Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

At the forefront of technology and innovation // A read through the 2014 Formula One regulations

Published by Mark Chapman

With the 2014 season only 18 months away (probably), I decided it was in my best interests to understand what the technical changes were going to be, since it is likely that the teams themselves are already deep in designing and testing. However, it soon transpired that I knew next to nothing about the technical side of F1, which is shocking considering I’ve followed this sport for the best part of eight years. To this end, I decided to take the steepest learning curve possible: reading through the regulations (found here) and, from an almost novice’s perspective, make a post of what I made of them.

I've got the power

Danger, risk of shock
Credit: Glenn Dunbar/LAT

The main change, it is certainly the one which will have caught most people’s eyes, is the changes to the engines [Article 5.1]. In a bid to make F1 “greener”, the engines are being reduced from a 2.4L V8 to a 1.6 V6, but with the option to include a single turbocharger (or “pressure charger”, as the FIA refer to it).

To ensure that these engines are not more fuel-hungry than their predecessors the engines are also limited to 15,000 rpm and the fuel flows has been limited to 100kg/hour, with even more stringent limits when the engines are at lower revs.

These changes are comparable to those made in the 2006 season, when the V10 engine was replaced with the current model, so I expect the 2014 engines to have a similar effect on the energy outputs of the engines. References to the engines from the '80s will doubtless be made ad infinitum by the media, especially to the amount of power they used to produce, but in my mind this is definitely a regulation change to save fuel rather than increase power. The limit put on the fuel flow effectively means there’s a 200kg fuel limit in any given race, and since most races last about 90 minutes, the maximum usable fuel load is about 150kg.

A great recovery

Yes, they really have called it MGUK

More interesting, and more confusing at first, than the changes to the engine unit is the overhaul of KERS [5.2]. Renamed ERS, the main system remains the same, with a separation into units called the Energy Storage (ES), which is the cell and Motor Generation Unit-Kinetic (MGUK. Yes, they really have called it MGUK). Both the power and energy outputs are increased in the new regulations, with a doubling of the power output to 120kW (just a smidge over 160hp), but far more impressive is the increase in maximum output in energy, which jumps from 400kJ to 4000kJ. This means even with a doubling in the power output, the amount of time electrical energy can be used has increased fivefold.

Added to this is the limit on the amount of energy which can be harvested from MGUK, which is only 2000kJ in a single lap, and it becomes clear that the FIA have attempted to add more technical and tactical significance to the old KERS system. No longer is it simply a button which gives a set amount of power for a set amount of time, because the FIA have written into the rules a potential disparity between input and output over a single lap. With this disparity, the use of ERS can become mismatched between two cars racing, and the fact that the minimum time it can be used for has increased also means in theory, ERS will finally have its place in deciding battles between drivers.

Even with the vast improvements made to ERS, what I find more intriguing is the inclusion of the “Motor Generation Unit-Heat”. MGUH (someone in the FIA loves a ridiculous acronym) is another electric motor, but this time connected to the exhaust turbine of the turbocharger unit, so energy can be harvested (or more importantly, put back into) the turbocharger system. Though the MGUH system can be used to charge the ERS device, this seems impractical to me, as the turbine’s primary function in any case is to create more energy by improving the efficiency of the engine anyway.

The regulations state:

“The MGUH may only recover energy from or give back energy to the car via its mechanical link to the exhaust turbine of a pressure charging system [5.2.8]”

- FIA Regulations 2014

This could allow for, by my interpretation, the teams to use the turbocharger propeller shaft as a supercharger when there is not enough pressure being created by the exhaust gases alone, accelerating the intake gases using electrical power rather than exhaust gas pressure.

Furthermore, there is no limit to the amount of energy which the ES can put into the MGUH, unlike the MGUK, so it’s possible all the energy recovered by the drivers through braking could go into pumping the turbocharger, but this is an unlikely scenario.

Get your motor running

Two final changes to the power delivery in F1 are “starting the engine [5.18]” and “electric mode [5.19]”. From 2014, it has been decided that when the cars run in the pit lane, they must run under electric power only. This rule explains some of the increase in the energy storage potential of the cars from a practical angle, and it does mean that a car coming into the pit lane cannot afford to use all its electrical energy as a “boost” on its in-lap.

Marussia team ready one of their cars for the start
Credit: Marussia F1 Team

Also, because of this rule, it is now mandatory to be able to turn the engine on and off from within the car, news which will not be of any relief to one M. Schumacher of Mercedes. The “electric mode” rule change will doubtless lead to more problems in the pit lane, as drivers struggle or forget to turn the engine off and on again during their pit stops, and seems a little contrived to me, but is a further sign of F1’s willingness to go green.

Clipped wings

Though the changes to the “power unit”, as the FIA so romantically call it, are the most significant in the 2014 regulations, the FIA have also made changes to other areas of the car. Inevitably, some of them come in aerodynamics, with the FIA once again mating a reduction in engine power with a reduction in downforce.

The front wings have been shrunk by 150mm in width [3.4.1], and also simplified massively - engineers’ ability to add multiple parts to wings, like the ones we see today, has been limited [3.7.5-6].

With reference to the rear of the car, the FIA states:

There must be no bodywork more than 150mm behind the rear wheel centre line which lies between 75mm and 355mm from the car centre line and between 150mm and 750mm above the reference plane [3.10.1]

- FIA Regulations 2014

This removes most of the bodywork with the exception of the rear wing in this section, and to compensate for this, the maximum height of the rear is increased slightly. Bodywork around the cockpit and sidepod area is also simplified [3.12.11].

Other changes include:

  • Changing engine/torque controls so that the maximum and minimum of the accelerator must correspond to the maximum and minimum of torque available [5.5].
  • The inclusion of an eighth forward gear, but the penalty of not allowing any changes to the gear ratios after the beginning of the season (with the exception of 2014, when one change is permitted). This will allow the use of DRS in qualifying and the race without stressing the engine too much or allowing teams to choose between a qualifying or race setup [9.6].
  • One further change to the ERS is the inclusion of an ERS brake valve [11.7], which appears to allow the driver to reduce the pressure exerted by the MGUK on the brakes, changing the brake balance and the amount of energy harvested (though, if I’m honest, I’m not 100% sure about this).

The focus of attention

Initially, I was worried that the changes the FIA were making in 2014 were superficial like those of previous years, and that despite their wishes of F1 wanting to be a “greener” sport and remain on the cutting edge of technology, I was unconvinced as to how far they would go. But after reading through the regulations properly, I can see that they are providing the teams with a set of regulations which fully allows the FIA to make this claim without damaging the sport.

My interpretation of these regulations convinces me that the improved ERS will almost definitely benefit the sport, both in image and in racing terms - the scope for tactical nuances within the system is unmatched in my (admittedly limited) F1 history, and with a minimum mass for the ES system of 20kg, the FIA are forcing teams into have a set amount of cells in the car [5.4.4]. By simplifying car design and limiting the areas which can have aero parts, it is far more likely that teams will focus on the development of the renewable energy system, allowing F1 to claim once again that it is at the forefront of technology and innovation.

Of course, teams will still endeavour to improve aerodynamics as much as any other part of the car, and there will doubtless be loopholes which they will attempt to exploit, but this set of regulations definitely puts F1 on the right track. As for the technical side of this post? Well, I certainly found it difficult, but no more than I anticipated too. It would be much easier if the FIA did a glossary of terms, but in fairness to them that probably isn’t necessary for the teams. There are probably things I’ve missed or misunderstood, so your suggestions are more than welcome.