Accusations fly over alleged Red Bull traction control

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Former team boss Giancarlo Minardi has accused Red Bull of using traction control and it has tongues wagging this week in Korea. We mentioned the different sound note here and the thought was initially about a possible blow exhaust technique that some believe the team are using.

A different sound note from a fan-generated video of Sebastian Vettel was released by Auto Sprint magazine and things didn’t get any better when Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton piled on the accusations by saying:

“If you look at the onboard [camera], he is on the power full throttle at least 20 metres before anyone else, which is a huge advantage.

“The last time I was able to put the pedal down that quick was back in 2007 or 2008, when we had traction control.”

For Red Bull, it’s a non-issue as team boss Christian Horner says there is really no way you could use traction control with the standard ECU used by all teams and monitored by the FIA:

“You would be fairly stupid to introduce traction control on to a car that is governed on a single ECU, which is done through a tender of the FIA and which is scrupulously checked by the FIA,” said Horner.

“So, I cannot image any team in the pit lane would do it.”

Horner chalks the allegations up to people not wanting to recognize that Vettel was in another world in Singapore and drove a categorically superior race:

“I think the problem is that Sebastian’s performance was so dominant in Singapore , it will inevitably raise questions of how is that possible,” he explained.

“Other teams will be looking inwardly and the easiest conclusion to come to is that they [Red Bull] must be cheating.

In an interesting add-on to the story, Vettel addressed the accusation of traction control and illegal engine mapping by saying:

“We are pretty proud of the system we have because other people will never figure out how we’ve done it,” he said. “Constantly we try to improve the car. That’s part of the homework that we have to do.”

Whether Vettel was joking and commenting tongue-in-cheek or not, what we do know is that there is a “system” that the team is using to improve their pace but is that system illegal? Is it traction control—which is banned—as Hamilton alleges? Not according to Vettel’s arch rival Fernando Alonso who said:

“This different engine noise has been there all year in the Red Bull.

“It’s true it’s maybe more obvious in Singapore because it is a street circuit and people can watch in the corners but if you go to winter test, already in Barcelona, we were in corners following the test session and the Red Bull was a different sound.

“It’s true when you find a Red Bull you see they are faster than you in the corners but this also happens with other cars and we don’t say anything, like Mercedes. Hamilton was pole position in Hungary and winning easy, same feeling. All the things are good and it is up to us to do a better job.”

It’s an interesting perspective from the man who is closest to Vettel in the championship and it reminds me of days past when Ron Dennis calmly explained that the FIA’s rule changes to slow Ferrari down were not good, it was incumbent upon the teams to do better and beat Ferrari. Alonso was keen to point out that Lewis Hamilton’s car sounds different as well.

Is it a blown exhaust or traction control or just a very creative engine-mapping program that allows for power to be put down earlier in the corners? It isn’t just the Singapore performance—the Italian Grand Prix at Monza was very telling as the Red Bull’s were able to carry more speed into the Parabolica in sector three.

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