Mercedes AMG Petronas have revealed that the current era of power unit technology in Formula One is heading towards, if not is already, the most powerful the sport has witnessed. In only the second year of the sports power unit regulations, Mercedes have confirmed the current 1.6 litre V6 Hybrid is up to 10% more powerful than the V8 units with KERS they succeeded and match the power output of the V10 engine era.
This has been achieved despite fuel flow limits effectively halving the fuel rate per hour to power units. Such strides in power unit developments have been achieved through a focus on thermal efficiency, effectively minimising any waste (heat loss) in the power unit, every aspect of the power unit design in focused on maximised efficiency.
Increasingly power unit development is turning to fuel and lubricant partners such as Petronas to maximise performance. Over the course of the 2015 season Petronas trialed more than 50 fuel and lubricant solutions, working through over 65,000 litres of fuel for development purposes alone. Looking towards 2016 more than 40 new compounds are already being evaluated. So integral have fuel and lubricant solutions become to the performance of F1 power units, the specification used is unique to power unit cycle. When Mercedes introduced updated power unit’s mid season the fuel and solution from Petronas would only operate with this power unit solution. This complexity is achieved whilst ensuring 99% of the compounds used in the fuel are identical to those seen in fuel used in road cars.
Whilst some may argue that through the original turbo era seen in F1 we saw machines with output in excess of 1400BHP, and in the mid 2000’s we saw drivers lapping up 2-3 seconds per lap faster than than the current era, these were period’s of excess, with qualifying engines designed to last 50KM and tyre technology more relevant to a lab than a road. The success of the current F1 power unit regulations is the road relevance. The sporting regulations are focused on efficiency, a topic of greater relevance than ever to the world in which we live. When you check out a car in a showroom or online today one of the first things you check is the efficiency, be it fuel consumption or CO2e, these factors do influence the decisions we make when buying a car. In the FIA prescribing Power Unit technology to focus in these areas road car relevance is assured, and hopefully in the not too distant future the heavily boosted low capacity technology seen in F1 will make its way to our road cars. Efficiently.