Will Gray

Tech Talk: Conquering the new engine rules

Will Gray

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It may seem a long way away but teams are already working hard on the new 2014 engine regulations — so what will change and how is it going to affect the competition?

Formula One has been on an engine freeze since 2007, aimed at securing parity in all engines, and with some manufacturers having been allowed to make amends to level performance there is now little variation between the different units.

In less than two years' time, however, an all-new 1.6-litre turbo V6 engine with a rev limit of 15,000rpm coupled with a selection of additional performance systems will radically change things for engine manufacturers.

Red Bull technical chief Adrian Newey has recently warned that the new rules, with manufacturers supplying multiple teams, could lead to one group of teams enjoying significant engine-derived benefits.

It's an interesting point.

This year's racing has been some of the closest in years because the rules are tight for both engine and chassis design and they have been more or less fixed for a number of years, allowing teams to iterate through to the optimum designs.

In 2014, from an engine perspective at least, it's a clean sheet with such a wide variety of options there is a significant chance that one manufacturer could take a leap ahead.

The new rules had to come in to improve F1's environmental credentials and there will be many different areas from which to extract power. Not only does that offer a wide range of options in the development and design phases — something that could lead to significant variation in performance and packaging - but it also creates a multitude of options in how to run the engine.

The first key point is the limits on fuel, with the total amount per car for a race restricted to 100kg (two thirds of current levels) and a fuel flow limit of 100kg/hr.

The additional power required to make it through the race will be provided from a number of different sources.

KERS will be much more significant, ramped up from its current maximum of 400kJ at 600KW to ten times that amount — 4MJ at 120KW. However, charging will be limited to collecting only 2MJ per lap — so careful strategic planning will be required to determine when best to use that extra power — importantly remembering the requirement for only electric power to be used to drive in the pits.

The turbo unit will play an integral part in the performance of the combustion engine but it will also be put to use to drive a motor generator for supplementary power.

This motor generator can either charge the KERS (adding to the energy fed in from regenerative braking to help reach the 2MJ limit per lap) or it can directly drive the KERS generator to offer instant additional power. The latter is limited only by the capability of the turbo but it will reduce performance of engine. Finally, the motor generator can also be used to spin the turbo up to create more power.

All these different options need careful control — and that will potentially mean that electronics becomes more important than ever.

Balancing the inputs from the different power options will be a complex conundrum because each will involve strategic benefits. A whole new set of software and engine maps will be required to determine what happens when the driver puts his foot down — and as with the current maps, these will be track and condition specific. That's a lot of work, and a lot of unpredictability.

Ultimately, then, the performance of cars in 2014 will almost certainly be determined by the best engine design — but it could also be down to which team and engine manufacturer has the best programmers.

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