Tag Archives: Power Unit

Formula One: McLaren set to badge Renault Power Unit – McLaren

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As the F1 world awaits confirmation of the widely expected split between McLaren and Honda, attention has turned to the team name and branding for the 2018 season and beyond. It is fairly certain McLaren will switch to Renault power unit supply for next season in a deal which will see the Woking based team become a customer team for the remainder of the current iteration of Formula One Power Unit regulations.

Through social media, Fans and F1 pundits have been speculating on the likely name under which the McLaren Renault partnership will operate, with the overriding sentiment being that legacy of the respective brands not quite sitting well together. With almost every brand within the Renault-Nissan Alliance being touted as a possible fit for the partnership, from McLaren Infiniti, to McLaren Alpine, McLaren Nismo, and my personal favourite McLaren Dacia, the most logical naming convention appears to have been forgotten.

Zak Brown, Executive Director McLaren Technology Group, has been quoted as suggesting the team will consider producing Power Units under the McLaren brand under the new technical regulations, should costs not prove prohibitive. With this in mind it should be expected that the Renault agreement for 2018 will be delivered under a white label agreement, as already in place with Red Bull Racing who included naming rights to their Renault Power Unit in their partnership which LVMH, which sees the Power Unit branded Tag Heuer.

McLaren as an automotive entity in its own right will likely brand the white label Renault Power Unit as McLaren. Suggesting to the casual F1 follower or fan that the team is already producing its own power unit. Such a move will serve to further enhance the credibility of the McLaren Automotive Group and remove confusion around relationships between the road going cars and track based power unit partnerships.

After three of the worst seasons in the team’s history, it is highly unlikely McLaren will be in a position to sign a title sponsor for the 2018 season, the team must rebuild its reputation with brands and partners. As such when the 2018 team listing is announced expect McLaren to be listed simply as McLaren with no reference to any power unit supplier.

Should, for what ever reason, the Renault Power Unit fail to elevate McLaren from its current plight expect to hear some awkward interviews in which an unbranded power unit is held accountable for challenges facing the team.

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Formula One: Are Cosworth the solution to McLaren-Honda’s woes?

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On the eve of the 2017 F1 season McLaren Honda head into the third year of their partnership with little cause for optimism. Despite the FIA’s removal of the Power Unit development token system which previously limited manufacturers ability to modify / redesign technology, Honda solutions seemingly remain at odds with the F1 Hybrid era.

2017 pre-season testing saw Honda introduce an entirely new Power Unit, a fully integrated unit developed around the MCL32. In a bid to improve performance and resolve drivability issues which plagued the 2015 / 16 design, Honda engineers have taken inspiration from the solutions seen with their immediate competitors. This approach, in the short term at least, appears to have failed. McLaren have reported extensive issues with vibrations within the power unit limiting any ability to push for out right performance. Neither team nor engine manufacturer have been able to validate design concepts through pre-season testing and have minimal expectations around the team’s ability to complete a race distance let alone score points in the opening races of the 2017 season.

The situation is unsatisfactory for all parties involved.

In recent days it has emerged McLaren may have made preliminary enquiries towards Mercedes around future power unit supply, some media outlets going as far to suggest a mid season switch could be possible. The reality of this is highly unlikely, both from a commerical and technical perspective the strategy defies logic and any form of long term thinking.

McLaren maintain an ambition to compete for and win world championships. Using Williams Martini Racing as a prime example, despite access to the dominant power unit for the past three seasons, customer status with Mercedes limits their ability to challenge. This should not be the strategy McLaren seek or accept. It may resolve short term frustrations with partners, but it will not deliver world championships.

Instead McLaren may need to seek an alternative solution. It is understood Honda support the team and power unit development to the tune of $100 million per season. On the recommendation of McLaren, Honda could look to redirect this finance to a third party. The third party in question being Cosworth.

When the Hybrid F1 regulations were originally outlined in 2010, Cosworth, similar to Mercedes, dedicated significant resource to develop a new power unit for the sport. The intention had been for Volkswagen to badge the Cosworth power unit, however as the implementation of the new regulations grew nearer VW reneged on their F1 ambitions. This left Cosworth with a concept power unit 4 years in the making but no manufacturer budget to bring the power unit to the grid.

