The teams are allowed 2 base ignition maps, and these can only be changed by the driver while the car is stationary for at least 3 seconds. A pit stop qualifies here. The new ruling prevents the teams from reprogramming the engine maps between qualifying and the race. ie an aggressive map used for qualifying, must then be used for the race. A qualifying map could potentially cause reliability problems, and fuel consumption would be much higher. Red Bull seem to have had a very good qualifying pace, but come the race, and particularly after the first stop, they seem much slower. This may or may not be due to the reprogramming that was allowed.
It takes approx 2 minutes to upload the ECU maps from a laptop connected via an ethernet link. We know the ECU and the dash are sealed units which communicate over a CAN2.0b bus, however, I cannot see anything to prevent a connection over ethernet from the steering dash as well. If, and this is highly speculative on my part, the ECU could be reprogrammed during the race without the need for an external laptop connection, then the first part of the race can be run on the qualifying map, and then switched to the softer maps during pitting. At least 2 pit stops would be needed, the first to select an intermediate map and change the software over, and the second to switch to the softer race map.
This is just a gut feeling, and checking the regs, original specification of the ECU, and the attention being paid to steering wheels lately make me suspect a loophole might have been found. The race will reveal if any of this is true.
Another question/prediction to throw into the mix, and to show I'm not just RB bashing - Ferrari will make another perfect start today. How do they manage that, some kind of legal launch control? hmm...