For someone who, by my own admission, finds the idea of a monopoly on competition a real bore, Formula 1 racing a most tedious affair – none more so than the past years where Sebastian Vettel has ruled the roost with the best car, best team, best technology and, in all honesty, greatest skill.
So the news that in the season this year for which testing is about to start the FIA Formula One World Championship has had a whole host of new radical technical regulation changes foisted upon it comes as a hopeful relief from procession racing as Formula 1 has become (in my humble opinion.)
And one of the big changes is that in 2014, all cars “will be powered by avant-garde powertrain technology, with a powerful turbocharged internal combustion engine coupled to sophisticated energy recovery systems.”
This will see power output boosted to levels last seen over five years ago – this time with two types of energy propelling the cars. An internal combustion engine will produce power through consumption of traditional carbon-based fuel, working in (hopefully) perfect harmony with two motor generator units harvesting electrical energy from the exhaust and from braking.
This will actually mean that you can’t actually refer to what’s under the bonnet (or in the boot or wherever) of a Formula 1 racing car can’t be called an engine any more: it will be referred to as a Power Unit. (I wonder if commentators and broadcasters will get fined for the ‘engine’ slip?)
SO WHAT ARE THE KEY ELEMENTS OF THE NEW POWER UNITS?
V6 is actually shorthand for “an internal combustion engine with its cylinders arranged in two banks of 3 cylinders arranged in a ‘V’ configuration over a common crankshaft.” (For example, the Renault Energy F1 V6 has a displacement of 1.6 litres and will make around 600bhp, or more than three times the power of a Clio RS.)
The architecture of an Internal Combustion Engine is very different to the existing V8 engines with the pressure in the combustion chamber especially high (double that of the current V8) so the crankshaft and pistons are the subject of massive stress and strain. We may see a lot more retirements and engine failures as the pressure generated by the turbocharger may actually destroy the power unit should what is called a ’knocking’ occur.
And that destruction is immediate! So it means that the technical teams of the racing fraternity become so much more important than before.
All Power Units in Formula 1 cars must have direct fuel injection (DI). This means that the fuel goes directly into the combustion chamber rather than into the inlet port upstream of the inlet valves (The clue is in the words ‘direct fuel injection.)
Contrary to what we see in the pit lanes currently with mechanics getting as much fuel as possible into car as quickly as possible – and usually taking about 10 seconds maximum – great precision is needed now as the fuel-air mixture is formed within the cylinder, especially in how much and the direction of the fuel.
Cars must carry Potent Energy Recovery Systems incorporating two motor generator units – the MGU-H and the MGU-K
The MGU-K which, when braking operates as a generator, getting energy back, is connected to the crankshaft of the internal combustion engine, converts the kinetic energy into electricity that can be used during the lap under limited guidelines (a max of 120 kW or 160bhp by the rules) to make the car move.
If the MGU-K fails during a race, in all honesty the race would be over for the car as it would leave it racing purely on an internal combustion engine and therefore uncompetitive.
Getting energy from the exhaust gases is the MGU-H, connected to the turbocharger and acting as a generator, directing electrical energy to either the MGU-K or to the battery for storage for later use. The MGU-H also helps to control the speed of the turbocharger to avoid meltdown.
It should be noted, for all petrolheads out there and F1 heads, that the MGU-H produces alternative current in contrast to the battery requirements of continuous current so a highly complex convertor is needed.
As stated above when talking about the electrical energy that the MGU-H produces, the kinetic energy can be used straight away or it can be stored in the Energy Store (battery.) The ERS of the 2014 power unit will have twice the power (120 kW vs. 60 kW) and the energy contributing to performance is ten times greater.
This gives the car teams a big challenge as the battery has a minimum weight of 20kg in order to be able to power a motor that produces 120kW – and they want their car to be as light as possible. Question is: what will they cut out to accommodate it?
The maximum ‘engine’ speed is restricted to 15,000rpm
The combined maximum power output is the same (or at the very least on a par with) that of the previous V8; 760bhp.
There is a double restriction on fuel consumption
The quantity of fuel per car for a race is limited to 100 kg (that’s DOWN 35% from 2013) with the fuel flow rate limited to 100 kg/hr max (where previously it was unlimited.) This means that F1 cars will therefore need to use both fuel and electrical energy over one lap.
There is no Engine development allowed during the season
Although there is provision “for fair and equitable reasons” when it is permitted.
And finally there are only 5 Power Units permitted per driver per year
‘Grand Prix racing is a pioneering sport, representing the pinnacle of human endeavour and technological innovation. From the rear mounted engines of the 1930s to the ground effect of the 1980s, F1 technology has always been years ahead of its time. With cutting-edge energy systems and highly advanced turbocharged combustion engines, in 2014 F1 remains true to its DNA. We are absolutely at the vanguard of powertrain technology this year.’ Jean-Michel Jalinier, President of Renault Sport F1