Prost: Smart, adaptable drivers will thrive with 2014 technology
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Posted By: James Allen  |  03 Nov 2013   |  9:26 am GMT  |  117 comments

Alain Prost was on hand in Abu Dhabi this weekend as Renault Sport upped the noise about 2014 engines with a briefing for selected media.

Prost was on good form, providing insight into the driving techniques necessary to do well with the new small capacity hybrid turbo engines coming in next year. His message was clear, it will be intelligent and adaptable drivers who will thrive, by being open to changing their driving style and working hard behind the scenes to learn how to get more from the powertrain.

“It has always been the case (that F1 drivers need to be intelligent to succeed)” said Prost. “But when you have a new technology like this one you have to work on it. You have to be more involved. Driving style could well have a big influence. So you have to adapt to that; it’s not going to be easy. If you do not understand, then you will struggle.”


The powertrains will have far more modes than today, variables in power, torque, fuel saving and how the driver makes use of these will have a bearing on strategy as well as performance.

One major difference is that whereas today a car will be able to reach the finish of the race if the KERS stops working, with a loss of performance of around 0.4s per lap, next year a failure of the hybrid system will probably spell retirement and even if a “nurse it home” mode works, it will lead to significant drop in performance as the hybrid system injects around 160bhp of the 760bhp total.

As this is a fairly immature technology, reliability is going to be a challenge. Engineers suggest that the engines themselves should be fairly reliable, but getting the hybrid units and the batteries to last for four races will be hard to achieve in the first year. So it could re-introduce the variable into the championship of drivers having a few non-scoring weekends in their title challenge.

The powertrain harvests energy from two sources; heat energy from the turbo and kinetic energy from braking. It stores them as electricity in two separate motor generator units, which release the energy back into the system. The last time F1 engines had turbos, in Prost’s day, the delay on power delivery when the driver applied the throttle (known as turbo lag) could be measured in seconds.

With the 2014 engines, to avoid this, some of the energy harvested from the turbo will be reintroduced electronically to spin the turbo up instantly when the driver applies throttle exiting a corner and this will mean no turbo lag.

Prost gave the example of his McLaren Honda team mate Ayrton Senna, who famously devised his own technique for eliminating turbo lag, by pumping the throttle on and off very quickly under braking before accelerating from the corner, so he would have full power on corner exit.

There is no need for that with the new engines, as the system will take care of that itself. Getting a good efficient system for this is clearly going to be a hugely important area for the engine makers to get right. As explained by JA on F1 technical adviser Mark Gillan in a previous article, the most common type of corner in F1 is the sub 130km/h corner and getting the car optimised for traction out of those corners is one of the reasons why Red Bull and to a lesser extent Mercedes have thrived, while Ferrari has struggled this year.

With no exhaust blown diffusers allowed next year, the system to avoid turbo lag will be key. There is no question of traction control being allowed with these systems.

“It is very interesting technically. It is going to be controlled by electronics, but it still depends on how the driver is going to use it and how he will use the throttle,” said Prost.

“You can imagine how drivers will develop their style during the winter testing. We will be able to see quite a difference between the styles (of driving)”

Prost won many races in the turbo era of the 1980s by conserving fuel and tyres and then pushing through to the front in the closing stages of races, a methodical approach which earned him the nickname “The Professor”. He believes we could well see drivers replicating that next year. Only 100 kilos of fuel will be allowed, compared to 150kg today.

No driver aids are allowed, so the driver will still be in charge of commanding the amount of torque the engine delivers.

Key points of 2014 powertrains
The powertrain will be allowed to harvest 2 mega joules of energy, five times as much as currently.
The hybrid system will be able to release 10 times the energy of today back into the engine.
Without factoring in changes in tyres, the cars will be around 1.5 seconds per lap slower
The cars will have less drag, which will help maintain high speeds and improve fuel consumption.
Powertrains will have to be more reliable than today. Assuming a 20 race calendar (the current working one does not have New Jersey or Mexico on it) each engine will have to last for 4 Grands Prix.

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1

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consequence of exorbitant prices.

2

I for one will NOT be watching the last 2 races of the F1 season due to Kimi Raikkonen not taking part! Kimi is the ONLY reason I have watched all the races.He is a GREAT driver with so much charisma.I believe all his fans will also boycott the rest of the season. I am totally insensed at the way Kimi has been treated by Team Lotus and I think he has made a wise move to go and have his back operation

3

I think we might see nico rosberg do very well next year. Its well known that he is very intelligent and has the natural speed to complement this. It isnt based on much but I have had a feeling for a few months that merc have the best engine or at least one that will be competitive. So for this reason don’t discount nico to win the WDC. Willliams also are using merc engines next year, plus am i right in saying they have a very good record with kers, this could help next year as if they can get kers right than they should get ERS right.

