Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya, 2020

F1 is “pulling back the leaders” with ban on engine ‘quali modes’ – Wolff

2020 Spanish Grand Prix

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Formula 1’s ban on engine ‘quali modes’ is being introduced to “pull back the leaders”, according to Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff.

The FIA intends to ban the high performance modes from the next race at Spa-Francorchamps by requiring teams to use the same mode in both qualifying and the race. As the ‘quali modes’ place greater strain on engines and increase fuel consumption, they are not suitable for constant use over a full race distance.

Mercedes’ rivals suspect they gain the most through the use of high-performance engine settings in qualifying. Wolff said the planned ban is an example of the sport seeking to rein in the advantage of a dominant team.

“It has always been the case in Formula 1 that pulling back the leaders, or what supposedly are the leaders, is something that is good for the sport,” he said.

Wolff expects Mercedes will respond to the rules change by unlocking more power from their engine in race trim.

“We see it very much as a challenge,” he said. “We have a good quali mode. We are able to give it a little bit more power in that last session.

“If that is not possible anymore, because everything needs to be smoothed out over the over the race, it’s not a deficit for us, but on the contrary we think we can translate that into more performance into the race. That is something which is a great challenge for us which we will take on once the rule is implemented.”

Wolff acknowledged the FIA had pointed to other reasons for the mid-season change in how the engine regulations are enforced.

“I think the primary goal of the FIA was to implement the rule to better understand and better analyse what is actually going on with the engines,” he said. “It’s a very complex method between the combustion engine and all the energy recovery systems and I think by having one mode it becomes more easy for the FIA to really see if everything is in compliance.”

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Keith Collantine
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46 comments on “F1 is “pulling back the leaders” with ban on engine ‘quali modes’ – Wolff”

    1. Good in which sense.
      Obviously not for the sport in general.
      This is how you reward innovation and technical advancement !!
      All this will do is appease those not doing so well and their followers.
      Take the competition out of the sport.

      1. Well they can still pulling back the steering wheel, right?

      2. Absolutely correct.

      3. Horner needs to stop his constant whinging, he didnt moan when Vettel was winning every race with their illegal flexible front wing and 😡😡

    2. Chris Phillips
      14th August 2020, 18:24

      Seems unfair to me. As much as I want closer racing, to make this change mid season is wrong.

    3. Yes, I’m glad Toto has worked that one out! Its pretty obvious.

  1. That is how it appears.
    They will impose an handicap system next.

  2. Mercedes is so competitive, that even if given three more years of the same formula, I’ve no real expectations of someone else winning the championship.

    Maybe Red Bull will win more races.

  3. I have no issue with them clipping Mercedes’ advantage, and to be fair I think it’s going to hurt their customers and other teams that relied on the occasional ‘power boost modes’ a little more. Shame though as anything that brings the Mercs back into range of… well everyone else can’t be a bad thing. But I don’t really think it’s going to change much.

    Personally I think this is less about slowing Mercedes down and more that the FIA have to concede these power units are so complex even they can’t efficiently regulate them.

    1. You are very naive.

      1. Aren’t you friendly, lol.

    2. @rocketpanda If it works to cut their advantage, and that’s a big if, especially in the actual races. I imagine they’re still far more worried about their tyre issues.

  4. Sure but mid season? Last race Merc weren’t fastest. If Max wins the WDC, wouldnt his win be cheapened because the rules decided to turn down the Merc car?

    Sure do this at the end of the season if you want. To do it now seems poor.

    1. It’s a bit of a joke to claim it’s anything other than clipping Mercs wings, isn’t it? To do this mid season, with 2 weeks notice is a freekin joke! As Lewis and Toto say though… it won’t have the desired effect. It will just make the other cars look silly in the race instead of Qualy.

    2. Don’t worry, this will not happen

    3. Agreed. Mid-season Mad Max Mosley -stuff. So unlike current F1.

  5. I suspect the bit

    “If that is not possible anymore, because everything needs to be smoothed out over the over the race, it’s not a deficit for us, but on the contrary we think we can translate that into more performance into the race.

    might indeed prove true, would not be the first time something suspected to reign in the top team backfires, it often happened with all the flex aero rulings against Red Bull too, from what I recall, simply because they knew best how to make that work for them.

  6. The hypocrisy! You’ve gotta laugh.

    1. Oops, wrong article. Ignore.

      1. Ferrari really are something else lol

  7. Exactly!
    As Toto said – everyone will be affected, but Mercedes will remain at the front and most probably even further away.

