Is clever engine mapping on his Red Bull the secret to Vettel’s success?

As speculation swirls around the extent of Sebastian Vettel’s dominance in the past few races, the consensus emerging is that his Red Bull RB9 is making clever use of a ‘post-exhaust blowing’ solution.

After the reigning World Champion extended his 2013 points lead with a dominant performance in Singapore, former Formula 1 team boss Giancarlo Minardi raised doubts about the legality of Vettel’s Red Bull.

Minardi, watching trackside at Marina Bay, said that Vettel’s car displayed worryingly good handling, while his Renault engine “sounded similar to past seasons when traction control went into action”.

Indeed, Autosprint has now uncovered a video (above) that depicts the odd mid-corner sound of Vettel’s car in Singapore.

Sebastian Vettel on race day in Singapore

Sebastian Vettel on race day in Singapore

The cover of the latest edition of Autosprint reads ‘Il segreto di Vettel’ (Vettel’s secret), and reportedly reveals information about the German’s recent dominance.

Autosprint, however, doubts that Red Bull is using some kind of traction control, but rather clever engine map that mimics the behaviour of exhaust-blown diffusers in the wake of the FIA’s clampdown in that area.

British journalist James Allen, writing on his blog, agrees: “Rather than traction control, some kind of mapping to blow into the exhaust within the rules is more likely.”

Toto Wolff, Mercedes‘ competition boss, is quoted by Speed Week: “In this form, Sebastian could win all the remaining races of the season.”

The view Sebastian Vettel's rivals had of him in Singapore

The view Sebastian Vettel’s rivals had of him in Singapore

That could lead to more booing on the podium, an element that has plagued the triple World Champion since his three race winning streak began in Belgium.

Pirelli boss Paul Hembery told the German newspaper Bild: “Sebastian will only be popular again [if] he loses. He will have to stand up in defeat, laugh and be humble. Nobody likes a bad loser.”

“Maybe we can help him out by supplying him with only three tyres?” he joked. (GMM.)

Subbed by AJN.

  • pfft

    Seems more likely. Newey is a master of aero.

  • Michael Schumacher

    Wow! Minardi was right all along!

  • Rob Ducker

    Frankly I don’t see how it can be within the spirit or words of the regulations. I also don’t think the amount of gain is feasible either.

    The Teams are asked to submit 3 possible engine maps thy intend to use at the start of the season. If anyone hasn’t noticed we are nearer the end than the beginning, so unless someone has sneaked something past CW (again) then it cant be engine maps.
    I also don’t see how that would give the sort of gains we are seeing. We lost about a second a lap with the EBD and gained about 1/3 of that back with the coanda system. Given that fuel was being fired into the EBD off throttle to keep it blowing part of the reason the Engine/Throttle maps had to be provide was to prove they were no longer continuing that practice.

    If anyone has heard the sound, and I have, I must say it sounds like either TC or a weird type of blown diffuser – quite hollow sounding (ie like gas expanding in a chamber) for about 1 -2 seconds max as the power is applied. As someone else has suggested there is another way of applying TC via the KERS system, so that excess torque is shed into the kinetic harvester. We will see far more of THAT next year.

  • Spartacus

    Traction control systems sound more random when being applied. This is too set in one mode then into another. It might just be keeping the engine breathing air and keeping the aero active. Which would also help cool the engine and would have helped Webber stay in the race!

  • Taskmaster

    “If anyone has heard the sound, and I have, I must say it sounds like either TC or a weird type of blown diffuser – quite hollow sounding (ie like gas expanding in a chamber)”

    This is exactly what it it. The exhaust includes a large chamber that is connected to each collector. Its called a Helmholtz resonator. This chamber is used to tune the intake/exhaust flow to maximize power at a specific RPM. This is used by most all teams, and my be used to aide flow to the diffuser. Since the chamber size, openings, etc.. are tuned to act at a specific narrow RPM range, each team may tune it for different uses, thus it may or may not create a noise that is noticeable, and may vary from team to team, or even car to car. Mercedes may be using it for top speed, while Red Bull may be using it to aide low speed flow to enhance both corner exit power and the Coanda effect. Lotus and Ferrari are known to have the chamber as well. There is a fascinating article on these, and other features of the RB9 for all to see (including competitors and the FIA) at:

    w w w . racecar-engineering . com / cars / red-bull-rb9 /

  • coefficientf1

    Only the practice of hot blowing of the diffuser was outlawed. Cold blowing is still acceptable and is precisely what we’re seeing here.

