For a re­peat of 2014, keep en­gines frozen

F1 Racing - - INSIDER - PETER WIND­SOR

This month, I be­gin with a con­fes­sion: the cur­rent F1 en­gine rules still pass me by. I know I’ve al­ways been more in­trigued by the driv­ers and the chas­sis and not with the other crit­i­cal piece of the per­for­mance cake. There was a time, though, when I kind of un­der­stood the dif­fer­ence be­tween a DFV and a Fer­rari V12. KERS? ERS? They’re a mys­tery to me. When I rst slum­bered through the 2014 F1 en­gine reg­u­la­tions, the only para­graphs that jumped out at me con­cerned the re­turn to tur­bocharg­ers and to the lovely lit­tle V6 blocks that looked so nice in the Dino Fer­raris. Twelve months on, the ef­fect of the tur­bos has been nonex­is­tent, and of the V6 we’ve seen noth­ing. Se­cu­rity guards have sealed garage doors; the tur­bos haven’t done their thing by ex­plod­ing or ig­nit­ing the way they used to; and none of the driv­ers have com­plained of throt­tle lag or sud­den, un­con­trol­lable power.

In­stead, in ways I can’t be­gin to un­der­stand, the Merc en­gine some­how seems to have an 80bhp ad­van­tage. It doesn’t rev more than the rest: it isn’t al­lowed to by the reg­u­la­tions. Nor is it lighter nor more struc­turally sound – again, the reg­u­la­tions have elim­i­nated such clev­er­ness. It’s just faster, al­low­ing the Merc teams to play with wing set­tings in ways the Fer­rari and Re­nault teams can only dream of.

There’s lit­tle or no dif­fer­ence, as I now un­der­stand it, be­tween the in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gines pro­duced by Mercedes, Fer­rari and Re­nault. Stran­gle them with fuel ca­pac­ity and fuel-ow re­stric­tions and they all pro­duce about the same amount of power and torque. The prob­lems – the dif­fer­ences – all lie with the elec­tric mo­tors. The Merc pro­duces about another 200bhp through its efcient re-use of heat and en­ergy; the two lag­gards at most pro­duce 120bhp. Hence the 80bhp dif­fer­ence be­tween Merc and the rest.

The big ques­tion is how this has hap­pened. Mercedes AMG High Per­for­mance Pow­er­trains (born of Il­mor ) log­i­cally com­mis­sioned two spe­cial­ist Bri­tish com­pa­nies to pro­duce their elec­tri­cal power – and bril­liant they have been too. No com­pro­mises.

Over at Maranello, as I now un­der­stand it, Luca Mar­morini found him­self squeezed by the aero di­vi­sion: cram this in here. Squeeze that down there. Aero rules – right? Wrong. Not in the world of F1 ERS and KERS; not this

“Where is the sense in not al­low­ing changes once a ti­tle has been won? Why in­sist on more of the same?”

time. Merc found ex­actly the right bal­ance be­tween space and heat – and the W05 aero pack­age was moulded around it. At Fer­rari – and to some ex­tent Re­nault – the cars were sleeker and smaller… and much less efcient in terms of avail­able power.

Now all of this is pretty stan­dard stuff. En­gi­neers – like the rest of us – of­ten get it wrong. Look at Fer­rari in 1978, when Colin Chap­man was in his sec­ond year of ground ef­fect. A mon­key could have told you that a slim en­gine was go­ing to be more use­ful than a wide one – but what did Fer­rari do? Per­sist with their ul­tra-spa­cious at-12.

It’s a lit­tle bit that way now – ex­cept that Fer­rari and Re­nault need to free-up their en­gine ar­chi­tec­ture, not com­press it. The prob­lem is, the en­gine-freeze won’t al­low it.

Now I need to make another con­fes­sion: in my rst read­ing of the F1 en­gine reg­u­la­tions, and in later chats with ex­perts, I never re­alised that ma­jor changes to the en­gines wouldn’t be per­mit­ted at the end of 2014. I can only as­sume it never oc­curred to me that change wouldn’t be per­mit­ted. I mean, we’re talk­ing F1 here. The pin­na­cle of tech­nol­ogy, cor­rect? And the sub­ject is en­gines – a fun­da­men­tal part of the show. I un­der­stand the logic of an en­gine reg­u­la­tion freeze – but where is the sense in only al­low­ing limited changes once a ti­tle has been won? Why in­sist on more of the same for another 12 months? I never imag­ined they’d be stupid enough to be so re­stric­tive. Now I know oth­er­wise. I’m re­minded, yet again, that we have a demo­cratic process in F1 now. By unan­i­mous agree­ment, only limited changes will be al­lowed dur­ing mid-2015, by which time another year of Merc dom­i­nance will be vir­tu­ally com­plete. I also now know that tur­bos aren’t on th­ese en­gines be­cause they’re spec­tac­u­lar but be­cause they are just a very efcient way of gen­er­at­ing heat for the ul­tra-efcient elec­tric mo­tors. All very bor­ing.

Noth­ing will change. Mercedes want to keep on win­ning, so they’ll never agree to re-write the regs. Re­nault and Fer­rari have pushed them hard to do so but the Merc re­join­der is sim­ple: they say fur­ther changes would greatly add to the cost of their en­gine and this wouldn’t be fair on their cus­tomers.

Yeah, right. For one thing, Merc don’t need to make big changes. For another, in the big pic­ture it’s a sim­ple choice be­tween a closer, health­ier cham­pi­onship and con­trol­ling ris­ing costs. Right now, the need for the for­mer far out­weighs the lat­ter. Put another way, if we don’t do some­thing to al­low Re­nault and Fer­rari to im­prove their en­gine per­for­mance there won’t be any money to pay the cus­tomer en­gine costs, let alone the ris­ing ones. Make the show good enough to at­tract the money… and then re­duce costs where fea­si­ble. I’m not sure about a brand new en­gine for 2016, but we should thaw the freeze and get rid of the su­peruous, over­com­pli­cated ERS. Keep a small, hy­brid KERS el­e­ment but make the most of the power with nor­mally as­pi­rated, ul­tra-spec­tac­u­lar, ul­tra-noisy in­ter­nal com­bus­tion. And call them “hy­brids”, as specied by this col­umn nearly a year ago. For­get the KERS nomen­cla­ture. It’s F1 uff.

I wish we could do this sooner than 2016, but that would have re­quired a despot – prefer­ably a benev­o­lent despot – to have told the Strat­egy Group, the World Mo­tor Sport Coun­cil and ev­ery other wa­ter-cooler democ­racy within shout­ing dis­tance of Paris and London to keep quiet and get a life.

The Merc en­gine was dom­i­nant in 2014, not due to the power of the en­gine it­self, which was reg­u­lated across the grid, but due to the ef­fi­ciency of its en­ergy re­cov­ery sys­tems

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