Formula One and the return of small turbocharged engines
The Formula One Championship of 2014 will be very different from the current one as the FIA has decreed that radical changes are required for the 2014 Formula One cars . Certainly with reduced energy capacity and maximum revs limited to 15,000 rpm they will be considerably leaner, but will they be meaner?
Although the engine capacity will by only 1.6 litres and there will only be 6 cylinders, the engines will be turbocharged, though the maximum fuel flow rate will be limited, as will the amount of fuel that can be carried. It is very interesting to note that if the maximum allowable fuel flow rate were to be used all the time, the cars would cover only half race distance, so eking out the fuel till the end of the race whilst maintaining a competitive pace could prove challenging.
The last time small turbocharged engines were used in Formula One was back in the 1980s. then the engines were even smaller being just 1.5 litres, but they were quite capable of more than 1,000 bhp and possibly as high as 1,300 bhp. Much like today’s KERS button they had a boost button, though it was somewhat more powerful and drivers like Nigel Mansell made effective use of it, particularly when overtaking round the outside on very fast corners.
Engine reliability in the 1980s was not spectacular, though watching a 1.5 litre turbocharged engine blow up certainly was, and many did so. Unlike today when engines have to last for many races, back then they were considered to be more or less disposable. Teams were even allowed to use special qualifying engines with extremely high boost pressures that produced massive amounts of horsepower and torque, but only for a few miles; they rarely lasted more than 20 miles before self destructing. The mechanics used to refer to them as hand grenades.
Eventually safety ruled that these engines needed taming. First the boost pressure was reduced to 4 atmospheres and then further reduced to 1.5 atmospheres. Many people were saddened when, in 1989, turbochargers were finally banned.
In 1989 all the engines were V10 3.5 litre naturally aspirated units and in 1995 the capacity was reduced to 3.0 litres.
People who remember the likes of AyrtonSenna, AllainProst and Nigel Mansell doing battle in those 1.5 litre turbocharged cars of that era must feel a tingle of excitement at the return of a similar though somewhat more sophisticated formula in 2014. Certainly the racing will be very different from today as will the sound of the cars.
One big difference is that the 2014 cars will use sophisticated energy harvesting technologies along with a supplementary electric motor. This will be used in the pit lane where the rules stipulate that the turbo combustion engine must be switched off. The cars will be effectively silent as they head for the pits, and the drivers must restart the engines as the cars re-emerge onto the track; there are going to be some hair raising moments.