Sunday, 21 December 2014

Isuzu and Subaru in F1

During my career I have been lucky enough to be trained by Subaru and Isuzu UK. I have always had a keen interest of any involvement these manufacturers had in Formula One. In fact in the very early 90's both produced engines at the highest level of motorsport.


The last remaining P799WE on display at Tamiya, Japan
Isuzu is a brand well known for its rugged diesel engines powering commercial vehicles and trucks across the globe. It certainly was not known for involvement in racing. However by chance the Japanese manufacturer had an interesting yet brief flirtation with the pinnacle of motor racing, Formula One.

American car giants General Motors have owned an ever changing stake in Isuzu since the 1970’s. This is reflected in road vehicles like the Isuzu Trooper which was also sold as the Vauxhall/Opel/Holden Monterey. Its chairman Bob Eaton was a fan of the renowned British sports car manufacturer Lotus who were in spot of financial bother. After the death of their legendary founder Colin Chapman, Lotus struggled to keep afloat and General Motors purchased shares that would end in a majority stake by the end of the 80s. This led to Lotus helping with the development of the Isuzu Piazza and Gemini road cars and the acclaimed Lotus Elan, relaunched in 1989, featuring a solid Isuzu engine and gearbox. Even stranger was the ‘Lotus’ version of the Trooper/Bighorn SUV.

The 2nd Lotus Elan featured an Isuzu power train
On the racetrack, Team Lotus continued to campaign in the Formula One World Championship. In 1991 the team had an impressive line-up of Johnny Herbert and future World Champion Mika Hakinnen. Unfortunately the team’s car was uncompetitive and they searched for an engine partnership to raise their performance levels and finances. When the team failed to attract Honda they looked inwards and Isuzu expressed interest in producing an engine. They already had produced a V8 for a supercar concept, and a small team of only four people worked in secret to design a 3.5 litre engine to meet the then current F1 regulations.

Designated the ‘P799WE’ the stunning V12 engine produced 637hp on its first bench test. After some fettling this figure rose to an impressive 755hp. Isuzu sent an engine to Silvertone to have its first test in the back of an F1 car. On August the 2nd that year at Silverstone the it was mated into the back of
the Lotus 102 for 150 kilometres of testing. It was not a straight install however as the car was originally designed for an unreliable and heavy Lamborghini engine. In preparation the team bought a new engine cowling as well as a new bell housing and larger radiators. There were issues however fitting in the alternator, meaning the car had to turn off some electrical systems and could only run for a limited number of laps at a time. Lotus team manager Peter Collins commented that it was “my first experience that a racing engine started on the first try”.

There is no official record of the lap times at the test apart from this engineers account:

       "By the way, the Lotus 102C Isuzu’s best lap time was 1:30. The same day, Senna in the McLaren Honda ran a 1:24.7 second lap and MaurĂ­cio Gugelmin in the Leyton House car ran a 1:25.4 second lap. You see, the Lotus time was not the best, but MaurĂ­cio Gugelmin had the first heat tires and both McLaren and Leyton House were running F1 racing gasoline. Some of the time difference is accounted for by the difference in tires and fuel. But this was the first dress rehearsal for the Isuzu, which was also carrying 80 kilogrammes of extra weight in batteries, because the car did not have an alternator. The setting was not perfect”

Hakkinen hustling the Lotus 102
Team manager Peter Collins commented in the media that he believed “it could be possible to team up for an F1 racing effort”. It seems that Lotus were impressed by Isuzu’s attempt and would be very keen on talking them into an expensive foray into the sport as an engine supplier. Unfortunately the Isuzu board of directors were not so keen. Isuzu was in the process of abandoning its road car efforts and focusing on the diesel SUV, pickup and commercial sector. F1 was ultimately brand advertisement for a manufacturer which didn’t align with the new direction of the brand. The single remaining P799WE now sits on display at the Tamiya headquarters in Japan and one of the four secretive employees now works for an unnamed F1 team. It seems an engine with great potential went to waste.


Back in 1989, before Colin McCrae and the Impreza, Subaru of Fuji Heavy Industries was a brand known for its popularity with farmers and certainly not motorsport. The organisation had began to campaign its Leone coupe in the World Rally Championship, but not completing a full season. With an outlook to raise the brand's motorport profile Subaru set its sights on the big-time of Formula One.

