Ban on ‘quali modes’ to be delayed until the Italian Grand Prix

2020 Italian Grand Prix

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New measures to ban F1 teams from using engine ‘quali modes’ will not come into force at the next round of the championship as planned, RaceFans has learned.

The FIA advised teams last week it would require them to use the same engine modes in qualifying and the race from next week’s Belgian Grand Prix. However that change is now understood to been delayed until the following round of the championship, the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, one week later.

The new restriction will be enforced through a technical directive. Delaying its introduction will ensure teams have the necessary time to complete engine dynamometer tests in preparation for the change.

The regulation change targets so-called ‘quali modes’, which allow teams to increase the performance of their power units for short periods of time. RaceFans understands the sport’s governing body has grown concerned these modes are increasingly used by teams to trade off reliability for performance.

Under F1’s rules performance upgrades are tightly restricted. However appendix four of the sporting regulations allows manufacturers to “apply to the FIA” to make alterations to their power units “for the [purpose] of reliability”.

The FIA suspects some reliability changes requested by teams have arisen because ‘quali modes’ were used to run engines beyond their normal parameters. The requests for reliability changes may therefore be an indirect means of unlocking more performance.

The sport’s governing body raised two other areas of concern regarding the use of ‘quali modes’ in its letter to teams last week.

The first is that the growing complexity of the modes has made it almost impossible to ensure that power units comply with the technical regulations. The sophisticated nature of the hardware and software being used by the teams, and the proliferation of modes being used, means significant amounts of data must be scrutinised to perform compliance checks.

The second concerns the regular changes to engine settings teams instruct their drivers to make over the radio. The FIA believes these changes have become vital to balancing the performance and reliability of the power units. As these changes are being instigated by the teams and, it believes, the drivers have little control over them, they could be considered a violation of article 27.1 of the Sporting Regulations, which states the drivers must drive “alone and unaided”.

At a Power Unit Working Group meeting held on Monday, two engine manufacturers are said by sources to have been unhappy about the changes. A further delay to the introduction of the ban, until later in the season or even next year, was also allegedly discussed.

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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...
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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72 comments on “Ban on ‘quali modes’ to be delayed until the Italian Grand Prix”

  1. I’m pretty ambivalent to the ban. However, I don’t like these mid season rule changes that just feel like a contrived attempt to pull back Mercedes mid season. I wish mid-season rule changes were limited purely to safety and clarifications.
    A ban between seasons is fine on the other hand.

    1. This has the feel of the FIA just cottoning-on to something or just having received information from someone in the know that leads them to think that the engine modes are being currently and actively exploited to make non-compliance undetectable. It could also have come from the extensive investigations into whatever that 2019 Ferrari PU was up to. If the FIA can’t monitor and effectively enforce compliance then it needs fixing as soon as possible because this is in the team’s best interests too. Of course, it avoids addressing the real elephant in the room which is that architecture of these PUs as a whole is (and has been from the start) too complex and not well enough understood by the FIA to effectively police. The teams are like schoolkids running rings around blindfolded teachers.

      1. Part of the FIA Ferrari deal is that Ferrari is going to help the FIA in policing the rules.

        Also, Marc Priestley stated yesterday, that Ferrari thinks, they are currently the only one running a legit engine.
        So, I wouldn’t be surprised that Ferrari is passing on every trick in the book, to rein in the other engines manufacturers.

        1. Set a thief to catch a thief

      2. I think you’re giving them way too much credit. To me it has the feel of a desperate attempt to limit Mercedes in F1’s usual ham fisted way.

        There’s just no need at all to be doing this sort of thing mid season.

    2. I don’t think they enforce a new rule, they put it on parc ferme rules that are allready in place through a technical directive. Which makes perfect sense. It seems some (if not all) engine manufacterers use different software during the race as in the qualifying. They basically plug in a laptop on the grid on sunday and override the software used on saturday, while parc ferme rules say no changes after Q1 allowed (only front wing, or changes to the same spec if needed when something broke).

