Before Christmas break I had the chance to visit the Mercedes F1 engine factory near Northampton and I posted on their analysis of the 2011 season. You can read that post HERE
But the final part of the visit was forward looking, with an eye to 2014 and we got a sneak peak at what lies ahead as the engine builders prepare to run prototypes of the new engine on the dyno for the first time in 2012.
The new generation of F1 engines for 2014 are small capacity single turbo V6 engines. They will turn the page as far as engine technology is concerned and will re-introduce engines as performance differentiators, at least to start with.
However great care has been taken by both the FIA, the manufacturers and the teams to ensure that the new engine formula doesn’t turn into a spending war. Many areas of the engine architecture are fixed, such as the bore size, the crankshaft height, the single turbo and so on. The key to building a great engine rather than just a good one will be getting power from the given fuel flow.
“The engines are high revving. You don’t get the maximum fuel flow rate until you are above 10,500rpm, and the maximum revs are at 15,000rpm, ” Mercedes engine chief Andy Cowell explained.
The regulations are aimed at reducing fuel consumption, with savings of 35% on the current fuel usage, which will save around 55kg of fuel per car per race. But the rules also allow the engineers some freedom to innovate, with certain key parameters controlled, which seems like a good compromise. Another important point is that with the engine architecture fixed, it’s easy for teams to switch from one manufacturer to another if they find they aren’t competitive. This will keep the engine builders on their toes.
KERS will be dropped in favour of ERS, which will store and inject 120kW of power back into the engine, which will make a huge difference. Whereas KERS isn’t that noticeable, ERS will make a very significant difference to lap time. Heat recovery from the exhaust is part of a system which will harvest five times the energy KERS does currently. And when the car is running in the pit lane, the car will run on electric power only.
As for many fans’ fears that the sound will be disappointing, Cowell disagrees. With a rev limit of 15,000 the engines will scream and with
six exhaust pipes going into one turbocharger Cowell believes it will sound “very nice.” He’ll find out soon as Mercedes are shaping up to do their first run on the dyno in the coming months.