Carlo Chitti and the Subaru F12
Rather than design in-house, it was decided to find an engine producer with experience in the sport to take the lead. The team looked to Carlo Chitti of Motori Moderni, Italy. Chitti was an aeronautical engineer who worked on the famous Shark Nose Ferrari F1 car of 1961 and also worked with Alfa Romeo in motorsport through the 70's and 80's. He had impressed with a V12 he was developing. Subaru requested an engine with its cylinders lying flat, similar in layout to its road cars. Former Japanese rally driver Yoshio Takaoka would oversee the project for Subaru.  It was thought that if they won races with a flat engine layout then new customers around the world would flock to the dealerships. With a low centre of gravity a flat engine is ideal in road cars but in the world of [then] modern F1 things were quiet different. A flat engine took up valuable lower space on the car that was used to produce downforce, reducing grip. It also provided a lot of difficult design challenges. Rather than use Subaru’s huge resources back home their decision to outsource a complicated design to a small outfit would come back to bite them.

The Subaru powered Minardi M188 at Misano
Famous F1 minnows Minardi showed interest and arranged a test that year at Misano, Italy. The new 'F12' engine produced a good amount of torque on test day, pulling well at the bottom of the rev range. However after 6 laps a gudgeon pin failed and sent a conrod through the crankcase. Further testing continued, but after early promise of its capabilities it was apparent that the engine was overweight. Nissan had also arranged a takeover Fuji Heavy Industries putting doubts on Subaru's commitment to the project. Minardi walked away and looked elsewhere for engines.

Betrand Gachot trying to get a hold on the ill mannered C3
However the Nissan ownership had little affect to their ambition. A 51% stake in the struggling Scuderia Coloni F1 team of Italy was purchased. Former owner Enzo Coloni was employed as team manager and the team debts were paid off. For now the team would run a single car driven by Bertrand Gachot. With the new F12 engine that promised so much now only producing 500hp on the test bench, Subaru had come to the realisation that this engine was not competitive. Carlo Chitti was asked to begin designing a new conventional V12 engine to be ready for next season. For now a small amount of engineers at Coloni would try their best prepare a single car for races. Fitting the flat 12 into the back of their Coloni C3 was a challenge and the team had little time until the first race of the season at Phoenix, USA. Running out of time the car, engine and parts were flown over to America and the car assembled for the first time in the pit lane. The first official test however would not be on the track but in a nearby supermarket car park. The car was 140 kilogrammes overweight and sported bulky sidepods tailored around the Subaru F12. The car was in no state to post a competitive lap time and didn't get past pre-qualified. The whole weekend turned out to be an expensive car shake down.

The car continued to struggle through the next race weekends in Brazil, San Marino and Monaco but was unable to pre-qualify. Down on power the extra weight of the engine also made had made an already ill-handling car worse. By the 30th of May Subaru could not stomach any more and sacked Enzo Coloni as team boss. They also took full ownership of the team, purchasing 100% and putting its European division in charge. Unable to change the team name until next season due to regulations they continued on as Subaru Coloni, and planned to relocate in the UK. By this time Carlo Chitti had nearly finished designing the new V12 but Subaru explored other sources for next season's engine. Talk in paddock suggested the relationship was about to end. Reports suggested UK engine makers Judd were looking to supply Subaru next year. Bertrand Gachot put in a stellar performance at Mexico, beating rival EuroBrunn and Life cars in pre-qualifying. However there was still not enough pace to qualify for the race. At the following event at France the engine punched a hole in its casing, and two weeks later at Silverstone it spluttered around on only 8 of its 12 cylinders. Subaru could not endure any more and by July pulled the plug on its F1 project completely. The team was sold back to Enzo Coloni debt free but without engines or sponsors. Coloni sourced Ford engines and continued to campaign that season. They finished the year having not qualified for one race.

The whole project had been an expensive disaster that perhaps was doomed from the start. One can't help think what could have been achieved if Subaru had developed the engine completely in house on a bigger budget. Thankfully the brand had much more success in motorsport when it finally committed to a full season of the World Rally Championship in 1993, teaming up with Pro Drive. By 1995 they won the championship with Colin Mcrae, and 3 years later the popular Colin Mcrae Rally computer game for the Playstation sold out. The popularity of the Subaru brand skyrocketed and boy racers everywhere aspired to own an Impreza turbo. A legend was born...

The Impreza's rally sucess and appeal hit new heights 

Monday, 25 August 2014

Controversy at Spa - Tensions at Mercedes Reach Boiling Point as Rosberg and Hamilton Collide

It seemed only a matter of time before the two Mercedes team mates Rosberg and Hamilton were to make controversial contact on the track. After a year of tensions building between the former karting friends and team mates, an incident indeed did occur this weekend that has seemingly sent Mercedes into disarray.

Rosberg's front wing end plate flies through the air after contact
On only lap 2 after a nail biting start, Rosberg was lining Hamilton up for a pass at the end of the long Kemmel Straight. Enjoying the advantage of a slipstream, Rosberg positioned his car for a move around the outside of Hamilton into the right-left of Les Coombes. Rosberg knew at the time that a pass at this stage was quite critical, or he risked Lewis steaming away into the distance.