  8. I’ve heard 2 interesting things today.

    First that drivers are concerned that the change may make overtaking harder as the higher engine modes are often used by an attacking driver to have a go at overtaking a car ahead. And they are also used to help make a bit of extra time on in/out laps which can help either complete or defend against an undercut.

    Secondly there is a belief among some at other teams that while the change was likely done to hurt Mercedes, It may actually end up been a benefit to them as there power unit is just better overall. If they are stuck running 1 mode in qualifying & all race then Mercedes have the most efficient ‘race’ mode that gives them more performance while also using less fuel & a better energy regeneration rate. Other manufacturer’s tend to have to turn engines down more often & do more laps in the re-gen modes due to having less efficient power units.

    I did also hear the thought that as part of the FIA/Ferrari engine settlement from last year that Ferrari are now working closely with the FIA when it comes to the power units & that the idea that some of the modes could be deemed as a driver aid could have been something ‘suggested’ by Ferrari which the FIA didn’t necessarily buy but did see as an excuse to try & peg back Mercedes (Which even some rival teams/drivers see as been unfair).

    1. Here’s the thing about that. The higher engine modes weren’t used just for attacking, they would’ve been used for defending as well, so in essence, the playing field remains level. They still have the overtake button from ERS, for that matter.

      All engines will have more race pace now, even if the Merc is faster than the rest (it already is, after all), the Renault and Honda engines will also have an increase in race pace if they don’t have to use qualy mode and have to worry less about saving the engine for those modes. This isn’t exclusive to Merc either, given that the deficit in race pace is much smaller (at least between Max’s Red Bull and the Merc’s) then the difference in pace in qualifying, I wouldn’t be surprised if the expectation that Merc suddenly finds huge pace advantage in races would prove to be false.

      Even if it is, nothing has then changed from the current situation, so that’s fine. A rule is just a rule and they might as well give it a shot. They can always reverse it if it doesn’t work, but I expect it to at least help a bit in making qualifying more interesting.

      I don’t know if Merc has to turn their engine down less than others, but I’d be surprised if the difference was that huge, we haven’t seen that many technical issues between the different manufacturers and certainly no more Honda/Renault/Ferrari failures compared to Merc failures, all of them turn their engines down and up and down and up throughout the race. If they can only run one mode, and Merc can have a few more bhp than the rest, again, nothing really changes from the current situation.

      And that’s really the crux of it, worst case scenario here is “nothing changes”, and given that that just means Merc dominance, then whatever, give it a go.

      1. @aiii that isn’t how the races have played out though, as we have actually seen examples of drivers being able to get past their rivals because their rivals did turn the engine up earlier in the race, but then left themselves vulnerable at later stages of the race. Verstappen, for example, has been able to pull off some of his moves because the driver in front of him had depleted their battery by trying to defend against him on the previous lap, thus allowing him to then use a more aggressive engine mode himself on the following lap to then attack and pass that driver ahead.

        You also say that “They still have the overtake button from ERS, for that matter.”, but it’s not clear that they will actually be allowed to do that. Because the FIA has not defined what an engine mode is, there is no guarantee that they won’t classify using the ERS in that manner as a form of “engine mode” either.

        @gt-racer with the way that the FIA is handling this, the law of unintended consequences does seem rather likely to throw some unexpected developments up, and I would not be surprised if some of them end up backfiring against the FIA and the sport.

        1. You literally just said “because they depleted their battery” which isn’t impacted by engine modes at all. ERS isn’t an engine mode, the overtake button is battery deployment. It’s not going away.

          1. @aiii which is connected to the use of different energy recovery modes with the MGU-H, that are in turn impacted by the engine mode which is in operation – so yes, they are in fact connected.

            As an aside, you are also wrong about the overtake button being purely about ERS deployment – usually it is not just about manual ERS deployment, it is also linked to being able to temporarily manually trigger a higher engine operating mode as well.

      2. @aiii

        The higher engine modes weren’t used just for attacking, they would’ve been used for defending as well

        Yes & no.

        With them having a limited amount of energy use over a lap & with each manufacturer having different charge/discharge settings & requirements a driver can’t simply use the settings whenever they need it every lap & some require more ‘charge laps’ than others.

        And on top of that you also have a bit of strategy with these things where maybe the defending driver turns the engine up the defend in the DRS zones while the driver behind uses it elsewhere on the lap to try & surprise the car ahead with a move where one isn’t expected.

