Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Silverstone, 2020

Hamilton: ‘Quali mode’ ban “is obviously to slow us down but it won’t get the results they want”

2020 Spanish Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton believes a planned ban on engine ‘qualifying modes’ is targeted at Mercedes but doesn’t believe it will cause problems for the champions.

As RaceFans revealed yesterday, the FIA wrote to teams this week telling them it intends to introduce new rules requiring them to use the same power mode in qualifying and the race. It plans to introduce this rule in time for the next round of the championship at Spa-Francorchamps.

“It’s not a surprise, they’re always trying to slow us down,” said Hamilton. “But it doesn’t really change a huge amount for us so it’s not a problem.”

Mercedes’ rivals believe their engine ‘quali modes’ are a key part of their performance advantage. Asked whether he believes Mercedes have more to lose from the rules change than their rivals, Hamilton said: “No.”

“The guys at our team have just done such a good job with the engine,” he continued. “It’s obviously to slow us down but I don’t think it’s going to get the result that they want. But that’s totally fine if they do it.”

Hamilton’s team mate Valtteri Bottas said it was hard to quantify how much rival teams might be gaining from such modes.

Why the FIA told teams it will ban ‘quali modes’ after this weekend’s race
“It’s impossible to know with other engine manufacturers how much they can actually gain when they put it all out in qualifying and if we’re actually gaining more or not,” he said. “We are not panicking about it. If the regulation comes then it’s same for everyone.”

Bottas suspects a ban could make it more difficult for drivers to overtake during races.

“Every team obviously has different modes, how much they’re going to risk in terms of wearing the engine and sometimes when they can – and also same for us – save the engine,” he explained. “And also in terms of strategic things in the race for drivers, many times we’re using different kinds of modes whether we are defending or attacking.

“So from my side it feels like if it would be same engine mode for everyone all through the race, there will be less overtaking because everyone’s just running the same modes instead of playing with them and trying to maximise the situation, sometimes using more power, sometimes less.

“In the end it will be less things for us to do in our driving. Obviously it’s not up to us but we’ll just take it as it comes.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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77 comments on “Hamilton: ‘Quali mode’ ban “is obviously to slow us down but it won’t get the results they want””

  1. Exactly!

    Ferrari may be downplaying this, but Renault and Honda will be hit hard, and they will be the first to feel it.


    1. This change is apparently coming because the salty clowns Ferrari advised FIA to do it.

      1. Maybe Ferrari are the only one now operating the engine within the rules (as part of the secret agreement)?
        Last years Ferrari engine was very fast in qualifying and everybody ‘knew’ they were cheating. This years Mercedes raised performance more than any other year since 2014, is 40hp up to others in quali, quite coincidentally, they are smoking like in the first years of this turbo era. Maybe, just maybe it’s the FiA recognizing all are operating somewhere in the grey area of the rules and they want to end it?

  2. Should make it easier for Hamilton in particular coming through the pack as its taken away some of the tools that drivers of the slower cars have in their armoury to defend. May even give us some extra overtakes from Bottas as Max/RB seem particular adept at tactical defending against faster cars.

    1. Unless something goes awry during qualifying, it’s going to be rare position where Hamilton needs to come through the field. (In that case, bring it on!)

      I just read an article from 2015 – and another from 2017 – about banning qualifying modes. This has been simmering for years.

  3. Hiland (@flyingferrarim)
    13th August 2020, 16:56

    Mostly agree with Hamilton’s response! Again, we need a definition of what they mean by “Mode”. Fuel mixture can still be utilized as well as ERS, so I disagree with his response to less overtaking. Not to mention the added bonus of DRS (which I’m not a fan off).

  4. It’s not new, but it’s a frustration with F1. A team develops an advantage under a set of rules, so the rules much change to take that advantage away (especially if the competition can’t catch up).
    I don’t know how engineers and teams function with constantly-moving goal posts. Imagine playing soccer and from game to game, the field size changes, the goal size changes, the # of players on the field changes, the size/pressure/materials of the ball change, what body parts you can use to touch the ball change… it would be impossible to watch, understand (from the fans’ perspective) and prepare/play (from the teams’ perspective)

    1. I get your point but that’s just how F1 works isn’t it? The rules regularly change and the teams have to adapt to it. It’s been like that for as long as I’ve been following F1.

