Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Spa-Francorchamps, 2020

Will the ‘quali mode’ ban give us a title fight? Five Italian GP talking points

2020 Italian Grand Prix

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Teams will be banned from using their ‘quali modes’ this weekend. Is that the change which will put Red Bull in the title fight with Mercedes?

Here are the talking points for this weekend’s race.

Quali modes

From this weekend, teams will not be allowed to change the performance mode used on their engine between qualifying and the race. The regulations change, which was originally planned for last week’s Belgian Grand Prix, is intended to prevent them ‘turning up’ their power units for flying laps in qualifying.

Some expect the banning of these ‘quali modes’ to hit Mercedes hardest, as they’ve consistently demonstrated significantly better performance over single qualifying laps than in races. However the team has pointed out the performance lost in the banning of ‘quali modes’ may be applied elsewhere – potentially making them even more competitive in the races.

But with Mercedes winning six of the seven races so far this year – and five of those falling to Lewis Hamilton – the ban on ‘quali modes’ offers the possibility of bringing Red Bull close enough to be championship contenders.

It may also have a significant bearing on the midfield. Mercedes customers Williams have made regular incursions into Q2 this year. The ‘quali mode’ ban could leave them struggling to escape Q1 again.

No track shows up the differences in engine performance more sharply than Monza (though it remains to be seen exactly how cars will perform around the Bahrain Outer circuit when F1 visits there in December). Therefore it will likely take a few races for the true impact of the quali mode ban to become clear.


Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Spa-Francorchamps, 2020
It can’t get any worse – can it?
Following one of the worst results the Scuderia has collected last week, what do they face in their first of three home races this year? Could things get even worse for them?

If their Spa performance was simply due to a shortfall in power, Monza would indeed threaten to be an even worse track for them. However it does seem there was more to Ferrari’s problems in Belgium than just a lack of sheer straight-line speed.

From the beginning of practice the team wasn’t able to get its tyres working properly. Even an outstanding start by Charles Leclerc couldn’t propel them to a decent finish – they just slipped back until even Kimi Raikkonen’s identically-powered Alfa Romeo was ahead of them.

The team can therefore expect this weekend should be no worse than last, but that really is small comfort indeed.

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Racing Point

Racing Point have shone at Spa in the past but took the bottom places in the points on Sunday. A strategic error on Sergio Perez’s car didn’t help, but there was clearly something else amiss, as the team which has consistently been up at the sharp end this year were conspicuous by their absence last weekend.

Will they be back on form at Monza? And will there be any further developments regarding the team’s penalty and appeal?

Track limits

Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo, Monza, 2019
A timing loop will enforce track limits at Parabolica
Follow Alex Peroni’s alarming crash in last year’s Formula 3 race, the ‘sausage kerbs’ at Parabolica have not been reinstated, and a timing loop will be used to enforce track limits at this point on the track. This has been a difficult spot to police since the grass and gravel were removed. Last year Vettel escaped a penalty when the stewards ruled they could not determine whether he kept all his wheels within the track confines. Previously there had been indications gravel could be instated at that point on the track.

Qualifying queues

The final stages of qualifying last year descended into farce as most of the drivers in Q3 failed to begin their last runs before the session ended. All were reluctant to lead the queue, and therefore be the only driver without the advantage of a slipstream.

Hamilton had no such concerns in qualifying at Spa last weekend. If he feels confident enough to do the same this Saturday, it will be quite a statement about how little the ‘quali mode’ ban has affected the team.

FIA F1 race director Michael Masi will hold discussions with team bosses ahead of the race to find a solution. If one can’t be found, hopefully the benefit of experience may prevent similar scenes this time.

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Over to you

Who do you think will be the team to beat in the Italian Grand Prix? Have your say below.

And don’t forget to enter your predictions for this weekend’s race. You can edit your predictions until the start of qualifying:

2020 Italian Grand Prix

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Author information

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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25 comments on “Will the ‘quali mode’ ban give us a title fight? Five Italian GP talking points”

  1. So it’s still just the ‘quali mode(s)’ that will be banned? Not the other 9 modes?

    1. If I’m not mistaken, only one mode can be used from qualifying onwards but the way the battery energy is deployed can be adjusted.

    2. They will still be far more restricted though @f1osaurus, they can use the ones for driving to the grid, the special one to use during a pitstop, maybe the start mode too? Also the one for the inlap at the end of the race and lower settings to protect the engine when there is something amiss. But if they switch from normal race mode to “engine saving” mode (allowed to protect the engine for reliability reasons) they then cannot switch back to the normal engine mode for more power.

      1. @bascb TRh epoint is Keith keeps saying only `quali mode(s)’ will be banned, but FIA and drivers seem to indicate they will be able to use one mode for quali and race. Apart from some exceptions when not normally racing like when behind the safety car etc.

        1. @f1osaurus I suspect Keith’s taken the view that for most articles it’s sufficient to say ‘quali modes ban’ than it is to continually report that teams must use the same mode from qualifying onwards, with the caveat that they can still adjust small parameters relating to the ICE and the ER systems and use the overtake button as much as they like. Unless of course they’re on a formation lap, entering or exiting the pits, cool down lap, behind a safety car, or have reliability issues at which point they can out the engine into another mode, irrevocably in the latter situation.

          For those of us who care about the exact rule or technical implementations, that information is easy enough to find elsewhere, and for articles like this one, ‘quali mode ban’ is fine.

          1. I do understand what you’re saying though, as ‘quali mode ban’ is factually incorrect.

          2. @sparkyamg Why not just call it “engine modes” ban then for short?

