Analysis: Charlie Whiting talks engine maps and diffusers

Charlie Whiting, European GP 2011

Charlie Whiting, European GP 2011 

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Mid season two-stage changes to the regulations - engine mapping this weekend at Valencia and exhaust-blown diffusers at Silverstone - are dominating the F1 landscape. They have given rise to a number of questions; technical, procedural and political. FIA Race Director and Technical Delegate Charlie Whiting made himself available to answer the media's questions in Spain. Tony Dodgins was there.

Q: Regarding mapping, we see drivers changing fuel settings in the race, so can you give some insight into what is and isn't allowed now?

A: Effectively they are not allowed to make any changes with a computer that is plugged in, but they are allowed to change things that they can do with a switch on the steering wheel. Simply, the single ECU doesn't support certain changes from the steering wheel. Only fine adjustments can be made from the wheel. We are on the verge of issuing a note to the teams giving them a list of things they can change when they connect their computers, but it will be a very limited list.

Q: What will you do if there is a climatic change between Saturday and Sunday?

A: We will allow certain changes to be made and have indicated to them that if there is a change in ambient temperature of more than 10 degrees we will allow them to make compensatory changes.

Q: What was allowed in Canada that won't be allowed in Valencia?

A: What we are basically saying is that you can't have a map in the ECU that is only good for a few laps. If you want to use it, you've got to use it for the whole race.

Q: There has been criticism from some teams for the blown diffuser change. In particular HRT, Geoff Willis was saying today that his team has spent money and resource, time and effort brining in what they had for Canada and now they are having to change. What do you say to those teams?

A: We haven't made any changes to the rules, all we are doing is stopping people breaking the rules. I'm a little mystified by what you say Geoff has said because that's not my understanding of HRT's position. We had a very meaningful discussion in the Technical Working Group (TWG) the other day and Geoff didn't raise any objections. In essence, there is nothing to prevent HRT or any other team from exploiting the use of their exhaust gases, provided that those gases are there for the genuine reasons of engine combustion, whereas a lot of the mapping that is being done is being done for purely aerodynamic reasons. That's the bit that we think is wrong. They can still exploit gases, which is what HRT were going to do in Spain, I think, but when we issued our first note just before Spain, HRT put their development on hold. Then we postponed it in light of all the questions that emerged, but we never said that we weren't going to do it. We just wanted to give teams the time to discuss it with us in the TWG, which we duly did. We've changed a few things, tried to make it a little softer, but it hasn't deviated at all from the fundamental principle.

Q: Why now?

A: Because it's illegal.

Q: So why not punish the teams that have been using it?

A: Because we say that it's 'arguably' illegal. The FIA technical department can only give an opinion. The stewards are the ones that decide whether or not the opinion of the technical department is correct. Nobody has yet challenged our opinion on this one. I think they are all happy to remove the extreme maps from their ECUs but it's just a matter of timing and what they do without affecting any perfectly legitimate routines ands systems.

Q: But isn't there the risk, if Vettel doesn't have any more poles, that people say that you've interfered with their dominance?

A: If that's what people want to say they are perfectly at liberty to say it. All we are doing is making sure that everyone is running how we think a car should be running legally. It's not for us to say whether a certain team would be more penalised than others. It just depends how extreme they are going. But I've certainly seen evidence of maps on a number of teams that are extremely extreme, and it's not limited to one team, I can assure you.

Q: Did any teams show you their intentions before the season started?

A: No. We know that exhaust gases have an influence on the aerodynamic performance of the car and we accept that, but the point is that the design should minimise the effect that the exhaust has on the car, it shouldn't attempt to use the exhaust for a completely different reason. It's a bit like the mass damper (in 2006), for example. It's use, when it was first introduced, was fairly benign when it came to aerodynamics, but the more it got developed the more extreme the designs were. There were four, five, six mass dampers on the car clearly being used for aerodynamic reasons. These things escalate, as we know, to the point where something has to be done. The mass damper was a perfect example.

Q: What can they do now, off the throttle? Ten per cent throttle opening has been mentioned, but 10% of what? And can they still change the ignition when they are off throttle?

