I went up to Cosworth recently to have a look around and find out how the testing has been going. Cosworth is returning to F1 after an absence of three years and in many ways they symbolise the new post-manufacturer F1 era, as the power behind Williams and the new teams.
There was quite a bit of scepticism about Cosworth when the FIA issued its list of new teams accepted for 2010, all of whom would be using Cosworth engines. In some quarters it was suggested that having Cosworth engines was the only way to be accepted, but there were other reasons why some high profile names were rejected. There were also suggestions that the engine would be uncompetitive because technology had moved on and fuel efficiency would be a problem. Although prices are not discussed publicly, the Cosworth package is also believed to be cheaper than the others at around £5 million for the season.
The engine is based on the unit used by Williams in the 2006 season, adapted to run at 18,000 rpm. This season, Cosworth’s flagship team is again Williams and they have been performing pretty well and look like fighting for the “best of the rest” position behind the top four.
“You can’t believe the different culture across the teams we are working with, ” says Cosworth’s Mark Gallager, ” You have the vast experience of Williams, extremely professional, very demanding and with a clear objective to win Grands Prix, right through to teams who haven’t done F1 before and are on a steep learning curve and are asking Cosworth to help them in areas that Williams already knows the answers to.”
Cosworth’s target for the engine was to have the power of Mercedes with the fuel efficiency of Renault and they think that these targets are close to being realised. We will only really find out in the first few races, when we can properly evaluate both in competitive conditions.
In testing the engine was run conservatively to start with, but they managed to cover more than the 2,500 kms life of the engine with the first unit in the Williams, so the whole of the Valencia test and some of the first Jerez test too. It is obvious from the speed trap data that Williams is far faster on the straights than with the Toyota unit last year. In the Barcelona test, the Williams was the third fastest car in Vmax at 308km/h, equal to Ferrari and five km/h slower than McLaren with its magic rear wing.
As the testing has gone on, they have had very impressive reliability, covering 11,336km mainly with Williams, but also with Lotus and Virgin.
Serving four teams is a fair sized logistical exercise; Cosworth was set to produce 100 engines this season; 10 for testing and 80 for racing across the five teams it was supplying. With USF1 out and HRT not testing, that number is now slightly lower, but it’s still a lot of engines.
They are required to supply five engines per team to travel to each Grand Prix, which the teams transport themselves. Cosworth’s on site technical support team at races is 18 people.
One of the advantages Cosworth enjoys this season is that they were able to work on the engine until very recently, whereas engine makers who raced last season have frozen engines.
Gallagher explains how that works,
“We froze the engine on March 1st 2010 and you have to supply the FIA and the other engine makers with a dossier of what you have done to the engine, ” says Gallagher. “It is fixed at that point and you cannot go spending millions of dollars developing the engine for performance. The only thing you can do is ask for a concession if you suffer a reliability issue. In that instance you present your case to the FIA, they share it with the competition and anyone can object. ”
Walking around the facilities, it is just as I remember it from my last visit three years ago, apart from a smart new reception area. The engine build workshop is a buzz of activity with the engines being prepared for Bahrain. They were shipped out last Friday.
I’ve made a video about the new teams, the Resource Restriction Agreement with some behind the scenes material at Cosworth. Click on the link below to watch it.