With the idea of limiting engine modes from as soon as the Belgium GP onward by the FIA, the F1 drivers have voiced their opinions in a mixed way.
Engine modes have long been incorporated in F1, but they’ve only been truly been part of the conversation since 2018, when Mercedes proved the full extent of their worth using a setting they called ‘party mode’. As was noted, this was not the first engine mode to be used, but rather an evolution of a system the team had been using since 2014.
In qualifying – Q3 being the only time the full-beans mode is regularly activated – gaps between the Mercedes’ and the chasing F1 pack grew, as others sought to replicate the system on their respective cars with Ferrari coming with its own.
From the outset, there were suggestions that variable engine modes should be banned under parc ferme regulations, which prohibit significant changes to the set-up of race entries between the start of qualifying and the race. At the time, this idea had a small group of supporters, among them Red Bull boss Christian Horner.
Now, though, it has come to light that there is an inbound F1 technical directive from the FIA that will ban the use of such ‘party modes’. Some say this is a targeted attempt to slow the roll of Mercedes, who have perhaps the most evolved variation of this system of all the other engine manufacturers. At the moment, it is not clear if it will be from 2021 or it can come straight from next race onward in Belgium GP.
Naturally, Mercedes and their F1 engine customers are hesitant to let their advantageous mode-hopping ability go, and Lewis Hamilton has even hit out at the FIA over the potential bar, stating that it is unlikely to achieve the intended result. Valtteri Bottas, too, was largely unperturbed by the notion, though he seemed to be under the impression that the ban would apply to what goes on during the race, which it expressly would not.
Others, like the Renault and Racing Point drivers’, were also uninformed on the topic early on Thursday. The two F1 drivers of the former team were also against the ban, as they enjoy the visceral qualifying experience we have now, while the drivers of the latter team had no significant contribution to the discussion by their own admission.
For McLaren, this has far-reaching implications, as they will soon be switching to Mercedes power. At the moment, though, one of the team’s drivers – Carlos Sainz – is conflicted, while his teammate is on the same page, adding that there is a degree of unfairness with the potential rule, and that it might be hard to police, as they spoke to media including Racefans.net, Motorsport Network, BBC, Reuters, AMuS and more.
Here’s the Mercedes contingent including McLaren (for 2021):
Lewis Hamilton: “It’s not a surprise to us, they’re always trying to slow us down. But it doesn’t really change a huge amount for us so it’s not a problem. And just going back to the fact that at the end of the day, the guys on our team have done such a great job with the engine. As I told you it’s obviously to slow us down but I don’t think it’s going to get the result that they want, so that’s totally fine if they do.”
Valtteri Bottas: “It’s impossible to know with other F1 engine manufacturers how much they can actually gain when they do it all-out in qualifying and if we’re gaining more or not. We are not panicking about it, if that regulation comes it’s the same for everyone. But when I heard about it for the first time, the possibility, actually this morning, the first thing came to my mind was that in races, because every team obviously has different modes in terms of how much they want to risk wearing the engine.
“And it’s also the same for us, we can save the engine if we have a margin and also in terms of strategic things in the race, for drivers many times we are using different modes whether we are defending, attacking, so from my side it feels like if it could be the same engine mode for everyone all through the race, I think there could be less overtaking because everyone is just running the same modes instead of playing with them and trying to maximize every situation with sometimes using more power, sometimes less. In the end there would be less things for us to do while driving, but obviously it’s not up to us and we’ll take it if it comes.”
Lance Stroll: “I’m not aware of that information. I can’t really comment on it. I think that would be a shame. F1 is all about operating at the maximum capacity of the car and the engine. I think we want to see all the engine manufacturers, the teams, the car development, pushed to the limit. I don’t think that would be nice to see.”
Sergio Perez: “I don’t know when is that happening? I thought it was for next year. Potentially Spa? Let’s see if that happens.”
