July 27, 2012

Red Bull graced by the FIA again!

There's a term in Italian, not clearly translatable: "Fare il furbo" it's somewhere between being clever and devious. F1 is naturally rife with "furbi" but currently Red Bull Racing are the champs.

While Helmut Marko is lamenting a conspiracy against the team with the FIA and Bernie Ecclestone conspiring to keep Sebastian Vettel from winning a third title, Christian Horner is usually answering questions with a "who us? we are not doing anything..." and rival teams have been grumbling about RBR and Renault since pre season testing, e the FIA has been quite lenient with the team.

Sure there have been on track penalties (all deserved) and the FIA disallowed their brake ducts venting through the front axle in Canada but let's have a look at what they have gotten away with, without sanctions, this season so far.

1. Illegal holes in Monaco: FIA could have disqualified RBR and not let them start. Of course that's not the sort of thing you want in Monaco, not with that enormous Red Bull Energy Center floating in the middle of the harbor. Michael Schimidt of Auto Motor und Sport writes Jean Todt himself intervened with the other teams to stop them from protesting. Webber went on to win that race.

2. Traction Control and blown exhaust: that was the net effect of some engine maps RBR have been running. If you've been to any races this year, or perhaps if you have heard nat sound clips, you might have noted the odd ratcheting sound coming at times from the RS27 in the back of the Red Bulls. The issue with the engine maps boils down to creating a dip in the torque curve with the effect of limiting chances of wheelspin. This was apparently accomplished by allowing unburned mix to flow through the combustion chamber and ignite in the headers. Hot blowing as specifically forbidden by the rules.

While you have to admire the brilliance of Renault engineers in finding a way to do this in the gray areas still in the rules specifically banning the very thing they accomplished, you can see how this would irk others, much like Brawn's double diffuser did a few seasons back. The FIA rather than punish the intent, preferred to put a patch on the wording of the rules.

3. Red Bull was,according to AutoMotor+sport,  caught adjusting the ride height on Vettel's car in Parc Fermée in Canada. This might be the most outrageous instance, again outlined in Schimit's article, officials discovered a ride height adjustment made by changing the extension on the front third shock on the RBR which is designed to be easily adjusted by hand.

Shocks settings cannot be changed between qualifying and the race. Rather than punish, the FIA allowed RBR to reset the shock and enacted a rule forcing all suspension adjustments to require a clearly visible tool so tech inspectors can better police Parc Fermée. How many times has Red Bull adjusted suspensions before?

Of course, anything not specifically forbidden in the rules is by definition legal so the FIA does share some responsibility and perhaps they simply don't want to look bad for having missed those points.

As I said... Furbissimi!


  1. The cat and mouse stuff is one of the most fascinating and compelling parts of F1 to me.

    These aren't moral laws they are bending, so no harm done. If they were doing things that demonstrably endangered drivers, crew, or spectators, that would be a different matter entirely.

    All they are doing is either finding loopholes, which requires a certain kind of technical imagination and can result in true engineering innovation, or they are intentionally violating rules in certain ways, which plays a very human risk/reward game involving chances of getting caught and expected severity of sanctions. I believe that both have their place in motorsports, though one could argue that the former is more palatable to most fans than the latter.

    Anyway, Yay Red Bull. I would hope and expect that every team is doing similar things.

  2. Hmm.... when BAR/Honda was caught blatantly blowing the rules in 2005, they were banned for three races. Why wasn't Red Bull given a similarly harsh penalty in Canada? The issue wasn't that they made a change then (and undid it), it's that they clearly don't respect such a rule and feel they might be able to get away with such changes - making you wonder when else they have made such a change.

    The cat & mouse is fun... but only if you obey the letter of the rule. Making suspension changes in parc fermee isn't cat & mouse to me - it's blatant cheating.

    As for requiring tools for suspension settings - why not just have the fia put tell-tale paint marks on all critical adjusters post qualifying, similar to the seals used on the engines?

    1. Probably because Red Bull would spend 800000 euro on non stick coating for the shocks so that paint can be removed and replaced? :)

      I think cat and mouse is all well and good but if you are playing a game and all the participants agree traction control is out and that it all should be in the hands, of should I say the feet, of the drivers and you go implement what amounts to a driver aid, then in moves beyond the game. The other side of the coin is where do you draw the line between tuning drivability and driver aid. my understanding is that the issue on the torque side was that it was not linear, that it was tuned specifically for certain conditions. The main offense is the blowing I would think.

      As for the ride height, if the FIA caught them and let them get away with it it's a scandal, of course they will never confirm this as it would not exactly make them look good.

  3. One thing about Brown's double deck diffusor. He announce at the end of year about the loophole on the rules and ask the FIA/Teams to investigate and clarify the rules.

    Everyone agree it was very clear a no clarification was needed... so Brawn / Toyota and Williams start using it in 2009

  4. I'm italian and Fare il furbo means exactly that! :D


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