It would appear that the FIA has been “tipped off” by a certain engine manufacturer about the “possibility” of continued use of off-throttle blowing (using exhaust gases for aerodynamic gains), despite this type of engine mapping being restricted under the current 2012 regulations.
The “possibility” revolves around teams incorporating a larger throttle opening at the inlet manifold (than currently subscribed); therefore increasing the flow of exhaust gases by influencing a misfire. At present, throttles must be closed within 10% of their maximum opening when the driver is off the accelerator.
That the FIA’s attention has been drawn to this potential phenomenon by one engine manufacturer alone is curious in itself. It leads one to assume that said manufacturer has been slow off the mark in regards to developing this idea, or feels the risk of getting caught far outweighs the potential benefits. Better then to play the hypothetical supergrass.
The FIA has stated that it does not suspect any team is currently making use of this loophole, but has nevertheless taken measures to update the software for F1’s standard ECU before the season opening in Melbourne.
In 1995, Toyota were banned from contesting further rounds of that year’s (and 1996’s) World Rally Championship for altering standard turbo restrictors fitted to the cars of that era. The alteration being a flange with a hidden bypass device held open with a strong spring. The then current FIA President Max Mosley explained that, “When the system was dismantled, the flange would automatically close itself and remove any evidence that any extra air could have entered the engine”.
The FIA estimated the tampering allowed an extra 25% of air to enter the engine, producing around 50 more horsepower on top of the then allowed 300bhp – not an insubstantial gain! Despite the device being immaculately crafted, Toyota claimed the device had been devised at a “certain level” unbeknownst to management – a claim dismissed by the FIA.
Of course, initial ideas are always conceived at a “certain level”, whether or not they’re brought to the attention of upper management (or technical partners) used to be a matter of Murdoch-esque conjecture – however the lead time required in Formula 1 these days would seem refute this. Therefore it’s quite possible an engine manufacturer has been in “purely academic” discussions with a particular team regarding incorporating a larger throttle. Furthermore with Ferrari, Renault and Mercedes, all supplying at least three teams apiece, the potential of one team tarnishing a particular manufacturer’s image only serves to increase. Natural then, for an engine maker to snuff out any hint of their involvement in case anything nefarious arises during the season.
It is strange then, given the FIA’s march towards closing exhaust blowing loopholes that little official attention has been given to Sauber’s downward-scooping side-pod design. A conception (as explained by Craig Scarborough on Episode 58 of The Flying Lap and http://scarbsf1.wordpress.com) that allows exhaust gases (the exhaust exiting from the sidepod’s lowest point) to “hitch a ride” with the natural airflow along the sidepods and into aerodynamic devices such as the rear-wing or diffuser. Whilst this concept isn’t as duplicitous asToyota’s “restrictor bypass” device, it does somewhat fly-in-the-face (or wings!) of the FIA’s clampdown on exhaust driven diffusers and blown rear wings.
I wonder what extra percentage of gas Err… I mean air might be making its way to that Sauber diffuser. 25% sounds like a nice figure.