      1. That is why it is called “Formula” 1. The formula keeps changing and adapting the teams must do the same.

      2. @petebaldwin I’m not sure how much the annoyance is with the rule being changed or the fact that it is completely out-the-blue mid-season. I am personally in the latter camp since PU manufacturers would have spent their money as optimally as possible based on the original regulations. You will always much more likely to get investment in stable regulatory environments rather than an ecosystem where change is the norm.

        You are right that F1 bans stuff all the time but it tends to be between seasons (unless safety related) rather than just imposed with minimal warning. I don’t remember F-ducts or double diffusers being unilaterally banned mid-season as examples (could be wrong though).

        With the proposed new governance, I think the FIA will have more freedom to do mis-season technical directives with greater scope. This will discourage innovation since people won’t spend money on something that will be banned after one race even if it is a second a lap faster.

        1. @chimaera2003 – Yeah totally agree about the mid-season thing. Unless someone has found a loophole around one of the rules or there is a major safety issue, rules shouldn’t be changed mid-season.

    2. I don’t mind them doing it but doing it in the middle of the season with 2 weeks notice doesn’t seem in keeping with the spirit of competition. I just seems like they throwing anything at the wall to see what sticks. Pretty desperate TBH

    3. @fabadabean
      We ain’t watching football; we’re watching a sport where the size of the pitch, the goal, the number of players, the referees and whatnot have been changing since forever. Extremely easy to understand.

      1. Not at half-time because one team is 2-0 up.

        1. Great comment, JC!

      2. JC fully agreed. Change rules between seasons, not during a time-out

    4. Also, from all the write ups about it, it seems the FIA are saying they feel they can’t confirm that Teams are playing by the rules as these modes make it difficult/impossible to monitor and thus open opportunity for cheating, so they are attempting to bring in some ability to ensure the playing field is equal and within the rules…

  5. Compensation for the thin threaded tires and (utterly useless) front wing change aimed at aiding Mercedes.

    1. You mean the tires that were adjusted by 0.4 mm and also benefited Ferrari?

      1. It only appeared at first to have benefited Ferrari but when all was said and done Mercedes was the team who stood to benefit the most and they did along with as mentioned “utterly useless” change to the front wing regulations (in that it never made the cars substantially slower while costing many millions to re-develop the cars to) that were there specifically coordinated to aid Merca aging front wing designs which while Brawn has come up with originally and copied by other teams had fallen substantially behind RBR and Ferrari’s levels by early 2018.

        1. The teams with the fastest cars stand to lose the most from regulation changes. I can’t see how the front wing changes were more likely to disadvantage Mercedes. They pioneered a few concepts on the front wing that were copied by their main rivals. Suggesting that the changes were designed to aid Mercedes is pure fallacy

          1. ” I can’t see how the front wing changes were more likely to disadvantage Mercedes. ”
            High rake cars are far more dependend on the front wing than low rake cars. At the time of the introduction only Mercedes ran a low rake car, so denying it would benefit Mercedes the most is a fallacy.

          2. Oconomo, firstly, the claim that high rake cars are more dependent on the front wing is disputed – there are those who argue that they are more dependent on the leading edge of the floor rather than on the front wing endplates.

            Secondly, Mercedes was not the only one who ran a low rake car in 2019 – Mercedes was estimated to be running with about 1.5 degrees of rake in 2019, which was the same as Sauber and only 0.1 degrees less than Ferrari and Haas were also using (both estimated to be about 1.6 degrees), whilst McLaren was not far off at an estimated rake of 1.7 degrees. You seem to be talking about a very binary split, but in reality we’re talking about grades of rake and in reality Mercedes was not the sort of extreme outlier you are trying to claim it was.

        2. “It only appeared at first to have benefited Ferrari”

          It actually wasn’t ‘at first..’ It was only later in the season when Ferrari did an in-season test that they back to backed the old tire vs the new one an Vettel confirmed the new one was better for them, the old one was blistering as much as the Merc.