            To be honest I’m not 100% sure what the implementation will be. So this (in my idea) incorrect reporting just makes the confusion greater.

  2. The quali ban is being framed as a rule to block Mercedes.
    That was not the intention of the rule as such.
    Of course Toto and Lewis used it to downplay Mercedes advantages.
    Let’s wait and see. Only then we will be able to define the impact on the engine and the performance.
    Even with less power the merc still has an powerful chassis.

    1. The real significance of the quali mode, comes when as an engine supplier, you can potentially provide different information to the teams taking your engine. Differing information to those dependent teams could affect their standings. Mercedes and Ferrari each supply engines to 2 other teams. All competing by the slimest of margines.

      The engine supplier could affect that competition with the engine mode information they passs on.
      By banning qualifying modes, you effectly say, use what you get. There is no longer be this potential for an advantage to one team over another.

      I think this is the more important factor here.

      Ofcourse as an engine supplier you have the potential to ‘supply’ more engines if they break running on quali mode 11+

      1. Wasn’t there a situation ages ago where Mercedes asked Grosjean (can’t remember who he was driving for at the time) to switch to a previously unknown engine mode for more power to strategically benefit themselves?

        I remember reading that Grosjean said it completely transformed the car, “…everything was better.”

    2. erikje, somebody forgot to tell Marko about that then, as he’s made it pretty clear in the past that he wanted the ban to come in because he thought Mercedes had too much of an advantage (i.e. to him, the proposed change is all about blocking Mercedes).

  3. Here’s the thing i’d like answered. Are you allowed to turn ‘down’ the engine in the race.

    Lets says you qualify with the engine on level 10, instead of ‘quali mode 11+’
    if you you are racing on the same level 10 and for some reason you need to preserved the engine,
    are the drivers still allowed to turn down the engine to says level 9?

    This question is not about ‘quali mode’ which is now banned, but about changing the engine settings
    ‘down’ from whatever they qualified on.

    Would this be interpreted as the same thing?

    you could argue, it is, since they could qualify on mode 11+, and then claim a fault on the engine
    requires the engine mode to be changed down.

    1. I’ll repeat the info I posted 8 days ago

      The same engine mode must be used, by all teams running that engine, from the start of qualifying to the end of the race.
      Different modes can be used for in and out laps, and any lap 20% slower than race speed, i.e. under safety car.
      ICE parameters can change with a lap, but the pattern has to be the same for every lap.
      Allowances will be made for the age of an engine, and teams will be allowed to change modes for reliability reasons if they detect a problem. The FIA must be informed without delay.

      Info from Autosport article – F1 engine mode clampdown targets reliability fix claims

      1. @w-k Thanks! It’s odd that we don’t see this explained on this site.

      2. What is your opinion on this then: ‘party-mode’ is the new normal mode for Merc. They have to use it no more than X seconds or they damage the engine. I’m sure they can map it to be the same as normal-normal mode for 99% of the gas pedal. And you only get the extra power when applying the pedal 100%. I believe my car has this small resistance in the pedal so you can power through a manual set speed limiter. Surely they can do that and it would be one engine map still?

        1. Baasbaas I think there is a separate rule which prevents teams from setting the throttle pedal in such a way that it can help the driver modulate the power. I believe the rules state that power output must be linear relative to pedal displacement (or similar wording), and maybe that the pedal resistance also has to be linear.

          I dont have the exact wording of the rule but perhaps someone else knows or can bring it up.

          1. @keithedin
            5.5 Power unit torque demand :
            5.5.1 The only means by which the driver may control acceleration torque to the driven wheels is via a single foot (accelerator) pedal mounted inside the survival cell.
            5.5.2 Designs which allow specific points along the accelerator pedal travel range to be identified by the driver or assist him to hold a position are not permitted.
            5.5.3 At any given engine speed the driver torque demand map must be monotonically increasing for an increase in accelerator pedal position.
            5.5.4 At any given accelerator pedal position and above 4,000rpm, the driver torque demand map must not have a gradient of less than – (minus) 0.045Nm/rpm.

          2. @keithedin Maybe the driver can have individual settings for all the things that are now mapped as an engine mode.

            ie if the quali mode combines a rich fuel mix and no power harvesting, the driver could simply adjust two settings separately?

    2. No, there will be only one mode. The driver is the one using the throttle to maximize or minimize it.
      Only if there is a technical issue, they can change a mode. They have to talk to the stewards about it.
      At least, that is how I understand it.

  4. The ban will spectacularly fail – as everyone will be further behind Mercedes. Just open your eyes and look (especially loudmouth Horner)

    1. @dallein I don’t think it will slow Mercedes at all, but I’m no opposed to this idea at all. It’s now up to the driver to modulate their pace and fuel consumption with their right boot, rather than just changing modes.

      It’s another thing for the driver to be thinking about and demonstrate their skill. If a driver gets too greedy, it could impact them later in the season.

      It’s also a lot more “raw”, which I like.

      So yeah, I don’t think it will slow Mercedes by any means, but I still think it’s a great change, putting a job which used to be under the driver’s control back on them.

  5. I’d be surprised if what happened in Q3 twelve months ago were to happen again as surely everyone involved has learned something from that unnecessary and amateurish mess.

  6. What the FIA cannot ban is Mercedes’s “Hammer Time” mode.

  7. Mercedes team has posted a video on youtube explaining what engine modes are and what new TD is supposed to do…

Comments are closed.