4

The ERS is not team specific it’s engine supplier specific, so all Merc powered cars will have the same ERS system fitted because it’s integrated, where as the current KERS is an ‘add on’ to an existing power unit. I still think this is a good move by Williams as I feel Renault only really care about RB and Lotus (to an extent) I believe Merc are very good with their engine partnerships and will want to show Williams they made the right move to change to them. Would love to see a competitive Williams again B4 Sir Frank becomes too old to get to the races regularly. He deserves to see them back up where they belong.

5

Ah I understand now. So will this knowledge of kers be any use at all?

It would be nice to see williams competitive and imagine if massa was to finish ahead of Alonso in the championship! (I am guessing massa has the drive). What i fear about next year though is one engine manufacturer dominating so they will easily win and then their customer team will be second. People say at the moment its an aerodynamic championship so how is that worse than an engine one, I say the difference is that every team does their own aerodynamics so can change the situation if it starts badly (mclaren 2009, ferari 2012) wheras if your engine is two seconds slower a lap your season is over by australia.

6

They way I understand it, if it’s an aero formula then the cars struggle to follow really close due to the turbulent air from the car in front so overtakes are had to make. With an engine formula then the aero is less important and if cars rely on engine not aero then they can follow each other much tighter and get the overtake done. It’s the aero that stops more non-DRS overtakes being made.

7

we will find out what will happen when it happens in the 2014 season.

8

Great article, great insight by Prost, thanks James!

Bart

9

small adaptable drivers will thrive with 2014 technology….

god bye Hulk, hate this sport.

10

“Cars will have less drag…..”

Does this mean we go back to the days before the OWG, i.e. Higher cornering speeds and less overtaking? It is great to see the technical abilities of F1 being displayed again and good to see the playing field levelled to a large extent, but not so good if that’s where we are heading back to. It will be an interesting season surely with some big surprises both with teams and drivers, but it would be nice to safeguard the race craft.

11

I don’t get your quote?

Less drag is normally due to less aero. There are 2 sources of grip, mechancial, from teh tyres and aero from the wings and body. So less drag might mean less drag, but does not mean more grip to lead to higher cornering speeds.

12

>>Key points of 2014 powertrains

The powertrain will be allowed to harvest 2 mega joules of energy, five times as much as currently.

The hybrid system will be able to release 10 times the energy of today back into the engine.<<

Why why why?? WHY put these useless limitations on this emerging tech?

Because F1 is all about "not losing" instead of "winning." They limit innovation so nobody "undeserving" comes out of left field with an idea that blows the others away.

13

I hope the new regulations and designs don’t exacerbate the driver restraint shown this year due to strategy requirements. I want to see racing drivers racing with their all and not holding back for 90% of the race.

14

OK a couple of things….(1) while it is partly correct that 161 BHP is available per lap (ie 2Mj), it is also true that X2 this amount is available in the ES (4Mj) and under the regulations ALL of this is available for qualifying, and, I would presume if it is needed in the race. So, at certain times 161 additional BHP is available for 60 seconds – most time spent on throttle is about 75% so in effect its 161 BHP for a whole lap. However, only 2Mj may be collected or harvested per lap, meaning that a deficit will be hard to make up. (2)However, and this is a biggie, the 2 Mj mentioned does NOT include harvesting from the MGU-H – the turbo and there is no harvesting limitation on it all. Part of the reason for this is that it is very hard to quantify how much it will produce in, partly because just how much power is reversed into the Turbo when normally off boost. I think it is widely anticipated that this will be considerable because powering up the turbo then boosts pressure in the engine off throttle which increases the engine braking, and means brakes can possibly be downsized. Part of this is helped by direct injection rather just from throttle mapping as it is now. I don’t as yet have any figures for this but even if its as low as 0.5-1Mj per lap this could be very very important.

(3) lastly it has been said there is no traction control. Well true, however, there is agreement about using a number of electronic controls to control the amount of electric torque available, and this leaves a huge hole in the regulations in my opinion – with all of the turbo torque available it was considered essential and is one of the reasons Pirelli have been so vocal about testing – they are scared of the total amount of torque available as the power goes back on. I suspect we can already see today’s KERS being used in that way already – ie being used to smooth the torque output

Next year sure looks interesting and I would expect to see the power units producing somewhere north of an average 800 BHP or more by the end of the year. I can see another fuel reduction coming…

15

Hi Rob,

could you explain what you mean by engine braking being helped by direct injection? I understand DI should allow a larger compression ratio, but I might be missing something here.

