Brought to you by TJ13 Editor in Chief Andrew Huntley_Jacobs
In a way, the new F1 V6 Turbo Hybrid engines, associated technologies and regulations have taken dedicated F1 fans on a journey of discovery.
Before the 2014 season opener in Australia 2014 together with Red Bull’s defiance of the FIA over fuel flow regulations, few of F1’s followers would have ever considered the issue of fuel flow rates.
A breach of the new fuel flow regulations saw the highly unusual event of an F1 driver being disqualified from a race – this was even more prolific given thsat it was Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, who had finished in P2.
So why did the engineers designing the new F1 engines agree with the FIA to restrict fuel flow in the new F1 hybrid engines?
Fabrice Lom – an ex Renault engineer was tasked in 2014 to police the new engine regulations by the FIA. Following Ricciardo’s exclusion from the Melbourne race and prior to the Red Bull appeal hearing, Lom briefed selected media on why fuel flow mattered in the new engine era of Formula One.
The bottom line is that with a modern F1 turbo engine, the power has to be limited otherwise drivers could use over 1,000hp at times, while others were fuel saving. The speed differential would be enormous and dangerous.
Further, the F1 engine manufacturers and the FIA agreed the message they wanted to send to the world was their new hybrid engines were delivering 35% more performance than the old V8’s and whilst using less fuel. this from a drop of fuel than the old V8s.
Monster short bursts of power had to be restricted.
The fuel flow regulators developed by Gill Senors for the F1 engines, were described by Lom as “remarkable”. They weighed just 300g and were miniscule when compared to the industry standard bench top giant machines.
Of course Gill had suffered difficulties delivering this cutting edge technology, and the accuracy of the measurements provided were on the odd occasion outside the 0.5% tolerances the FIA demanded.
Given the enormous power deficit to Ferrari and Mercedes that became apparent of the new Renault F1 engine during the 2014 winter testing, maximising fuel flow was a quick win to closing the gap.
Then, if the tolerances allowed by the FIA could be exploited, Red Bull and Renault could cut the ‘effective’ HP difference to their competitors further.
The FIA regulations on fuel flow stated that if there was a problem with a sensor, the teams were allowed to have a back up solution – which had been calibrated against a known sensor.
Red Bull and Renault had such a control device and were ready to take on the FIA and demonstrate their Gill sensor was faulty.
However, the regulation also stated that, any back up solution must be calibrated against a known sensor– which was the Gill solution – in a controlled environment, BEFORE being relied upon as a fall back option.
Red Bull were confident their measurement from the fuel rail would prove there was an inconsistency on the Gill sensor deployed on Ricciardo’s car. However, the reason Red Bull lost their appeal is they failed to calibrate their ‘back up solution’ previously in a controlled environment.
Whether Renault-Red Bull’s fuel flow measurements were spot on and within the 100kg per hour limit became irrelevant. They failed to follow due process and Ricciardo was disqualified.
Yesterday, the FIA gave approval to a second fuel flow rate sensor that can now be used as a primary or secondary measure of fuel flow.
With each step that improves reliability, the F1 engine manufacturers then search for more performance form the hybrid power units which are being run at far higher stress levels than when launched.
This makes maximising the fuel flow a critical key to ultimate performance, and each of the F1 engine suppliers is now evaluating the Sentronics fuel flow sensor.
Sentronics managing director Neville Meech said: “The FIA’s and competitors’ experience of the technology in its first year understandably had an effect on the approach to homologation a second sensor.
“Practically speaking, this led to a much more rigorous set of validation criteria for homologation alongside the technical specification itself.
“Satisfying these requirements has been a challenging and lengthy process, but I can say our end product is all the stronger for it.”
Interpreted, Meech is claiming the sentronics sensor is more accurate than Gill’s and so teams should be able to sail closer to the wind – and the fuel flow limits – than was possible with the Gill sensor.
The Sentronics system has also been approved for the FIA’s World Endurance Championship LMP1 category, and can challenge the Gill sensor used there too.
Just as the race is on to incorporate unique developments of the new F1 power trains into road cars, the prize for winning the fuel flow sensor technology race may result in orders for the winning designers of 100’s of thousands of units each year.
The previous F1 technology to revolutionise an industry, was the ‘failed’ Williams flywheel KERS system. An increasing proportion of the 5.2 billion passengers taking bus journeys each year in the UK will be seeing this technology deployed beneath their seats and delivering no less than 20% fuel savings.