Tag Archives: F1 technology

Ground effect and turbos to return for 2013 with new regulations?

Formula 1 teams are closing in on finalising the regulations for the sport from 2013 onwards, which is understood to include the reintroduction of turbochargers and ground effect. This is being done for two reasons: To improve the spectacle for the fans, and also to make the sport more environmentally friendly.

The F1 grid looks set for huge rule changes in 2013

The F1 grid looks set for huge rule changes in 2013

The most interesting changes being suggested, and nearly definitely being introduced, involve the complete reshuffle of the engines of the cars. The engines will be 1.6 Litre 4-cylinder models, and boosted by turbochargers. These new power plants should produce 650bhp, and should be powered by numerous energy recovery systems. While this last section cannot be fully explained, I would guess that it would involve the revival of KERS, as well as generating energy from exhaust gases.

Also added onto the engine regulations is a plan to limit each driver to 5 engines a season. On the environmental side of the engines, there will probably be a fuel flow limit introduced, which will limit and reduce the amount of fuel entering the engine. This will make the engines more fuel efficient, as Sam Michael, Williams technical director, explains:

"Rather than dump as much fuel in as we can at the moment, there 
will be a fuel flow metre - so you won't be able to blow more 
than a certain amount of fuel. It is a good chunk less than we 
had at the moment."

As for the cars themselves, Patrick Head, co-owner of Williams, and Rory Byrne, a former designer for Ferrari, are working with the FIA to write up new rules. On the safety front, the cars are being planned to have greater crash protection at the front, with the sidepods being moved forwards being the main objective.

Also, all of the teams are collaborating on changing the aerodynamic setup of the cars to improve overtaking opportunities, and ground effect is the main suggestion in this area. Put simply, ground effect reduces the pressure under the car, meaning that the area above the car will have higher pressure, therefore pushing the car onto the ground. This produces a huge amount of downforce when it is used correctly, and also does not turbulate the air as much as rear wings, meaning the car behind has a better chance of following the car in front.

While it cannot be 100% guaranteed that these changes will be implemented, I would still say that it is very likely. Personally, these all look like great changes, especially the ground effect, as the aerodynamic flow of air to a car running behind should be much cleaner, and could well be a good idea to improve overtaking without making it too easy (ie. proximity wings).

Also, Formula 1 does have a role to pay in promoting environmentally friendly technology for the road. While KERS technology is being implemented on a good few road cars already, the cars’ exhaust gases are certainly untapped in terms of power potential. I will note though that the cars themselves weren’t awful in terms of efficiency (the entire F1 grid, over an 18-race season, uses less fuel than a single Boeing 747 trip from London to Japan), it is a good improvement to make.

It is still unclear when these new rules and regulations will be fully released.


Why KERS should return to F1 in the future

An F1 KERS unit

An F1 KERS unit

Those who wanted it gone last year called it a monumental waste of money. Those who supported it claimed that it was a pinnacle for envirinmental technology, and could improve overtaking possibilites. Whatever your opinion is, the fact is that KERS left F1 last year, though not through a rule change. The teams unanimously agreed not to use this technology for this year, so as to save money. But my question is: should KERS return to F1?

To those of you not familiar with this feature, I will quickly explain KERS. Normally, when the brakes are applied, energy is dissipitated from the car in the form of extreme heat. As we all know, energy cannot be destroyed or created, it can only be changed into another form. In the case of KERS, the heat from the brakes is taken in, and turned into electrical energy through a generator. There are different ways of storing the electrical energy, but the teams that used KERS last year stored them in batteries behind the drivers. Alternatively, Williams created a flywheel KERS system, which was never used in F1, but now features on the road car, the Porsche 911 GT3 R.

This electrical energy is then used to power the car. It is activated by a button on the steering wheel, or a paddle behind it. Unfortunately, the FIA chose to restrict the power output of KERS to 60kW (80bhp), which could be used at for 6.5 seconds per lap. The use of KERS was very poor at the start of 2009, when the teams who used it struggled massively. Most dropped it, but McLaren and Ferrari kept pushing development, and made their KERS cars race-winners by the end of the year. However, this development was very expesive. Between Renault, BMW Sauber, Ferrari and McLaren, £40m was spent in 2009 on KERS.

Because of this, all of the teams decided not to use the technology for 2010, although the technical rules still allowed it. However, there are many reasons as to why it should return. First of all, it makes sense when applied to road cars. The previous generation of the Toyota Prius, for example, only produced 23kW of power from its regenerative brakes. But, within a few years, this technology has become much more powerful, with Porsche leading the way in the use of the innovation. The new 918 Spyder, for example, has a KERS-derived system which produces twice the power of the unit that was used in F1 last year. To further matters, this Porsche unit was designed by Williams, the the team who wanted it to stay in F1 this year.