As he positioned his car on the outside of Hamilton at the corner entry, he had enough space to get the front of his car alongside. However as Hamilton took the normal racing line into the corner, Rosberg fell back slightly. Within a matter of a seconds it was obvious that a move was off the cards. For whatever reason Rosberg chose not to come off the throttle. His right front wing end plate met the right rear tyre of Hamilton causing a puncture. As Hamilton limped his car to the pits, Rosberg also headed to the pits at speed to replace his damaged front wing and recover to 2nd place. Hamilton was less fortunate, his tyre had delaminated and continuously battered the floor of the car, robbing him of downforce. After spending the majority of the race at the back of the field with no performance to chase for points, he decided to retire before the end of the race and save his engine.

An incensed Mercedes team could not believe its drivers would collide so early in the race and the team be robbed of a potential one-two, Niki Lauda and Toto Wolff calling it 'unacceptable risk'. And how can you blame their response, from a team point of view? Mercedes has allowed their drivers to race hard against each other all season, but with the absence of team orders and the driver tensions after Monaco, some could argue they only have themselves to blame.

Going into this weekend it was clear from Jean Todt that after much criticism, the FIA would be taking a less intrusive approach to on track incidents. Fans have been critical of racing incidents often ending up in penalties and a fear that such an environment is not healthy for risky over taking. But was this a racing incident? And if not have the fans and the FIA somewhat shot themselves in the foot?

What is a fact is the harsh reality that this was no way a fault of Lewis. He was fully entitled to take his racing line as per the code of conduct of motorsport. What also is a fact is that even if there was no intention, as in Monaco, Rosberg's actions have cost Hamilton valuable world championship points. In my mind that is unfair and unjust, and indeed why we have such rules in the first place. When it is so clear who is at fault and its cost a championship contender a race, a penalty needs to be applied and it does not classify as a racing incident.
Better days, karting as team mates

Was Rosberg's actions intentional? It may be hard to see that Rosberg hit Hamilton with malice and calculation a-la Schumacher on Villeneuve in Jerez 1997. Hamilton later revealed on Sunday night at a post-race crisis meeting at Mercedes "[Rosberg] said he did it on purpose. He said he could have avoided it. He said 'I did it to prove a point".

There is a difference between intention and aggression. With the likely hood of damage to his own car, its unlikely that Rosberg 'intended' to make contact with Hamilton. However Rosberg may 'have a point' to prove by not lifting and not giving an inch to Hamilton, whatever the circumstance. Even if that circumstance means contact. With team orders now on the horizon for the two drivers as the season hots up, this inter team war flames are being fanned yet again..

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Hamilton Fuming As Nico Rosberg's Mistake Ironically Gifts Him Pole At Monaco

Finally things have reached boiling point at Mercedes
Nico Roberg’s error literally robbed Lewis Hamilton of pole on the tight twists of Monaco. Making a genuine mistake under braking and exiting the track, yellow flags meant Hamilton had to abandon his final lap . While there was no malicious intent, the fact that Nico Rosberg celebrated while getting out of the car looked to be bad taste in what was a hollow victory. The body language was obvious and led to the most tense press conference I have seen,  with Lewis biting his lip and unable to answer questions in rage. Lewis even went further and when asked, suggested it was a deliberate move from Rosberg along with others. I don’t agree.

The incident saw Rosberg see-sawing on the wheel under braking and him putting his car down the slip road. The car look unbalanced, his decision on where to put the car looked nervous and Nico’s reaction after tells me was not a deliberate act. Yes, he did actually reverse his car to get back on the track but to me it’s pretty clear what happened. With yellow flags waving he had to at least demonstrate to the marshals that he had seen the yellow flags and slowdown. However he had to slow in what was his fastest sector of the race track, sector 2 and so decided the rest of his effort was futile.

The incident seems to have ignited the tension between these two and also bring some strange reactions out of pressure. Rosberg’s positive and exciting celebration where strange, while Lewis saw red. He closed up and as always couldn’t mask his anger and disappointment. The FIA stewards have been asked to investigate the incident at the time of writing.

For the rest of the runners Ricciardo looked silky smooth all session, beautifully planting the car around the track and ended ahead of his team mate Vettel in 3rd.Behind are the Ferraris of Alonso and Raikkonen. Further down the order is Massa had an incident with a cumbersome Marcus Ericsson in the Caterham leaving him in a lowly 16th.

One thing is for sure, the situation has certainly added spice to tommorow...

Monday, 5 May 2014

Dman's Back!

After a month's hiatus due to relocation, I am back and ready to engage with the F1 goings on. A lot has gone on, a great race, a not so great race and a Hamilton renaissance. Watch this space!