        Yes this change will be the same for everyone on paper, But it is going to hit each manufacturer differently & it is definitely going to leave drivers with less tools available for overtaking at a time when you could argue they need as many tools available as possible given how difficult overtaking can be.

  9. Yes (@come-on-kubica)
    14th August 2020, 19:16

    FIA used to do this to red bull all the time. About time they did it to the mercs.

  10. I’m surprised it’s taken so long to be honest. Anyone else remember mass dampers? Or the Michelin tread depth debacle? F1 loves a mid season rule change like this.

  11. Its a normal part of f1. To reign in on the front runner. However i think Toto was saying they will just shift the power gained or used in qualy to actual race pace. Which in turn will have an even less desired effect that the fia wish to have.

  12. I don’t believe anything this guy says. He may be right, but he may be wrong. Only one way to find out for sure.

    1. @AliceD: be careful what you wish for…
      If you’ve paid attention, you might have realised that any time a change is made, somehow the Mercs always seem to master it and get on top; with the restriction oil burn, people thought it’d affect the Mercs more but it didn’t, with the 2017 big aero/chassis change, the Mercs have mastered it, 2019 front wing change, again the Mercs have mastered it….!
      So yes, with this change, I’m pretty sure the Mercs will come out on top.
      Even with the big change coming in 2022, there’s no guarantee any other team will dethrone the Mercs, is there? In fact I have the feeling the Mercs will ace it and leave everybody in their wake!

  13. Long time LH fan – this is just F1 trying to balancing. Happens to all leaders.

    I think they will amend the rule to allow a couple of engine modes that are lower than the race/ quali mode. I am thinking a mode to save fuel or the engine for areo work.

  14. Normal for F1, rules are frequently revised to slow things down.

    I would fee more sympathy for Mercedes / Wolff if they showed some understanding of how boring it can be when we have known for the last 6 years that mercedes would Probably be on pole and win each race.

    I would feel more sympathy for Mercedes/Wolff if they put a decent driver up against Hamilton and we would then At least have Two possible winners.

    1. yeah but Mercedes & Wolff would have to be total fools to do either! just saying!

  15. I wonder what the FIA will do if perhaps Mercedes suddenly start going 2 seconds per lap faster than the next team cars and they are already waiting by the podium for over a minute while the others are still racing to see the flag.

    1. i laughed at this. haha

  16. The FIA penalises excellence to reward those without the talent, determination or dedication to keep up.

    What a future F1 has with that philosophy.

    1. The future prospects of F1 are very much aligned with the prospects of the civilization. Sanctioning technical excellence in the sport considered as pinnacle of the motorsport which is intrinsically technological activity is a path of gradual self destruction. It is very much alike governments swearing to support free market but at the same time using socialistic approaches to overcome crisis, or socialist countries exploiting capitalist methods. Same thing. Inconsistencies lead to chaos, chaos leads to destruction.

  17. “It has always been the case in Formula 1 that pulling back the leaders, or what supposedly are the leaders, is something that is good for the sport”

    Good save Toto. You almost finally admitted it…..

  18. The FIA is adopting the Tonya Harding approach to “leveling the playing field”.

    I think this will make Mercedes stronger in races.

  19. This decision is forced by the previous decision of banning testing and freezing engine technology.
    You can’t say: “design your own engine” and then force everyone to stick with what they have for several years.
    To level the field either FIA penalize the best engine or let room for the others to improve, otherwise we will have always the same winner.

    And when the formula changes (we don’t know when) the same will happen, someone will make the best, and will dominate for years if the others are forbidden to improve.

    The dominance of Mercedes in terms of difference to others is not unusual in F1, what is unusual is the duration in time, usually a team superiority like this took 2/3 years maximum, with Mercedes we are already in seven and counting.

  20. Whatever FIA throws at this team it is quite obvious they’re prepared to tackle the challenge. According to Toto’s words it seems they have already discussed it and plan to overcome it is already on the shelve, waiting to be used.

  21. FIA currently blundering about like a bull in a china shop.
    If their technical people can’t understand the complexities
    of the current F1 engines. Sack them.
    Over regulation has & will KILL F1.

  22. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    15th August 2020, 12:37

    If that is not possible anymore, because everything needs to be smoothed out over the over the race, it’s not a deficit for us, but on the contrary we think we can translate that into more performance into the race.

    First of all, it’s ridiculous to remove them. Second, they think it’s bad now, wait until Spa :-)

    We’ll have mandatory quali modes after Spa.

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