Why 2013 Is End of an Era for F1 Technology
By now, most keen followers of Formula One know that it’s going to be a very different sport next season.
The era of the V8 engine is over, the 2.4-litre normally aspirated units to be replaced by 1.6-litre turbocharged V6 units.
Although the new engine regulations are the most talked about change for 2014, there are several other important regulations changes that will impact teams.
Here are five of the most important regulation changes for 2014.
This season’s 2.4-litre normally aspirated V8 engines house a small KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System). However, next year’s cars will have to fit in a much larger energy recovery system (ERS) that not only harvests extra energy under braking like the current unit but also harnesses power through the heat energy in the exhaust.
The current KERS unit releases energy at a rate of 80bhp for just 6.7 seconds per lap at the touch of a button, but next year the driver will be able to release a whopping 10 times as much energy at twice the power, providing a boost of 160bhp for 33 seconds a lap according to the Official F1 website. Add to this an additional energy recovery system associated with the turbocharger and we have a lot of energy and heat under the proverbial bonnet.
It means engineers will now have to package a significantly larger cooling area into the system to cool the KERS unit as well as the air that comes from the turbocharger before it enters the engine.
The upshot is that we could well see engines overheating and more retirements due to engine failures.
Next season, Formula One will also sound very different and this is down to new regulations concerning the exhausts.
In 2013 and before, F1 cars had two exhaust tailpipes but the new regulations stipulate that only one tailpipe can be used and it must be angled upwards away from the bodywork primarily to prevent teams from using exhaust flow for aerodynamic effect.
As reported on Autosport, Mercedes-Benz engine chief Andy Cowell says the units will sound somewhat quieter than this season due to the new restrictions regarding the exhaust system.
On the V6, we have a single exhaust tailpipe, so all six cylinders are ultimately feeding into the single exhaust pipe. As soon as you have any restriction in the exhaust system, you reduce the volume of the noise because the turbine wheel is designed to recover energy from the exhaust flow, which naturally reduces the volume of the noise coming out.
But because it's six cylinders firing into a single tailpipe, instead of four into each pipe on the current engines, the frequency will be very similar to the current 18,000 rpm. So we will have a similar frequency but lower volume because of the energy being recovered from the exhaust stream.
Many of the 2014 regulations are aimed at promoting Formula One as a much greener sport as well as reducing costs.
As such, fuel consumption will be limited to 100kg per race as opposed to the unlimited amounts teams are currently allowed.
The upshot of this is that we could see numerous situations of drivers having to back off and go into fuel saving mode.
It also makes for an intriguing balancing act with when to use the extra KERS boost and perhaps a return to the common sights of the 1980s with cars running out of fuel and turbo engines expiring spectacularly.
Although the 2014 engines are actually smaller, next year’s cars will have to fit in a much larger energy recovery system and engineers will have to package a significantly larger cooling area into the system to cool the KERS unit and the air that comes from the turbocharger before it enters the engine.
To compensate for this increased weight, the minimum weight of the cars has been increased from 642kg to 690kg.
Because of the extra weight, teams will be doing all they can to keep the extra weight down and shift ballast to the areas that need it at certain circuits. This spells bad news for heavier drivers such as Nico Hulkenberg, whose chances of securing a top drive could be hindered for this very reason.
It’s a regulation change that was slammed as “disgraceful” by former world champion Nigel Mansell on BBC Sport.
It's wrong. They [the drivers] are not jockeys. It's disgraceful, it's discrimination against the medium-sized large driver. In years gone by, we didn't have traction control or power steering - you had to be a strong driver and there were a lot of strong drivers. If you had this weight limit, they wouldn't have been able to drive cars many years ago - or they would have driven with great difficulty. So I think get the weight limit up a bit, make some cars carry some ballast so that the bigger drivers don't suffer as much.
1. The Engine
Of course, the biggest regulation change for 2014 is the size of the engine, which has been reduced from the 2.4-litre normally aspirated V8 powertrain to 1.6-litre V6 turbo unit.
Although the power is down from 750bhp to 600bhp, the larger ERS unit as discussed earlier will make up the difference to provide an extra 160bhp for up to 33 seconds a lap.
The engines will also now have to last longer, with teams allowed to replace them every 2500 miles instead of the previous 1200 miles or otherwise face a penalty for an engine change. If more blowouts do happen, we could see grids getting shuffled as a result of frequent changes.
F1 will be very different in 2014, but whether the sport is better or worse off for these new regulations we shall just have to wait and see.