Red Bull tight-lipped over FIA query on Mercedes power unit

2021 Dutch Grand Prix

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Red Bull is understood to have raised a query with the FIA concerning the operation of Mercedes’ power unit.

The design and operation of the inlet plenum on the world champions’ M12 power unit is believed to be the focus of the rivals’ queries. There are suspicions the team has found a novel method of reducing the temperature of its coolant for brief periods to obtain a performance advantage.

Red Bull is believed to have been alerted to the approach after noticing spikes in their rivals’ acceleration during races. Teams frequently ask the FIA to clarify certain design approaches, particularly to ascertain whether rivals’ interpretations of the rules are legitimate, in order to either replicate them or seek to have them outlawed.

However Red Bull team principal Christian Horner would not be drawn on the focus of his team’s enquiry regarding Mercedes. “As is the nature with all technical clarifications, they go continually between all the teams,” he said. “And those clarifications are usually to ascertain if something is, in the eyes of the governing body, acceptable as a solution. And then, of course, if it is, you follow suit.

“We’ve had numerous of those this year with our car and I think it’s something not unique to Red Bull and this topic certainly isn’t unique to Red Bull. Obviously that dialogue between the engineers within their forums as well, within the technical working groups is an ongoing process. So I’m sure it doesn’t come as any great surprise.

His opposite number at Mercedes, Toto Wolff, confirmed the matter had arisen recently, though the team has used the same power unit design since the season began.

“I heard the first time about it a couple of days ago,” he said. “I would wish we have some kind of special solution but it’s the modus operandi in Formula 1, business as usual. Queries are being taken to the FIA. Questions are being asked and that’s completely normal.”

However speaking in a separate interview for Sky, Wolff added: “We love the fact that they are spending time on these things and researching.

“We welcome very much any initiative they wish to do and look at it. If that is a distraction for any other team, that’s good.”

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2021 Dutch Grand Prix

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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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20 comments on “Red Bull tight-lipped over FIA query on Mercedes power unit”

  1. I love this side of the sport.

  2. “ If that is a distraction for any other team, that’s good.”

    Could be read into… but also could in itself be a distraction.

    Either way, drawing expertise focus away from innovation and onto attempting to figure out what the opposition is doing would benefit Mercedes—because even if they do figure it out (indeed if there is anything to figure out), time/money has been spent (under a budget cap) on something other than their own unique innovations.

    And this, I believe, is why the budget cap makes it all so much more interesting. Do you spend your time/money focussing on what the opposition is doing? Or do you ignore that and focus on yourself. Probably somewhere in between, but now suddenly without the previous bottomless budgets this can and will impact how the teams operate.

    And I love it.

    1. Except PU development is not subject to budget caps. Which makes it even more interesting.

  3. This could have a decent impact on Mercedes I feel. I read the article on ‘TheRace’ and it seems Mercedes are getting an advantage due to the placement of the sensors being such that the temperature they record is higher than the true average temperature of the plenum.

    If the placement of sensors is forced to be changed, the sensors will record a more representative average temperature, i.e. lower than what it currently records. And this average temperature has a regulation surrounding it which states that it can’t be lower than +10 degrees to the ambient temperature. So, in effect, Mercedes will be forced to run their engine hotter and hence, less effectively.

    I am sure one of the new hires of Red Bull from Merc engine department has tipped this off.

    1. Except the sensor placement is dictated by rules. It shouldn’t take a scrutineer very long to see if the sensor is where it is supposed to be.

      1. Except that the placement of sensors has enough room so that cold air could pass the sensor while the air that flows over the sensor is “hotter” by design… For example: Let’s take the plenum and devide it into two where one that has the sensor is not cooled and the other is “super”cooled somehow.

        Teams have total freedom (I believe) in the design of their Plenums… So it would not be impossible to do something clever and bend the rules a bit, just like their front wings ;-)

  4. I believe this line to be incorrect. “There are suspicions the team has found a novel method of reducing the temperature of its coolant for brief periods to obtain a performance advantage.”

    As I understand it, the suspicion is that they manage to (“super”)cool the air in the plenum for a short period at a point where the sensor does not detect the drop in air temp or not fast enough to register the drop correctly.

  5. It’s not mentioned in the article but Horner was very clear on Sky that this enquiry has come from Honda rather than Red Bull and their mechanism for having this looked into is to go through Red Bull. He also said it was not just Honda who wanted clarification so I believe the other engine manufacturers want clarification on this as well.

    1. @petebaldwin To all intents and purposes, they are one and the same thing.

    2. is that because a lot of mercedes engineers are joining their ranks these days?

  6. Wolff added: “We love the fact that they are spending time on these things and researching. “We welcome very much any initiative they wish to do and look at it. If that is a distraction for any other team, that’s good.”

    Wish he wouldn’t do that. They have a public opinion issue already. It is clear it is not a waste of time for other teams since it either delivers them an addition in the form of copying or it slows down their competitor.

  7. I appreciate the fact that CH nor Max have stood in front of media’s mics and publicly proclaimed dodgy behaviour on Merc’s part ala TW and LH starting in race one with the floor changes favouring them, then the flexy wings, then the tire pressures, then the engine upgrade, then the too fast pit stops. TW is the expert on distraction.

    1. Indeed, that is how mercedes acts, not other teams.

    2. @robbie So then you’re ignoring that Marko has been accusing Mercedes of upgrading their engine since Silverstone? Or that these intake cooling trick rumours instigated by Red Bull have been going round since then as well?

      Plus you simply ignore all the other slander they have been barfing out over the last few months?

      They didn’t openly say this one thing in front of a TV camera, so what upstanding citizens this 3 person propaganda machine is made out of. If you ignore all the foul things they did say in front of a camera!

    3. Forgot about all the whining from RB? If any team has the reputation about inquiring Merc or other teams it surely is RB

      1. Absolutely 100% Correct!
        The incessant whine from CH-RBR is tiresome.

    4. @robbie Verstappen reads from the script written for him be the RB media team, and as usual you completely ignore the many times RB has been caught cheating. From fuel flow to flexi wings and the suspected tyre pressure fiddling.

      1. @johnrkh My comment above has to do with the fact that if Mercedes is suspected of doing something questionable with the design and operation of their plenum, at least CH nor Max, unlike TW and LH, haven’t started off by using the media during a race weekend to publicly suggest illegality, like TW and LH have done numerous times this season. In spite of their accusations this season, RBR have not been found to have been doing anything illegal. Now we’ll see if Mercedes has, or if indeed they are doing something the others can duplicate that isn’t considered upgrading their power unit.

  8. I quite enjoy reading these articles, shame about that Bet365 advert that insists on scrolling me back to the top of the page.

    (mobile – android, chrome)

    1. Use (mobile – android, Firefox) instead.

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