Formula 1: FIA Rule Changes to Put the Brakes on Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel

Craig ChristopherAnalyst IJune 25, 2011

NORTHAMPTON, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 06:  F.I.A. race Director Charlie Whiting poses for a photograph in the paddock during practice for the British Formula One Grand Prix at Silverstone on July 6, 2007 in Northampton, England.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Helmut Marko is not a man who is afraid of making a big statement or letting people know what he’s thinking.

At the moment, he’s thinking that the FIA are changing the rules to try to slow down Red Bull.

Marko, a consultant (whatever that means) with Red Bull Racing, has said as reported in the F1 Times of the hot-blown diffuser changes that, "This time it [the ban] seems to have been [introduced] in a hurry. I would say it is about [the dominance of] Red Bull."

It certainly has some merit.

Last year’s gadget of choice was the F-duct, which McLaren, to their credit, developed and used to great advantage and while many attempted to copy the concept, none achieved the same success.

Similarly, 2009 world champion Jenson Button gained great advantage from Ross Brawn’s very clever double diffuser.

Both innovations were banned—but at the end of the season.

So why the rush to make changes now, instead of doing what has always been done and waiting to outlaw it for next season?

The obvious conclusion is to end the dominance of Red Bull.

To remove any doubt about that, the FIA have also rushed through a change to stop teams from changing engine mapping between qualifying and the race.

This has been one of the few items that teams can tweak while the cars are in parc ferme. This allows teams to turn up the wick on their engines during qualifying to hopefully push them a few spots towards the front of the grid.

It is widely believed that because Red Bull’s hot-blown diffuser—a system that continues to blow hot gases from the engine over the diffuser even when the drivers are off the throttles—is so good that RBR carry extra fuel and run an extreme engine setting and sacrifice any potential weight saving advantage.

Of course, it’s all a waste of time. The rule changes only prevent mechanics plugging in a laptop and changing the programming. The reality is that the cars already have a significant number of engine mapping options programmable from the steering wheel. What’s to stop them from adding the qualifying program to the list?

The top teams have spent millions trying to develop a hot-blown diffuser to rival the RBR option. Renault have gone with the extreme option of creating a forward facing exhaust to optimise their system and will now need to consider a complete redesign to cope with the rule change.

Why is it necessary? Hot-blown diffusers waste fuel was the initial explanation, although it has since been tweaked to claim that the blown diffuser creates an adjustable aerodynamic device, which takes some serious imagination.

It’s yet another example of Formula One engaging in the ridiculous pantomime of pretending to be environmentally conscious.

According to many F1 fans, FIA stands for Ferrari International Assistance, and this effort only adds to the conspiracy theorists doubts over the impartiality of the international governing body.

Charlie Whiting, the FIA technical delegate, of course denies everything and feels that all of the changes are justifiable on aerodynamic grounds.

Ironically, the changes have made no difference whatsoever. In qualifying for the European grand prix, Red Bull again locked out the front row of the grid.

Did they really think that a Newey designed car was a one-trick pony?

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What's worse is the FIA are going out of their way to stifle innovation. That used to be one of the strengths of the sport and now it's frowned upon. Pity!