Red Bull welcome plan to ban engine ‘quali modes’

2020 Spanish Grand Prix

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Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has welcomed the FIA’s plan to ban high-performance engine ‘qualifying modes’, comparing it to restrictions on exhaust-blowing.

His team mastered the technique of using exhaust gases to enhance the power of the car’s diffuser in the early 2010s. This was achieved using special engine maps which allowed them to alter the flow through the exhausts, a technique which was subsequently banned.

The FIA told teams earlier this week it intends to outlaw the use of ‘qualifying modes’, which increase engine performance on-demand, by introducing a technical directive preventing them from changing modes between qualifying and the race.

“We were encouraged with the engine TD that they’re talking about,” said Horner. “That could close up the racing.”

Horner has previously drawn attention to the scale of advantage Mercedes enjoy in qualifying. Prior to the last race he described the team’s qualifying pace as “awesome” and they were “looking to understand where that performance is coming from”.

Speaking yesterday, Horner said the ‘quali mode’ ban will have implications throughout the field. “It’ll affect all teams,” he said. “The question is how much?

“These qualifying modes have been pushed and developed over the years. I think it’s something that with exhaust-blowing, for example, we had to run a standard map throughout the weekend. This is just adopting a similar methodology to that, which I think is a sensible for Formula 1.”

The ban will spare manufacturers significant expense, Horner added. “There’s inevitably enormous costs associated with developing these different modes,” he said. “And I think that actually it’s a healthy thing for the manufacturers and I think anything that creates better and closer racing is positive for Formula 1.”

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen, who has previously said it would be “unfair” to ban ‘quali modes’, said the planned change would be consistent with other rules.

“In a way maybe it’s good because we are not really allowed to touch the car after qualifying except those kind of things with engine modes,” he said. “So probably if you want to go down that route anyway by not touching the car I think it’s good that you get rid of that of that as well.”

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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...
Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...

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44 comments on “Red Bull welcome plan to ban engine ‘quali modes’”

  1. Okay, what was ‘engine TD’ Horner referring here?

  2. I have to say I don’t really understand what is being proposed. Are they proposing banning all changes to engine parameters or just saying that the same sets of parameters must be installed in the car during qualifying and the race? If the latter, what’s to stop having qualifying modes in the car the whole time but just not using them in the race.

    Not so long ago the F1 social media accounts were promoting a stellar final lap from Lando where he was given power mode selections to use in every corner to close up to a penalised Hamilton. It was an exciting lap, and an interesting insight into the technical toys the teams have to play with.

    To me this seems to have come out of nowhere and be “fixing” a problem that precisely zero people were complaining about. A cynic might think it’s some random idea that’s been floated to give people something else to talk about than brake ducts….

    1. …and be “fixing” a problem that precisely zero people were complaining about.

      Oh there were a number of people complaining about it. They all tend to be for certain drivers/teams.

  3. My issue with this is that it feels like another punishment for innovation – if it gives someone an advantage, ban it.

    Is it likely to be along the lines of a standard map for all cars (spec series anyone), or are they going to mandate only one or two mappings for an engine (I am thinking one wet, one dry).

    So many road cars have multiple selectable engine maps that there is no way on earth they can use the road relevance argument to limit this, so it is purely an artificial limit on teams that are good at development.

    1. So we just let Mercedes run away and slowly kill the sport?

      Its part of f1 to ban things that give an advantage, read your history on F1. F1 is a FORMULA, the formula is adjusted to improve the competition. At some point those who like to say ‘its about innovation, technology’ will understand, its more about a formula to engender close racing. Because that’s what people who watch and participate enjoy.

    2. I have no problem with this TD. What I have a problem with is potentially introducing it mid season with 2 weeks notice! Most engine manufacturers will have based their technical upgrades, budgets and tactics on a set of regulations laid out at the start of the season. Barring any breach of technical regs or a benefit to safety procedures then they should be able to finish that season under those regs.
      I’m obviously wrong but I thought mid season rule changes needed approval from all teams? (Except if technical regs are being broken)
      To introduce this nonsense in the way that is being proposed is beyond ridiculous. Ban it but ban it at the beginning of a season!

    3. Mercedes have proven they are the master of current engine tech, and have been well rewarded over their many championships.

      DAS is currently allowed for this season. Exhaust blowing was, too. It’s not like we didn’t get to see the results of innovation. And then we need move on to something else to innovate.

      I’d love for every car to have crazy tech, but we haven’t seen it happen very often, and the feedback loop of Mercedes financial reward has translated into poorer competition.

  4. The only PU advantage Merc enjoy over RB and the rest of the field is that they have designed and built a better unit. The ‘party mode’ can not deliver more performance than is available, it’s not cheating it’s not a loop hole, it’s better engineering. Anyway it’s done now but I wonder what Liberty/FIA will do if they don’t get the desired result and RB,Ferrari and who ever else continue to complain.

    1. Good luck with trying to be an island of reason in a sea of discord.

      I guess the next thing if their plans don’t work to ban the use of any engines from Brixworth.