      1. Except parc ferme rules don’t apply as soon as the cars begin the formation lap, so that argument doesn’t work.

    3. I agree surprise rule changes are a bad idea. The teams and manufactures spend big money on F1. Not knowing if your design will be legal next week makes it difficult to allocate resources.

      Plus, businesses generally dislike uncertainty. This unpredictability is a reason not to race in F1.

    4. RagnarVirtanen
      20th August 2020, 17:59

      I’m not Mercedes fan,but this restriction to “clip the wings of Mercedes” it’s pointless and gonna make the race even more dreary cause if the 2nd fastest car on the grid ie. Red Bull they wouldn’t be able to challenge Mercedes anyway isn’t it?

  2. One again, Racefans gets a huge scoop over the media. I’m so proud of you guys and the work you do.

  3. Lol, what kind of joke is this?

    Teams need to run race maps on dynamometer before they run them for quali?

    Meh, this FIA has some good ideas, but execution as always is delayed at best, poor at worst.

    It as clear as day for years this is a problem, with engine oil burning for performance, secret Mercedes and Ferrari modes that lower tier teams cannot use, why was this not done ages ago?

    We suffered 6 years of one sided quali sessions, due to this.

    And now they delay it for a race? I call Mercedes P1 for Spa quali.

    1. I have a sneaky suspicion that the FIA will only succeed in enhancing Mercedes position and reducing on-track battles.

      Those cheering this action because they think it will hurt Mercedes will probably end up very disappointed.

      1. Oil burn ban when applied had opposite effect… They expected Mercedes to drop down on performance yet Renault and Ferrari were the first to drop I relative performance massively… Similar thing may happen again…

        1. This time around Honda and Renault will be affected badly with Mercs getting even more of free air in front.

        2. @mysticus
          The oil burn saga came to light when RBR requested a clarification about it back in 2015. Nico Rosberg’s car was subject to a check by the FIA in the 2015 Canadian GP and fuel samples were taken. The FIA continued napping for almost 2 seasons till 2017 where Mercedes guys noticed that Ferrari’s use of oil burn trickery was far better than they have expected and they probably blew the whistle.

          At first, Ferrari were asked to remove a secondary oil tank from the SF70H in Baku that was believed to contain a different type of oil to the primary tank which enabled Ferrari to increase its PU performance by deploying a more aggressive map and reliability at the same time. This decision did have a clear impact on Ferrari PU performance and development plan. That drop in both performance and reliability is what many believe was the reason behind Lorenzo Sassi losing his job as a Head of Powertrains.

          Second, Mercedes introduced their final upgraded PU in Spa instead of Monza to continue operating it within the limit of 1.2L of oil per 100km while the rest of the manufacturers who introduced their 3rd PU from Monza have had respect the stricter limit of 0.9L of oil per 100 km.The oil burn ban was mishandled by the FIA as it took them two seasons to close the loopholes related to it and in those years Renault & especially Ferrari took it to the next level which in a way upset Mercedes. That’s why they suffered the most when the ban was effective.

          1. @tifoso1989 I have a recollection that Motorsport Magazine published some photographs suggesting that there was a third oil tank on Ferrari’s car in 2017 that was also subsequently removed, and which might have also been used to inject oil into the fuel mixture.

          2. anon,
            I thought they were using only one supplementary oil tank. Is the third tank related to their water-to-air intercooler ? Since Ferrari are using an oil based lubricant as the cooling medium instead of the water based solution and such set up requires a separate oil-cooling circuit.
            Thanks for the additional info !

          3. @tifoso1989 from what I can recall of the article, there did not seem to be any clear evidence in the photos indicating it was plumbed into the intercooler system, which is why they seemed to think it was an additional auxilliary oil tank. That said, it is possible that Ferrari might have had one single oil reservoir that was split into two separate smaller tanks.

          4. anon,
            Thanks again for your response !

        3. @mysticus Was that oil burning clamp down ever aimed at Mercedes? It was clear Ferrari were doing something when they showed up with a secondary oil tank solely for burning that oil.

