Often in motorsports, the lines blur between what is allowed by rule and what isn’t. Sometimes those lines distort into a vague haze that may not be discernible. Whether true or not of the Formula One (F1) team Red Bull, the word cheating is becoming more prevalent as the F1 world speculates about Red Bull’s big advantage in performance this season.
Teams become very creative in their attack of gaining an edge and it appears that Red Bull has found something that offers a hidden benefit to Sebastian Vettel’s car which others, including his teammate, don’t have. What is this secret advantage? Traction control?
Traction control was banned five years ago and from a technical standpoint, Red Bull is likely not using it in the truest form. However, experts have been analyzing Vettel’s car and how the Red Bull driver is able to get out of the turns so impressively without the usual wheel spin. The current arguments being made are purely circumstantial as obviously, F1 officials have not found the secret to this special ability; but, anytime there’s talk of limited wheel spin, most in racing immediately think of traction control.
Only one car
The problem with these rumors is why doesn’t Mark Webber in the other Red Bull car not have these same advantages? Of course that’s an easier notion that can be explained away with the fact that Webber is on his way out after this season, so there’s no need to give away these trade secrets to someone who won’t be with the company in another month. Let’s face it – Webber isn’t on the best of terms with Vettel or Red Bull after an early season confrontation at Malaysia, likely leading to Webber’s departure.
Without getting too technical, this unproven surreptitious Red Bull advantage has been discussed by some, with one theory from Racecar Engineering being that Red Bull has coupled their KERS system to the suspension. This conspiracy notwithstanding, a few point out the Red Bull sounds different than other cars when it punches itself off turns. Another explanation that also has been rumored is that the sound difference might be associated with a stealthy exhaust system using engine mapping technology.
Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes inferred that the Red Bull might be using traction control saying, “The last time I was able to put the pedal down that quickly was in 2007 when we had traction control.”
Not all in the F1 paddock believe Red Bull is cheating and that includes the man who is chasing Vettel in the standings: second place Fernando Alonso. Said Alonso,
“So they are using something different compared to other teams but something that is completely OK because they pass all the checks every race on Saturday and Sunday.”
The man that drives the car in question added fuel to the fire when Vettel stated, “We were playing around quite a lot with it in practice, the first time it worked was in the race.” Conversely, Red Bull officials emphatically have denied there’s any traction control or cheating going on.
Vettel’s total domination in Singapore a few weeks ago ramped up the rumor mill, leading all 61 laps with a whopping 32.627 second win.
As a racer, I understand the bending of rules and doing what’s not necessarily illegal. In this day and age, rules in racing have forced teams to look for the most finite of advantages to gain an upper hand on the competition. Spirit of the rules notwithstanding, even if Red Bull is devious with their secret racing edge, it appears it’s within F1’s rules. At least for now.