Basically, the engine map is the software programme which controls the way engines produce power, and what some front-runners mainly, but not restricted to Red Bull Racing did, is tune the engine to produce exhaust gases even when the throttle is closed. This produces downforce by being blown over the intricately crafted underbodies of the cars.
The teams then changed mapping for the race to save fuel. Now that is banned they will go into qualifying with race set-ups, which should rob the likes of Red Bull Racing, Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes of some of their performance advantages.
However, although the ‘rule clarification’ will have an effect, I am not as convinced as others that there will be a massive change in the order. I’ve always believed cream rises to the top and stays there, so the order is likely to stay much the same, even if the grid closes up.
However, this is good news for Ferrari, because PUMA’s partner team has had a tough season and any tightening of the order can only help them. Although the team isn’t quite there yet, things are looking a lot better than they did at the beginning of the season, and Fernando Alonso has been driving extremely well recently.
I am told that yesterday he said he felt that in seven races this season he has driven the best he’s ever driven. When a double World Champion says that you have to sit up and take notice. However, the statement is also a double-edged sword as he and Ferrari have not won a race this year, which points to some other issues, either with the car or team.
This weekend Fernando is racing on home soil, and that always seems to give him an edge, as we saw last month in Barcelona when he leapt from fourth to first, then led for 20 laps. It would be absolutely fantastic if he does that again this weekend, but this time retains the lead to the flag. Just imagine the crowd – they’ll go absolutely berserk!
In a way I feel slightly sorry for Valencia: last year’s race is remembered not for the event itself, but for Mark Webber’s flying accident, from which he was fortunate to emerge without a scratch. This year’s race follows hot on the heels of the Canadian Grand Prix, which was arguably the most exciting of the last decade.
So the audience expectation, whether in the stands or on TV, is massive, and anything less than a wet race with a zillion pit stops and 50 changes of lead is likely to disappoint the fans. But, let’s be realistic: races like Canada come around once in ten years, and in Formula 1 lightening seldom strikes twice in the same place, and if it does it is unlikely to do so within a fortnight. Rain is not forecast; in fact, we are looking at temperatures in the thirties.
However, this is a very fast street circuit, and races on those are always extremely exciting, while DRS and KERS will make all the difference, as they have all season. There’s a question mark over tyre wear, particularly as race day will be a scorcher. Mixing these three on a track such as this is bound to cause chaos somewhere along the line.