Formula 1

Mercedes can raise race performance if quali mode banned

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
3 min read

Mercedes thinks it can increase its engine performance in races if a ban on special qualifying engine modes is introduced, says its Formula 1 chief Toto Wolff.

This weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix could be the last in which teams are allowed to deploy high performance engine modes in qualifying as the FIA wants to equalise engine settings across qualifying and the race.

It has been theorised that Mercedes would be the big loser from this as its engine performance gains over the winter are thought to be behind its vastly superior qualifying form so far this season.

However, world champion Lewis Hamilton said it would not have what he believes is the desired effect of “slowing us down”, and his team boss Wolff argues it could have the opposite impact.

Mercedes’ qualifying advantage diminishes in the races, where its performance is generally ahead of immediate rival Red Bull-Honda but the gap is much closer.

“I think the primary goal of the FIA was to implement the rule to better understand and better analyse what is actually going on with the engines,” said Wolff.

“We’re able to give it a little bit more power in that last session. If that is not possible anymore, we think we can translate that into more performance in the race” :: Toto Wolff

“It’s a very complex method between the combustion engine and all the energy recovery systems. And I think that by having one mode, it becomes more easy for the FIA to really see if everything is in compliance.

“It has always been the case in Formula 1 that putting back the leaders is something that is good for the sport.

“We see it very much as a challenge.

“We have a good quali mode, we’re able to give it a little bit more power in that last session, and if that is not possible anymore, because everything needs to be smoothing out over the race, it’s not a deficit for us.

“On the contrary, we think we can translate that into more performance in the race.

“And that is something which is a great challenge, which we will take on once the rule is implemented.”

Ferrari’s heavily-scrutinised superior engine performance in qualifying last year triggered a series of technical directives from the FIA to ensure teams were not burning oil or manipulating fuel-flow regulations to gain performance.

The team was never found guilty of wrongdoing as an investigation into its 2019 engine ended in a confidential settlement, but its performance has slumped this year and Ferrari has blamed technical directives for that – while also claiming that every other manufacturer has been impacted too.

But Charles Leclerc said on Thursday that the mooted rule change would not impact Ferrari as badly as the others because it does not have the peak qualifying modes of its rivals.

Team boss Mattia Binotto said: “There have been many TDs which have been issued in the last months on power units.

Charles Leclerc Ferrari Spanish Grand Prix 2020 Barcelona

“I think all of them have somehow eventually affected all manufacturers, and I think the next one as well will simply affect all the power unit manufacturers.

“Will it affect more one or the other? I think we can only understand by the time we’ve got the technical directive. We need to see the real true content of it.

“Obviously if you have the best car on track, the status quo would be obviously the easiest solution to move forward.

“But I think at the end, it’s not a technical directive which will be issued only to be against one of the other manufacturers.

“It is simply again the fact that those relations are so complex that clarifications are required.”

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