I believe with the traction control side of things there can be no feedback in the system, such as wheel speeds or engine rpm acceleration. Limits can be applied, just as the current cars are often only running on 4 cylinders in corners, but that is pre mapped rather than reactive.

16

Sorry missed the bit about TC.

I am not sure to be honest but it seems to me that the amount of electric torque available can be controlled very precisely…if the current draw rapidly decreases this means that the wheel is therefore probably spinning, in which case the controller cuts the electric power available, or (complete conjecture here…) might even quickly switch to generation mode on the MGU-K, as this would then absorb excess power. Unlikely though as this would probably compromise the maximum MGU-K harvesting limit but then we know what F1 engineers can dream up.

I take your point about current engine maps. As I see it without an effective EBD or Coanda system much of the need for some of the extreme maps has gone but I could be completely wrong.

I should also mention my thoughts about engine braking also need to consider the effect of engine wear as obviously this increases the overall rotational wear.

IMO Prost is not wrong and I reckon that younger drivers may well cope better than old in adapting to a different way of driving. I think that is good.

17

Really great info, thank you. I love this aspect of things, even if a percentage of it I don’t fully understand straight off I know what to look into further and as we know, if you got an idea of roughly what you want to know then the internet comes into its own.

Thanks again

18

Hi Martin,

currently the cars have throttle and engine maps and typically when the driver lifts off, the throttle closes and fuel is cut off for max engine braking, though this depends how much brake/throttle overlap the driver prefers. Engine braking therefore consists of what pressure there is in the cylinders – a semi vacuum of about 5 psi.This means the engine has to compress very little, so not much engine braking.

With DI the amount of power needed is controlled by the driver of course but as it is injected very near the time of combustion the precise amount of fuel can be injected at phenomenal pressure – around 600 bar, to get the power required, though in practice of course there are other considerations such as mixture. The point is though that the actual butterfly can be completely open, so airflow into the combustion chamber is well controlled, even when off throttle. This of course means that the turbo, which is at full boost pressurises the chamber to around 45 psi, not 5, leading to a potentially big increase in engine braking. It remains to be seen if all engine suppliers do this, but I know they recognise the opportunity. The are obviously lots of considerations such as driveability, transmission reverse torque etc, effect on brakes, on MGU-K et al….

19

From the front runners, I expect Vettel and Alonso to thrive then. Both have shown they can adapt very well and have a lot of ‘capacity’ when in the car.

Kimi is/was brilliant in this area too, we’ll have to wait until next year to see how he fares. One thing that will help him is that he is so smooth with the throttle. Surely, this will help him as with the torquey engines next year, tyre conservation will be that bit more critical.

20

60kg less of fuel, they’re not even going to run HALF the race flat out… Technically, if James May had a contract, Marrusia or Red Bull, he would be the man to beat next year.

21

Nonsense. They will be braking qualifying records by mid year at least and race records by the end of the year. F1 has always been about technology – not fuel use no matter what.

22

Good call Mr. Hammond…

23

I’m more of a Clarkson.

24

I would like to echo one of James comments. We don’t know about the tyres yet. All of this looks promising. F1 is certainly living upto its name of the Pinnacle of Motor-Sports! But what if the tyres don’t hold up??

James, could you tell me why is the FIA not giving Pirelli what they need in terms of testing? Is it all down to cost?

25

Lots of controversy mate. Merc wanted wider, taller tires, ie more contact patch. The other didn’t and the FIA agreed with the others, so it sounds like the merc unit has more torque. other than that there is a stupid situation whereby the teams cant test without the FIA and other teams permission and they have to test a old car even then. Essentially next year they can’t test at all because last years cars will be “obsolete” in the FIA’s new “system”.

26

OMG This is such terrible news!

Once again drivers will have to “drive to their equipment”! It won’t be tires next season, but it’ll be gas and something else! OMG this is so “not racing” !! If they can’t drive flat out – just stand on it the whole race its just not “pure racing”.

The bloggozens here will go berserk.

27

hahaha..well put sir

28

Every F1 driver that has ever lived had to “drive to their equipment”… it’s impossible to do otherwise.

