Under the F1 Skin

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Under the F1 Skin

26 March 2015

Ok so most of us are never going to get close enough to an F1 car to have a look at what goes on under the metaphorical bonnet, so I thought I would give you a little bit of insight into what you’re likely to see if you are ever lucky enough to get into an F1 garage.

You may have noticed that the F1 cars underwent a massive change in engine size over the last season and this was to combat two things that the FIA put their foot down about: Make the cars more efficient and lower the emissions.

So in order to do this, team techs had to work on fine-tuning the basics that impact efficiency and emissions – namely the weight of the car that is dictated by the engine size, and the amount of fuel they have to carry to power it.

Reducing the physical weight of the engine resulted in a radical reduction in cylinders, from V8s and V10s to V6s, and reducing the cc from 3.5 litres to 1.5 litres meant the amount of fuel needed would decrease. So far a win-win in weight loss, but how can you make these changes without impacting the overall power of the car?

Say hello to The Turbo Charger.

Simply (and without delving into details that only an F1 technician can explain) a turbo charger will combat the depleted power caused by the reduction in engine size and cylinders. As we all know, an engine works on the suck, squeeze, bang, blow process and a turbo charger improves the amount of air that the engine can suck in. In fact a turbo will force air into the inlet valve, thus forcing a much larger amount of air into the cylinder. This radically improves the engine’s performance, improves the engine’s efficiency and means that the engine can drop a few cylinders without a detrimental effect on power.

Another clever thing that the techs have harnessed is using the car’s waste exhaust fumes to power the turbo. This effectively means that you are getting something for nothing: Exhaust gases are re-routed away from the external outlet pipe and into the turbine to power the turbo. This re-routing of the exhaust gases is a necessity for efficiency, but is the reason why the cars are much quieter than they used to be. A win or lose depending on which side of the ‘noise’ fence you sit on, but undoubtedly an improvement in the level of emissions.

As well as modifications to the engine and the addition of a turbo charger, the team techs have continued to improve the use of the ERS (engine recovery system) that harnesses the energy that the cars produce when slowing down, and using it to re-charge the batteries. Again, a contribution to a boost in power that needs no additional fuel.

So, by making major changes to the basic engine structure, you can see how the F1 cars have been made lighter, more fuel efficient and with reduced emissions; 3 of the FIA’s stipulations. A small insight I know, but hopefully this has been useful in understanding a few changes that will impact the rest of the much-anticipated F1 season.

I hope you will enjoy it as much as I will!