Formula 1’s V6 turbo power units are now more powerful than the previous V8 and V10 engines, according to Mercedes’ engine boss Andy Cowell.
Speaking ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Cowell explained that being able to use the Electrical Recovery System (ERS) combined with the 1.6 litre engine for a full lap, make the current engines more powerful than the previous V8s. Those engines could only use a Kinetic Energy Recovery (KERS) system for a limited amount of time per lap.
He said: “If [you] just look at the internal combustion engine, then today’s V6 1.6 litre turbo-charged engine is approximately the same power as the V8 engine was.
“Both of those ran a hybrid system and if you add the KERS system onto the V8 and the ERS system onto the V6, and look at their maximum power values, then today’s V6 with ERS is 10 per cent more powerful than we had with the V8 and the KERS system.
“The ERS system is available for the majority of the lap; the KERS system was only available for 6.7 seconds of the lap, so in terms of laptime, impact of the V6 and ERS, is significantly greater than we had with the V8 and KERS system.”
Cowell added that the current V6 power units are now producing more power than the V10 engines, which were last used in F1 in 2005 and hold most of the lap records at circuits still on the calendar from that era, and are almost twice as efficient.
He said: “If you look at the total power that we’ve got today and compare it with the V10, and the last few races of the V10 era, we have more power than we had at the end of the V10 era.
“If you look at the fuel flow rate of the V10 era, it was over 190kgs an hour, 194kgs an hour, and today we’re at 100kgs an hour. [It’s] the same power, [with] about half the fuel flow rate, which is a phenomenal change in terms of efficiency of the power unit, as we now call it.”
Cowell explained that the impressive power levels produced from a comparatively small internal combustion engine in 2015 have been further increased by developments in other areas of the power unit.
He said: “[It’s been] incredible improvements of efficiency, incredible absolute power levels from this this little, diminutive 1.6 litre internal combustion engine – it’s kicking out an awful lot of power.
“That’s been done with great combustion technology, fuel injectors, turbo charger development, all the electrical system development – electrical machines to allow the waste energy flow from the exhaust system to be utilised rather than just blown done the exhaust system – and working very closely on all the fine details.”
The head of Mercedes’ AMG powertrains noted that the power produced by the current engines was high alongside, despite the severe penalties for using more than the allowed number of components.
He said: “To be matching the V10 era, where there some restrictions right at the end on how long they had to last, but compared to that it’s phenomenal durability requirements now with, with uncomfortable grid penalties if you’re out to win a championship. I think this is the most powerful power unit that we can produce.”
Cowell also explained that there is still scope for much further development of the current engines due to further advances in efficiency and energy recovery systems.
He said: “It starts with the combustion process, it starts with that initial release, but then it’s what else can you recover from the system and use the turbine to recover what’s going down the exhaust pipe.
“[It’s] how efficient you make the compressor so the power doesn’t drop, how efficient you make the MGU-H so the energy that that recovers is not squandered, how low friction can you make the V6 and all the all the ancillaries so that you’re not squandering all the power than has been created it. It’s many, many systems that are being developed.”