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Benetton launch control FIA press release

Benetton launch control FIA press release

PRESS RELEASE FROM THE FEDERATION INTERNATIONALE DE L'AUTOMOBILE (FIA) According to LDRA Ltd., the company appointed by the FIA to investigate Formula One electronic systems, the best evidence is that Benetton Formula Ltd. was not using "launch ...


According to LDRA Ltd., the company appointed by the FIA to investigate Formula One electronic systems, the best evidence is that Benetton Formula Ltd. was not using "launch control" (an automatic start system) at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix. Had the evidence proved they were, the World Motor Sport Council would have been invited to exclude them from the World Championship. Given the evidence available, such a course of action would obviously have been wrong.

To avoid speculation, the report of the FIA Formula One Technical Delegate submitted to the World Motor Sport Council on 26 July is attached

Hockenheim, 29 July 1994

Report by the FIA Formula One Technical Delegate on the investigations carried out on the electrical systems on Car Number 5 in the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.

An investigation into the software used in the computer systems of the cars finishing in the first three places at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix was undertaken by Liverpool Data Research Associates Ltd. (LDRA).

LDRA is a company which specializes in the analysis, validation and verification of highly complex computer software such as that used in modern civilian and military aircraft and a wide range of safety critical applications.

On race day (1st May 1994), each of the teams was requested to supply the source code* for the software on board the car and schematic circuit diagrams of the electrical system. (Appendix 1 )

One team complied in full with this request and a demonstration of the complete electrical system was set up with entirely satisfactory results.

Having received nothing from the other two teams, a fax was sent on 9th May (Appendix 2) asking for urgent action.

An alternative suggestion was received from Benetton Formula Ltd. In this letter dated 10th May (Appendix 3), they stated the source codes could not be made available for commercial reasons.

In a fax to Benetton Formula dated 15th May (Appendix 4), we accepted this proposal, on the condition that Article 2.6 of the Technical Regulations was satisfied.

On 27th May we received a detailed program for the demonstration at Cosworth Engineering. (Appendix 5)

The tests which were scheduled to take place on 28th June were canceled, by Benetton, after some discussion between Ford and themselves concerning non-disclosure agreements

By a fax dated 28th June, we again requested the tests take place as a matter of urgency. (Appendix 6)

The demonstration and tests took place on 6th July. We received a report from LDRA on 11th July (Appendix 7) which left a number of unanswered questions which we were advised could only be addressed by close examination of the source code.

In a letter to Benetton dated 13th July (Appendix 8) we made it clear the demonstration had been unsatisfactory and we required the source code for the software.

Following another exchange of letters on the 13th and 14th July (Appendices 9 and 10) a meeting was set up at the Benetton factory on 19th July, an agenda for which was received on 18th July (Appendix 11) which gave our advisors full access to all the source code, but only on Benetton's premises and subject to the instructions set out in Appendix 11.

Analysis of this software, which had been used at the San Marino Grand Prix, revealed that it included a facility called "launch control". This is a system which, when armed, allows the driver to initiate a start with a single action. The system will control the clutch, gear shift and engine speed fully automatically to a predetermined pattern.

Benetton stated that this system is used only during testing. Benetton further stated that "it (the system) can only be switched on by recompilation of the code". This means recompilation of the source code. Detailed analysis by the LDRA experts of this complex code revealed that this statement was untrue. "Launch control" could in fact be switched on using a lap-top personal computer (PC) connected to the gearbox control unit (GCU).

When confronted with this information, the Benetton representatives conceded that it was possible to switch on the "launch control" using a lap-top PC but indicated that the availability of this feature of the software came as a surprise to them.

In order to enable "launch control", a particular menu with ten options, has to be selected on the PC screen. "Launch control" is not visibly listed as an option. The menu was so arranged that, after ten items, nothing further appeared. If however, the operator scrolled down the menu beyond the tenth listed option, to option 13, launch control can be enabled, even though this is not visible on the screen. No satisfactory explanation was offered for this apparent attempt to conceal the feature.

Two conditions had to be satisfied before the computer would apply "launch control": First, the software had to be enabled either by recompiling the code, which would take some minutes, or by connecting the lap-top PC as outlined above, which could be done in a matter of seconds.

Secondly, the driver had to work through a particular sequence of up-down gear shift paddle positions, a specific gear position had to be selected and the clutch and throttle pedals had also to be in certain positions. Only if all these actions were carried out would the "launch control" become available.

Having thus initiated "launch control", the driver would be able to make a fully automatic start. Such a start is clearly a driver aid as it operates the clutch, changes gear and uses traction control by modulating engine power (by changing ignition or fuel settings), in response to wheel speed.

When asked why, if this system was only used in testing, such an elaborate procedure was necessary in order to switch it on, we were told it was to prevent it being switched on accidentally.

A full copy of the LDRA report of the 9 July meeting can be seen in Appendix 12.

In the circumstances, I am not satisfied in accordance with Article 2.6 of the Formula One Technical Regulations that car number 5 (M.Schumacher) complied with the Regulations at all times during the San Marino Grand Prix and I therefore submit this matter to the World Council for their consideration.

Charlie Whiting FIA Formula One Technical Delegate

*Source code

Computer instructions are usually called machine code and are represented internally as a series of noughts and ones known as binary numbers. This form of instruction is very difficult for humans to understand, so computer languages have been devised that enable us to express instructions in a form that is more natural to us. Programs written in these languages are known as "source code". A computer can not use them directly but they can be translated to machine code that it can understand by using another program called a compiler. When the machine code is loaded into the computer's memory the processor can then execute the instructions that are described in the source code.

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Series Formula 1
Teams Benetton