Formula 1 teams are to face a further clampdown on engine mapping use starting with this weekend's European Grand Prix, with the FIA moving to eradicate special qualifying-only settings
Ahead of the effective ban on the off-throttle use of blown diffusers from next month's British Grand Prix, the governing body has shown it is determined to prevent teams from using any form of clever engine use to help aerodynamic performance.
In a note sent from F1 technical delegate Charlie Whiting to the teams, he made it clear that with immediate effect teams will no longer be allowed to change engine maps between qualifying and the race. Such a move will effectively prevent teams from running an extreme engine map for qualifying – such as one that produces more exhaust blowing or burns more fuel, and then reverting to a safer setting for the grand prix itself.
One theory surrounding Red Bull Racing's qualifying dominance this year, compared to the fact it has not been so fast in the race, is that the team has been using extreme engine maps in qualifying to boost performance for a single lap.
McLaren's principal race engineer Phil Prew said about his team's theory on Red Bull Racing's form earlier this year: "I think tire optimization may be one area, and the use of elaborate engine modes may be another – with the generation of downforce being quite highly influenced with the exhaust flows."
The new directive from the FIA means that any engine mapping setting used in qualifying has to now be used for the start of the race, with the first opportunity to change it now only possible at the first pit stop when a computer could in theory be plugged into the car. However, such a move would be hugely impractical because of the speed of modern pit stops. The extreme engine maps that some teams may be using for qualifying would be unusable in the race, because they risk reliability of engines over longer distances and could burn too much fuel.
Although the changes to the regulations coming into force over the next two races will affect all teams, the main focus will be in terms of what impact it has on pacesetters Red Bull Racing. Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali said at the Canadian Grand Prix that he believed Silverstone could mark the start of a totally new picture in terms of the world title fight.
"We need to see at Silverstone, what is the real effect of this change in the regulations with regard to the effect of the exhaust," he said. "Then, we will see really where is the second championship in terms of the level of performance above all in higher-downforce tracks."