      1. Then Mercedes will just set up a Tesla Tent in Spratton, Holcot or Lamport and assemble them there!

  5. Odd analogy. But MILK.
    Old style milk. Cream on top.
    New homogonised Milk. No Cream.
    F1 is the pinnacle of motor sport.
    FIA? Homogonised F1.
    HELLO FIA? This isn’t a single make formula.

  6. This is a ban on one shade of grey, but a nearly identical shade of grey is permitted. What if a driver’s steering wheel doesn’t have a knob with “Qualifying Mode” and “Racing Mode” options on it? What then? I suppose it means the driver never used Qualifying mode during Qualifying. And who says a knob with the words Qualifying and Racing on it are engine modes? It could be “Qualifying mode” and “Race mode” refer to settings for the car’s suspension system or the brake bias. Or say a driver is seen to have the knob turned to “Racing Mode” in Qualifying and then switches it to “Qualifying Mode” during a race … is that cheating? No, it means the driver never used Qualifying Mode during Qualifying.
    There’s so many instances of actions that look suspiciously like breaking the rules without breaking the rules in F1 that one has to wonder why the FIA wants to go down this path. One example that comes to mind is the “Multi-21” incident which happened when teams weren’t allowed to give their drivers team orders.
    This can only end in F1 or the FIA or both being laughed at (and some driver at the back of the grid having well deserved points being deducted). The FIA need to be more precise in how they define a Qualifying mode and a Racing mode, and “No!”, turning a knob, uncalibrated by the FIA, from one setting to another isn’t what I’d call a precision adjustment.

  7. Ridiculous BS from Horner, Qmode is the natural maximum output of the engine, all other modes merely limit the power delivery so I suppose now it will be up to the driver to depress the pedal a little slower and not all the way.
    6 speed manual gearboxes next!?

    1. I’m sure Horner thought it was BS when RB (and everyone else) were banned from using multiple modes/maps way back. RB and Renault were very good at it. Just like MB are now.
      Not directed at you HoHum > but I wonder how many people would be against the rule change if Lewis drove for a team other than MB and without a MB engine. I dare say the rule would get great support from the punters.

      1. Maybe those who support this don’t mind the same 3 drivers finishing in the top three.They just want their boy to be given an extra helping hand?
        You shouldn’t assume; as I could assume about you from your post, that peoples opinions are driven by who they support.
        I think this rule may send the Williams to the back of the grid, take away any chance of a RP ever getting close to Max, negate Max in his defensive skills when dealing with a faster Merc behind him, and end Lando’s last 5 lap charges. I think that’s bad for the sport.

        1. I think your tone is more aggressive than needed, but I agree with most of what you predicted.

          Also, Red Bull weren’t caught by these changes either (which makes Horner feel a bit “but we were not allowed either Mom”) , that only happened when they and Renault underestimated the 2014 rules that gave us Merc. hegemony

      2. Glennb, what they were banned from doing was from plugging a laptop into the computer to load an engine map at the start of qualifying, then plugging that same laptop into the car at the end of qualifying to change the engine map to the one that they would use in the race instead – since, by doing so, it made it significantly harder to monitor exactly what engine maps Red Bull were using in qualifying.

        However, Charlie Whiting confirmed that Red Bull could use those engine maps so long as they were already loaded into the ECU of the car and it was the driver who was responsible for changing the engine map – since, that way, the FIA could then scrutinise the software on the car in parc ferme.

    1. Just to add, blown diffusers were banned because moving parts (the engine) we’re changing the aerodynamics of the car.

    2. c’mon man, realistically what would you expect him to say? Would you expect him to say that this isn’t exactly fair, that Mercedes done a better job and they should be allowed to dominate until 2023? He clearly can not say that, F1 is too big and corporate nowadays for complete honesty and fair-game…

      Plus, Horner knows that in order for the TD to be pushed so quickly, FIA needs backing (behind closed doors as well as in public) from teams like RBR, Ferrari or McLaren. That’s why he says what he says, nothing is said at face value anymore.

  8. I expect all teams to stop using engine quali-modes, and to start using engine race-modes, which limit the maximum amount of engine power available at full throttle. An alternative to the software mapping is a driver-activated physical device which constrains how far the peddle can go.
    The knock-on effect of this will be that the current engine quali-modes will be available to the driver in the race.

  9. The burning of extra fuel while the Renault engine was idling to generate more hot gas flow was wasteful and useless technology that was only going to work with that car. If you had put the Renault engine in the GP2 car, they would have turned off that fuel burn mode because it would have been of no benefit because the gas flow was for the specific aerodynamic configuration of the Redbull.
    Mercedes are running their engines at full speed for full power and that will work with every vehicle you put it in, be it a boat, plane, train, bike or car where you need that extra performance.
    They are 2 completely different things.

