War of words erupts over exhaust clampdown
9 July, 2011
Jul.9 (Reuters & GMM) Red Bull bosses are furious ahead of qualifying after the controversial 50 per cent concession for their exhaust blowing solution was withdrawn by the FIA.
On Friday team boss Christian Horner praised the FIA’s Charlie Whiting as he clashed with his McLaren counterpart Martin Whitmarsh, when it emerged that Renault-powered teams had been allowed an exception to the 10pc clampdown.
But it was Whitmarsh who was smirking on the Silverstone pitwall today (Saturday), with Horner and Adrian Newey storming out of a meeting with Whiting in the wake of a further technical directive issued shortly before Saturday practice.
“I’m not going to say anything,” Horner told BBC Sport.
Earlier Reuters reported that McLaren accused Formula 1′s governing body of changing the engine rules ‘by the hour’ at the British Grand Prix on Friday after the latest technical directive appeared to boost rivals Red Bull.
After rain turned much of the day’s action into a damp squib, the post-practice news conference provided some sparks with McLaren’s Martin Whitmarsh and Red Bull’s Christian Horner at loggerheads over the regulations.
Whitmarsh, seen earlier in a long conversation with Ferrari’s Stefano Domenicali, revealed that teams had been sent a fresh directive halfway through the morning first session after another five or so in previous days and weeks.
“When the goalposts are moving part way through a practice session, I think it makes it quite difficult,” he said.
Silverstone marked the start of a clampdown by the International Automobile Federation (FIA) on the use of exhaust gases to gain an aerodynamic performance advantage even when drivers lift off the throttle.
That had been expected to hit Renault-powered world champions Red Bull, because their car was designed around such an exhaust system rather than being modified to accommodate it, but Whitmarsh said the reality was rather different.
“We learnt halfway through the session that Christian hadn’t lost as much as we expected him to, because obviously the rules are slightly fluid and appear to change by the hour at the moment,” he said.
“I think we were all a little bit surprised when…the regulations changed halfway through P1 (first practice),” he added.
“That puts I’m sure many teams this weekend a little bit on the back foot. We’re trying to cope with that at the moment.”
Whitmarsh said the expectation had been that engine throttles would close when a driver was braking and off the accelerator.
“But there has been a negotiation and, as I understand it, Renault’s throttles are 50 percent open under braking. I think that’s probably not what most of us expected coming in to this event.
“That’s been a little bit of a revelation that we gathered during the course of the sessions today and we’ll try to understand what we have to do.”
Renault were understood to have successfully argued that their throttles needed to be kept open to blow air through the engine for reliability reasons and they had historically operated in that fashion.
Horner, whose team have won six out of eight races this season and been on pole position in all of them, hit back by saying the FIA had shown similar tolerance to the Mercedes engine used by McLaren.
“We expect the FIA to regulate in a fair and proper manner and that’s exactly what they’ve done in this case,” he declared.
“It’s a very difficult job for the FIA to pick their way through this.
“I’m sure there are a lot of conspiracies in the paddock that these are the reasons why Red Bull or McLaren are performing or some cars aren’t but that’s just circumstantial at the end of the day.”
After listening to the increasingly complex technical arguments about ‘cold-blowing’, ‘throttle-braking’ and ‘firing on overrun’, Team Lotus owner Tony Fernandes looked on with a mixture of amusement and bafflement.
“As someone who is very new to the sport, I think it’s a little bit of a shambles that we are having these kinds of discussions…the rules should be very clear,” he said.
“I mean, I don’t understand any of what these two just said. God knows about all the spectators over there. I think it needs to be simpler and I don’t think it makes a huge amount of difference to the people who are watching it.”
Meanwhile GMM reports that GP2 driver Oliver Turvey was summoned to McLaren’s Woking driver simulator after it emerged the Renault teams – including dominant Red Bull – have been allowed by the FIA to use 50 per cent throttle under braking.
Earlier, the FIA intended to limit off-throttle engine blowing to 10 per cent, but the Renault teams argued that they need at least 50 per cent on reliability grounds.
McLaren team figures said they only discovered Renault’s 50 per cent concession during free practice on Friday, when Ferrari boss Stefano Domenicali was heard telling his counterpart Martin Whitmarsh “The (Red Bull) ******* are doing it again”.
“We were saying ‘Wait a second, can we do that (too)?” Jenson Button told AS newspaper.
It also emerges that Mercedes have been allowed to use 20 per cent throttle, based on the engine maps of the pre-exhaust blowing era in 2009.
“I am sure it has put many teams this weekend a little bit on the back foot so we are trying to cope with that at the moment,” said Whitmarsh.
Brazilian O Estado de S.Paulo journalist Livio Oricchio reports that a further rule clarification is due in the wake of yet another technical meeting on the subject late on Friday.
“The climate of the meeting was tense,” he revealed. “Today (Saturday) the final decision of the FIA should be announced.”