          Banning FRIC was aimed at Mercedes though.

          1. True, but everyone at the time was saying it will slow down Mercedes. And believed merc performance was due to this oil burn… I doubt that merc blow the whistle… There was no limit on oil burn (as a secondary fuel wasn’t intended, rather it was expected for natural operating consequence). As I stated, people were saying at the time, merc will be effected by this. But it turned out very different. Fric issue was spot on as you said.

      2. Agreed. Dropping a few 10ths won’t make that much difference to Mercedes.

        I think its the midfield battles where you’ll see the greatest effects of this ban. All those other team doing better in qualifying than they do in the race are going to discover their true positions. Those team pushing their engines that bit harder for qualifyiing, taking it to its absolute limits, then turning it back down for the race.

        I wouldn’t be surprised if redbull are exposed by the ban.

        1. But redbull is the only team doing far better in the race then in quali, you chose the worst example for your own argument. In quali verstappen is a few tenth up or even behind the racing points and in the race they are on different planets if anyone is pushing the engine to the limits in quali it is the mercedes powered cars which every single one do far worse in the race then in quali

    2. Every mercedes engined teams get the same modes as the Mercedes team. Look at the qualifying pace of the Williams compared to its race pace and look at the qualifying pace of the racing point to its race pace. They all sign an agreement with Mercedes were they get told what engine modes they can use and for how long they can use them.

      1. RP finished in pretty much the same positions as they started. Russell and Latifi also. So you’re saying there is no party mode at all?

      2. They are obliged to do so… but.. history shows they kept some settings for there own use.

        1. history shows they kept some settings for there own use.

          No it doesn’t. Not in the real world at least.

  4. It’s exclusive after exclusive on here at the minute. Well worth the £12 a year subscription. Keep up the good work guys.

  5. FIA is lately behaving like a monkey with a grenade. You never know “when”, “what”, “why” and “how”. And it happens in the mid-season! Imagine how it looks for any new team that is considering whether to join F1 or not!

  6. What surprise.

  7. Not sure if it’s the loss of Charlie that’s felt even now, but it’s noticable that the FIA have taken a step for the worse recently in how they go about their job. It’s a mess, Covid or not .. they are acting rather unproffessional in my opinion.

  8. F1 teams trading reliability for performance, how awful. I think if they’re able to get through a whole season on 3 engines and with all the other restrictions on fuel flow etc they should be able to manage reliability/performance how they want.

    I’m not entirely sure this will have the desired effect either as if Mercedes already have the most reliable PU what’s to stop them just turning up their race modes to reduce the deficit and leave the rest of the field even further behind?

    1. @alec-glen I’m sure I read somewhere that Toto Wolff had indicated that their quali-mode equates to 25 laps of engine life—meaning they’d be able to run higher performance during the race.

  9. Nice to see RaceFans wrapping up a lot of news first recently!

    I like it that this information also comes with a bit more background on the why of the measure. While it seems not everyone agrees with the reasoning of “teams pushing top speed at the cost of reliability” as a bad thing, it makes sense from the FIA perspective when they suddenly see teams “having” to make a lot of reliability upgrades that then allow suddenly going faster recently.

    Overall, I am curious to see what this will do with qualifying speeds and whether it will change the competative order for qualifying and change the gap between race speed and qualifying speeds and who is fast and who loses a lot in the races.

  10. I think it is getting to the point that there needs to be a massive relaxation on the PU regs rather than trying to police everything as the FIA are effectively admitting that they are struggling. All that needs to be mandated is the basic PU architecture.

    Surely as along as you properly police the total fuel that is burned (so keep the sensor), how it is burned and how the battery deploys should be down to the teams instead as they can’t magic energy from thin air.

    This would deliver more innovation and more speed, downside could be if one team finds something spectacular then it could create a uneven playing field but that that has been true on the aero side ever since I started watching F1.

    I wouldn’t go more extreme and state that any architecture is allowed since I highly doubt that any team will go back to an NA engine given the efficiency gains (ie less fuel needed) for a turbo hybrid.

