FIA confident exhaust confusion is over
FIA technical delegate Charlie Whiting is confident the controversy surrounding off-throttle exhaust blown diffusers has been put to bed and that there will be no protests from the teams on the issue.
Debates over the legality of teams' exhaust systems and engine maps hung over the British Grand Prix last weekend, with the governing body changing the regulations during and between practice sessions. The crux of the issue was the use of exhaust gases to influence the performance of the diffuser when the driver is not pressing the accelerator, which the FIA considers "arguably illegal".
The teams met twice to discuss the issue before deciding to stick with the FIA's restrictions for the British Grand Prix before reverting to the regulations used at the European Grand Prix for the rest of the season.
Asked if the matter was now settled, Whiting told the FIA's website: "Yes, and all cars will run under 'Valencia' conditions for the remainder of the season."
He added: "We are optimistic that there will be no protests over any engine mapping and exhaust tailpipe issues this season. In addition to the main part of the agreement reached in the TWG [Technical Working Group] meetings it was also agreed that no team would raise a protest against another on these matters for the rest of the season."
Whiting also took the opportunity to explain some of the background to the situation.
"The matter was initiated by the FIA when facts concerning some quite extreme, and hitherto unseen, engine mapping began to emerge," he said. "We were concerned that exhaust tailpipes were being positioned and engine maps created with the primary objective of improving in the aerodynamic performance of the car. Prior to that it had been assumed that any aerodynamic benefits were incidental to the primary purpose of the engine and its exhausts, i.e. that of generating torque."
But he admitted that the FIA's "blanket" approach to regulating the engine maps had created problems of its own.
"It soon became apparent that the matter was more complex than initially thought," Whiting said. "The main problem was the difficulty of ensuring that teams were not prevented from using existing legitimate strategies whilst ensuring that the extreme mapping was no longer possible. This is why we postponed the introduction of the measures until the British Grand Prix. There are also a number of other mechanical factors to take into account such as the architecture of the engine throttles themselves (butterfly or barrel operation)."
He also explained why the regulations changed during the grand prix weekend.
"The matter was still being discussed because one engine manufacturer (Renault Sport) was reluctant to run with the settings we had imposed and continued to try and convince us that they would require alternative settings in order to maintain their perfect reliability record," Whiting added. "At the last minute additional information was provided to us which we felt would be hard to refuse having already made a small concession to another manufacturer (Mercedes Benz HPE).
"However, further discussions on Friday evening and Saturday morning resulted in us deciding that we had conceded too much and, to be fair to the manufacturers who had presented cars in what we considered the correct configuration, we should revert to the specification we had specified in our note to the teams on 20 June. This is how all teams then ran on Saturday and Sunday in Silverstone."
Whiting added that the FIA plans to eradicate exhaust blown diffusers altogether ahead of the start of the 2012 season.
"The teams have already agreed to strict constraints on exhaust tailpipe position which will result in them exiting the bodywork much higher up and no longer in the vicinity of the diffuser," Whiting said. "Therefore, any aerodynamic benefit from exhaust gas flow over bodywork will be kept to an absolute minimum.
"Engine mapping will remain free (within the existing constraints of the FIA SECU) as, with the exhaust tailpipes in this new position, it is felt that any aerodynamic benefit will now be incidental to their primary purpose."