    Off throttle the engine map cuts cylinders creating a vacuum effect within the engine. The engine is then effectively used as an air pump sucking air through the airbox and firing it out through the exhaust at high velocity down the ramp and alongside the diffusor.

    25% of lap time is in slow speed mickey mouse stuff therefore if you can make 100% improvement in this areas you will improve 25% of your lap time in one hit. Red Bull have perfected off throttle cold blowing od the diffusor and singapore is the result.

  • Red Bull Cheats

    Classic that only Vettel gets this, not Mark.

  • JPSmoove

    We can speculate about how RB is doing what they are doing, but just as one detractor speculates, another spectator exalts the genius and “engine-uity” (sorry). But I do know that human nature does not change, and I can always count on greed to motivate like non-other.

    @Red Bull Cheats – Webber does not need it, RB wins championships without cheating twice.

  • Don

    Rainfall for an extended period during a race would probably shed more light on this, traction control would be benefit were as exhaust blowing maybe snuffed out with very moist air.

  • Tinto

    So much self-importance trying to explain something none of local experts can ever do, or denigrate reputation of three time champion. It is so pittyful… Enjoy watching greatness instead.

  • LotusFan

    @Tinto Greatness that suddenly makes a driver go 2+ secs faster than anybody else ?
    Nobody is saying they are cheating. RB9 has made what can only be termed spectacular performance gains. The talent of the driver might help is maximizing the gain made. But Vettel cannot be the sole reason atleast for reasonable and rational people.
    So everybody is trying to figure out how that huge jump in performance was made
    It is not pittyful as you put it. The fact that you cannot understand this is what is pityful

  • Alonso_is_Slow

    It is funny that Vettel, the best driver in the current grid is accused of cheating by jealous rivals and rival’s fans.

    Alonso was not accused but PROVEN to be cheating at least 3 times (not counting minor ones like Massa’s gearbox change, etc.)
    -crashgate (he knew about it but escaped it due to an interview by an ‘independent investigator’)
    -mass dampers (which helped him to an illegal world title)
    -stolen ferrari data at mclaren (which he was discussing over his radio – again running for a world title)
    -illegal team orders, Germany, 2010.

    If people are looking for a cheater in F1, then they should look no further. Alonso is the biggest cheater in F1.

  • Tamburello_1994

    Anytime someone wants to come up with some actual proof would be appreciated by us folks not in the conspiracy business.

  • Tinto

    @LotusFan: That is fine mate, but let me just tell one more comment.

    If the other teams that run F1 engineering and business are so clueless in finding the root cause of RB’s success, how on earth people ordinary like us stand a chance to shed some light?

    Even engine mapping is the cause, as long as it is done playing with the norms outsmarting everybody, is not this top engineering? I am afraid many of the posters have no engineering knowledge and I am giving you a painful example…

    In an old article, Newey suggested that Alonso’s complain about about RB’s front wing was not his merit, but the Ferrari engineering team one that told him so, for the simple reason a driver does not have skills to understand the engineering background. So here you go, fans outsmarting drivers, teams, and so on.

  • VettelFanboy

    Seems to be human nature to enjoy watching greatest fall and even trying to be the cause of it. I must be Alien because I appreciate greatness. I don’t care if you give Vettel or Newey the credit, the fact is Red Bull are in a league of their own. That’s not luck. That’s putting a team of individuals together that create perfect harmony. It’s hard work. It’s about pushing for the extra .001 of a second in pitstops. It’s not about stopping to enjoy your wins. It’s not about getting complacent. It’s push push push until your competitors souls are crushed and then push more.

    F1 is about pushing the limits and interpretation of the rules. And yes, sometimes teams interpretations of them differ from the FIA. That doesn’t imply cheating. The rules were made to promote creativity and technological advancement, not stifle them. If they weren’t meant to be pushed we would have NASCAR and Indy car. That would be boring. As big a fan of red bull and Vettel as I am, I love when teams create something that works. I love the genius of these people. These guys could run NASA. Red Bull just seems to have the knowledge to push the envelope.

    Any TRUE f1 fan would appreciate what they do. Any true fan of genius, success and team work would respect Red Bull. You don’t have to want them to win, but a true fan of the greatest sport in the world and a true fan of human ingenuity would at least respect red bull.

    A side effect of red bulls success is it forces the teams YOU like
    to not get lazy. Proud teams such as Ferrari and McLaren can only have their Egos shattered and souls crushed by a 26 year old German and a young energy drunk company for so long before they get their butts in gear and start competing.

