Technology

Powering Into The Future

Photo: Mercedes AMG Petronas F1

Recently Mercedes executive technical director Paddy Lowe stated that with the current power unit regulations ending in 2020, discussions should begin on what will power our formula into the next decade.

Plenty of fans since 2014 have spoken out on their displeasure with current 1.6 hybrid V6 turbo era because of the lack of the high screaming pitch that had become so accustomed to the nature of the sport.

Yet despite all of this this we’re seeing the evolution of the fastest power unit the sport has ever seen, with the first iterations of these in 2014 showing not much more than around 750-800 horsepower. Heading into 2017 with no development tokens to hold them back, the fourth evolution could well take us past the 1000 horsepower barrier, in just four years a rough estimate of a 200 horsepower gain is incredible.

But alas, the current units are extremely technical and is alienating some of the fanbase who can’t understand the technology and are often finding that they don’t give the same thrill the old engines once did because of the noise generated. 

So how do we power into the future? 

With a move away from the current power unit the most likely scenario, the biggest question is; what will be the next power plant in the back of these cars?

A move back to the 3 litre V10s of old as some of the fanbase have called for is almost out of the question, the world markets and manufacturers are quickly steering away from such units as they are just simply to fuel thirsty. The V10 would run at nearly 190kg of fuel per hour, this versus the current V6 hybrid turbo running at 100kg per hour and producing the same power now if not more so, it would appear that progression of efficiency has clearly made the V10 now a cast into shadows of history in the technology stakes.

How about a move to an even smaller unit similar to that of the LMP1 Porsche 919? A 2 litre V4 block with a hybrid system that still as a package produces 1000 horsepower? A world away from a normally aspirated V10 sure, but it certainly would be an idea put forward by the manufacturers to allow the V4 to be the I.C.E (Internal Combustion Engine) and perhaps allow a the hybrid system to have a massive development window to increase the electrical power output. 

This might be more difficult to achieve in terms of technicality and with fans being put off already by some high tech being put out there, it might be a path the FIA may not want to adopt.

How about sticking with the 1.6 litre V6 format? It’s certainly not the most popular choice, but with the continuation of any regulation set will always sees the performance gap shrink, so why steer away again at possibly a great cost to again move to a different power unit? 

With 1000 horsepower, the removal of the development token system and the 30% fuel efficiency that has been achieved, it ticks all the boxes for manufacturers to continue down this path, but with some fans who still haven’t quite bought into the concept it might be hard to convince them that this is the way forward. 

The most common suggestion that has been put forward is to bring back the 2.4 litre V8 engine, but with perhaps a version of the current hybrid system attached including the turbo. While some of the technical aspects would remain because of the hybrid systems attached, a V8 ICE is something the teams know very well and would be easy to work with.

Fans want to hear the scream of an engine that makes their hairs stand on end and rightly so, the hybrid setup will give the power unit a very different scream because of the energy recovery systems at work, but no doubt it would satisfy fans as well as keeping manufacturers interested in sticking around. 

The tricky task would be efficiency, the V8 was roughly consuming 130kg/ph on fuel, to get back towards the 100kg/ph limit we have now would be a task for the manufacturers to work on, but no doubt they would be up to it; perhaps maybe even decrease the displacement to 2 litres  could help with this?

Parity With The Rules

With Paddy Lowe making the suggestions we should start talking about it makes perfect sense. When discussions started for the current era of power units back in 2011 there was a lot of things that just haven’t succeeded in the way they were intended, with limited power units and the early frozen development on a regulation set so new really hasn’t worked out.

To get discussions underway with 4 seasons remaining makes great sense, decide the unit, get the rules and regulations fixed fairly at a reasonable cost, all of this with some wiggle room for development without complete restriction would certainly please many in being prepared for the coming change.

It’s going to be a long way until 2021, but it all starts somewhere and I don’t think many would disagree with Paddy’s suggestion to start discussing it all now, I know I don’t.

Engine Upgrades Allowed in 2015, Except Honda

After all the evolving engine regulations for the new hybrid era of F1 we have entered, it appears that a loophole has been found in the regulations that means engine development can be continued throughout the season, except for Honda.

In what appears to be unfair advantage to the rest of the other teams this will be a blow to not just Mercedes, who could lose some of their edge, but it will also be a blow to Honda. Being a ‘new’ manufacturer, they must have their 2015 power unit homologated and locked in by February 28th.

