How teams dodge traction control ban

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Mark Webber, Lewis Hamilton, Heikki Kovalainen, Sepang, 2008, 470150

The FIA are failing to make teams stick to the traction control ban according to ITV’s Ted Kravitz.

The teams have been using special engine setting maps at the start of the races to simulate launch control and get their cars off the line as quickly as possible – and efforts to stop the practice have failed.

To prevent teams doing this the FIA introduced a new rule that said there must be a 90 second delay between a driver changing the engine map and the new setting be applied to the engine by the software. It was hoped that the teams would not want the cars running with their ‘launch control’ settings for the whole of the first lap and so wouldn’t be able to use them.

However according to Kravitz the teams are still using the ‘launch control’ maps anyway because the start of the race offers such a good opportunity to move up through the field.

If I were trying to get around the ban I’d switch from the ‘launch control’ setting to race mode about 60 seconds before the start – I suspect most if not all the teams are doing this. Kravitz suggested this was why we’ve seen so many crashes at the start of races this year, and it might explain Felipe Massa’s unusual spin at the start of the Australian Grand Prix.

Keep an eye on those radio broadcasts and in-car shots at the start of the next race to see if anyone’s fiddling with their engine maps at the end of the formation lap…

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 23 comments on “How teams dodge traction control ban”

    1. Keith I think we chould give some credit to Ted Kravitz. His paddock notebooks after each Grand Prix always add some more information and detail to the race and often illuminates issues such as this. He clearly has a very good set of connections in the paddock and does a pretty good job to hoot. 

    2. Having said that….

      If anyone on the board thought that the teams would NOT succesfully get around the ECU please email me, I have a bridge I would like to sell you. :)

    3. I agree Mark his wrap-ups are always a good read. I don’t get the bridge thing though?

    4. Should Ted be kept by the BBC then?  :)  That may be a wise decision.

    5. Scott Joslin
      27th March 2008, 9:13

      It is an interesting insight as to how early the teams seem to have worked round the launch control issue and begs to differ if the ECU has missed the point already.

      I am not sure about Ted – One hot day does not make a summer and while this is a good insight, I feel he lacks a certain technical prowess. I read his note book from each Grand Prix and it sounds like a work experience boy writing up his notes for revision.

      Bridge? Do you mean London Bridge/Tower Bridge?

    6. I fail to see why this is an issue? How does a special engine map give any particular team an advantage?

      Ps. Keith, the link to Ted Kravitz article is incorrect. You are linking to the admin page of your blog :)

    7. Wow I really don’t want to be doing that. Thanks AJ!

      It doesn’t necessarily give any team an advantage, but the purpose of the traction and launch control bans was to make the driver rather than the software responsible for getting the car off the line as quickly as possible.

      By using these optimised start settings the teams seem to have found a way around that – and it must be a fairly effective way around it as well, because the FIA have tried to stop them.

    8. It was always going to be the way that the teams would find a way of navigating these new rules.  As you say, the 90 second delay isn’t really a deterrent given that the driveer could just instigate the change prior to the lights going out.

      Would be interesting to know if this results in a huge change in performance – sufficient enough to spin the car if it changed halfway round a corner.

      Have we seen any incar footage of Heikki hitting the pitlane limiter?  If not, then McLaren’s willingness to offer that explanation may be because they actually have something "worse" to hide – perhaps he hit some kind of engine remap button instead which slowed the car down?

      If this was even remotely dodgy then Ron may be keen to keep it quiet.  Or I could just be reading too much into it!

    9. Interesting idea Craig! As I understand it the standard ECU only gives teams a limited number of mapping settings they can select, and hiding something like that would surely get them in hot water. A lot of people did question why, if it was the pit lane speed limiter Kovalainen hit, there wasn’t a facility to stop it cutting in at high speed as other teams apparently have.

    10. I wondered that myself – surely if you can hit the limiter when you are doing 120mph and it slows you right down then all the teams would do that on the way into the pits!  Why bother trying to brake yourself, if you can just hit a button!

      Something fishy going on there methinks.

      Also, Ron seems to be taking the credit of "rebuilding" Heikki this year – blaming him for mistakes isn’t going to help with that unless he explained to him that it was for the good of the team…

    11. Look at a circuit like Monza and Fuji, where a driver is entering the pits at very high speeds, the current Mclaren pit speed limiter doesn’t seem like a bad idea.