Sunday, 16 March 2014

F1 Begins Its New Era - Rosberg Dominates A Controversial Australian Grand Prix

Rosberg dominated a controversial Ozzie GP that gave us a small insight into the pecking order this season. Engine problems plagued Vettel all weekend and finally claimed his race, along with Lewis Hamilton in the first few laps. Ricciardo’s best ever finish of 2nd on his Redbull debut in front of his home crowd seemed a dream come true after the teams disastrous pre-season testing. A few hours later the carpet was swept away under the team’s feet, with the FIA controversially disqualifying the Australian driver for fuel flow irregularities.

One important point to remember is that that this insight into the pecking order is a small one. The flowing 3.3 mile Albert Park circuit is used by the public all year, meaning the surface is covered in road car lubricants that slowly get removed by F1 cars throughout the weekend, improving grip levels dramatically. This makes setting up the car very difficult, and being the first race of the season it is not unusual for slower cars to fight their way up the order.  In experience it is wise not to take Albert Park as a true indicator of performance for the season, and to instead wait until the aerodynamic important Malaysian Grand Prix in a fortnight’s time. However going into this season the hype of course has been all about the controversial new smaller, turbo charged V6 power units. Not for a long time has the engine been a big factor in performance between teams. The spotlight is now on who has got it right and who has got it wrong and we saw a few signs in Melbourne.

Free Practise

Vettel endured a miserable weekend
And it was the favourites Mercedes who ran into trouble early into first practise with Lewis Hamilton suffering engine problems bringing his session to an end. The complicated Mercedes unit had a sensor error shutting it down, but this was soon fixed for the second session allowing Lewis Hamilton to set the fastest lap time. Redbull new boy Ricciardo set competitive times throughout the practise sessions and covered a good amount of all important mileage bringing some relief to the team. But as in pre-season testing, Vettel’s Renault engine began to play up. The world champion was having issues with driveability of his engine in the final practise session on Saturday. Ferrari mixed it at the top with Alonso setting the fastest time in the first session.

From a fans perspective, including myself waking up at 1.30am on a working week, it was obvious that the cars were a lot quieter. Although sounds of turbo hiss and whistle are welcome, sounds that you could not hear over the old screaming V8s such as tyres squealing have now become audible. Strangely even the track announcer on the P.A system can be heard. On the positive the cars look a handful to drive at times.
Williams struggled with rear end grip through Friday
The huge amounts of torque make the back ends of the cars often step out when the driver applies the throttle out of the bends. As light rain started to come down in first practise it was obvious teams and drivers were struggling to keep the car stable under power. The beautiful Martini liveried Williams was often sliding in a straight line with Massa chopping at the wheel. After a promising pre-season test and Mercedes engine deal Claire Williams is looking to steer her dad’s team to the success the team was used to many years ago.

Teams also seemed to have problems with the new electronic braking system, with many cars screeching in a trail of white smoke as they locked up. Rear braking is now not only reliant on discs and pads but the harvesting force from the energy recovery systems, in affect engine braking but with much greater stopping power. Now when the driver puts his foot on the brake the computer calculates the optimum braking force to apply to the rear. Without this the cars would be impossible to drive. You could compare the affect to you yanking your hand brake at speed and violently locking up. It seems teams like Toro Rosso and later Lotus struggled to get this system calibrated correctly.


Going into qualifying Vettel seemed to struggle with the driveability of the engine again in Q1 with a heart stopping moment as he applied the throttle on the exit of turn 10 and scuffed the barrier. The sudden boost of power as the turbo and electrical system kicked in unexpectedly seemed to be catching drivers out. Meanwhile his team mate Ricciardo was showing good pace in his first qualifying session with the team.

Lewis Hamilton looked refreshed for the new season
The rain started to fall at the end of the session and the horrendously ugly Lotus cars of Grosjean and Maldonado struggled, with the later having a big off as he fell afoul of the electronic braking system. Both cars failed to make it out of Q1 which is a real shocker for the Enstone based team.
Raikkonen crashed out in Q2 as he applied the power on a dampening track, bringing out the yellow flags and costing Button any chance of getting out of Q2. Vettel came across the incident but as the flags cleared quickly had an opportunity to set a fast lap. However he was still struggling with the power delivery of his Renault engine and managed only 12th to the delight of the Ozzie crowd.
A thrilling end to Q3 saw the 19 year old Russian Daniil Kvyat smash the back end of his car into the barrier in difficult conditions on his debut. As Rosberg laid the gauntlet with a faster lap than Hamilton with seconds to go, Ricciardo looked like he had grabbed pole with a stellar lap. A few seconds later and here came Hamilton again. Lewis seemed to have a calmer and relaxed aura about him this weekend and it looked to pay off, with a lap claiming pole position for Sunday.

