Red Bull has called on the FIA to put a stop to “party modes” by ensuring that Formula 1 drivers qualify and race with the same engine settings.
Lewis Hamilton’s significant leap in performance during Q3 in Melbourne put a sharp focus on the use of special engine modes by Mercedes on the laps that count.
Although the Brackley-based team and Hamilton himself continued to downplay any talk about party modes, Red Bull remains adamant that the circumstances in Australia forced Mercedes to use its engine at its ultimate potential, thus in effect revealing its hand.
“They got nervous because [Valtteri] Bottas crashed, and all of a sudden they put full power on,” Red Bull’s Helmut Marko told Motorsport.com. “As we call it, party mode.
“They normally don’t need it, so they used all of it, and it’s obvious that they are playing with all of us.
“In the beginning it was just as who were complaining, and it was, ‘Red Bull is always complaining.’ Fortunately after qualifying the others woke up, and now there’s a lot of discussions.
“There are so many relatively easy things to solve it, and make it more equal. You could say that you should race with the mode that you do qualifying with. That would be a solution.
“They could do it for the next race, and then it won’t happen for the next race.”
Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner agreed that fixing the modes after qualifying would be a good solution.
“You could say that you run the same engine modes for the weekend,” he told Motorsport.com. “It was a hell of a party – we would like to go to those kinds of parties!
“You can see it. Q1, Q2 last year, they don’t take any risks, and then they wind it up in Q3. Obviously the margin from Q2 to Q3 was significant – the track didn’t rubber in that much.
“Admittedly Max [Verstappen] made a little mistake, we should have potentially been within half a second, probably about what the delta is in modes.
“It is something that should be considered, that you effectively have a parc ferme, the moment you drive out for qualifying, that is your engine mode for quali and the race. It’s up to the FIA, it’s down to them to work out what they want to do.”
However, Renault Sport boss Cyril Abiteboul said that it would be hard to impose such a restriction – and said that instead the focus should be on further reducing oil consumptions limits, which he believes would automatically address qualifying performance gains.
“I think it would be extremely difficult to do technically,” the Frenchman told Motorsport.com. “I have all the interests in the world to be aligned with what Dr. Marko is saying, but knowing the technicalities of it, and being able to do it…
“I think the first target will be to limit oil consumption. We currently have a situation where it’s 0.6l, but our engine is consuming even less than 0.1. It’s possible in 2018 to have an engine which as that type of consumption, so I don’t see why we aren’t going further than that.
“For me it would be an obvious solution if we want to do anything in relation to this, and make sure everyone is in line with the spirit of the regulations.”
The renewed focus on qualifying modes comes in the wake of a Technical Directive issued by the FIA earlier this year, which insisted that engine customers have access to the same modes as the works teams.
The move was encouraged by informal lobbying from such teams, but the FIA says it won’t step in unless it receives a complaint from a customer.
“Some teams were hinting that they might not be getting equal power units,” said FIA race director Charlie Whiting when asked by Motorsport.com.
“Whatever party mode is, I’ve not seen it written in any technical documents!
“Put it like this. If Mercedes customers come to us and say, ‘We’ve asked for party mode and we’re not getting it,’ then we might have something to say about it.”
Asked if imposing restrictions from qualifying to the race would work he added: “There are all sorts of modes on these engines, and we know full well that they change at various times during the race.”