Since the England GP, Red Bull and Ferrari have suspected that Mercedes has found performance. Now the opponents think they know what it is about. Red Bull has sent a request to the FIA.
It's looking for a needle in a haystack. Since the England GP, Red Bull has felt that Mercedes have significantly improved performance in the acceleration phases. Since that race, the balance of power between Mercedes and Red Bull-Honda has reversed itself again on the straights.
While in the previous races Red Bull gained significant time on the World Championship opponent in all full-throttle sections, it's the other way around since Silverstone. Mercedes recently explained this with different wing settings and affirmed that their engine has been delivering the same performance since the beginning of the season and that nothing has been changed in the drive unit.
But that doesn't have to contradict Red Bull's latest theory. Accordingly, Mercedes has the same maximum power, but distributes it differently. Ferrari should also be involved. Both teams think they know how the World Champion gained an advantage early in the straight.
Cold air improves performance
The suspicion was fueled because, according to GPS data, the Silver Arrows gain a lot of time when accelerating out of slow corners. In fact, at Silverstone and Budapest, one could get the impression that the Mercedes are picking up speed like a torpedo in a direct comparison with the competition, but are not necessarily faster at the end of the straight. Unless they have smaller wings on the car.
According to the competition, the secret is in the intercooler. The compressed air is normally cooled down from 100 degrees to ambient temperature. However, according to a technical directive, the rules give a little more leeway. The lower limit is 10 degrees below the outside temperature.
In the partial load range, the temperatures of the air are naturally lower in all instances than at full load. Since cold air is denser than warm air, proportionally more fuel can be burned. And that means better performance. Anyone who manages to reserve the proportion of cool air for the first part of the full load range has an advantage in the acceleration process. And that's how you win the most lap time.
And this is how the whole thing should work. According to the theory of Red Bull and Ferrari, Mercedes manages to separate cool air from warm air for a while by cleverly ducting air between the intercooler and the plenum, thus gaining up to 20 hp in the initial phase of acceleration. Later, the compressor only pushes in warmer air and the advantage fizzles out.
That would all still be within the allowed range. The question is how far the air that is fed into the plenum can be cooled and whether the sensor is mounted in a place where relevant values are measured.
Red Bull has its doubts. It is believed that the sensor measures at a point that ensures that the temperature in the air plenum is definitely above the required limit. Red Bull has now submitted an official request to the FIA. Some also speak of a complaint.