Race Blog
Japan 2013

A whine that won't age well

Do a good job, a better one than your rivals, and as sure as night follows day you know what’s going to come your way… Accusations of tampering, tinkering, tweaking, and, ultimately, cheating. 

Those with perhaps less ability, application or understanding of the state of play always find it far easier to deflect attention away from their own shortcomings by directing suspicion and innuendo towards their competitors.

In whatever profession one plys, ‘twas ever thus.

Formula 1, of course, is no different and is perhaps the ultimate example of this destructive mindset.

Step forward Giancarlo Minardi.

Hospitality ticket in hand, the Italian former F1 team owner enjoyed a weekend at the Singapore Grand Prix. The sad part is what came next. Instead of applauding a crushing performance by the Red Bull RB9 driven so faultlessly by Sebastian Vettel, Minardi promulgated – to the ever-eager-for-a-salacious-story F1 press – his suspicions that the Renault engine powering Adrian Newey’s latest thoroughbred was employing traction control.

My heart sinks.

Tapping voraciously into their well-worn computers, F1 reporters – who really should know better – rapidly informed the world of the Italian’s ridiculous accusations, their words immediately jumped upon by that wonderful cabal of ill-informed fools so prevalent in society these days – the amateur hacks.

Give a man a keyboard and access to the internet and a whole world of pain is coming your way.

F1_know_it_all.com, grand-prix-expert.net, formula_insider.co.uk et al (names changed to protect the guilty) feed like a pack of ravenous dogs on this rubbish, telling their literally hundreds of readers how it was, how it is and how it shall be.

Sitting in their armchairs thousands of miles from the race track in question, and never having set foot in an F1 paddock, just doesn’t appear to matter to these goons. They’re going to tell you, me and the world what’s going on.

Here’s just one paragraph from a site claiming recently that Red Bull are using some kind of unheard of technology (the author, naturally, has never been seen at a grand prix):

“Let me start out by saying that the technology being discussed here is based on rumor. It’s a very well-supported rumor, but there is no proof that what is being discussed here actually exists.”


Of course everyone in F1 is sure in the knowledge that they’re the most informed expert in the paddock, but it’s a fact that 90 per cent of those who go to every grand prix know – outside of their own particular skill set – very little about the minutiae and machinations that are involved in the sport. Surely, then, some rational thinking should come into play when commenting on the thoughts of a man – Minardi – who hasn’t heard a contemporary F1 car competing in anger for many years. Lest we forget that even when he did, the cars were rushing past as he sat perched on his amply padded stool on the pit wall.

The rough engine note that the Italian heard has been audible all year, and is nothing more than some very clever, loophole-exploiting engine mapping. Both RB9s emit the same noise mid-corner when the drivers are off the throttle, not – as is the case with traction control – when pressure is applied to the throttle pedal under acceleration.

The amount of legal off-throttle exhaust-gas blowing is relative to the percentages applied to engine idle speed, so if a team/engine manufacturer can lower that speed, then the amount of detonation allowed when the car is moving but not under acceleration rises; hence the rough mid-corner burp of the RB9’s Renault power plant, exhaust gases working hard to keep airflow attached and therefore downforce maintained at critical cornering moments.

This is an aspect of current Formula 1 where Red Bull are way ahead of the competition. Sebastian Vettel is peerless in his ability to use the technology not only to garner maximum corner entry and exit speed, but also to use the Pirelli tyres at his disposal in a way that befuddles his rivals. The German’s fantastic speed to (tyre) wear rate is exceptional.

The Milton Keynes superteam don’t have traction control, they don’t have Starship Enterprise Warp Factor 10 power plants, they can’t race at galaxy-bending hyperspace speed. Rather they work harder than anyone else, longer than any other team, and apply themselves to being the best of the best.

That does not make them cheats.

Standing trackside during FP3 I’m at Suzuka’s 90º Degner 2 right handed corner. 600mm lens pointing back up the track to the very fast 4th gear Degner 1. The entry speed of every car is amazing – both Mercedes are impressive and Nico Rosberg in particular fully committed. The trouble for all but the RB9 pilotes is that there is quite a violent bump right at the corner’s apex.

Unsettled by this Tarmac jump, the cars are pitched towards the corner exit, onto the kerbing and often to the bright green AstroTurf run-off beyond. With the car now placed less than ideally, the run downhill to the rapidly approaching 2nd gear right is a tricky affair.

Then an RB9 appears. And what a sight it is. Magic carpet-like in its smoothness, it dismisses the bump – so treacherous for all the others – as if it were almost not there. That of course means turning, accelerating, braking, down-changing and rolling into Degner 2 passes in a perfect and almost seamless flow.

It’s almost as if active ride wizardry is at work.

And that’s not meant to be jumped on by you conspiracy theorists!


Please now take a few minutes to enjoy my 2013 Japanese Grand Prix picture gallery by clicking here.

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