29

I have heard stories on the grapevine that power outputs are likely to be higher than anticipated. Yes they will revolve more slowly, but the cylinder pressures will be very high. – I’ve heard 3 bar which might prove interesting in more ways than one!

30

I hear 750 bhp from the Merc turbo already and that does not include any hybrid power. Yes its 3 bar on the inlet side but 600, so they say, in the chamber.

31

If it’s 3 bar on induction as against atmospheric today it will depend on the compression ratio as to what pressures are shortly after ignition. – They will be high!

32

James,

great article, please can you clear up 2 questions I have.

Will the drivers still have a boost button (KERS) or will this feature be gone and the ERS power controled by the ECU and fed in as part of the overall power?

Also will they still have DRS?

Many thanks

33

No. it’s all mapped – no button

DRS is there and the wing slot opens more – 70mm. More powerful than now

34

You know for sure that it’s all mapped? Why wouldn’t they leave some portion of it for use at the drivers’ discretion, like the overtake button in IndyCar racing?

As for DRS, I hate it. Anything that causes people to delay a pass just b/c they think it will be easier to do later on down the road, or that they fear being easily re-passed if they were to pass too early, is screwing with the racing!

As for the tires, God help us if they play as big a part as they did this season. I would hope and expect Pirelli to just get the hell outta the way next year (i.e. build hard durable tires), and let the teams work out how to race with the new cars and powerplants. Perhaps that is why they were asking for 2 mandatory stops from the FIA?

35

Does the mapping of the electric motor power delivery mean that the engineers code (of the engine maps) will be very important in 2014? In addition, will acceleration from low speed corners be noticeable greater than at present?

36

Thanks for your prompt response James, do you feel that this may make passing too easy? As in, if the driver in front has clear air and not able to use DRS then he becomes much more of a sitting duck as no KERS to defend. I would be very interested in your informed view as I can’t quite decide if it’s better or worse.

Thanks again in advance and I really really enjoy the tech articles it’s why I watch F1 I’m not that bothered about who wins, more how they won and why.

37

I do not like DRS. It reminds me of sitting in the middle lane of the motorway and watching cars overtake in the outside lane. If it has to stay, then maybe the car in front should be able to use it to defend a position. The 2013 races are more boring to watch than the old fashioned style processional races.

One of Hamilton’s strengths was the ability to overtake whereas other couldn’t. The current regulations suppress this talent.

38

It’s hard to say now as there are so many things about 2014 we don’t know yet

The tyres are a big question mark. Hopefully they won’t be a talking point – it will be all about drivers’ styles and who has the best power train

39

IIRC the 2014 regulations this may implies that the main flap of the rear wing will have more surface than now despite being a bit shallower.

That 70mm rule was added when the regulations reverted to 2012 style aerodynamics so i assume this is to compensate for the shallower profile.

40

I just hope 2014 will mark the end of gimmicks. For the first time, this year I began losing interest in F1 – gimmicky tyres, gimmicky WDC, gimmicky stewarding. Its all a bit too much to pack in a single season.

All we want is for drivers to shine, not gimmicks.

41

Great! Continuously adapting driving style should suit Vettel 🙂

42

Smart adaptable drivers with worse driveable cars? Alonso rules!

43

Smart and adaptable? Isn’t that Vettel to a “T”?

44

Exhaust blown diffusors or not, Ferrari really should find a lot more low speed traction in the car due to the arrival of these high torque power plants. Otherwise they will become a midfield team.

45

Lots of gadgets for Newey and people on forums like this, but true sports fans who love wheel to wheel racing will suffer even more since now its not just how to overtake, but how to play nintendo on the wheel and race at the same time…

We are losing the primitive but yet so seductive aggressive and in the moment racing.

In couple of years it will be like flying an advanced fighter jet, people who make gadjets work better will be up…

I dont want to see nerds in F1, I want fire and brimstone, playboys and roughnecks, characters like Kimi..this will all change…

46

Er….”nerds” have been in F1 since the dawn of time. Whether they are calculating stresses on the aero package or getting their hands dirty with changing car parts, all of it requires technical expertise.

47

But nerds are not yet driving the cars. There is that danger in F1.

Picture your favourite F1 driver of the future; a girly guy with pimples, twiggy arms and thick, horn rimmed glasses; who doesn’t know the brake pedal from the throttle or oil from water, but can juggle the quantum theory from back to front and is an ace computer gamer… God forbid!

48

No, I really doubt that ‘the Professor’ didn’t know the throttle pedal or couldn’t tell oil from water.

