When the internal combustion engine was
invented in the late 19th century it
offered the radically-high efficiency
conversion rate of 17 percent. Having this
much of a fuel’s energy converted into
power was way ahead of everything else
and kick-started the fledgling automotive
industry into life.
It took 137 years to get that number
up as high as 30 percent – which was
about what road cars and the F1 V8s
were achieving by the early 21st century.
For 2014, the F1 hybrid regulations
were framed to specifically attack that
number, so as to align it with what the
road car industry was now doing. When
the Mercedes F1 engineers talked with
their automotive counterparts in
Stuttgart about what the targets were for
battery density and efficiency – and what
the target delivery time was – they didn’t
believe it was achievable. But F1 doesn’t
accept normal. The 2014 Mercedes
converted 40 percent of the fuel’s energy
into power at the end of the crankshaft.
Two years later and we’re at around
47 percent. So, 137 years to get from
17 to 30 percent, then F1 takes it from
30 to 47 percent in two years.
If there’s a competitive advantage to
be had, F1 will find a way. That sometimes
translates to esoteric achievements that
have no relevance outside the sport. Or
it can be directed to the greater good.
F1 doesn’t distinguish between the two
as its life force stretches whatever
envelope is placed around it.
Making the technologically impossible real
Formula 1 fast-tracks the
development of cutting-edge
technologies, with implications
beyond the sport itself.
The 85-year-old mastermind and
ringmaster, wrong-footing opponents,
sowing confusion and discomfort in his
wake, the plan only revealed as a fait
accompli some time later.
Only Formula 1 runs like this, the
sums of money involved being so
mind-boggling. The names and the details
change, but the theme’s the same. Teams
and car manufacturers resist his control
over them, but cannot be united in doing
so because he can always neutralize
them if they think there might be a
competitive advantage to be had. In this
way Bernie Ecclestone controls the
junkies – and, come the next practice
session, out they all go again.
The soap opera
rarely allow for
sentiment – which
is disconcerting for
venues like Monza.
STILL NUMBER ONE