The Race

Sunday’s race was looking good for Mercedes but question marks on reliability of the new engines put doubts in every drivers mind. Things were not helped when Max Chilton got stuck on the grid, leading to double waved yellows and more unwanted stationery time for the already hot engines. After another formation lap the lights went out signalling the start of a new era for F1.

Kobayashi's race ended on Lap 1
Straight off the line Lewis was honed in by his team mate and quickly overtaken. During the formation lap Mercedes had become aware of a problem developing in his engine with one cylinder not firing. This disadvantage saw him overtaken by Ricciardo at the first corner. Behind, carnage ensued as Kobayashi’s Caterham majorly locked up, tapping the rear suspension of Raikkonen before taking Massa straight out the race. An honest and apologetic Kobayashi claimed responsibility initially, with an angry Massa calling for a race ban for the Japanese driver. However, after a Stewards investigation looking at telemetry data from the Caterham, the FIA advised the accident had been caused by “a serious technical failure outside of the driver’s control”. We can read this as the electronic braking system yet again causing problems. It will be interesting if teams can get to grip with this bugbear in the first few races.

After a big drift off the line an impressive Magnussen started to reel in Hamilton quickly on the back straight on the opening lap. The Dane sailed past with ease as Hamilton’s Mercedes struggled on the straight. Behind a fiery Hulkenberg in the Force India got through the inside of Alonso. Soon after he overtook Hamilton’s sick Mercedes which peeled into the garage to retire on lap 4.
Meanwhile further down the field Vettel was also suffering with engine issues, instead the electrical power from his engine cutting out. With 150hp coming from these systems, which is the equivalent to a reasonably nippy family saloon, loosing this power means game over competitively. The world champion soon retired from the race.

The exit of turn 10 which had already been lightly contacted by Vettel and Massa this weekend was kissed this time by the right side of Bottas’ Williams. The result was worse for the Finn however, with the tyre delaminating and leaving its skin in the middle of the racetrack. The incident bought out the safety car as Bottas nursed his car back to the pits. With the race restart on lap 16 Rosberg began to build his lead again to Ricciardo with Magnussen, Hulkenberg, Alonso and Button in pursuit. The race began to settle down with the Mercedes comfortably ahead.

Bottas catches Raikkonen who struggles with his braking
Bottas was on a charge after his earlier incident and passed his fellow Finn Kimi Raikkonen, who overshot Turn 9 as he locked his brakes suffering with his electronic braking system. Shortly after this Bottas got past Vergne’s Toro Rosso as it slid out the final corner as the electronic power and boost seeming to catch him unawares. Next was Hulkenberg’s Force India which he passed with ease as he demonstrated the capability of the new Williams. A good effort, even if his earlier mistake cost him a chance of a podium.

As Rosberg crossed the line the crowd went wild for Ricciardo whose debut performance at Redbull bought him, albeit it temporarily, 2nd place at his home grand prix. Magnussen impressed on his F1 debut to finish 3rd, with Jenson Button 4th and Alonso 5th. It was great to see the McLaren team in a much better position than last year especially after the tragic loss of two employees in a road car accident and Jenson’s respected dad, John Button, to a heart attack in January.

Post Race Controversy

Ricciardo before his controversial disqualification
Ricciardo was understandably on cloud 9 during his post-race interviews, but the situation was about to change. Five hours following the race the stewards announced the Redbull had been disqualified for breach of regulation 5.1.4 regarding fuel flow. The new rules state that the flow of fuel to the engine cannot exceed 100kg/per hour. The FIA stated that the fuel flow had been ‘consistently’ higher than this. Then it was revealed that this issue had become apparent on Friday during practise.
The cars now have a fuel flow meter to measure the flow of fuel. Each meter is homologated by the FIA and monitored through the race weekend to ensure the rule is enforced. However Redbull changed their fuel flow meter on Ricciardo’s car after what the team called ‘inconsistent’ readings after Friday practise. After Saturday qualifying the team was ordered to put the old unit back in, after what the FIA stated as ‘unsatisfactory’ readings from the replacement sensor. It was also advised to make adjustments to its fuel flow during the race.

Instead, unhappy with what they deemed a faulty sensor holding them back, Redbull used its own fuel flow calculations contrary to the FIA. The FIA monitored the situation during the race and again warned the team to reduce the fuel flow to Ricciardo’s engine. Defiantly the team did not heed the warnings which have now led to disqualification. An angry Christian Horner launched the teams appeal stating:

Angry team boss Christian Horner is appealing the decision
 "These fuel-flow sensors, which have been fitted by the FIA to measure fuel, have proved problematic. Since their introduction, there have been discrepancies and the sensors have been unreliable. We could see a significant discrepancy with what the sensor was reading and what our fuel flow was stated as. We didn't feel it was correct.”

