F1’s new hybrid engine rules show the sport is in good hands
Ever since the hybrid era began in 2014, F1 has been embroiled in a furious debate. Originally designed to bring in more manufacturers with their race to road angle, hybrid engines are seen by many as a wrong turn. But now, F1 has introduced a brand new solution.
A few months ago, Ross Brawn told Alphr he was looking at keeping hybrid technology, but modifying it to making it better and more exciting for fans – and a new announcement by the FIA shows just how that’s going to work. According to an announcement published today, the 2021 season will use 1.6 litre V6 engines, but they’ll rev 3,000 rpm higher and lose some of their more intricate – and expensive – tech.
The new engines explained
An FIA statement says the new rules could work as follows:
• 1.6 Litre, V6 Turbo Hybrid
• 3,000rpm higher engine running speed range to improve the sound
• Prescriptive internal design parameters to restrict development costs and discourage extreme designs and running conditions
• Removal of the MGUH
• More powerful MGUK with focus on manual driver deployment in race together with option to save up energy over several laps to give a driver controlled tactical element to racing
• Single turbo with dimensional constraints and weight limits
• Standard energy store and control electronics
• High Level of external prescriptive design to give ‘Plug-And-Play’ engine/chassis/transmission swap capability
• Intention to investigate tighter fuel regulations and limits on number of fuels used
What the improvements are for
Interestingly, the new engine proposals keep the same 1.6 litre V6 hybrid we’ve grown to love/hate, but they make some subtle changes that should really improve the show. The new engines are going to sound better, because they can rev higher, and they’ll also be more regulated, which means teams can’t spend huge amounts of money trying to get a technical advantage.
The MGU-H, a device which converts heat energy to electricity while reducing turbo lag has been removed completely, and the scope of the MGU-K – the device which gives electrical energy to the rear wheels – has been increased.
The new proposals suggest that power from the MGU-K will be more obviously and easily controlled by the driver, and can even be saved up for a number of laps. Right now, teams are forced to deploy a fixed quantity of Kinetic energy per lap – though they can change when it’s deployed. This new rule is particularly cool, as it’ll mean drivers can use boosts in a far more obvious and strategic way, which should make racing better for fans and drivers alike.
What’s more, engine sizes and oils will be more regulated too, making it easier to change power units later in the season, while also blocking off another potential area of spending.
“We’ve carefully listened to what the fans think about the current PU and what they would like to see in the near future with the objective to define a set of regulations which will provide a powertrain that is simpler, cheaper and noisier,” said Brawn. “ [Hopefully they] will create the conditions to facilitate new manufacturers to enter Formula 1 as powertrain suppliers and to reach a more levelled field in the sport.”
“The new F1 has the target to be the world’s leading global sports competition married to state of the art technology. To excite, engage, and awe fans of all ages but to do so in a sustainable manner. We believe that the future power unit will achieve this.”
Have they got it right?
Hybrid engines weren’t popular with fans, and these new engine proposals deftly correct every problematic area. They should sound better; they’ll be cheaper to make and run; and they’ll maintain an element of hybrid technology too, meaning they should be attractive for car brands wanting to enter the sport.
These regulations are just proposals for now, but over the next few months, the teams will give their feedback, as well as suggestions for their own cost-cutting ideas.
Leading F1 into a new era of engines is like walking a political tightrope, but Ross Brawn has the experience and authority to do it.