The FIA has informed teams of its intention to ban ‘qualifying engine modes’ from the Belgian Grand Prix onwards.
Teams will often turn their engines up to the absolute maximum for a couple of laps in qualifying to extract the engines maximum power, but these modes cannot be run for long periods of time and therefore are rarely used in any session but qualifying.
Banning such modes will likely impact the Mercedes-powered teams the most, as they have traditionally held the greatest performance advantage, with the factory team often looking close on pace to its rivals until the final laps of Q3, when it utilises such modes and moves well clear of the field.
It’s expected this weekend’s Spanish GP will be the last race in which they can be used, with the FIA writing to the teams this week, suggesting it will clamp down on the practice.
In the letter, written by the FIA’s secretary general for motorsport Peter Bayer, such modes are referenced and it states that there should be a “reduction of scope of adjustability between qualifying and the race”.
Whilst the letter itself doesn’t mandate such a change, a technical directive will likely follow in the coming days which will.
The change could ruffle some feathers in the paddock with Mercedes and its customer teams; Racing Point and Williams, likely to suffer the greatest and therefore may see this as an attempt to diminish Mercedes’ performance advantage.
However the FIA’s letter insists the change has been made because “the multitude and complexity of modes being used makes it extremely difficult for the FIA to monitor compliance with all the PU-related regulations and provisions in selected critical moments of the event”.
It also suggest Article 27.1 of the Sporting Regulations, which states that a driver must drive the car alone and unaided, could be breached, although it’s not exactly clear how that rule applies.
It adds: “In order to address the above concerns in the future, we will be requiring that during the qualifying session and the race, the PU should operate in a single mode.”
This could also impact the engine modes used during the race, with drivers often switching between settings to conserve power or to attack, and could therefore severely impact reliability going forward.