    1. Actually, Renault perfected COLD blowing the exhaust gasses using open throttle blades during cornering WITHOUT injecting extra fuel. McLaren couldn’t replicate the levels of downforce as Red Bull and were using HOT blowing (extra fuel and retarded ignition timing) Renault’s version was clean and efficient. McLaren’s sounded like a raspberry.

      1. @drone Rather Mercedes could not, nor Ferrari, because Renault had been the only one using cold blowing before to cool the engine, “reliability” etc. so it was there to use, and that also made it harder to simply ban it.

      2. @drone they used a mixture of both – they initially used cold blowing, but then later adapted to use cold blowing as well (Renault confirmed it when they complained that the use of their hot blowing mode had sent fuel use up by 10%).

  10. What a hypocrite!

    Mr.Loudmouth, the ban will hurt your team hard. You won’t get what you expect to get.

    You will see.

    1. The man is a weapon of epic proportions!

  11. People complain about Mercedes dominance and compare f1s lack of racing at the front to wecs and indycars comparatively excellent racing , fia bans qualifying modes to create better racing at the front. People complain about innovation being stifled. They say f1 should be the pinnacle of motorsport and innovation, then complain that it is going more towards a spec series… news flash, Indy car is a spec series and wec has massive bop handicaps. Make your mind up what you want folks

    1. It isnt going to create better racing. Mercedes are still going to be miles ahead of redbull. Look at practice yesterday nearly a second faster and they were not using qualifying modes.

  12. Are there any details yet on how exactly this will be implemented? Are they banning all alternative engine modes so that teams will only have one mode available for the full weekend? Or is there something specific that defines a ‘qualifying’ engine mode that can be banned while allowing the driver to use alternative modes throughout the race? I hope it’s the latter.

    If they ban all different engine modes for the race too, then I think this could have a negative effect on the racing, because different engine modes are also a performance differentiator, much like different tyre compounds at different stages of their life. Drivers won’t always be using maximum modes at the same time, sometimes their battery will be drained and they’d have to recharge, leaving them vulnerable to attack.

    Remember how Verstappen blasted past Hamilton in Brazil after losing the place through the pit stops? Supposedly that was because Hamilton was out of battery power, meaning Verstappen had a big speed advantage on the home straight. If everyone is using a balanced engine mode all the time, then they won’t have the opportunity to use all their battery power at one time, everyone will be at the same utilisation of their power unit at all times throughout the race. I know it’s hard for the viewer to see what’s going on, but I imagine the drivers are constantly managing their battery levels and power output in a tactical way to defend and attack at the right moments, and I feel like it would be a shame if that aspect was taken away for the sake of temporarily reducing Mercedes’ qualifying advantage, which from what I’ve heard might not even be as effective as people hope.

    1. Indeed @keithedin, I also wonder about that

  13. Of course they do.

  14. There’s inevitably enormous costs associated with developing these different modes

    Very funny he brings the cost argument to the table while his team spends the whole budget on chassis alone ? This guy has a brilliant future in politics.

    1. Well that quote is also BS the different modes are only software adjustments to the basic PU program.

  15. Christian Horner is a deeply unlikeable character. Away from F1 he may be a fantastic bloke but from the little I see of him… he is just a weapon.

  16. Genuine question, was exhaust-blowing banned mid-season or was the ban part of the rule changes for a new season.

    I remember exhaust blowing and how Red Bull and Renault had mastered it and done the best job on the grid, but am not sure on the details and timing of the rules to ban it, I thought it was part of the changes for a new season not a mid-season rule change but I could be wrong.

    There are two separate issues I have with banning qualifying engine modes
    Firstly the issue of whether it should be banned in F1 at all, which I am against.
    Secondly the fact that the FIA intend to change the rules mid-season for non-safety reasons which I am strongly against.

    1. The exhaust blowing was banned mid season but it was banned because the fia believed it was being used as an aerodynamic device. Horner forgets to mention that bit of info….

    2. @pja It was banned for Silverstone 2011 but reinstated on a mix of disputes and reliability grounds.

  17. I’m not gonna lie I’m going to find it hilarious when Mercedes still qualify about seven tenths faster than redbull and pull out that lead during a race. I’m also gonna find it hilarious when during the Belgian gp the drivers are being told to begin lifting & coasting to save fuel and the fans who think this ban is a great idea suddenly realise how badly thought out this ban is.

  18. What a waste of time. Mercedes have had the best PU since the hybrid age began. Asking them, and let’s be honest, this IS just an anti-Mercedes manoeuvre, to re-badge an engine mode knob is not about to change that.

    F1 is amazing. It would be loads better if teams like Red Bull stopped throwing brick bats, and got on with trying to compete with the top team rather than bleating about ‘unfairness’ when nothing has changed, or been made ‘unfair’. Gotta feel for their sponsors.

    I have always had a lot of time for Christian and Red Bull. They were fun and dynamic. A breath of fresh air, once upon a time. Christian Horner has sadly become a bitter man it seems. I do wonder how much Dr Marko’s tampering in the team line up, undermining stability and CH’s leadership has to do with that.

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