The all new engine regulations which come into effect in Formula 1 this year are a well known challenge for the sport’s engine builders, of which Renault believe the biggest problem will be how to manage the huge amounts of heat generated by the new V6 turbo Power Units.
Renault Sport F1 head of track operations, Remi Taffin explains, “First of all it will be how to dissipate the heat. The turbo and the electrical motors generate huge temperatures but the internal components will be running very hot too. Of course making everything work together – without interference – is a major challenge. The electromagnetic forces will be very high so managing all the systems simultaneously will be somewhat stressful.”
This would seem to lend credence to theories that attrition rates will be extremely high, with many DNFs expected during the early races of the season.
Here is the transcript of the interview with Taffin supplied by Renault Sport F1.
How will preparations for a race change with the new Power Unit ?
With the new Power Unit incorporating complex electrical and energy recovery systems alongside the standard internal combustion engine the workload pre-race will approximately double. As usual, the chassis teams will send us the basic set-up information for each race about two weeks before the event. The engine engineer for the team will then combine this with Power Unit data in realistic conditions to simulate the general operating parameters of the car at that particular circuit. This will then be returned to the chassis teams for analysis with downforce and grip levels and other more advanced and detailed set-ups. This process is iterative and there will be several cycles of returns before we arrive at a set-up we intend to use at the track. As we learn more about operations this process will surely be refined, but we expect the man hours spent per team per race will run into hundreds – more than twice the preparation time for the V8s.
Will anything change on operations during a race weekend ?
We have created an operations room to follow running in real time, which is a significant evolution over previous years when all data collection was monitored solely at the track. Additionally we will have greater support from the factory to analyse data post-sessions as we will repatriate information from the track to the factory more often. This quantity of analysis means we will use the dynos at Viry more often for ‘live’ simulations to optimize track performance. It’s hard to say exactly, but I expect the dynos will be working up to three times more as there are more parameters to explore. With the V8 we could predict how it would go, and when there was an issue it was much more of a known issue. These units are vastly more complicated. In fact the only thing that is simpler this year is that there are no gear ratio changes as they are frozen at the start of the season. We can change once during the year but otherwise the eight gears are submitted to the FIA pre-season and they must be the same at each race.
How will the engine support teams be structured this year with the new Power Unit ?
The new Power Unit comes with a very different set of challenges so we have strengthened the engine support team operating trackside. For each partner we will have a team of eight technical staff, with one engineer per car, one mechanic, and then one electrician plus a performance engineer, who will look after energy management and the set-up of the Power Unit relating to the balance between fuel and electricity. He will work in close collaboration with the chassis teams, particularly the strategists and the race engineers.
Will the modus operandi at the tracks change between Renault and the chassis teams ?
Not fundamentally as we are already very well integrated with the chassis teams trackside. However the flow and the amount of information between the two halves will be much larger and more important than in previous years. The Power Unit will have two types of energy next year and the way we use them will have a much greater effect on the strategy and its deployment. With the V8 we decided on a strategy and knew [that] at the end of the race we would be within 1% of the optimum. Next year we could have a delta of many seconds if we get things wrong.
Will we be hearing different calls on the radio next year as a result ?
We will hear different calls, for sure. We won’t call out to change the fuel mixture, instead referencing fuel budget, or the quantity of fuel used per lap. Prior to the race the engineers will decide on the mix between fuel and electricity over one lap and we will have a target – or fuel budget – [that] we will need to monitor to ensure [that] we get to the end of the race. The engine engineers will monitor the rate of fuel consumption (both carbon and electric) and the driver will be told over the radio if he is over or under the fuel delta. He will have to manually adjust or alter the style to take this into account.
From 2014 there are just five Power Units per driver per season, but the different components (turbo, ERS etc) can be changed independently of each other. How will you manage this system ?
In an ideal world we will try to do as per last year, that is, we change everything together. The life of each part is designed to be roughly similar so we will try to keep the system as a whole, so changing the turbocharger, ERS and battery at same time. However there is also a system where you can change different elements if you need to. While we would not necessarily seek to run different life combinations, it does enable us to tailor the Power Unit to the specificities of each circuit should we need to. For example, we could run a new internal combustion engine at Monza with an old battery to get more power, or we could use a new battery at Monaco and an old engine as the sensitivity to electrical power will be higher and the need for outright speed a lot less. Keeping pace with it all seems difficult but I do not expect we will see too many people using the modular system in real life.
Will any of the tracks pose any particular difficulties ?
In essence no more than in previous years. Monza will still remain the hardest on the ICE and high speed, while Monaco and Budapest will be critical for energy recovery. However what we will see is that the turbo will serve as an equalizer between ambient and atmospheric conditions, so circuits that were not considered ‘difficult’ may have to be reassessed. For example, in the past we always said that Brazil was relatively low impact as we could use an engine on the third race of its life due to the low atmospheric pressure that placed less stress on the internals. However since the turbo greatly increases ambient pressure inside the engine, the internal stresses are always the same and the amount of oxygen in the air becomes largely irrelevant. Similarly, in Malaysia we could always count on the humidity to limit the effect of the long straights but now there will be no power loss due to the lack of oxygen in the air as we [will be] mastering the quantity of air in the engine at all times.
Do you expect the turbo to take longer to warm up at the high altitude races as we saw in the past ?
A lot of people remember when it used to take hours to start and warm the engines at places like Brazil and South Africa, but this time round I think we will be fine as technology has moved on a huge amount. Ultimately it’s the performance on track that counts anyway. (GP247-Renault Sport F1)
Subbed by AJN.