    1. there needs to be a massive relaxation on the PU regs

      THIS! Now that we have a cost cap, ALL the terrible “cost savings” things need to be chucked out the window.

    2. Couldn’t agree more.

  11. …could be considered a violation of article 27.1 of the Sporting Regulations, which states the drivers must drive “alone and unaided”.

    C’mon, that’s a bit of a stretch, isn’t it? They’re still in control of applying these engine modes. If that is the case, it could open the floodgates and things like fuel management and race strategy should be included too.

    Might as well ban all radio comms.

    1. The whole “alone and unaided” is a great catch-all that the FIA can use as and when they decide it’s important.

      One day they’ll decided the driver has to change his own tyres!

      1. AJ (@asleepatthewheel)
        21st August 2020, 7:46

        Even the steering wheel aids in turning the car, ban the steering wheel *chuckles*

      2. There was a time the drivers really had to chance their tyres themselfs….. :)

      3. @scbriml Or the “moving aerodynamic parts” when they even included suspension (on the inside if the car)

  12. @alec-glen Yeah that trading off reliability for performance comment is pretty strange. There are a tonne of things on the car that trade reliability for performance – everything from engine to suspension, aero and cooling. That’s just part of the balance of designing and running a race car, trying to maximise performance while maintaining an acceptable level of reliability. It certainly doesn’t seem any cause for concern. But anyway, I’m sure a lot of the FIA’s comments on this are purely a justification for their true intended purpose of levelling the playing field, which according to a lot of experts might not work. Or as some have claimed, might even increase Mercedes’ advantage by allowing them to use that extra capacity in reliability to increase their race performance.

    1. @keithedin It is indeed a load of nonsense – they’re looking to pull up running engines in a mode that will shorten the running life on cost grounds, but they still won’t regulate the teams bringing multiple £20,000-per-unit configurations of front wing just to shave seconds off a lap time.

  13. Why am I not surprised that a stupid decision with little thought put into ends up raising costs for teams in f1. What a surprise. can someone tell why f1 needs the fia exactly? What do they bring to f1 that liberty media couldnt bring themselves?

  14. At a Power Unit Working Group meeting held on Monday, two engine manufacturers are said by sources to have been unhappy about the changes.

    Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!!!!
    These are Honda and Renault!

    Ferrari doesn’t have modes, Mercedes knows they are far ahead in any way.

    1. No it’s Mercedes and tRacing point!

      1. RP are not a PH manufacturer.

  15. The requests for reliability changes may therefore be an indirect means of unlocking more performance.

    Isn’t that always the case? How is that related to ‘quali modes’ and ‘overtake modes’?

    Renault and Honda have often talked about “unlocking the potential of the engine” after being satisfied with reliability. They could turn up the wick and go faster with the same spec engine even. Let alone when actually improving parts to allow more punishment.

    Even this season Horner said that Honda had allowed them to turn the engine “up”. I think it was in Austria. Either way, that would indicate they were running it detuned before.

    Mercedes needs to detune their engine in hot races. Probably the same thing.

  16. I’m enjoying f1 so much more just using this site as my race forum

    1. Yes its good to see max second in the standings.

      1. If second is sufficient then I guess it is.

        1. With a much slower car it is the best he can do.
          He even beats the other merc. So yes, for now its good.
          If RBR solves the problems we have a real fight on our hands.

  17. I don’t comprehend the delay. The ban is on quali mode so the intention is to force the teams to use race modes. The reason for the delay seems to be to give teams time to create a new race mode that is actually the quali mode.

    1. You got it all wrong.
      The engines run in multiple modes at different times even during a single lap.
      The engine designers or builders need to recalibrate and find the most efficient single mode to run or they risk not completing the race either due to overheating, running out of fuel, damaging the drive train and even the charging and discharging of the batteries.
      Things like radiators for water and oil and aero risk being affected down the line.
      It is not as simple as turning off a switch.