But was it correct for the team to be their own judge of the situation and remain defiant of the FIA? It seems quite ridiculous but it is important to remember that the team have a detailed idea of fuel flow to the engine through the injectors into the engine cylinders. It would become apparent if there was a discrepancy, but whatever the case it seems that this will have to be significantly proven to lift this disqualification. It does seem a shame to Ricciardo who drove a great race to lose out to factors beyond his control. Let’s see how this plays out…

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Aerodynamics in 2014 - The Year of the Penis Nose


What the ****?

Yes, they have done it again. The FIA have shot themselves in the foot.

Back in 2012 you may recall 'stepped noses'. In an effort to increase driver safety and probably aesthetics, the FIA rule makers reduced the maximum height forward of the front bulkhead (basically the nose in front of the wheels). With the teams wanting to continue to maximise the airflow under the car, their ingenious idea was to create a very ugly 'step' in order to bring the front of the nose down to the required height. This was certainly a fail from the FIA not considering how there rules would be interpreted.

This year the FIA thought they would go a step further, and now state the tip of the nose must be no higher than 185mm from the reference plane (floor of the car). The nose must also be no higher than an imaginary diagonal line drawn from the front bulkhead (where the drivers feet are) to the front of the nose.

Unfortunately this backfired again, as the FIA dictated the chassis height to only reduce by 100mm. Que teams again to take back their advantage with weird solutions.

The penis shaped protrusion of the Torro Rosso

In order to meet the low nose point required many teams have adopted a penis shaped protrusion to satisfy the regulations. While some became accustomed to the stepped noses, these phallic extensions are pretty horrific. Even Anne Summers tweeted 

“So it looks like Toro Rosso have taken inspiration from our sex toy collections #collaborationopportunity”, 

Possibly the worst interpretation was the 'twin tusk' design of the Lotus. The release pictures showed a monstrosity of large tusk like protrusions extended from the front of the car with one tusk longer than the other. This stems from the FIA ruling stating the tip of the nose 'has a single, cross sectional area of 9000m2'.
The unsightly 'twin tusk' of the Lotus E22

Take a note of the word single there, which is what Lotus have done with one single protrusion meeting the regulation requirements. These protrusions re-inforce the wing pillars to form a crash structure and act to direct airflow, but are quite thick which could offset this advantage.

Teams such as Ferrari, and in a more graceful fashion with the best looking car of 2014 Mercedes, have abadoned the penis extension and gone with a more conventional design. This is even more so on the Ferrari, with a very low 'vacuum' cleaner nose. Some may argue that the Ferrari nose is actually worse.

The 'vacuum nose' Ferrari
These teams may not be exploring the grey areas of the nose design enough to retain the advantage of maximum air flow under the car.

So what actual performance gains come from the shape of the nose? As discussed the aim of the game is to get as much air flow under the nose as possible to allow the underbody aerodynamics and diffuser to work to their full potential. This is why we have had very high noses in recent years. However, although visually striking the shape of the nose does not carry equally striking performance gains. Ferrari James Allison, who worked on the Lotus tusk nose before joining Ferrari this year stated on the different concepts  "There is not that much in it - they are just good to talk about because they are right up at the front of the car."

In a year of ugly horrors Mercedes still produce another great looking car

Ban on Exhaust Blowing
Exhaust gas being directed around the diffuser

What really carried a massive advantage in recent years was exhaust blowing. Back in 2010, Redbull experimented with blowing hot exhaust gasses around the rear diffuser, a device at the back of the car which generates huge downforce and grip. The hot gasses coming out of the exhaust almost created an invisible barrier to keep air flowing through the diffuser affectively. The hot gasses also created pressure change which sucked more air through the diffuser. The result was a big increase in grip when the driver hit the throttle pedal coming out of corners. Redbull designer Adrian Newey knew he was onto a winner and and the aerodynamics of the Redbull were built around this concept to get maximum advantage, which led to the team's dominance.

Note the location of the exhaust exit
However when the driver came of the throttle pedal to brake, where downforce is important, the advantage dissapeared as there was no hot exhaust gas available. To stop this engine manufacturers programmed their engines to make the engine burn fuel even when the driver was off the throttle. The advantage became so big that cars where now overfilling their tanks with heavy fuel loads.

By 2011 every team was at it, and the designs becoming more advanced and hugely affective. I remember attending Silverstone that year, just as the FIA announced a ban on this technology only to get slapped back into place by teams complaining over lost performance. What I didn't really hear on television became much more apparent on track. The engines sounded like a low thudding machine gun when the cars braked for the corner and an acrid smell entered my nostrils. The video below gives you a good idea of the sound you for some reason never heard well through your television:


For the following season, the FIA stipulated the exhaust exit on the car had to be placed high up upon the sidepods rather than next to the diffuser. However teams as ever employed methods to get around this. With a small indent on the exhaust exit to direct exhaust gas down, using the 'co-anda' affect exhaust blowing was still, if a much more diminshed, important generator of downforce on the cars.