49

Do you mean nerds as in short thin men with nicknames like ‘the Professor’?

50

If they understand quantum theory they are more likely to be atheists 🙂

51

If they don’t know their brake pedal from the throttle chances are they won’t even be in motor racing.

As for drivers of that physical stereotype, there are plenty to choose from. Plenty are short sighted; plenty of rookies barely out of their teens (Kimi suffers from a couple of zits now and again), and most have twiggy arms due to the weight restrictions meaning they can’t work out.

52

A few drivers come to mind when reading this article.

Vettel is someone who has become quite adept at managing the car over a race. He has also proven to be quite adept at changing his driving style- if for no other reason than that he is willing to put the work and focus into doing so.

Raikkonen also comes to mind- not because of a possibility that he would have to change his driving style, but because he is sommeone who, based on what I’ve read, wouldn’t have to change at all to suit the new regulations. Provided that he has the front-end grip that is known to really thrive on, he’s a guy who is known to make the corner very short and use very smooth throttle appplication on exit. This helps to conserve both tires and fuel, as he won’t be spinning the tires as much by not pumping the throttle but also because his smooth acceleration will make fuel delivery linear, whereas other guys who are pumping the throttle will be spiking the fuel delivery several times in the corner and effectively waste fuel. I can see Kimi thriving under the new regulations next year.

Rosberg seems to be a driver who is quite cerebral in his driving and makes good use of the various gizmos and gadgets on the steering wheel. He’s another one who the new regulations could suit well.

I’m sure Hamilton and Alonso will also be quite fine because they are such damned good drivers, but perhaps they won’t adapt as well naturally as the above three.

53

I’ll admit I think this is what may happen. Raikkonen is the master of weight transfer. I think Bottas also has a similar short corner driving style. Vettel and Rosberg will seek to understand the formula and Vettel will adapt we’ll to whatever style is needed to succeed.

I have a hunch that Vergne is in a similar mould to Raikkonen now, in that he does well in the race than over one lap, perhaps Button, Perez and Di Resta as well – and I have a good feeling about Bianchi. But maybe the aggressive style may be hard to see thriving, which is bad news for Hamilton and Maldonado. Maybe Ricciardo or Massa as well?

54

Interesting thoughts. Pat Fry has suggested that drivers will need to speed time in the simulator to understand and practice the way to get the best out of the powertrain, which will largely be about when to change gear rather than cornering technique.

I’ll sit on the fence re any predictions.

55

We are witnessing the emergence of a new style of F1 race where drivers will have to be smarter in their strategies. The time when a pilot could bomb throughout the race is over. This will appeal to nostalgic F1 people but this new style is more compatible with today’s world where a car must travel and manage energy consumption too. Technological progresses in this area will be benefit to car’s industry. F1 will be a new technological laboratory again.

56

> F1 will be a new technological laboratory again.<

Not a chance.

Grandma's Caddy is more technologically "advanced" because F1 outlaws innovations that actually work so that no team finds a magic bullet. Witness the double diffuser, Renault's mass damper, active suspension, traction control and on and on.

57

“Grandma’s Caddy is more technologically advanced” – Ahaha funny !

With the new power unit build by Renault for example, we will witness an exchange beetween the industry and F1. Experience will come from engineers working in F1 to Industry and reciprocally. The downsizing is the best example of this point of agreement craved first by FIA. You can find somes articles on the web which explain this point of view.

58

Interesting read. Prost looking as fit as ever. Contrast him with Niki, who looks as though he hasn’t missed many meals of late!

59

there’re 6 years age difference between the two and Lauda survived burns and kidney problems. Kind of crazy your comment, mate

60

Agreed. Not called for, and I apologize.

61

6 years? Looks more like 20 years on appearence alone, Lauda wasn’t so bad a few years ago like 2007 but now especially at Abu Dhabi he looks close to rivalling Murray Walker or Bernie for age.

63

Prost should make a comeback — he’s the right size, still fit, intelligent, experienced …

64

Niki Lauda survived two kidney transplants since he stopped racing. This may be partly reason for his appearance.

65

Prost has become a serious cyclist, prepping his own bikes, dressing the part etc. Which explains why he looks so trim. He also does snow racing in the Alps.

66

Indeed, you’re correct on the road cycling score. My background in sport has always been road cycling so I’ve followed Prost’s transition across to cycling with interest over the years. He was, 30 years ago, a smoker but he gave that away and has really become a super fit guy, and apparently he’s very handy on a race bike. Climbs well from what I hear.

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