Maranello, 1st July – The expression “don’t wish your life away” just cannot be upheld in Formula 1, because long before one year is over, before one car has been fully developed, it’s time to think of the following year. It has always been the case that the next year’s car design work starts in the early part of the current year, with some teams running two completely different design teams, one for the even numbered years and the other for the odd. Now, in July 2013, the following year has never seemed such a short time away, because of the incredibly significant changes to the technical regulations.
Instead of the current 2.4 litre naturally aspirated V8s, next year the engines will be 1.6 litre turbocharged with an energy recovery system built in. The energy recovery system will be powered off the exhaust and will deliver around an extra 160 horsepower for over 30 seconds each lap. The engines will have a rev limit of 15000 rpm and have to last for around 5000 kilometres as opposed to the current 2000. Added to significant changes on other areas of the car, it all goes to make for the biggest changes the sport has seen in decades. On hand in the Silverstone paddock, on the Friday of the British Grand Prix, to discuss the engine aspect with the media was Scuderia Ferrari’s Head of Engines, Luca Marmorini.
“There is no one single aspect of the new project that is more critical than the next,” began the engineer. “I’d say it’s difficult in all 360 degrees. For example, the turbo is a new type which runs to 25,000 rpm and is definitely something absolutely new. Also the very complex electronics and management systems are a very big step forward, which means that engine management will be a very difficult challenge.”
In the past, when racing at tracks that put the engines under a lot of pressure, it was customary for several drivers to retire with engine failure, but in recent times, we have almost taken for granted a level of reliability that is exceptional for a racing engine. That is down to the fact that current F1 engines have barely changed in the past few years, but next year, will be a different story. “We have to develop the power train in a short space of time and this means that reliability will be the factor that will decide the races in the early part of the season,” reckoned Marmorini. “In most cases people will locate their turbos in the central rear part of the engine and therefore near the electronics and the temperatures can reach a thousand degrees and that won’t be an easy matter to deal with. Managing temperatures will be one of the main areas we will have to work on.” Testing on the bench has been going on for some time now. “We already had a prototype running on the test bench towards the end of last year, while we are completing the one that will run in the actual car at the moment,” revealed Marmorini. “We have a very challenging plan to be ready in March. We can’t afford any hiccough today and I am confident that we will be ready. We have been working for some time to have this car ready but it’s a challenging task. Only at the first race next year will we see if we have done a good job.”
Another regulation that is exercising the minds of the scientists is that the fuel flow of these new power units must not exceed 100 kilos per hour and there are concerns this could mark a return to drivers having to save fuel rather than race. “Ferrari feels this could be a danger,” admitted Marmorini. “We like Formula 1 to consider efficiency, but we don’t like Formula 1 to be a sport where you are cruising for 50% of the laps.”
At the moment, engine development is frozen but with the brand new 2014 project, there has to be a thaw. “With a completely new power unit, some sort of development from the first to the second year has to be done,” continued Ferrari’s engine man. “The amount of modifications you can do will reduce each year, from a fair amount of modifications for the first year and then in the second and third years, the number of modifications will be reduced. By the third and fourth years we will come to a situation which is very similar to what we have right now.” No discussion about an F1 engine can be complete without talking about horsepower, so Marmorini did just that. “When we defined these regulations with the FIA the idea was to have very similar horsepower to what we have today. A current F1 engine has around 750 horsepower, and you have 80 horsepower more from the KERS. Next year, with an engine having somewhere between 600 and 650 horsepower and an additional 160 horsepower coming from the ERS, if you add the two it’s very similar to what you have today. Next year, whoever can handle the engine in a good way and be reliable will have good results. But it will be difficult to run the season without issues, considering we are talking about four to five thousand kilometres per unit which is almost double what we are doing right now.”