FASTER FOR 2017...BUT WHY?
Mercedes High Performance Powerplants
delivered by far the best 1.6-liter, V6
turbo-hybrid at Formula 1’s first time of
asking in 2014. It took Ferrari a year and
Renault more than two years to get even
close, while Honda – joining the fray a year
late – still lags well behind.
There’s since been a recognition that, for
the sake of the sport’s health, there needs
to be a convergence of engine performance.
As such, the engine development token
system – introduced with the hybrid
formula as a way of controlling costs – has
been abandoned from 2017.
As the FIA’s engine consultant Fabrice
Lom explains, some hard points of
development have been frozen at the
current cutting edge – in theory, giving
those behind a target that isn’t moving.
“We’ve put limits on the crankshaft
dimensions and on the weights of some
parts, so that we’re sure there are limits
on the development of these items,” says
Lom. “These limits were put where the
best one is today, so that people know
the target. It also allows us to stop the
best ones developing further – going
lighter or going smaller. It’s something of
2 percent by 2018. The current Mercedes
is believed to deliver a peak of around
960hp, Ferrari around 950, Renault 940,
and Honda 890. All but Honda, in other
words, are already within that 2 percent
threshold, but will be pushing to get closer
still. It’s a vague enough arrangement to
spell trouble when real convergence is
actually achieved and may well go down
as “it seemed a good idea at the time.”
For Mercedes and Ferrari, at least,
development is now likely to center
around conventional combustion, because
the batteries and ERS components are no
longer allowed to be any smaller than the
best of the current units. With conversion
efficiencies from mechanical to electrical
energy store already approaching 98
percent, the gains will be elsewhere.
In parallel, the price manufacturers
charge to customer teams for a two-car
power unit supply reduces by 1 million
Euro ($1.1m) in 2017, and by 4 million
($4.4m) in ’ 18. In exchange, the number
of power units each car is permitted per
season before penalties apply will be
reduced to four (from the current five)
in 2017, and to just three in ’ 18.
Development tokens are no more, but will a plan to narrow the performance disparity between engines work?
(MAIN) McLaren’s first
two years with Honda
have been tough, but
recent progress has
and the end of the
engine token system
for 2017 should
further accelerate it.
Having set a high
bar with its PU106C
Hybrid power unit,
and with several
now all but frozen,
Mercedes will be
searching for detail
gains in combustion.
is least powerful of
the current power
units, but the
has the most space
to work within when
it comes to playing
catchup on the field.
a barrier to development.
“In addition to this, we’ve put limits on
boost temperature, so they cannot develop
their cooling too much, and the packaging
of the energy store and control electronics
to prevent them trying to shrink the
energy store to help chassis performance.”
There is an informal agreement to
ensure the spread between the most and
least powerful engine is no more than