Analysis: Confusion over F1 exhaust blown diffuser regulations

Formula 1 has been thrown into confusion over the application of the ban on exhaust blown diffusers being implemented at the British GP.

Asked about the situation in Valencia, FIA technical delegate Charlie Whiting said: "What we are trying to do, is that if the driver comes off the throttle, zero pedal, the throttles have got to be (maximum) 10% open at 12000rpm and 20% open at 18000rpm. 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 (engine) 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."

At Silverstone, however, further technical directives were being issued in the middle of practice and it seems that throttles on some of the Renault-engined cars are 50% open and that the Mercedes engines are still fuelling on the over-run.

There was clearly tension in the air between respective Red Bull-Renault and McLaren-Mercedes team principals Christian Horner and Martin Whitmarsh.

"Off the throttle, Renault's are 50% open under braking and I think that's not what most of us expected coming into this event," said Whitmarsh. "We are trying to understand what we have to do. In fairness to Red Bull I think their view is that it's a reliability issue and they need to blow air through the engine for reliability reasons. I'm not familiar with that precedent but maybe Charlie maybe is.

"There have been six technical directives on the subject so far and when the goal posts are moving part way through a session, it makes it quite difficult. With the benefit of hindsight it would have been far better if these changes had been made at year-end."

Horner, however, countered that Mercedes being permitted to fire on the over-run was a bigger advantage.

"There have been a series of technical directives since Valencia," he said. "Mercedes argued that their over-running is permitted and that was granted. Obviously Renault presented their position to the FIA to demonstrate the precedent that for the purposes of throttle blip and reliability, cold air blowing was a necessary part of engine operation. It would be unfair to allow fired over-run and not things for other manufacturers. But, it's very difficult for the FIA to pick their way through it.

"A lot of focus has been placed on Red Bull but we don't have a silver bullet. We expect the FIA to regulate in a fair and proper manner and they have in this case. They have allowed Mercedes and Renault certain parameters based on historical data in what is a complex subject. All the engines are not the same, they operate in different ways and have different control codes."

Few can understand the need to open up such a regulatory can of worms mid season, but the justification was that with the FIA having expressed the opinion that exhaust blowing for clearly aerodynamic purposes was illegal, the race results were open to legitimate protest at any stage.

A team such as HRT, for example, may have lost out financially through the 107% qualifying rule through not being able to invest in a technology adjudged by the governing body to be in contravention of the regulations.

Team Lotus boss Tony Fernandes summed up the feeling of many when he said: "I can't understand a word of what is being talked about, so imagine what it's like for the people in the grandstands..."

Whitmarsh concluded: "What was reasonably clear on what was being exploited, has become a hell of a lot greyer and subject to negotiation."

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