          1. “You mean the tires that were adjusted by 0.4 mm and also benefited Ferrari?”
            You mean those tires that more heat resistant and harder to blister? Something the Mercedes has been suffering from since 2010?
            Yeah, those tires.

  6. Ever hear of restricter plates?

    1. GtisBetter (@)
      13th August 2020, 17:25

      I don’t think they are used much anymore.

      1. Restricter plates or intake limiters are generally only effective with naturally aspirated engines. Turbos are generally “restricted” with boost limiters or Blow-Off valves.
        If I recall, the older formula 3 cars had a single orifice type restricter installed.

  7. David Donaldson
    13th August 2020, 17:04

    Will that mean no more “overtake” button (as I expect its the same sort of thing?)

  8. Dear Williams and Russell. Thanks for all your hard work and fight you put up to get into Q2 occasionally and mix it with a few in front during the race. Now get back to the rear of the grid where you belong.

    1. Williams at times was even racing the Ferrari teams Haas and Alfa Romeo. Can’t have that now, can we?

  9. When this rule comes in and both Mercedes qualify in 1/2 and finish there by pretty much the same margins they have now we’ll literally never hear the end of it.

    1. @rocketpanda there will just be accusations that they’re somehow cheating instead.

    2. It’s OK – sprinklers are on their way.
      Let’s first try to equalise everything and then throw in some random Mario Kart bits.
      Soon to be added, Fan Boost and Activation Zones

      Can’t wait to see how much more they can add/subtract between now and the end 2020.

      1. @dbradock They won’t install sprinklers. Hamilton’s too good in the wet.

  10. Rules, rules, rules, rules!

    The FIA seem intent on stopping innovation and penalising the successful to create a racing series of the also rans, a field of second raters who need nanny to stop the nasty big boys winning.

    1. Hiland (@flyingferrarim)
      13th August 2020, 18:42

      Witan, I think you miss the point of rule changes. For me, qually-mode provides very little value to racing on race day! It may put some guys further up or back on the starting grid than they otherwise would be. My gripe is that qually-mode, unlike DRS, is not used in every session throughout a weekend and does not reflect their “true” race pace as it is manufactured speed for 1 lap in a weekend (maybe 2 laps). Same reason I don’t like DRS being used, but that at least adds value to the racing, even though, I don’t like the method in the effort of promoting passing. You need to look at rule changes or resets differently than in most mainstream sports. When something is taken away, teams will look else where to exploit and innovate! Innovation just doesn’t stop you know. Not to mention, there probably isn’t much innovation left for this idea anyways as there is a limit to every technology. Keep in mind, that its the sum of the various designs working together and not anyone single technology. These changes are not likely to impact the results too much other than that Mercedes will not qualify a full second ahead of the next team (probably just 4 tenths ahead).

      Changing of rules (rules reset) is part of the F1 DNA since the beginning and forces teams to adapt. If anything, it can promote more innovation, especially in area’s that teams otherwise would have not even bothered looking at before! If you want to challenge teams, this is the best way of doing that! F1 is about “racing” first, fairness second, and innovation there after. So you have to ask, what is best for the “racing” as a series? Not what helps this team or the other team.

  11. The FIA has been changing rules to try to even out the field for as long as I can remember. what’s new…?

  12. Lewis when he wins dominantly: I want competition.

    Lewis when FIA tries to enforce a level playing field: They are trying to bog us down.

    1. @knightameer So you’re saying he’s wrong?

      There is the kind of competition with others teams upping their game, and there is the kind of competition where mom come and tell the kid with the strong leg not ro

      1. (whoops, hit the post button too soon)

        … Not to kick so hard.

        Which kind of competition is real competition?

        1. This has always been the case in F1. One team aces the regulations. Others simply can’t keep up. FIA steps up and try to penalize the leaders. Has happened with Williams, Ferrari, RBR in the past. And I believe it will continue to happen.

          1. Which is what Ham said. And also it’s not a problem so it’s fine with him. But what he said seems to be a problem for you?

          2. @knightameer Exactly as @riptide says. Hamilton said it was to penalize Mercedes for being too far ahead and you agree. He added that he doesn’t care, though, they’re up for the challenge. So where on earth do you disagree with him?

