Maranello, 1 February – The Formula 1 regulations have frozen engine development for several years now, but this has not stopped the specialist engineers from using all their ingenuity to continue improving the internal combustion engines that power the Grands Prix cars. And that is the case, even as Formula 1 embarks on its eighth and final season in which all cars must use the V8 configuration.
“We are not allowed to make direct modifications to the engine in terms of performance, so we worked mainly on improving our reliability when it came to the engine that will power the F138,” states Scuderia Ferrari’s Head of Engine and Electronics, Luca Marmorini. “Already, thanks to analysis in winter testing last year, we improved our reliability for 2012 and were also able to reduce costs. For this year, the engine has been modified in the area where it connects to the chassis and gearbox in order to make the engine work better as a component of the car as a whole. We do look at performance, but that is mainly by focussing on fuel development with our friends at Shell. We also consider the lubricants and in this area, our prime concern is reducing the drop in performance which all Formula 1 engines will experience during their life. Our target is to provide our drivers with an engine that keeps its performance level the same from the first race to the third, as with the current rules, most engines have a cycle of three races.”
When it comes to the electronics required to control the engines, there are no major changes in the regulations for this season, however here again, Marmorini and his crew found areas that could be improved. “Our main aim here was to reduce the weight of the electronic systems in the car, which involved adopting innovative solutions,” explains Marmorini. “However, there is one important new element for this season: for the first time we will use the TAG 320 standard electronic system that will form the basis of the one that everyone will use in 2014. Use of this new ECU (electronic control unit) has also meant developing new software and testing it, as well as developing specific new programming tools.”
The fact that the big 2014 changes are just around the corner has also influenced work on the kinetic energy recovery system. “On the KERS front, we believe the one we first developed for 2009 is the one best suited to Formula 1, in that it is compact, with the components grouped together centrally under the fuel cell,” maintains Marmorini. “For 2013, we have succeeded in decreasing both the weight and the volume. That in turn involved improving the efficiency of the system, which is an important step when we look ahead to the 2014 regulations, when the system will have to perform for much longer. This meant finding a way to decrease the drop off in performance, particularly as far as the batteries are concerned.
“The challenge of the major rule change for 2014 is proving to be very interesting and we believe there will be a significant carry-over because of these regulations, from Formula 1 to our GT car production. It’s a big job, much more than just designing a new engine and a turbo compressor: it involves a new system, a new way of thinking, new tools to test it and in order to do this we are upgrading our manpower and our infrastructure. There has been plenty of time to come up with ideas and hypotheses but now it’s time to finalise the plans for what will drive our cars next year.”