      AJ…At the start of the race, the car accelerates better if there is no wheel spin or very little wheel spin. The best way to achieve minimum wheel spin is to have a low revving engine. But because a low revving engine will soon be overtaken by a higher revving one, it only makes sense to return back to your high revving ability. Its not like the teams are cheating, rather they are just using those 90 seconds margin as they deem fit. There is still no traction control in the cars anyway.

    12. On a slight tangent, at least it was nice to see Kravitz acknowledge the BBc taking the F1 contract from next year on.  Ted seems to think everyone knows what happened and so doesn’t go into it in any detail, but I suspect that’s code for "I’m not allowed to talk about it", because I certainly don’t really understand everything that happened there.

    13. Facinating article. I’m with Mark, Kravitz does seem to be able to get really meaty info from the teams and present them in a really interesting article. Prehaps the Beeb should sign him up to.

    14. regarding Mark’s bridge comment, apparently it’s a predominantly American reference.  It has to do with con men "selling" the Brooklyn Bridge.  From the Wikipedia article on the Bridge:

      "References to "selling the Brooklyn Bridge" abound in American culture, sometimes as examples of rural gullibility but more often in connection with an idea that strains credulity. For example, "If you believe that, I have a wonderful bargain for you…" References are often nowadays more oblique, such as "I could sell you some lovely riverside property in Brooklyn … ". George C. Parker and William McCloundy are two early 20th-century con-men who had (allegedly) successfully perpetrated this scam on unwitting tourists.[1]"

    15. Its very interesting to see how teams are getting around the TC Ban. However since all the teams will be doing the same, none of the teams will be gaining any advantage.

      Cheers

    16. Heh, in Brasil we sell Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer. People will buy anything, even stories about ECUs and Traction Control rules being followed.
      Not there yet, but I think F1 is going back to being competitive. Last year was good, this year seems excellent. Maybe we’ll get more and more passes like Heidfeld’s…

    17. I would also like to give kudos to Ted for writing the only mention that the BBC had won the F1 coverage.

      I’ve always liked Ted. He seems to have an enthusiasm for the sport but is also willing to say "that race was boring" which isn’t something ITV normally admit to.

    18. The bridge reference is a bit dated now – perhaps the hicks have finally realised that the Brooklyn Bridge is not actually for sale.  Instead, you might be offered a few acres of charming waterfront property in Florida.  Swampland, in other words.

      Or possibly land on an oilfield in Texas.  Which sounds a great deal until you find out that you can’t buy the rights to any oil beneath your property in Texas – you get the surface and that’s it!

    19. Are the teams allowed to select a variety of maps, or are they given a numbered set of available maps by the Mclaren ECU (I still can’t believe a particular constructor is allowed to design everyone’s ecu while still participating,,).  Are they "overlapping selections" so that say if there were 10 maps available, yet on a driver’s selector they have 15 to 20 settings.  Are these settings capable of being "combinations of maps"?  It seems a simple overlapping of code would be horrifyingly bad, but who knows.    Has anyone seen this code to have any reference point.  This is where my questions tend to jump off (and I retract all my "magic pedal" crap of a few weeks ago)

    20. I was wondering about the launch control..With the new regs, I was really hoping to see the plumes of tire smoke when the lights went out, but it just hasn’t happened..a little dissapointing really

    21. Regarding to Craig’s comment, I have to say it’s a really stupid idea to use speed limiter to brake before the pit lane entry.

      Because what a speed limiter does, is to limit/reduce/controll the engine RPM when you step on the throttle. It will never engage the brake. So when activated, it will indeed slow you down when you are going over the speed limit, only because your RPM is too high/reduced. But that can never be as quick as using a brake pedal.

      Even they can have a automatic braking system for entering the pit lane, I doubt that would be much useful. The problem entering the pitlane is, depend on your current speed, at which point you must start to brake so that you going exactly at the limited speed when your are crossing the line. Have an automatic brake button won’t solve the problem, as you still can push the button too early or to late, thus lose time or get a penaulty. That is the main problem. 

    22. Thanks for explaining me Clive and John!

      Realistically, it was only going to be a matter of time until they got aournd the ECU. And Craig, there is nothing I love more then a good conspiracy theory, Especially coming out of McLaren!

    23. @ AJ – isn’t you the notoriously famous AJ from old Ben’s F1 Links list, is you? If so, where have you been? guys are missing you!

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