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FIA moves to limit engine-mapping

The FIA is to introduce new restrictions on what teams can do with engine-mapping in 2012, as the ruling body seeks to stop the use of engine exhaust gases for downforce.
The FIA has informed teams that so-called 'exotic' engine-maps are to be disallowed from the start of the 2012 season, as the organisation also seeks to eliminate blown diffusers from F1.

Blown diffusers of the type seen in 2011 are already banned from next season, and engine exhausts will have to exit from the top of the engine cover. However, it's become increasingly clear that teams had started to look at new ways of using engine-mapping as a substitute.

By using 'extreme' or 'exotic' settings for the engine via the standard ECU (engine control unit), teams have been experimenting with using engine maps to blow exhaust gases onto the lower element of the rear wing even through corners where the driver is off the throttle.

Like this season's blown diffusers, such settings would considerably increase grip and downforce for the car through those corners and allow it to to run with less rear wing overall - increasing straight line speed without compromising handling through the turns. While seemingly fairly innocuous at this stage, the FIA are wary of this potential technical 'loophole' becoming disproportionately crucial to team performances in 2012.

This season, the initial introduction of blown diffusers was initially seen as not particularly significant. But by the summer it was clear that their effect combined with engine mapping was becoming so vital to race performance that the FIA tried to introduce an emergency ban on them mid-season on safety grounds, which ultimately they had to back down from in the face of team objections - especially from Renault and Red Bull who cited car reliability issues.

Experts suggest that this year's blown diffusers have added around 20% to the levels of downforce that Pirelli were anticipating and have boosted the cars back to levels of downforce even greater than that provided by double diffusers, a previous 'loophole' in the regulations seized upon by teams for added performance.

In order to head off a similar situation arising next season, the FIA has now informed F1 teams that 'exotic' engine maps will not be allowed in 2012, with Charlie Whiting telling technical directors that the ECU will feature updated software to prevent use outside strict limits. The technical regulations are also being reworded to simplify the situation and close any loopholes, and ensure that the engine maps only allow exhausts to emit gases under pressure while the throttle is open.

Team boss Ross Brawn is quoted as saying that the new moves are "fairly robust" but not 100% and that another meeting of the Technical Working Group will be needed, although there was still the probability that teams will nonetheless "come up with some scheme" to outwit the rules whatever the outcome.

Over at Mercedes, Brawn's team have been experimenting with a new air intake system for the front nose of the car that redirects air over the front wing of the car to add downforce there instead. However, with teams already complaining that front wings are susceptible to the build up of rubber marbles adversely affecting downforce - as McLaren experienced with Lewis Hamilton at Korea - few teams look likely to follow this direction at this point.

Overall, F1 team technical directors are said to be in favour of the moves to reduce engine maps, as it allows car designers to get back to concentrating on aerodynamics and bodywork refinements.

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October 24, 2011 6:43 PM

Blzbub, Gillan was correct in what he said and I would like to add that if a designer doesn’t look for loopholes in the rules he (the designer) wouldn’t be doing his job. But re the engine off throttle mapping there was no loophole over those arias and the least that can be solidly said is it goes totally against the spirit of what the rules says re (moveable aero devices) the FIA was right in what it said re engine mapping but it was totally wrong trying/wanting to have it banned half way through the season (Silverstone) more than that they know all along that it was being perfected since at least 2009. Remember all those engines lost? The cause was all of their own making and because the FIA closed one or both eyes to what they were doing they had the cheek not only to carry on perfecting it but also ask/cry/scream for concession to upgrade the engine on reliability grounds.


October 24, 2011 4:57 PM

Droog, fully agree, I don’t think that blowing exhaust gasses into or over the diffuser or into or over anything for that matter is or ever was the problem with the rule makers/administration the problem stems from the fact that the engine is being mapped so as the throttle/s are kept up to 50 percent open when the driver goes off throttle (lifts off) and I will here repeat that the term cold blowing is BS as the engine will still be firing on all cylinders. Placing the exhaust pipes (tail pipes) inside or to blow directly inside the diffuser is so logical that it has been done for years in both F1 and sports car racing an example is Williams always as far as I know used that system.

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