Cosworth have stated in previous years that with budget the power unit they developed could be on the grid within 6 months. They remain confident that the solutions they engineered would be competitive. In theory it would be possible for the Cosworth power unit to become the 2018 Honda F1 Power Unit. It is fair to say there would be a certain amount of pride to overcome between all parties involved, but ensuring future competitiveness may ease the short term pain.

To those who see the suggestion of Honda badged Cosworth Power Unit as the future of the McLaren Honda relationship as far fetched, take a look at the companies house registry for the list of directors at Cosworth. Top of this list you will find Mr Zak Brown, Executive Director of the McLaren Technology Group.

Formula One: Toro Rosso return to Renault, RBR extend

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As speculated on JWGP yesterday ,Renault have this morning announced that Scuderia Toro Rosso will return to Renault Power Unit supply for 2017. The agreement will see the team use in year technology for the 2017 & 2018 with the freedom to badge the engine as they see fit. Similar to the TAG Heuer Red Bull Racing Partnership, who have also extended their relationship with the French manufacturer through the 2017 & 2018 seasons.

Speaking on the partnership Jérôme Stoll, President of Renault Sport Racing, commented: ‘We are very pleased to partner with two such strong teams as Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso. Having competitive partners demonstrates the confidence both have in the improved Renault power unit and in our organisation as a whole.’

On the extension of the Renault RBR agreement Christian Horner, Red Bull Racing Team Principal, said: “We are delighted to extend our partnership which has proved very successful over time. After the reconstruction that Renault has undertaken, clear progress has been made which has made it logical to continue with the TAG Heuer badged engine.”

With this deal confirmed, no further changes are expected in team a  Power Unit supply across the remainder of the grid for the foreseeable future.

Formula One: Renault PU update worth 0.5 second a lap

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The Renault Sport F1 team’s Technical Director, Rémi Taffin, has estimated the updated Renault power unit used by both the works Renault Sport team and Red Bull Racing, under Tag Heuer branding, will deliver up to half a second in performance per lap once introduced. 

Speaking on the engine development plans so far in 2016 Rémi commented:

“The power unit we have used since the first race in Australia was really a continuation of the work started in the ‘Spec D’ power unit we introduced at the tail end of 2015. We explored some concepts in that earlier iteration and the 2016 unit took them further, for example in the turbo. This new spec goes even further down the line and also includes significant modifications to the combustion system. It will make the ICE more powerful but also efficient, leading to a gain of around half a second per lap. We’ve used a small proportion of our token allocation for this upgrade.”

When quizzed on timing around the introduction of the upgraded power unit Rémi went on to explain:

“The current power unit used since Australia has had several smaller upgrades and all the drivers were very happy with the standard in Spain. In parallel, we’ve been working on the new spec since the start of the season but needed to sign off all the parts for reliability and mileage before using on track. The tests were very positive and showed it to be more powerful and driveable. We had originally planned to use the new version in Canada when the current units are scheduled to be removed from the cycle, but if we can get the units together and completely validated by Monaco we will use the ones available at this race.”

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Rémi went on to confirm that whilst Renault will continue to develop the 2016 power unit and are set to have a large amount of performance tokens available to do so, the team are fully focused on optimising the 2017 power unit:

“We will continue our development over the rest of the season,using tokens with a view to getting on board any useful items identified from our 2017 work. We are principally focused on 2017 and making that next power unit as optimal as possible.”

This may not be the news Red Bull Racing were hoping to hear, having elevated the RB12 into a race winning contender they may be looking for support from their engine supplier to mount a championship challenge.

Formula One: Mercedes Debrief – Assessing a Power Unit Failure

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Some light reading for you between FP3 and Qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix. Mercedes AMG Petronas explain the power unit failure debrief process following Lewis Hamilton’s challenging Chinese GP weekend:

What do we now know about the failure on Lewis’ Power Unit in Shanghai?
The Power Unit in question arrived back at Brixworth in the early hours of Thursday morning of the week following the race and investigation into the failure has been on-going every minute since its return to the factory. The MGU-H has been stripped and the issue is suspected to be associated with the insulation. The turbocharger will be replaced in addition to the oil pumps, after debris was found in the oil system. With the repairs completed, this Power Unit will remain in the driver pool and travel to Sochi as a spare.

What’s the initial course of action when a Power Unit failure occurs at the track?
First and foremost, a group of engineers at the circuit and a much larger group at Brixworth will pore through readings from the data logger, noting what every sensor on the Power Unit has recorded. That’s an instant check which will quickly establish the severity of the problem.