However for 2014 we now see the exhaust located in a central position ahead of the diffuser, making it impossible to direct exhaust gas towards the diffuser. "There will be a lot less downforce as there will be no [exhaust] blowing" stated Jenson Button before testing.  "I don't care what they say, there is still a massive amount of blowing on an F1 (2013) car."
Exhaust exit location for 2014

This change will mean a big reduction in downforce, and with the torquey turbo engines making wheel spin easier you will be seeing a lot of cars going sideways when exiting slow corners. Great!

Wing Changes

In an effort to reduce more downforce from the new cars the FIA and have made changes to the front and rear wing rules

In an effort to reduce punctures, the front wing has been shortened from 1800mm to 1650mm. As the front wing generates a vast amount of downforce on the car this will have a big impact. This also makes it harder for the front wing to direct air around the outside of the tyre. Teams will try a claw a small advantage back with now being able to direct airflow in between the car and the tyres.

The virtual box that the rear wing has to sit in stipulated by the FIA is now 20mm smaller. There is also the removal of the beam wing. Smaller area means less downforce. However in an effort to claw more downforce back McLaren has an innotive solution of shaping the rear suspension into an aerodynamically detailed 'blocker'. This blocks airflow travelling around the coke bottle rear bodywork of the car heading towards the diffuser. A pressure difference speeds up airflow under the car creating more downforce. This may give McLaren quite a big advantage in 2014 and is hard to copy due to the need of other components to work in harmony.

The new Mclaren's innotive 'blockers'

All these changes combined equal significant downforce loss. But ask any experienced F1 geek and he will tell you these losses will be clawed back in a year or two with new innovative concepts...

Sunday, 9 February 2014

2014 F1 Engines Explained

Its here.

Tag Me!

2014 is upon us and with it some of the biggest changes to Formula One cars for a generation! With phallic shaped nose cones causing a stir there is also another controversial change to the formula. Its out with the V8 engines of last year and in with smaller and greener high tech turbo-charged V6 engines.


A view of the turbo at the back of the new Mercedes power plant
Some of you might be asking - what exactly is a turbo? Less complicated than you think, a turbo is simply a device which uses pressure from what would be wasted exhaust gases exiting the engine to spin a turbine, which connected to a fan via shaft sucks more air to the engine generating more power. As you are making more power from what is waste, a turbo engine is a more efficient engine than a naturally aspirated (that means non turbo) engine. At the moment, with all the talk and worry of global warming car manufacturers are moving away from big engines to smaller, efficient turbos charged engines to reduce emissions. As modern Formula 1 has rich and powerful car manufacturers as investors, its no surprise they have steered the rules towards the new greener ethos of road cars.

You may now be thinking that turbos are perfect, right? There are a few downsides. The first is there are more moving parts in an engine generating huge pressure and heat. This means turbo engines can often break. To make them more reliable for every day use, road car manufacturers limit their turbos to produce a lot less power than they potentially can. In F1, where every fraction of a second counts, every team will be pushing their more complicated turbo engine to the limit. This means we will see what has become a rare site -more cars breaking down .

Secondly, from a drivers perspective turbo engines have less 'driveability'. The way the torque - the actual force of the engine - comes into play when a driver puts his foot down can feel delayed and, with big power, almost violently catch you unawares. You will have probably heard of 'turbo-lag' before. This was famously noticeable in 80's and 90's high performance turbo road cars, where you put your foot down hard and for a second or more and... nothing happened. Then all of a sudden the turbo spools into life and it feels like you are being propelled by a space rocket! This made those cars of old with quick 0-60 times ever more impressive, as a second or more was wasted with you not really going anywhere. This is because the turbo needs time for exhaust pressure to build to get it going. Modern road cars have fancy methods involving electronics and crafted turbos to make this delay pretty much unnoticeable, but it can not be completely hidden in powerful turbo engines. This why a lot of petrol heads and super car manufacturers like Ferrari and Lamborghini prefer the linear and normal power delivery of a normal naturally aspirated engine to a turbo. Non turbo engines are more predictable, its easier to judge your right foot as the power builds smoothly. 

Thirdly and finally turbos themselves are quite heavy and require the help of an intercooler to cool down all that compressed air coming into the engine. Although you have an efficient engine producing power from waste, there is still added bulky weight and cooling is much more important. These factors are hugely significant in F1 cars. Although the 2014 turbo engines are smaller and so is the fuel tank, the extra cooling requirements and bulky turbo (and other new engine bits for 2014 discussed later) will mean packaging the car behind the driver and keeping the weight down is a challenge for the teams. 