Also, Ferrari are close to putting this into one of their road cars. The HY-KERS concept regenerative brakes are heavier by about 15kg, but produce up to 100bhp, which is impressive for a road car. So, if the motoring world is to embrace KERS technology, shouldn’t F1 do so as well?

The second reason why is because of the environmental impact. Now don’t worry, I’m not as much into being an eco-maniac as shutting them all up for a while. If KERS was developed responsibly in Formula 1, I’d say they could reach a power output of 150bhp, with unlimited use across the lap (as long as the FIA allow it to do so). We all know an F1 car’s brakes have massive stopping power, so this shouldn’t be too hard to do. If this sort of unit was placed into an F1 car of reduced engine power, a considerable fraction of the car’s fuel would be saved. Not only this, but the technology would work its way onto mainstream cars in a decade or so, which could mean millions of barrels of fuel could be saved (and burnt in some other way!). If KERS was reintroduced into F1, it would shut up the environmentalists for about 30 minutes, which, according to them, is how long it will take for the polar ice caps to melt, so this would be good work from the F1 world.

Building on my previous point, KERS should be integrated into the next-generation engines that are planned for 2013. The FIA are curently looking into using smaller turbocharged engines from 2013 onwards, so KERS could well be put into the mix here. If these new engines produced, say, 100bhp less, then this could be offset by the KERS unit in the car. This would again improve fuel efficiency in the car by a huge amount.

However, the biggest obstacle to the return of KERS would be the cost. We are all aware that teams are looking into saving money, especially the new teams, so reintroducing KERS at the wrong time could put many teams into trouble. Lotus, HRT and Virgin would seriously struggle, for example, if unlimited use and development of KERS was put into F1 next year. My solution would be to introduce one or two suppliers of KERS units for a few years, then allow teams to develop their own, as long as they stay within a spending cap (on KERS only, I’m not bringing back last year’s massive shootout on budget caps).

Another observation is that is must be everyone or nobody. What I mean by that is, either all of the teams use KERS or none of them will. I don’t want to go back to the situation last year where the Ferraris and McLarens made great starts, then held up everyone else behind them, because nobody could overtake them. If KERS is to be reintroduced, it must be compulsory, so as to keep the racing pure and even, and give everyone a fair chance. The idea of a “push to pass” button has already been used in other racing series, such as the A1 GP. It worked to an extent last year, in that the McLarens and Ferraris were able to make progress through the field easier, when the rest of their car was able to keep up. So, I believe that if everyone used this, it would result in a nice shake-up in the races, and make the racing better (note I didn’t use the phrase of death).

But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have a say in the poll below:

How F1 cars have evolved from last year

As you all should remember, 2009 was the year of massive technical regulation changes, which hugely shoock up the order of the grid. Brawn GP were the best to learn from the regulations, which required a perfect aerodynamic balance. Since then, many teams have caught up, and the 2010 testing season has shown us that technical innovation  has moved on from last year. So, let’s have a look at what the teams have been inventing.

Accomodating larger fuel tanks

Wheelbase and fuel tank capacity changes

Wheelbase and fuel tank capacity changes

The main change to the 2010 regulations was that refuelling is banned. This meant that the fuel tank capacity has increased (2) from 120 to about 235 litres. This huge increase in size ensured that the teams would have to deal with two problems: 1) Adjusting the car’s balance and 2) Moving the mechanical components to facilitate this.

The inevitable solution was to increase the cars’ wheelbases. However, it was critical that the increase was not too big, in order to save handling, and thereby tyre wear. Through multiple innovations which we will now analyse, the wheelbase was only increased by around 15cm. This means that the extra 160kg of fuel has less effect on the weight distrubution of the car. However, the increased tank size meant that mechanical components had to be moved. It is believed that some teams have moved the oil tank  behind the fuel tank (since 1998 it has been ahead of it), to allow space to be saved, and therefore meaning minimal increase in the wheelbase.

Shorter gearboxes (5) save unnecessary wheelbase extensions

Shorter gearboxes (5) save unnecessary wheelbase extensions

Another innovation was to reduce the size of the gearbox, again to reduce the need of moving the wheelbase. This was combined with the fact that all of the other mechanicals were moved slightly more than the wheelbase adjustment. This space deficit was countered with a smaller suspension system (see picture above). Only Red Bull seem not to have gone down this route, instead choosing to keep its pullrod rear suspension, which moves further down the car.

