The FIA (Fédération International de l'Automobile) published its revised technical regulations for 2014 Formula One season last week. Having caused uproar amongst the engine manufacturers and F1 fans with a proposal for replacing the naturally aspirated V8s of today with turbo-charged 4-cylinder engines, an agreement was finally reached amongst the various interested parties to introduce turbo-charged V6s of 1.6 liter displacement. The continuing effort by the the FIA to "green" the sport and push development still provided a number of surprises in the published regulations, however.
The biggest shock is that the cars will have to move under electrical power only in the pit lane. Engine ignition and fuel systems must be shut off. This has a number of ramifications. To ensure there is enough power to move the cars quickly in and out of the pit lane, the capacity of energy recovery systems has been increased to 120kW. To ensure that amount of power is available, in addition to the mechanical energy recovery system (today's KERS) there will be allowed a heat energy recovery system that operates off the exhaust gases. The most interesting consequence is that the cars will have to carry their own starter motors under the control of the driver, since the engine will need re-starting the moment they exit the pit lane.
There are a number of other changes - the width of the front wing is reduced to 1,650 mm (65 inches), less than the width of the car, and the construction of the front and rear wings has been more strictly defined, in part to reduce the number of front wing collisions. The minimum weight of the car has been increased by 20 kg/44 lbs (in consideration of the weight of the energy recovery systems), plus the eight forward gear ratios and the mandatory reverse must be declared at the beginning of the season and cannot be changed - although for 2014 only, the teams will be allowed to change them once.
There is always wailing and gnashing of teeth at each new development of the world's most advanced racing formula. The circuit owners are very concerned that the reduction in maximum revs (down to 15,000 rpm) and the use of turbos will severely reduce the noise level that is part of motor racing. Those of us that remember the last time turbos were used will share those concerns.
The mandatory use of electrical power in the pit lanes could be a stroke of genius however, since this instantaneous switching between combustion and electrical engines is likely to be a very common real-world scenario. It is after all the justification of F1 that its technology trickles down to the High Street and Autobahn, and you can be sure that there will be intense development of the "re-starter" motors by the teams - pit stops will be fascinating. Team mechanics are going to have to keep their eyes peeled at all times for cars arriving in the pits - they won't be able to hear them.
The complete list of the revised regulations can be viewed as a PDF file.
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