  13. Just copy the “Success Handicap System” from WEC!

  14. ‘They are always trying to slow us down’. Is he kidding!? 😂

    1. Seriously if you haven’t seen that then maybe you should look harder. Look how many aero changes the fia have forced through since 2014 or how many things they have banned regarding the engine and every time its had no effect to Mercedes

      1. The only time they gave a shot at slowing Merc down was with 2017 aero regs and it did succeed in bringing the top three teams much closer together. Then with 2018 decision to change the front wings they amended the mistake and helped Mercedes yet again.

        1. Ahem, you seem to have missed mentioning the banning of FRIC and various attempts at suppressing oil burning, which with the 2017 aero changes and 2019 front wing changes were hoped to make things closer

          1. FRIC suspension is very much there for aerodynamic reasons so it was outside the regulations to begin with just because someone turned a blind eye to it doesn’t mean it was “legal”. Had Ferrari have done that British media and fans would be crying bloody murder to get rid of it and accusing FIA of favoritism as usual. As for oil burning if you go back over the history it is easy to see that before Ferrari was found to be using the oil burning “loop hole” and exploiting it to a greater advantage than Mercedes and before Toto started badgering FIA about it the governing body never once did anything to restrict it. Only when Mercedes wasn’t benefiting from it as much as Ferrari was did they move to limit the thing. Even then there were curious instances when Mercedes would move to introduce a new engine earlier than the teams had unofficially agreed to so that it would get a jump on reduced oil burn regulations that were being introduced since Monza. So for the rest of the season they had a 0.6 liter oil burning advantage over other teams.

  15. But how is the FIA going to police this? Do they have access to live telemetry data regarding power curves from the ECU?

  16. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    13th August 2020, 19:06

    My feeling is that based on the reliability we’ve seen over the past season, I think Mercedes are running their engine in reliability mode. They are probably only firing it up in race mode for qualifying, the so-called party mode. Essentially, Mercedes can choose any point in-between race and reliability mode.

    Both modes are faster than Red Bull by 0.4 to 1.0 seconds so Red Bull will find the gap in the quali staying almost the same as they lose their own quali mode and the gap in races extending further since Mercedes will be running a faster mode.

    1. @freelittlebirds That was my suspicion too, it could well backfire for other teams.

  17. I actually Lewis might be right. But if he’s not they probably still have enough to still be one and two. But then the Racing Points will be more marginal in Q3 and Russel will rediscover what being stuck in Q1 feels like. So Merc will probably fine but the other two cars have maybe more to lose.

  18. The only way they can police it, realistically, is to totally eliminate the driver having the capability to adjust or change the engine control modes. Mode 1.0 for qualifying, race, safety car, fuel saving … you name it.
    What I don’t understand … and yes, that includes many things, is where engine performance can be boosted through external controls.
    The fuel flow limit is hard and fast. There is no way around it and you can’t store measured fuel in high pressure lines or such. Ignition control is optimized under all load and speed conditions, hence nothing to gain there.
    If you have a fixed fuel amount, the only remaining useful variable would seem to be boost pressure and net compression ratio, hence higher thermal efficiency. C. Horner once referred to the Renault IC engine as a “diesel” which is likely close to the truth for the compression ratios they are running.
    The expectation is that if you run higher boost pressure and a suitable ignition map, can you squeeze a little more power out of the fixed amount of fuel. The down-side would be stress and heat load on the engine.
    Question then for those “in the know”, just what is being controlled or changed in the Quali-Mode or Party-Mode mapping that gets more power out of the fixed and limited fuel flow rate.?

  19. Should have banned it for next season. Engine modes if anything helps overtaking and the show. With these modes we had Stroll and Hulk qualifying near the front. When Lewis tire failed at Silverstone, Max was given maximum Engine mode to attack and he almost pulled it off. Lando was given maximum engine modes and pulled of many last lap overtakes in the previous few races.
    Just because Mercedes have done a better job than Redbull and Ferrari this season with their engine modes, FIA decided to ban it after just 5 races.