Ask an F1 geek about the turbo cars of the 80's and you will almost certainly get a positive reaction. The main reason behind this is ridiculous horsepower.
This was often over 10 times as powerful as your average family saloon car at around half the weight. Coupled with no traction control to help with wheel spin and little aerodynamic grip compared to today these legendary cars were a beast to tame and unreliable. Spiralling costs and scary speeds saw them banned in favour of naturally aspirated 3.5 litre engines.

This year the turbos are back, but in a very different format. The BMW M12 turbo engine in the back of the Brabham and Benneton cars of 1987 in qualifying trim, with tiddly 1.5 litre engines, produced approximately 1400 horse power.  This years 1.6 litre engines will be producing less than half of that - just over 600hp and around 760hp for 33 seconds of the lap with the new ERS system. 

So why are this years cars a lot less powerful if they are practically the same size? The main reasons are efficiency and reliability. In 1987 for example Brabham could run their monster BMW engine to 1400hp - but only for a few laps in qualifying. And even after a few laps it was not unusual for gearboxes and even the engines themselves to shatter into pieces.
Turbo engines of the 80's were notoriously unreliable
The immense pressures travelling through the engine could end in an explosion showering bits of piston, valves and connecting rods all over the race track.

Rather than just one race session, the new engines are designed to cover a lot more mileage. In fact, you can only change the engine a maximum of 5 times in the 19 race long season. Also, you can only change the turbo, electronics, energy store, and 2 parts of the ERS (described in the next section) 5 times a season or you will face the same penalty.

Rev Limit and Displacement

One of the most controversial changes to the engine is the reduction in RPM, or revs per minute and the reduction in displacement (pretty much the size of the engine). The distinct violent whining buzz of an F1 engine comes from is super ability to spin the crankshaft of its engine at insane speeds. Last years engines were limited to 18,000rpm but this year this limit is 15,000 rpm. Coupled with the reduction in size and the removal of 2 cylinders, the engines are noticeably quieter.

This is certainly a sour point for fans. My lasting memories of going to see Formula One races in the V10 and V8 era are of me approaching a the track from a distance hearing the violent thunderous aggression of an F1 engine getting louder and louder. Especially in the V10 era the sound would often vibrate advertisement boards and bridges. It was awesome.

Now we have news after Jerez testing of team managers being on mobile phones in the pit lane- something they were unable to do before because of the noise. It leaves me quiet worried but I am not going to make a full judgement until I hear them in person. The only added bonus is the sound of the turbo and the new energy recovery system whirring off throttle. Listen for yourself:

Energy Recovery System

Introduced in 2009 'KERs' took energy from braking and stored it as electrical energy that could be released when the driver required it for for just under 7 seconds a lap. Similarly for 2014, what is now 'MGU-K' (motor generator unit -kinetic) also takes energy created from braking through the power train, and stores this in the 'ES' (energy store) to be used as a boost when needed. However there is more wasted energy available to be harvested through the 'MGU-H' (motor generator - heat). This is an electrical generator connected to the turbine shaft of the turbo. When the car is braking and the turbo is not needed the turbine of the turbo will be freewheeling, but this would be wasted energy is harvested through the MGU-H and stored in the 'ES' (energy store) to be used when needed. This energy can be used as a boost, or instead used to spin the turbo up when power is required greatly reducing turbo lag. Also the MGU-H can be used to control the speed of the turbo turbines to reduce pressure if necessary acting in place of a waste gate.

In total the MGU-K can fire back a total boost of 4 mega joules per lap through the engine crankshaft giving around 160hp for 33 seconds. This is 10 times more energy than last years KERs which means failure of this system will be hugely detrimental to performance. Unlike last year were KERs was operated by a 'boost' button on the steering wheel, the 33 seconds of boost from the MGU-K will be pre-programmed into the car to boost automatically at set points over the lap. This can still be adjusted by the driver by changing to different engine maps on his steering wheel. Teams will have to calculate when that all important power boost will be needed.


This years engines will produce similar power levels to last year during parts of the lap, yet will be over 30% more fuel efficient. This years formula is a fuel limited formula, in that engines are limited to 100kg of fuel per race. This year the emerging road car technology direct injection will make its F1 debut allowed in the new regulations. This allows fuel to be sprayed directly into the cylinders of the engine, rather than mixed with air through and intake valve. The result is more precise fueling and therefore increased efficiency.


Finally, another big change this year is the requirement for 8 speed gear boxes with set ratios for the whole season. On a track with long fast track such as Monza you want long gear ratios meaning higher top speed at the sacrifice of acceleration. But on a short slow track such as Monaco you want short ratios for quick acceleration out of slow corners at the sacrifice of top speed. While teams changed the ratios race to race now they do not have this luxury. A balanced ratio will be needed to give them and best performance for all the races in the season.