2014 FormuLA 1 power units
powered to spin the turbo, is essential.
And this is where Mercedes has excelled.
The other key area is fuel. Petronas has
done a superb job optimizing the fuel to
maximize power and detonation resistance –
key in turbo engine performance – as well
as delivering the required efficiency.
“Fuel economy is very important,”
explains Petronas director of research
and technology Andy Holmes. “It’s really
about getting the maximum number of
molecules into every kilogram of fuel. But
it goes further than that. We have
direct-injection engines and there are some
components we’d like to use in terms of the
molecules of the fuel that are more likely
to create deposits in the injectors, which
hinders efficiency. We have to balance it,
molecule by molecule, to get the maximum
density and the injector compatibility.”
Then there is lubrication. Not only do
you want to minimize the friction in the
system, but Petronas has also produced
an oil that, at high temperatures, expands
to give more protection when the engine
is under more extreme conditions.
The other key area of development is
software. This touches every part of the
engine and, in conjunction with ever-improving fuels, is what has allowed engine
performance and, crucially, drivability to
increase significantly over the season.
“A small, highly-turbocharged engine with
a big, single turbo is going to be horrible to
drive,” explains Renault Sport F1’s Rob
White. “But when it all works correctly, the
drivers feel these engines are good to drive
because torque delivery is instant, and that’s
because the software concocts a method
to deliver the torque that the driver needs.
“The next thing is optimizing around a
lap. That comes down to operating the
different sub-systems of the power unit in
a way that allows the driver to get the
most out of the car. So in the phases when
we are power-limited, the task is to deploy
the different elements of the power unit In
a way that makes the elapsed time to
cover that specific distance the smallest
possible. The scheduling of the power and
energy delivery during this phase is one of
the things you can optimize.”
On top of doing its design work better
than the rest, Mercedes was also ahead of
the game in terms of operation, partly
down to investing in a state-of-the-art
dynamic rig that allowed the engine to do
more realistic dyno miles, while Renault
and Ferrari used less complex setups.
But things will change in 2015. For
over the winter, there is an opportunity to
make big changes to each engine design.
The engine is split into 42 components.
These range from the crankshaft, to oil
scavenge systems, to pistons. All of these
elements are frozen for the season, save
for a regulation that allows manufacturers
to apply for dispensation to make
changes for reasons of reliability, safety
or cost-saving. All three manufacturers
have been given the FIA’s permission to
make such modifications this year.
Performance upgrades can only be
made in the off-season, although there
(ABOVE) Mercedes has been the dominant
force under the new-for-2014 rules. (BELOW)
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso is poised to throw his
lot in with McLaren and 2015 returnee Honda.
worked on the
switching to F1 in
1997. He joined
Renault F1 in 2003
as engine technical
director, moving to
base in 2005 to take
over from Bernard
Dudot as deputy
“A small, highly-turbo-
charged race engine with a
big, single turbo is going to
be horrible to drive”