More space for the double-decker diffuser

Ferrari's engine mounting allows more space for the diffuser

Ferrari's engine mounting allows more space for the diffuser

Like it or not, but the double-decker diffusers meant that the teams were looking to extract maximum downforce in the rear area. The front section was dealt with by the front wing, so the diffuser was the best area to work on. An interesting solution introduced by Ferrari replicated that on the very intelligent design of the Arrows A2, from 1970. Their F10 engine was mounted at a 3.5 degree angle (1). This meant that the exhaust pipes are located further forward than usual, which allowed for more space at the back for the diffuser. This solution was first done by the A2 in 1970.

All of that means that there is more space to play with in the back of the car. The concept of the double-decker diffuser was that there was a slot in the underside of the car, which fed a much larger diffuser on top. The extra space generated by the exhausts being moved forward means that the diffuser will be larger, meaning more downforce.

Higher gearbox positioning allows for more diffuser space

Higher gearbox positioning allows for more diffuser space

A more simple solution from Red Bull here. Adrian Newey’s idea was to elevate the gearbox instead of shortening it, which had the same effect without difficulties with the shorter gearbox afterwards. The yellow area in the photo shows the difference made by a simple adjustment. This explains why they retained their pull-rod suspension (see 3rd paragraph on larger fuel tanks) in stead of reverting to the traditional push-rod system. Since the pick-up points of the pull-rod suspension are now lower, it means that space for the diffuser is increased. These are two completely different solutions to the same objective: Make space at the back for the diffuser. This is why Formula 1 is such a great place to show technical innovation.

Rear aerodynamic airflow

McLaren's rear aerodynamic layout, which aims air at the rear wing and diffuser

McLaren's rear aerodynamic layout, which aims air at the rear wing and diffuser

As well as the diffuser, airflow management was important on the outside of the car. McLaren’s MP4-25 is the best example of this. First of all, completely the opposite of Ferrari, their exhausts have been moved further back (red arrow). The second part of this solution is to use the airflow of the airbox exit to cool the air from the gearbox radiator (blue arrow). The smaller red arrows show how these two airflow systems go over the diffuser, and the lower part of the rear wing, at certain speeds.

At lower speeds, this air goes through the diffuser, to generarte low-speed grip. When the car becomes faster, and the front and rear wings become more powerful, this airflow then moves to the lower part of the rear wing (black rear wing section). This creates a certain amount of grip without the original drag of the diffuser. This solution shows how the car’s aerodynamic system can change between grip and speed as it gets faster.

Frontal aerodynamic airflow

McLaren's front nosecone splitter, which separates airflow

McLaren's front nosecone splitter, which separates airflow

Again, McLaren’s aero setup is noteworthy here, as it incorporates a solution used by Williams last year. The nosecone splitter (black arrow) changes the airflow passing over and under the front of the car, and thereby the entire aerodynamic layout of the car.

The Sauber C29's endplate system

The Sauber C29's endplate system

As well as this, the cars’ endplates are getting more and more complicated, as the teams look for more methods to divert the air away from the front tyres. Last year, it was more difficult, as the tyres were wider, and the endplates were therefore creating more drag as they pushed more air sideways in the car. This year, because the front tyres are narrower, the endplates now feature more sections to create as little drag as possible, while still ensuring that the tyres weren’t making turbulent air by mixing with the car’s airflow.

While most teams opted to push the air outside the front tyres, Sauber went for a mixture of two solutions: To move the air around as well as over the tyres. The inner part of the endplates is traditional in creating as little drag as possible while diverting airflow. However, the interesting section is the outer part, which moves air over the tyres. As well as having a dual layout system, it means that slightly more downforce is generated by the cars at speed.

So, as we can see, there have been plenty of new technical innovations for the 2010 season, and we haven’t even started yet! Hopefully, across the season, we will see some morenew inventions, which I will feature on the blog in several round-ups across the year.

The “most exhaustive” F1 survey ever

FOTA, who are organising the survey

FOTA, who are organising the survey

FOTA have launched what they have called the “most exhaustive” F1 survey ever.

The survey is to find out what every type of person feels about Formula 1, even if they rarely watch it. The survey definitely deserves it title, it covers everything. There are questions about how they feel about racing technology, overtaking, changing race structure, the drivers and teams, safety, and broadcasting.

Even if you aren’t interested in Formula 1, I’d encourage you to take the survey anyway. These results will probably be used by FOTA to push for a new F1 in the future.

Have your voice heard – take the survey here.

Oh, and make sure you say you’re over 18 😉 They won’t let you take the survey if you say you aren’t!