George Russell: “I think I’d be disappointed to see it lost. I think for every engine manufacturer you’ve got a boost for qualifying. When you’re within the car you’ve got the lowest amount of fuel you have for the whole weekend, you’ve got the fastest engine mode, you’re the most pumped up and ready for that lap you’re about to approach. So everything just feels like a little bit extra and it allows you to just extract that bit more from the car, and it’s such an exciting part of the weekend.
“So I’d be disappointed to see it gone and I think it’s normal in life – you have like a run-up. If it’s only a 100m race you can sprint throughout that, or if you’re doing a marathon you’ve got to take it easy for the duration – and it’s the same with an engine. You’ve got that one lap, give it full beans, and then just tune it down for the race.”
Nicholas Latifi: “It definitely is noticeable. You feel the engine is just a bit more punchy, obviously you’re using the full deployment of the battery as well, so you’re kind of ending with nothing left. So, it’s kind of about pumping yourself up going into the lap and you feel the extra boost that you get. So it would be a shame to lose that part of it.”
Carlos Sainz: “From one side it’s a good idea to keep everything a bit more consistent and more predictable for the fans and for us as the teams it’s very tough to predict the swing of performance gains in all the teams, so it would be one less thing for the engineers and the strategists. But on the other hand, if that makes some teams slower and it slows down the lap times down I’m also a bit hesitant because I just want F1 cars to be as fast as they can be. And you take performance, and probably around Spa it could probably be quite a big chunk of laptime around that circuit. I haven’t thought about it too much to be honest.”
Lando Norris: “I only just saw it so I don’t know see the in and outs of what they’re going to do or how much or what modes. Every engine manufacturer has different modes and so on, and some have a lot more than others so it’s probably going to be a very difficult thing to police to this extent of how many variables there are in F1 these days, with the battery and the power unit and so on. It’s very difficult to say.
“It’s going to benefit some teams more than others. I don’t know if it’s going to benefit us more or less than other teams but at the same time, it takes away that rawness of teams doing better job, they kind of deserve to use the advantage they got. It’s only good if it’s going to be benefiting you because your package isn’t as good as someone else “I’m still confident [in our future with Mercedes]. I think we’ve made the right decision with what we want to do with our future. And we still stick by that 100%.
“I think in some ways, it’s a bad and a good thing, knowing that they’re going to lose the most, bad because they’re going to lose the advantage that they had, but in a good way that they’ve got that advantage, and most likely leading the way in terms of the power unit and power output and so on. So you can look at it both ways.
“I don’t know exactly, like I said earlier, how much it’s gonna create a loss for them, or benefit other teams or whatever. I think we just need to wait and see until they they clarify it a bit more. But until then, I think we just have to make the most of our opportunities as McLaren and Renault. And so work together in harmony and do the best job we can.”
Here’s the Ferrari contingent:
Charles Leclerc, seemingly tried to avoid saying outright that Ferrari don’t use such a mode, said it could only be positive for his outfit, but that he remains unsure of just how beneficial the ban could be for his team. Of his competitors, Racing Point are the only ones who use Mercedes power, and it remains unclear who of the other engine manufacturers benefits from a ‘party mode’ setting.
The Alfa Romeo cars – and Kimi Raikkonen specifically – said that their team does not utilise variable engine modes like Mercedes, whereas the Haas had mixture of response as they wanted to wait to see the full details to know what changes is happening where Romain Grosjean re-visited the KERS system.
Charles Leclerc: “To be honest on us, I don’t think it will affect us so much. It can only be positive for us. Then how beneficial it will be, we’ve yet to see. But for us, we don’t…I can say, that we don’t have anything different from quali to the race. So for us it won’t change anything.”
Sebastian Vettel: “Let’s wait and see what happens. I think it always depends what you’re able to pull off I guess. If you have something, you know, developed on your engine that you can probably run in certain amount of mileage with more power, more stress on the engine then, probably not the best news, but from where we are right now it doesn’t affect us. I guess, depending on how much it makes a difference to you, you’re either happy or not happy. Pretty simple.”
