins

    I was asked on Twitter what the purpose of the changes to the maps was. Here’s my best guess:

    The FIA noticed that the torque delivered by the engine in the mid range of throttle movement did not correspond to previous measurements, it was considerably lower.

    This implies that when the throttle is in this position the fuel going into the engine is not being used to power the car – probably the ignition is being retarded so that the fuel is being burnt on the downward power stroke, rather than coming towards the top of the compression stroke (If you have trouble remembering the order of strokes in a 4 stroke, I remember it thus: suck, squeeze,bang, blow, or Induction, compression, ignition, exhaust).

    So, if a driver has the throttle part open on entry-apex of a corner, the team would be able to generate the same exhaust blowing effect for the diffuser as last year, without powering the car forwards. Hence why the FIA is so keen to ban it.

    See http://www.darrenheath.com/season/2012/germany-2012/blog/look-listen-learn for evidence that it was happening.

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