Early into the Hungarian GP weekend, Sebastian Vettel was adamant that Red Bull’s ability to tweak the way in which it delivers mid-range torque up until the German Grand Prix was negligible in terms of performance gain.
Speaking after qualifying, Vettel was complaining of balance issues…
“I think for us it was more a difficulty to get everything to work properly”, said Sebastian. “I think the speed is there but it seems extremely difficult once you lose the balance a little bit, so I think we were struggling a little bit with that in qualifying”.
While it may be a little imprudent to suggest any imbalance is directly related to engine mapping (with upwards of 15 maps sometimes being trialed over a weekend), it does throw up some interesting possibilities given the tight, flowing nature of the Hungaroring circuit.
Writing an engine map generally decrees how far the throttle opens in relation to the movement of the accelerator pedal. In general terms, how the greatest degree of pedal movement would relate to where a driver’s input (his right foot) would be most desired.
If the previous engine map made the torque curve more flat, it would stand to reason that the RB8 is harder to control without it. Around a tight circuit like Hungaroring, where throttle sensitivity is at its premium, one would expect some variation
Whilst it may be impossible to quantify in real-time what the change in engine mapping has cost Red Bull, there is little doubt it would be much more difficult for their drivers to achieve consistency in managing the car’s dynamic mass over a practice stint – let alone a Grand Prix. At Lotus the very same Renault engine is achieving a much higher relative top speed difference. One could argue this is the result of the Lotus having inherently less downforce than that of the RB8 – and yet Lotus’s brisk long-runs suggest otherwise.
Have Lotus merely designed their car to compensate for the peaks in the torque transfer, where Red Bull up till now used the extra exhaust in its absence to create downforce? If so, Red Bull will be in close consultation with Renault’s engineers to find the right map to give their drivers the easiest time.
Either way, with Romain Grosjean one spot ahead of Sebastian Vettel with today’s Grand Prix, consistency will be paramount over the 4.3 km track.