During last season there were many concerned in the paddock that the pace of the Mercedes was going to be hard to catch up on, Mercedes were keen not to allow any relaxations in the regulations as to ensure they held their advantage, but there were protests from Renault and Ferrari, it appeared that there was going to a concession from Mercedes in form of offering their ERS unit to the other teams.

The engine freeze was originally put in place as a cost-control tactic with changes only allowed if the FIA agrees that it falls under a reliability, safety or cost-saving issue. It is understood that Ferrari are the ones to have found the loophole and after many meetings Renault then joined the cause.

With the FIA admitting that the wording of the regulations was open to interpretation, it has subsequently told teams that the “most logical and robust” way forward is to accept that there is no actual date for 2015 homologation.

The ‘tokens’ the engine suppliers are allowed to use is reference to any developments made upon the power units, the teams this winter have 32 tokens they can use, but not one piece on the engine is worth 1 token, certain parts of the power unit maybe worth more, so the teams have to work out where they can make the best gains in terms of speed and pace in the engine but also reliability, which has been a lot better than expected in 2014, but I’m sure Renault will want to certainly improve reliability as their engines were the most unreliable.

f1-red-bull-ferrari-eua-700

The teams will also be able to bring their developments whenever they wish throughout the season, this could mean one team gains advantage over another at different points in the season, this could prove an exciting development race from now on with now the engineers I’m sure in full swing back their factories.

Many questions will be now asked, Can Mercedes maintain their advantage with this new loophole discovered? Can Honda develop a good enough engine to keep up with the developing pack? How fast can the other teams develop to catch Mercedes

This is all part of the exciting world of F1 we all love and cherish, stay tuned!!

lilgodf1

F1’s Engine War Rages On

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/149/80413967/files/2014/12/img_1555.jpgAccording to BBC Sport, Formula 1 is considering cheaper, louder and more powerful engines in the future.

This for me is unacceptable in the wake of great strides the manufacturers of these power units have made in the past few years to get to this position, F1 finally took a huge step in it’s global attention when it decided to go down this hybrid route and it would be to great detrimental effect to go back now.

At the Team Principal’s press conference in Australia 2014 it was confirmed by Charlie Whiting who was in attendance that had the sport not gone to this new engine format, we would have lost Renault, Mercedes as an engine supplier and Honda would never have made it’s return, Mercedes would also not have come back as a factory team. F1 would be a Ferrari engined formula, and we all know this is not what the sport was all about.

In Formula One’s illustrious history we have seen many technologies come from the sport and put into our current road cars, ABS, Traction Control and Active Suspension to name but a few. Up to date road cars today are often having smaller engines attached to them with turbos to make up the power loss.

With hybrid technology is still new F1 can be a great researcher of this technology and help fine tune it for our road cars, current supercars are already attempting to utilise a KERS turbo type system, McLaren P1 and the Porsche 918 are examples of this.

Formula One needs to brave the start of this new era and keep the great work it has achieved so far, noise is only one aspect of this sport, we cannot go back to bigger and thirstier engines, in 2014 we achieved the target of 30% less fuel efficiency this new Formula, that to me is a grand success.

@SteveF1C

Strategy Group Meeting

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/149/80413967/files/2014/12/img_1549.jpgToday the teams will come together to discuss future of engine regulations for 2016 onwards.

The change from 2.4 litre V8 engines to 1.6 litre turbo-charged V6 hybrid units has seen costs rise from a reported £5m to £15-20m for customer teams.

Bernie is making a proposal of going back to normally aspirated engines, he said “I have been proposing, and am going to propose, at the next meeting we go back to a normally-aspirated engine with some hybrid bits built into it.

But the main part to this story is that it is rumoured Mercedes are prepared to let the other teams use their ERS unit, but it is still considered that Mercedes carry the best ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) on the grid, Is this concession enough to keep the other power unit suppliers happy? Is it enough to close the substantial gap to Mercedes?

The biggest question of all though is are Mercedes prepared to give up this clear advantage they have over the rest of the field?

Honda come back into the field as well in 2015, we await to see what pace they will have in the back of those McLarens, but it is clear that their return to the sport was integral to these new hybrid rules. Is Bernie prepared to let them immediately do a U-turn on their return?

@SteveF1C