Will engine changes in Valencia rein in Vettel’s charging Red Bull?

Posted on June 24, 2011

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Formula One has arrived at the traditional snooze fest venue that is Valencia, with all the talk surrounding engines and mapping.

Having a harbour does not a Monaco circuit make. Credit: Lotus Renault GP

The only truly memorable incident from the 2010 race was Mark Webber’s spectacular accident, which saw the Australian fly through the air, land upside and spin into the barriers – before walking away from the ruined Red Bull. Sebastian Vettel led from lights to flag.

But there is much speculation that FIA rules changes on engine mapping could be about to upset the apple cart. In short, teams are now banned from changing the way their engine runs between qualifying and the race.

The theory goes Red Bull have been ramping up engine performance for Q3 and then dialling it back for the race – mainly because it would ruin engines to run a race distance in the go-faster mode. It’s one possible explanation for Vettel’s total qualifying dominance this year, especially considered the relative pace of McLaren on Sunday.

Will it make a huge difference? Hard to tell. Another of Red Bull’s great advantages is having so much downforce on the RB7 they can use their moveable rear wing through corners in qualifying. I’ve not seen any other teams manage this through high speed corners and that’s a big factor in Red Bull’s pace.

There’s a further change about ‘hot blowing’ the diffusers coming at Silverstone and this will effect all teams to a degree but, theoretically, it could also hurt Red Bull more than most.

I have a little concern about such significant rules changes mid-season, especially when it appears at least to be an attempt to drag in the leaders. It’s not as if Red Bull have been found doing anything illegal – the FIA are unilaterally changing the rules and moving the goal posts. I don’t want to see this championship sewn up three months early but if Red Bull are that good then, well, they are that good.

Whatever happens, Adrian Newey’s RB7 is frighteningly fast. And behind the wheel, Sebastian Vettel has been almost unbeatable. I fear he still will be, despite McLaren and Ferrari’s efforts to catch up.

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