    You can hate Horner all you want but his genius is up there with Neweys, but instead of specializing in Aero he specialized in building a great team.

    Don’t expect things to be much different next year. Same team, same genius, running it, designing the car and driving it. Instead of booing Vettel or cursing red bull for dominance I
    Would turn my back when a ferrari, mclaren or merc passes by on the track until they do what they are paid to do and give their fans something to be proud of. But I guess I’m lucky, I’m a red bull/Vettel fanboy.

  • KC

    Here’s an idea so crazy and out of the box it might just be true. Maybe Vettel’s success is due to clever DRIVING on his part and not clever engineering of any sort? I mean, he DOES have a very long record of being a very fast driver. The very first time he drove an F1 car he set the fastest time in Friday practice. He owns a barge full of F1 records including youngest driver to score a point, to take pole, to win a race, and to lead a lap.

    So the curious thing is not that he wins a lot, it’s that so many people are determined to find some non-driver related reason for his winning.

  • VettelFanboy

    KC you are right and as a Vettel fan I think its stupid people try to avoid giving him credit but I don’t disagree that it’s a combination of things, car driver and team. But that’s with every single team on the grid. You lose as a team and win as a team. The best driver isn’t going to win with the worst car and team. They may be able to place higher than an average driver but all the pieces have to align. Vettel and the Red Bull Chassis are like a hand in a glove. It’s a perfect fit. Nobody can say with certainty that Hami or Alonso could do the same thing in that car as all drivers have different styles. Look at webber, he struggle with the blown diffusor and did a little better when it was banned. Anybody that knows race craft knows it’s not just mashing the gas or brake and turning the wheel. There are thousands of tiny inputs that can’t be taught and the drivers themselves probably don’t even understand to the full extent what it is. They may say “I give more throttle here to induce oversteer and rotate the car quicker” but in reality their mind, feet and hands are doing much much more than they realize. And from a spectators view that doesn’t understand race craft, they just think it has to be the car how can he be so much faster than other fast drivers. But what they don’t understand is it doesn’t take much to be much faster. Getting on the throttle a few meters sooner at corner exist, carrying even 1 mph more through a turn before a long straight, being able to control braking so you can brake later and into the turn. These tiny differences over a lap can make up a second or so very easily if done corner after corner and done with the consistency that Vettel has. If Vettel has this tiny advantage corner after corner lap after lap it’s huge where Alonso may carry more speed than Vettel through one turn then blow it on the next or can’t do it lap in lap out.

    Then add in red bull pit stops and Vettel is reducing his lap times more than others while just sitting in the pits

    The scary thing is, the dominance you saw in Singapore didnt really show completely. Without the SC it would have been worse. We also have to assume he was at some point told to conserve. No SC and Vettel going balls out, he would have lapped drivers that many think are the best on the grid like Alonso. He could have possible lapped every car on the grid if he was allowed to drive like he wanted to. That would have mentally destroyed even guys with strong minds like Alonso. Hami being a little weak in the mind could have possibly had a nervous breakdown and pulled over to have a good cry.

  • Troy F Collins

    It seems strange that you can hear Vettels car back burble on the overrun and even before as he enters the complex….

    how come none of the other cars make a sound like that… that precise spot…where the effect is most beneficial ?

    obviously even a cold blow would be optimised in situations at a high downforce track…..its a no brainer

    yet the other cars appear not using it…and Vettel looks quicker there too…..

    I dont think we’ve heard the last of this…..

  • KC

    “I dont think we’ve heard the last of this…..”

    People have been pissing and moaning about Vettel for years, and I’m sure they’re going to continue to do so for many more years.

  • Mats Jacobson

    I applaud all of your thoughts and it is great to see some incredibly brilliant fans thoughts!

    Go Vettel!!

  • LotusFan

    Troy F Collins – Vettel’s engine sounds really different as you say. Different teams engines sound different. Let us accept that. How come Webber’s engine does not sound like Seb’s engine? That is the most intriguing thing for me

  • AlsoRan

    Listen to what Sir Jackie has to say: (I paraphrase)
    In order to win you have to be consistent.
    Within a 1/10 of a lap, every lap, still leaving room to go faster
    if need be…
    Slow and smooth is faster…
    Just look at Vettel…doesn’t turn a wheel wrong, is in the same
    spot through every corner. True champion!

