V6 biturbo, standard KERS, many standard parts and the abandonment of all-wheel drive are going to be the basis of the next Formula One Power Unit coming in 2020, a year earlier than planned.
Although the decision has been made, the actual deadline for the decision comes on the 31st December this year, until that time the FIA, the owners of F1 and the manufacturers/teams want to establish the foundation of the engine sooner rather than later. A wholesale abandonment of high technology and a return to simpler engines seems to be the direction of which the sport is heading along with the zero chance of the rumoured 4 wheel drive.
The 1.6 V6 engine remains in place with the efficiency driven pre-chamber combustion technologies developed over the last year or two. Twin turbos will be added on with a single KERS unit driving the rear wheels only. Previously, a thought to power the front wheels with electrical motors in a similar vein to the WEC LMP1 category was mooted, this has now been deemed as heavy and cumbersome.
“We want to get weight out of the cars. An all-wheel drive would make the cars even heavier ” a member of the engine committee commented. The goal of reducing weight also limits the size and power of the battery. The electric power will therefore be in a maximum range of 150 to 200 bhp in addition to the V6.
A major concern is the Formula 1’s new owner is to reduce the complexity and cost . Independent engine manufacturers such as Ilmor, Cosworth or AER should also be able to build the new Power Unit at a reasonable development cost. For this, the largest cost drivers will be standardised – the battery, the electric motor and the turbocharger will all be outsourced and specced.
The tenders for the the standardised parts will be made public this year through the FIA. The plan is to prepare the teams at an early stage and give them enough development time after a choice has been made. The winning tender will be the one who can offer the best efficiency at the lowest price. In areas where technology is rapidly advancing, there will be calls for tenders in shorter periods to keep Formula 1 at the cutting edge of technology. Depending on the standardised part, the supply contract can be between two and five years.
The Concorde Agreement allows a change of engine regulations until 2021. Liberty Media, however, is determined to advanced the date by one year. The four engine manufacturers of the Formula 1 are also keen to have the new package early in 2020 as they save a year’s worth of extra development costs for the current engines. It is their belief that 2020 would also be a feasible date for new entrants such as new car manufacturers or even independents like Cosworth to get involved.
Aerodynamics and chassis are also set to be simplified. Before the summer break, representatives of the FIA, Ross Brawn and the teams will assemble to discuss the rules for 2019. Brawn is pushing for this early decision so they won’t end up making last minute bad decisions, something F1 fans are all too familiar with in the past.
“We have time to think about the car by April 2018. We should make good use of this time and not make a snap decision but a well-founded technical package. ” said Brawn on the 2019 rules.
Could we see a return to underbody aerodynamics? A simplification of over body aero could open the possibilities up for the supposed ‘clean’ downforce generated by Venturi tunnels first developed and subsequently banned in the late seventies and early eighties. It is argued that such downforce generation could enable cars to follow one another easier, thus enabling overtaking without gimmicks such as DRS. As a self confessed hater of DRS and other artificial concepts, surely this is an area that Brawn will consider for the future cars.