    1. Yes… @amg44, just another Liberty/FIA show spicer because entertainment trumps sport in their ghost racing paradigm.

  20. Next year 4 teams will be powered by Mercedes engines, so 8 cars on the grid will have a Mercedes engine. Q3 only involves 10 cars. Will the FIA be happy if every Q3 session has 8 Mercedes powered cars in it? I guess they will be happy.
    I’m not sure how you can define what a Qualifying mode is. Presumably the FIA will have a way of doing the equivalent of holding an engine running at 11,000 rpm while travelling at 300 km/h up against a tape measure and looking to see if it’s 1 mm too long, in real time, so they can wave the Black and White Flag at a driver who’s using a Qualifying Mode. If you consider the issue of brake ducts, which to me is a black and white issue but apparently isn’t when it gets to the Stewards, then how are the Stewards supposed to know with black and white certainty what mode on a steering wheel is for what? For example, say these modes were shades of grey then who determines what shade of grey is Qualifying Grey? So then is a team cheating if they are using a mode that is one step darker or lighter than Qualifying Grey? Is a team cheating if the engine software uses Qualifying Grey 49% of the time and Racing Grey 51% of the time?

  21. The FIA has to do something otherwise Boy Wonder will not fulfill his destiny and the Force will not be united…

  22. Red Bull bas different tire pressures.
    Ferrari has rocket fuel.
    They are changing the rules to slow us down.

    The guy literally never stops thinking that it is all about how others are cheating or trying to keep him from winning.

    1. @neiana Ferrari were cheating they got caught and got a sweetheart deal with the FIA. Or do you seriously think they decided to make their 2020 engine with 100bhp less power than 2019 because they thought that would make them more competitive

    2. Well I don’t know what you’re whining about @neiana since Ferrari were indeed caught cheating. Also the FIA have tried to slow Mercedes down on several occasions including when they banned the FRICC suspension.

      1. @blackmamba that is an assumption, rather than an actual statement by the FIA.

        Also, your assumption that I am whining opposed to providing a list of facts is very telling.

    3. Exactly. Hamilton is a two-faced narcissist. He’s all #blessed when he’s winning but turns into a passive-aggressive gaslighter when things don’t go his way.

    4. @neiana except that it was actually Red Bull who started the complaints about Ferrari’s fuel mixtures in 2019, with Horner and Marko complaining about it in pre-season testing and the early races of the 2019 season.

      If you really want to complain about teams whipping up complaints about Ferrari’s fuel mixtures in 2019, you should complain about Red Bull and about Marko and Horner starting the rumours with their insinuations about what Ferrari were doing.

  23. I agree. I don’t mind changing the rules but making major changes mid season isn’t fair to the sport.

  24. Random thought: just looking at that picture, that Merc would look really hot with some red details added to the livery

  25. I get the impression that the FIA don’t have the first clue how an ECU functions or its purpose.

  26. What else FIA can do to support Ferrari? Ban pit stops, because Ferrari are not the best at them!

  27. AJ (@asleepatthewheel)
    14th August 2020, 4:25

    So Ferrari doesn’t have a quali mode, and all teams don’t end up having one. MB should just wrap up their 8th at the end of next year and leave. F1 doesn’t deserve such excellence in engineering, the clowns at FIA can throw their gimmicky rules at RB from 2022 onwards.

    1. Indeed, they should just leave, that’d be great for competition.

  28. I think the argument is that they are in fact not changing the rules, they are enforcing existing rules by clarifying them.Also not out of the blue, these discussions have been on the F! table as far back as 2015, maybe earlier.

  29. Freeze development, limit components and testing, dictate tire allocations, tweak tire pressure, remove quali modes – all efforts to stifle innovation and for what – better show? At this rate F1 will become an off the book spec series.

  30. Of coarse Hamilton is going to complain, it is these Merc’ master pieces that have made him so dominant. He knows as well as everyone that he would have some serious competition if the machinery was closer to equal.

    That said, it is a shame that one manufacturers mastery gets curtailed like this, after all F1 is a constructors championship first and foremost.

  31. Lewis is right. There will be less fight in midfield race and Max wouldn’t have the button to pass Bottas anymore.

  32. Hamilton is two faced? Is that what you think? Or the mere fact is that Hamilton is about to equal Schumacher tally and of course surpasses it, so all of a sudden let change the rules just to slow him down, but guess what if he continues in the sport he will be on ten championships and there is nothing anyone can do about it.

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