Kevin Magnussen: “The only reason we don’t run full power the whole time is reliability. And what matters to us is how competitive you are. Sometimes when you’re turning engines up and down, it can, it can mix up your braking points and entry speeds to different corners. And as a driver, it would be nice if you just had the same power the whole weekend.
“But the main thing is to be competitive, I guess and that’s what you look at when you try to pull as much power from the engine that you can, so if you only are allowed to run one single engine map the whole whole weekend, I think you would probably limit running, in practice and so on. I guess that’s my guess.”
Romain Grosjean: “To be hundred percent honest, I just read on Twitter about the new rule. And I haven’t discussed with any of the engineers the impact that we think may have. So I know what we have between free practice, quali and race. I don’t know what the others have. So it’s difficult to answer right now the question, obviously, yes, when there’s a new rule coming in, you always hope it’s going into your favour rather than the other way around.
“So I guess we wait and see for Spa. We know what we have. But when I was watching on-boards from the last race, and I saw where Nicholas Latifi could overtake Kev between nine and 10, obviously, they have a button that is very powerful with the Mercedes engine, which is good for them, because it’s definitely not a place where you can overtake a car.
“If it was down to me, I would go back to the KERS time where you would have 100% of battery for the lap and you could use it as you wanted to defend or attack and that was quite cool to just be able to use your energy up as you wanted. I think when the driver has got some say on how he wants to defend or to attack, it’s pretty cool. But, again, we know what we have. What difference it’s gonna make to us? I don’t know what it’s gonna make to the others.”
Kimi Raikkonen: “We don’t have any so it makes no difference to us. Obviously we can see that if you take practice, what happens in qualifying we seem to take quite a big hit. The others seem to have a lot of straight-line speed, but that’s out of our hands. We have what we have and we try to make the best out of it. We’ll see what happens.”
Antonio Giovinazzi: “That’s something we see after FP3 going into qualifying some teams gain so much. It would be something for sure for us to have a little bit better situation, but we’ll see if it will happen or not. For us it won’t change much, but hopefully we can be a little bit closer on the midfield.
“I think in the race it’s less different compared to qualifying so far. It’s of course not easy, but also other engines they are also quite good in the race and we are also a little bit closer to the competitors. The main difference is in qualifying simulation.”
Here’s Renault and Red Bull-Honda:
Max Verstappen: “I guess we will see what happens with that. I think in a way, maybe it’s good, because we are not really allowed to touch the car after qualifying except those kind of things, with engine modes. Probably if you want to go down that route anyway by not touching the car, then I think it’s good that you get rid of that as well.”
Daniel Ricciardo: “That’s the first I’ve heard of it. My initial answer is no they shouldn’t be banned, because I like going all out on Saturday and I think that’s what qualifying is really for, but if there’s more to it then I won’t answer too much more. But the thought of going fast, even from a pure performance point of view for an F1 car to be singing as loud as it can on one lap and for the engine guys to try and squeeze everything, that’s also cool.
“From that concept I love, I don’t think I want that to be changed, but I better find out more. I’ve been driving these V6 Renaults since F1 2014 so I felt last year was the biggest step in that time. So yeah, there is progress, you feel it, but yeah. Is this news, this qualifying stuff? Welcome to the discussion, Daniel!”
Esteban Ocon: “I was not aware, this is the first time I’ve heard of it, so I’m as surprised as he is. It’s good to have a pure one lap exercise in qualifying like we have now. Full beans, new set of tyres and push. We have enough to think about in the race, that qualifying is a cool exercise. I would probably prefer to keep it the way it is now.”
Here’s bet of Daniel Ricciardo with Cyril Abiteboul
Here’s Sergio Perez, Sebastian Vettel on their rumours
Here’s update on F1 Concorde Agreement
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