Lotus E20 2012 Formula 1 race carEnlarge Photo
Although the 2014 Formula One season is still a year-and-a-half away, manufacturers are hard at work designing, building and testing engines that meet the new regulations. In addition to producing sufficient power, the new engines must be proven durable, and must be designed within an FIA-specified set of guidelines.
As Racecar Engineering points out, that gives manufacturers very little wiggle-room in terms of F1 engine design. Everything from the V-angle to materials used to the maximum fuel flow rate is spelled out in the regulations, meaning that engines from various suppliers will probably be strikingly similar in both design and output.
To meet weight reduction goals, magnesium is once again allowed for certain applications, though engine blocks and heads are likely to be cast from aluminum. A 15,000 rpm rev limit is allowed, though speculation is that most teams won’t exceed 12,000 rpm to reduce friction losses. That’s quite a change from today’s 18,000 rpm redline.
New for 2014 is the previously-mentioned fuel flow limit, capped at 100 kg/h and monitored by a newly-required fuel flow meter. Direct injection will be the key to extracting the maximum performance from the allotted fuel pressure, and experience with direct injection on production engines may actually benefit Formula One.
Aside from the displacement downsizing, the big news for 2014 is F1’s return to turbocharging, last used in the sport during the 1980s. Only single-turbo designs are permitted, and the rules go so far as to specify exactly where the turbo must be positioned.
Modern design and engineering practice will likely eliminate the spectacular engine failures associated with early turbo F1 cars, but make no mistake: engines will still be tuned to favor power over longevity, and unproven components will still break.
Will the new engine regulations inject new life into the sport of Formula One, or is this simply change for changes sake? Will Cosworth, now up for sale, find a buyer and continue its F1 engine development program? Will Mercedes back away from F1 as some sources believe?
We’ll get answers to all those questions, and more, in the next 18 months.