A: There are a few elements that we haven't yet finalised. We had meetings last night with a couple of engine manufacturers and as I said, we only want to target this illegal use of maps for aero reasons. We don't want to influence legitimate systems on the car, like engine braking for example. What we are trying to do at the moment is that if the driver comes off the throttle, zero pedal, the throttles have got to be 10% open at 12000rpm and 20% open at 18000rpm. Now, one engine manufacturer is asking for a little bit more, for what appear to be genuine reasons. We have the ability to go back to 2009 and look at the maps then and if we see that, oh yes, they needed 28% throttle in order to achieve zero Newton Metres (torque) at 18000rpm, it's perfectly legitimate because they don't have the exhausts in the places they are now. That would therefore appear to be a perfectly reasonable request and is the sort of thing that has taken time for us to go through.

Similarly, we will look at any extreme use of ignition. If you want a torque demand we will know what a team used to do in terms of fueling and ignition. If we see a clear imbalance then we will suspect it has been done for different reasons. It's such a complicated subject but we have a lot of resource being put into this and I think we'll get there in the end.

Q: In your opinion, can we expect a big difference in car performance in qualifying and then the race compared to the previous races?

A: I think it's impossible for us to quantify it but I've heard during discussions that the most extreme maps may give you half a second a lap but that will vary from car to car and may not even be accurate. But it's not something we concern ourselves with.

Q: You brought up the example of the mass damper. Everyone knows which team (Ferrari - ed) made pressure to stop it. Is it the same team stopping this system because they are not able to build a winning car?

A: No, I don't think so. Because everybody is doing this to some extent. Obviously some are doing it more extremely than others and you could even say that some are doing it better than others. But everyone is doing it to some degree. There are real extremes out there but I'm not at liberty to say how extreme.

Q: But was it one team making pressure?

A: One team wrote to me asking if they could do a certain thing.

Q: But was it the same team as the mass damper?

A: No.

Q: You say you will look at historic data. If some manufacturers asked for more throttle opening or later ignition and, say, Renault can prove that they did it with 25% throttle opening, that's okay, but if Ferrari used only 15% two years ago, then do they have to use that?

A: A lot depends on engine architecture. We have to be very careful not to disadvantage, for example, users of barrel throttles versus butterfly throttles, because they have a distinctly different way of working. Those are the sorts of things that we have to be careful about. In answer to the question, yes. If it's quite clear that in 2009 one engine with a butterfly throttle only needed 15% opening but the same engine with a barrel throttle needed 20%, then we could make a distinction, because we don't want an across the board figure that will affect one team more than another.

Q: Are you aware that a decision like this can damage the image of F1 and make many people believe that it is more a political than a technical decision?

A: I'm aware of stories that have been written but, to be frank, I know it's not a political one, it's a purely technical intervention from our side and I feel perfectly comfortable with that.

Q: We've seen things like the F-duct and even the double diffuser stopped, but at the end of the season. Would that have been simpler?

A: No. They were completely different. The double diffuser and the F-duct were legal but during the course of the season the teams got together with us and decided they weren't needed in F1 and so we wrote rules that outlawed them. At the time though, they complied with the rules, which is why they were allowed to stay to the end of the season.

Q: Why did you ban the exhaust blowing completely because there was talk that maybe you would allow the cold blowing, which doesn't burn extra fuel and which some people claim to need to cool temperatures in the combustion chamber?

A: This goes back to being able to analyse historical data. If, for example, a team asks for 100% throttle on the over-run when the driver is off the pedal, we would have to look back and see when they had conventional exhaust exits in 2009. Were they using 100% throttle then? If not, it's very hard to argue because the engines haven't changed. They are homologated engines and identical to the ones used in 2007 onwards.

Q: Could we assume that both changes could be to give a bit more interest to the championship because they are two areas where Red Bull is more dominant?

A: I don't think you, or I, have any way of knowing that is the area Red Bull is dominant in, first of all. And secondly, my answer to an earlier question was that this is a purely technical issue as far as we are concerned and any effects it has are purely incidental to that of ensuring that the rules are followed.

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