2014 presents the biggest change to Formula 1 cars since the late 1980s: gone are the naturally aspirated 2.4 litre V8 engines and in their place a 1.6 litre V6 turbo is introduced. To make matters more complex the engine manufacturers must apply complex energy recovery systems to boost power output, reduce fuel consumption and further reduce the number of engines allowed per driver per season to lower costs. The idea behind this is to bring F1 technology more in line with road car development.
The last time turbo power was in F1 was during the 1988 season. Honda dominated this era with McLaren, using a 1.5 litre V6 in the famous MP4/4 before being replaced by a 3.5 litre naturally aspirated engines for the following season. Technology has moved on drastically since then. The 2014 power units have the potential to decide the world championship such is their importance. The manufacturer who meets their side of the bargain will have a huge upper hand on the opposition. They are therefore the most likely component to give the biggest performance factor.
What are Power Units?
The engineers no longer refer to the next generation of F1 powertrain as “engines”. They are now dubbed as “power units”. The reason behind this being that the powertrain is made up of more than just a combustion engine/turbo, there are more complex elements involved from this season onwards. The recovery systems on board will generate enough energy to supply plenty of extra kick via an electric motor, with the additional power output mapped into the engine system to provide more performance at optimal stages of the lap (i.e. the driver will no longer have to push a button to use the additional power available).
Facts & Figures
Let’s get into the numbers, starting with the turbo-charged engine itself.
- Cylinders: 6
- Capacity: 1.6 litres
- Power: 600bhp*
- Maximum rpm: 15,000
- Maximum fuel flow rate: 100kg per hour at 12,000-15,000rpm
*Estimated figure. Rumours of some manufacturers extracting a higher power output (notably Mercedes) at this stage of development.
Energy Recovery Systems (ERS):
- Power output: Additional 161bhp for 33.3 seconds per lap
- Maximum harvest energy: 2MJ per lap
- Maximum energy output: 4MJ per lap
- Battery weight: Limited to 20-25kg (must be placed beneath the fuel cell as a single unit)