  • Henson

    The Elephant in the Room is that RedBull got Pirelli to switch the tyres even before the middle of the championship. Had the rules not changed, we would still have a competition between the tyre saving cars (Ferrari, Lotus) and the aero cars (RB, Mercedes). Strategies would have evolved accordingly. No wonder RedBull, Newey, Horner, Marko and Vettel are not crying anymore about ‘safety’. Because they did before. And some ‘fans’ complained that races were boring because drivers were saving tyres and not ‘driving to the limit’. Those fans got their ‘limit’ now. How much more amusing is it? Perhaps that’s why other types of fans boo: the rules switched to RBs favour, in detriment of competition and fairness.

  • Spartacus

    isn’t it funny how nobody seems to point the finger at Alonso for his cheating? Or even questioning how his car launches off the line such that he’s making many places up at every GP start?

    To have made up a few places once is good luck. To have done it several times might be Alonso’s “brilliance”, but is more likely launch control.

  • Alonso_is_Slow

    Spartacus, I agree, Alonso did not have a good starting ability before Ferrari, so it is clearly due to the car, and Massa also does it.

    Butas far as I can see, it happens always at the end of the starting straight line, not at the launch, , so maybe it has to do with setup as well.

    But still you are valid, funny that no one is questioning this.

  • Red horizon

    Each team designs its own system to start, which will not be that of the Ferrari is, at least in this case, the best?

  • Red horizon

    Considering also that not only Alonso starts well, but also Massa

  • Troy F Collins

    I would hazard to guess… be within the rules they could still achieve some of the hot blow effect using the previous massive ignition retardation..and perhaps overfuel on decel with some of the leftover rich unburnt charge……question is what’s happening with the throttle at that point because the ruling suggests the throttle plate must minic exactly what the pedal is doing now……

    Nothing against Seb…he’s fantastic and deserves his success

    Im just hoping that the other teams(red one) can get things happening quickly and give us good racing for the rest of the year….

  • John

    I have heard Vettels car making this noise in Melbourne in 2012 at the last shicane.
    It sounded like a slipper clutch preventing lockups.
    I have also seen a video of RB accelerating with the tires braking traction.
    What was strange about this was the tire marks.
    They were on off on off.
    It looked as if a traction control was used.
    I don’t believe that RB are using a traction control system but there is something different about the noise their cars are making.
    I am not an engeneer but I am willing to bet that this is some kind of KERS energy harnessing going on here.
    Vettel may be a good driver but it doesn’t mean he can treat his team mate tike he does. The booing is mostly because the way he is.
    Mark is a great driver too but he is being used by RB.
    How many times has Marks car broken down vs Sebs?
    If it was Mark winning all the time there would not be any of these RD cheating going on.
    Put Vettel in Marussia and see how good he is than.
    He wouldn’t have a chance….

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  • michel joachim von Grabner

    There is a shadowy figure standing over Vettel and Newey; it’s called Bernie Ecclestone.
    I operate on the percentage system.
    If you take 100 important factors in a Top F1 race car, and you add 1/8 of 1 percent to the 100′ factors you are never found out cheating – and the changes which are rather minute
    in nature go undetected while the cars performance has increased by over 2%..
    Vettels car needs to be impounded after a race and completely checked out as to additives whether mechanical or whether computerized.
    …..if by chance an independent engineering team can prove that this car has more holes in its character than swizz cheese, the entire Red Bull Team including drivers should be tossed from the organization for life.
    Renault is not that dependable.

  • Denny Rowland

    I think that there is a little more to this than is apparent. The pulsing exhaust noise is a give away. The object of the exercise is to create a higher flow of exhaust gasses into crucial areas at the back of the car. If one simply uses an engine map that backs off the ignition timing and throws in a little extra fuel when the throttle is closed then what comes out of the exhaust pipe is an improvement over simply closing the throttle but as that fuel was ignited inside the combustion chamber it is already cooling before it even gets to the ex. valve. It is nothing like what would happen if the extra fuel was injected as the exhaust valve closes. This charge of fuel would then ignite from an adjacent pipe that is already burning, as it ignites it will be expanding all the way down the pipe setting up a resonance rather like a pulse jet. The result would be a much higher velocity peak in the discharge and maximum energy would be released into the flow.

  • Denny Rowland

    Clearly that technology isn’t going to be of much use next year with the placing on the exhaust outlet. Nor do I think that Red Bull were using this for the duration of the race but I think Renault should take some of the credit for getting this to work over the last season. Was it legal? well the only disgrace is getting caught so it was if it could not be detected in the fuel maps.

  • Denny Rowland

    This scenario is only my theory but it is the only one that makes any sense to me.