What happens if a major fault is discovered?
If it’s then determined that there is an issue which cannot be fixed at the track and hardware needs to be removed, the trackside technicians will ready the components for transport back to Brixworth as quickly as possible. The engineer responsible for the system suspected to be at the core of the issue will subsequently draw up a strip request instruction while the components are in transit.

What exactly does a strip request instruction involve?
It’s a detailed sequence of instructions for the technicians working in the build department back at Brixworth, which outlines who will be allocated to each individual stage of the process, what specialist equipment and / or inspection techniques are required and which procedures need to be carried out. The list is written in chronological order with approximate time frames for each step to create a carefully considered timing plan that’s fully resourced.

Where do the technicians begin when deconstructing a failed component?
In most cases, the technicians will start by back-flushing oil through the various galleries and filters of the oil and coolant systems to collect any fine debris. While larger fragments can be removed by hand, the finer debris – which often points to the start of the problem – can settle at the end of blind galleries or in filters downstream of the failed part.

How is debris analysed?
Microscope analysis of the debris is the first stage – looking at the different shapes and sizes present to establish whether it’s a case of fine wear or a component which has shattered into small pieces. The debris will then be scanned with an electron microscope to check its chemical composition. This helps to establish the material type – which in turn provides an indication of the component that the debris might have come from.

What happens next to the various components in question?
Once the debris analysis has been completed and the components that were involved in the failure have all been stripped, everything is physically laid out to mimic its installed configuration. Looking at the series of components in front of them, what debris has been found and where it ended up, the engineers can begin to establish a likely sequence of events. They will then go back through the logged data from the track to find any step changes in the readings from each Power Unit sensor that might match up to a given theory.

Can virtual simulations be used in the investigation process?
Virtual simulation tools give a good insight into what’s going on within a system and are used extensively throughout the development phase. When a component has failed, those models can be referred back to and changes made commensurate with what the team suspects has gone wrong to mimic the cause of the failure.

Does the team ever carry out physical simulations to re-create a failure?
Deliberate errors can be manufactured into hardware, which can then be tested on the dyno in an attempt to replicate a failure. This might be seen as an expensive means of testing – but it’s cheaper than having a repeat issue at the circuit. Engines can be run with clearances altered to be either larger or smaller than the typical build standard tolerances – mimicking a scenario in which a surface has become worn, for example.

What about non-mechanical elements of the Power Unit?
Every element of the Power Unit can and will be analysed where necessary. An electrical component such as a PCB (Printed Circuit Board), for example, might be run in an oven at increasing temperatures to establish at what point its semiconductors stop working. This can then be tied in with knowledge about the temperature of that circuit board in the ERS module to establish whether overheating could be diagnosed as a cause of failure.

Who is generally involved in the diagnosis process?
In the first instance, an engineer with expertise in the system concerned will be assigned exclusively to investigating the issue through to its resolution. He or she will chair a meeting at least every 24hrs, calling in four to five people to help cogitate theories. These tend to be people that have a broad experience of the Power Unit, a good problem solving mindset and an ability for lateral thinking – working through theories step by step to ensure they are robust

Formula One: Mercedes seeking Noise Engineer

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With Formula One in its 3rd season of the hybrid power unit regulations, discussions around the sound of current technology remain. Whilst actions have been taken to improve the volume of power units in the 2016 regulations the pitch remains unchanged. It is felt by many that the ‘screaming’ element is what is missing from current power unit technology. This change in pitch is due to the lower revving nature of the hybrid turbo era when compared to the V8’s and V10’s of old.

Mercedes having developed the dominant power unit with performance exceeding that of previous technical regulations, are now committing resources to explore possible solutions in this area.

As mentioned in by David Croft in SKY SPORTS F1 (UK) FP2 coverage, Mercedes AMG High Performance Power Trains have posted a job opening for a Noise Engineer. The successful candidate will be mandated to:

” Apply  1D thermo-fluids simulation tools to the development of Formula 1 Power Unit noise and performance.  You will be responsible for providing the analysis support and creative input to the challenging task of improving the turbo hybrid V6 noise appeal without sacrificing power unit or vehicle performance”

It is encouraging to see teams and suppliers addressing frustrations from fans and followers of the sport directly rather than relying on developments in technical regulations.

To view, and maybe apply, for the vacancy yourself click here, and quote #JWGP in your application!

