Intrigue continues in Formula One over the appearance of a mysterious new paddle on the steering wheel of Sebastian Vettel's Ferrari.
The presence of the paddle had remained secret until post-qualifying interviews at the Bahrain Grand Prix, where the German had just posted a pole position finish with a new outright track record.
Since its revelation, speculation has been rife over the function of the paddle and what it could add to the car.
Speaking on the latest episode of Motorsport Show, technical analyst Craig Scarborough said: "When I first noticed this, I put it away as one of those little changes, but there's something unusual about this paddle. You can see there's a rotary sensor there, so it's a variable thing.
"It's not him switching something off, it's him demanding either something increasing or decreasing around the car."
Ferrari have remained coy about the function of this new feature, but have denied early rumours that it could be used to alter engine map settings to help keep its exhaust blowing in corners when off-throttle.
This function would of course be in direct contradiction of FIA rulings, and just yesterday, senior FIA official Nikolas Tombazis warned teams via Planet F1.
He wrote: “We do not accept that engine modes specifically designed to increase the exhaust flow in corners are permissible. Such (not permissible) engine modes can be either specific to a compressor-turbine by-pass system, or to flow passing through the cylinders."
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the whole affair, however, emerges when you take a side by side comparison of Vettel's steering wheel, against that of his teammate Kimi Raikkonen's.
It is clear that Raikkonen is not using the same mini paddle or equivalent as Vettel with the new feature simply being an unfilled space on the Finn's set-up.
Of course, drivers in F1 are known to use different steering wheel layouts to suit their preferences and gain any advantage they can. Vettel has a history of tinkering having changed his steering wheel three times in three races during the 2017 season from the Spanish to the Japanese Grand Prix.
If speculation proves true, however, and this mystery paddle is adding some functionality to Vettel's Ferrari, it would seem curious that his teammate is excluded from this.
Vettel's performances at the start of the season have led him to two victories out of a possible three and certainly suggest that he has the edge over his teammate as well as the rest of the field.
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