      1. Yup Oliver @jimfromus the teams have been given a week of time to put their PU on the dymometer (sp?), presumably so they can check what modes work without endangering the engine, which does not seem too much, given all engines (well maybe not the current Ferrari?) were over years designed with a full spectrum of PU modes in mind.

  18. RaceFans understands the sport’s governing body has grown concerned these modes are increasingly used by teams to trade off reliability for performance

    I don’t understand how this is a problem.

    1. Exactly. Teams already have equal allocation on the number of engines, so what modes they choose to use more/less often is at their responsibility and risk.

  19. You got it all wrong.
    The engines run in multiple modes at different times even during a single lap.
    The engine designers or builders need to recalibrate and find the most efficient single mode to run or they risk not completing the race either due to overheating, running out of fuel, damaging the drive train and even the charging and discharging of the batteries.
    Things like radiators for water and oil and aero risk being affected down the line.
    It is not as simple as turning off a switch.

  20. The FIA might get it right some time in the future but until they realise that bespoke software is great for extreme rule pushing, they will not succeed. This has all played out before in other series.
    1 Start – mandate a standard ECU. Then watch all the big spenders create fabulous code to do all manner of tricks.
    2 Solution – Mandate standard software. This can be controlled by the FIA and simply prevents anyone from slipping in a crazy bit of code to perform a performance function. Big manufacturers flounce around and threaten to leave but stay eventually.
    3 Result – All teams have an equal chance with the no-tricks software. Racing improves.

    The FIA have identified the problem but are unlikely/unable to find a good solution.
    It’s not the data maps, its what the code allows the data maps to do. You cannot expect the FIA to have experts on all the code for all the cars when it is different for each manufacturer (and possibly team, I’m not sure). But they are also not strong enough to resist the inevitable flouncing if they try to impose a standard.

    1. I have reservations but I’m staying open minded about it. I’m really looking forward to seeing how this plays out.

    2. @mrfill the idea of a standard ECU was implemented in F1 back in 2008, and I believe that, in recent years, the FIA has already partially standardised some of the code used on that standard ECU.

      1. It is what is left once the ‘partially standardised’ is ignored that is the problem. If Mercedes are turning up to 11, it is because their software allows it. Standard software could limit it to 10 thus preventing unfair modes. MB can afford to invest heavily in coding and mapping and this has been a major advantage. The cost is prohibitive for most teams to develop their own software (which is different to developing maps) and it must be standardised if the FIA want to achieve their objectives. Otherwise you can bet that crafty coders will get round a lot of Technical directive waffle because the FIA do not have the resources to police all the bespoke software.

  21. Is this the end for the ‘overtake button’?

    1. AJ (@asleepatthewheel)
      21st August 2020, 7:54

      Overtake is used for deployment of electrical energy, so I guess it should stay

  22. While I oppose making changes on such short notice, and during the season (teams/drivers should know the rules when the season starts – and abide by them for the season), I’m actually for this. For me, this is in the direction of having the driver drive the car, not 22 engineers back at the home plant monitoring every sensor on the car, doing live “modelling” for the fastest way around the track, and the highest percentage means of winning the race.

    1. The more I think about it, the more it seems a missed opportunity this winter @waptraveler

      Imagine if, instead of silently dropping a secret Ferrari deal just after testing, the FIA had told the teams before testing, that there is a deal with Ferrari because the FIA could not determine legality by themselves. And that as a result, they believe they have to ban the plethora of modes in use,and impose something like this technical directive. With that, they would maybe also have been able to goad Ferrari into being more open about the deal, because in return they would not be losing as much, relative to the competition.

      I can only suppose they didn’t have the time to get to it (nor right priorities/bigger picture when things evolved in that direction), and then COVID-19 hit to delay it further.

  23. I think Hamilton and Merc fans will be against the ban and come up with all sorts of arguments against it.
    I thing\k other fans will be in favor of the ban and come up with all sorts of arguments for it.
    I think Toto talks ****** saying the ban will actually favor them, if so why did you develop the modes Toto? Because you wanted to spend mega $’s on creating a disadvantage for your team?

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