Formula One: Renault target huge PU upgrades in Canada

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Renault have confirmed that both the Renault Sport F1 Team and Red Bull Racing team will receive a substantial performance upgrade in their Power Units in time for the Canadian Grand Prix. Whilst timing of this upgrade has been known for some time, Sky Sports F1’s Ted Kravitz confirmed during Free Practice 2 coverage of the Bahrain Grand Prix that the upgrades will be focused on the introduction of a Homogeneous charge compression ignition system.

Homogeneous charge compression ignition (HCCI) formed the basis of the Mercedes Power Unit upgrade seen at the Italian Grand Prix in 2015. The impact of this system for Mercedes bought performance in line with V10 power units of old. HCCI s a form of internal combustion in which well-mixed fuel and oxidizer (typically air) are compressed to the point of auto-ignition. As in other forms of combustion, this exothermic reaction releases chemical energy into a sensible form that can be transformed in an engine into work and heat.

Such an upgrade with the Power Unit will likely also see fuel and lubricant supplier, Total,  introduce new fuel compounds, which could further improve the performance. Through 2015 Total were able to reduce the levels of oil and lubricants required for the Renault power unit by 50% delivering a substantial weight saving for teams.

For more information on HCCI check out the Wikipedia definition here

Formula One: Haas F1 Team yet to receive Ferrari Power Unit

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The Haas F1 Team will not take delivery of the 2016 Ferrari power unit until the 2nd week of February, the team have confirmed.

The team are on schedule in the build phase of preparations for the 2016 season with the chassis under construction in the Dallara facility in Varano de’ Melegari, Italy , then shipped to Banbury, UK, for final assembly and power unit installation ahead of the team launch and first pre-season test in Barcelona.

When discussing the 2016 Ferrari power unit Günther Steiner was reluctant to make any predictions around performance, commenting only that the same team who made significant leaps from the 2014 to 2015 power unit designed (estimated to be in the region of 100hp) are lead the 2016 development. The hope and expectation is that a similar gain will be found.

The Haas F1 team are not concerned over the delivery time line for the power unit, this was always the plan. That being said should there be any installation issues there will not be a great deal of time prior to the first test.

The focus of the 1st pre-season test for The Haas F1 Team more than any other team on the grid will be around bedding in systems and procedures, focusing on familiarisation for the team and drivers. The team will seek to focus on performance in the 2nd and final pre-season test.

Formula One: At Our Most Powerful?

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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.

Formula One: Power Unit Development Freedom

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The FIA World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) have reaffirmed commitments to the existing Formula One Power Unit regulations through a refresh in the development timeline manufacturers are required to work within.

Through the 2016 season existing manufactures will have the freedom to implement changes impacting up to 50% of the Power Unit solution.  A further 40% update will be available in 2017, 30% in 2018, and 24% in 2019. Whilst regulations were already in place around Power Unit developments from 2016-2019, changes announced during the WMSC meeting represent a significant increase in development freedom for engine manufacturers.  These changes should enable manufacturers such as Renault and Honda to address performance issues relative to Mercedes and Ferrari.

With current Power Unit technology exceeding performance figures from both the V8 and V10 era of the sport, this additional scope for development coupled with further technical regulations changes surrounding vehicle dynamics for 2017, the publically stated performance improvement targets of 4-5 seconds per lap appear to be well within the capabilities of teams.

Other than to stating Power Unit development as ‘in season’,at this time it has not been made clear how the manufacturer’s upgrades will be applied. However with the WMSC also approving Scuderia Ferrari’s request to supply an unnamed team (likely Scuderia Toro Rosso) with 2015 Power Unit configuration it can be expected ‘works’ and ‘customer’ teams will again run different iterations of Power Unit design through a season.

Any new manufacturers entering the sport through the 2016-2019 will have freedom to update up to 24% of the Power Unit design in year 1 and 50% in year 2 subsequent to their entry to the sport.

The final caveat to Power Unit upgrade regulations is that the WMSC have mandated FIA President, Jean Todt and the Representative of the Commercial Rights Holder, Bernie Ecclestone to make recommendations and decisions regarding a number of pressing issues in Formula One such as governance, Power Units and cost reduction. Mr Todt and Mr Ecclestone expressed their intention to establish conclusions on these matters by 31 January, 2016. These conclusions could shape the direction of future Power Unit Developments.