Formula 1 Settles on Turbo V6 Engines for 2014

The organisers behind Formula 1 have been pushing a green-tech agenda in recent years, all in a bid to remain relevant in the face of growing environmentalist pressures.  To their merit, they’ve quickly developed KERS  into a vital, race-winning technology which is being trickled down into more “real world” products from Volvo and Porsche (among others).

To keep the good green times goin’, the FIA has announced that the sport will switch to a new, twin-turbocharged V6 format for its racecars at the start of the 2014 season.  This isn’t Formula 1’s first turbo era – and the last (in the 80s) did indeed lead to advances in turbocharged passenger cars, from the Ferrari F40 to the turbocharged, 4-cylinder variants of Chrysler’s Dodge Caravan minivans … oddly enough, however, the biggest reason for choosing the V6 configuration over the previously proposed inline 4 cylinder configuration (common in many small cars) wasn’t based on engineering or economics – it was based on sound.

That’s right:  sound.

See, Formula 1 is – in many ways – more about spectacle than it is about cars or go-fast electro-bang whizzery, and the screeeEEAAM!! of a Formula 1 engine at 18,000 rpm is one of those things that, well …

… let’s just say, if it speaks to you, then it Speaks to YOU.

The FIA has released a brief Q&A session (with Q’s provided by F1 fans) to help chart the changes towards the new engine regs.  I’ve included it in full, below.

The FIA answers all the questions about F1’s pending swap to greener 1.6-litre V6 engines in 2014…

Q: The World Motor Sport Council voted on 29 June 2011. What did it decide?
A: Following consultation with the various Formula One stakeholders and the current Formula One engine manufacturers, the WMSC has ratified the adoption of a V6 turbo engine to be used in Formula One from 2014 onwards. This required changes to the regulations initially adopted by the World Council on 3 June 2011. The full regulations applicable to the 2014 season will be published in due course.

Q: Will a V6 use more fuel, or have inferior economy compared with the original proposal?
A: No. To push the engineers to develop engine efficiency, the technical regulation imposes a fuel flow control. When evolving the regulation to fit with the manufacturers’ new request this parameter has not been changed. Thus the efficiency requirement will be unchanged.

Q: Why has the rev limit been increased from 12,000rpm to 15,000rpm. Is this purely to enhance the sound of a Formula One car?
A: No. This parameter has been updated from 12000rpm to 15000 rpm to allow engineers more flexibility in power and energy management. However, as a consequence of the new architecture (V6) and the change in rev-limit, the engine will sound different, but will remain representative of Formula One.

Q: Will the increase in rpm alter fuel consumption?
A: Absolutely not. As mentioned above, the fuel flow limit will stay the same. The technologies are the same and as a consequence any increase in rpm will constrain the engineers to work harder on reducing friction and gaining on engine efficiency. The challenge will be even bigger than originally planned and will therefore enhance the technological lead of Formula One.

Q: Has the FIA retained the energy recover devices originally intended to be used in conjunction with the I4 engine?
A: Yes, the concept initially presented is respected. All of the technology intended for the I4 is still present. This new power plant will be a dramatic step forward in both fuel efficiency and in energy management.

Q: Will those manufacturers already engaged in the development of a four-cylinder engine face increased costs now they need to redirect their resources toward designing a V6?
A: To our knowledge, five manufacturers were working on the proposed 4-cylinder engine. They will all need to adapt their project and this will surely involve some additional costs, depending on how advanced each project was. This evolution has been proposed and supported by all four engine manufacturers currently involved in Formula One.

Q: Why is the introduction of the new generation of engines now being delayed by year?
A: The decision to delay the introduction until 2014 comes at the request of the four engine manufacturers currently involved in Formula One. Their request for extra time is linked to the change in architecture but also to ensure their projects are more robust (one of the goals of the project is to enhance engine durability to c.4000km)

Q: Will these energy recovery systems and other efficiency devices ultimately influence the development of road cars?
A: Yes. The clear need for the automotive industry to reduce emissions means energy management will increasingly become a key factor in the development of more efficient powertrains. Kinetic energy recovery is already applied in Formula One and the introduction of exhaust energy recovery will add another technology route to be explored. Formula One will also return to its role as a developer of turbo-charger technology. This research will have real-world benefits, contributing valuable knowledge that will be of use to future road car development.

Combustion engine specifications:
1600cc, V6
15000 rpm max
Direct fuel injection up to 500bar
Single turbocharger
Controlled fuel flow

Energy recovery and storage systems specifications:
Kinetic, 120kW on the rear wheels
Exhaust energy recovery linked to the turbocharger

Source:  the FIA, via PlanetF1.

Jo Borrás

I've been in the auto industry 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the IM network. You can also find me on Twitter, at my Volvo fansite, out on two wheels, or chasing my kids around Oak Park, IL.