More spectacular racing, with F1 cars having more power than grip on corner exits and an opportunity to showcase technology and innovation, putting F1 back at the cutting edge – these are the likely hallmarks of Formula 1 as it will be under the new formula in 2014, according to experts who are building the new engines.
A visit to AMG Mercedes High Performance Powertrains (HPP) in Brixworth today yielded some fascinating insights into how F1 is set to change and what fans will see next season. And we got the chance to see one of the new generation V6 turbo engines on the dyne and to hear its sound.
It is noticeably less of a high-pitched wail at peak revs, as the maximum is now 15,000rpm, rather than the 18,000 previously. But through the upshifts and downshifts it sounds very much like an F1 engine and there is a sweetness to the sound which is distinctively F1. And the turbo, which revs to a maximum 125,000rpm will also be audible.
With the new generation hybrid devices, the power unit will produce far more torque than the current V8s and this will lead to the cars stepping out more at the rear as they exit corners. Getting on top of that will be important, but so will the efficiency of the power units themselves. The pressure will be on Pirelli, if it retains its F1 tyre supply contract, to produce tyres that can cope with the increase in sliding.
At its heart the 2014 revolution aligns the mission of race engineers and road car engineers; both are looking to get power and efficiency while using less fuel.
The package which extracts the most performance from fuel energy will perform the best. Getting it right will be vital to competitiveness next year; the manufactures have agreed to homologate the engines on March 1st 2014, so they have until then to develop them. If one manufacturer has a clear advantage over others, they will be able to enjoy that for a while but discussions will inevitably ensue to allow some retuning, as happened when F1 switched to V8s after 2006.
The driver will have a maximum one 100 kilos of fuel in his car at the start of the race, rather than 150kg today so the engineers need to find a 30% improvement in efficiency compared to today’s engines, while maintaining the same power output. The 2014 engines will use Direct Injection, pressurised to 500bar. It will make F1 a thinking driver’s formula, perhaps?
One of the key areas of development is the energy recovery systems (ERS) and we were given an insight into these. Rather than the single KERS system used today, which gives around 80hp boost for 7 seconds per laps, the 2014 units will also harvest energy from an electric machine connected to the turbo and a heat converter, all of which will boost the output to 161hp for 33 seconds per lap. The unit can store 10 times more energy than the current KERS units and harvest 5 times more energy at the rear axle. Current thermal efficiency is 30%, the target is 40% next year.
This aligns the sport far more with what is going on in the road car world and AMG Mercedes HPP MD Andy Cowell says that he is having far more conversations with his opposite numbers in Stuttgart on the road car side, who are also covering the same ground and are looking to transfer the learnings from F1.
As the driver on average demands full power for 50 seconds per lap, this means that the hybrid aspect will be a very significant contributor to lap time.
There will be a single exhaust, exiting down the centre of the engine cover, onto the rear wing. This will make exhaust blowing into the diffuser a huge challenge, but as the gains are so great it will be fascinating to see how the aerodynamicists manage to channel the air.
One important aspect of change will be to see the power unit as a whole entity, so that each driver will have 5 power units for the season (currently he has 8 engines). So if he has a failure of ERS, turbo, an exhaust, battery or control electronics failure you will have to use a sixth power unit and incur a 10 place penalty. Today it’s only the engine itself which attracts a penalty.
Whereas today’s engines need to last for 2,000kms, the 2014 units will therefore need to last for 4,000 kms, which interestingly also makes them usable in the Le Mans 24 hours race.
Mercedes plan to supply two customers from 2014 onwards, in addition to their own works team based at Brackley. Currently they supply McLaren and Force India. There is speculation about what both teams might do in future, but if they are going to change in 2014 they will need to do so very soon, as the engine manufacturers are on the point of sharing the data on size, weight and fittings to their teams so that they can get ahead on the design phase.