The World Motor Sport Council voted on the engine regulations for 2014 on Thursday and the proposed changes have now been ratified and accepted. This means that the proposed rules are now accepted by everybody who has a choice about them and so are highly likely to go ahead. But what are the new changes all about?
The new engine configuration will be a 1.6 litre V6 using a single turbocharger and energy recovery systems. This layout is a compromise on the original suggestion of an inline 4 to help keep Formula 1 more appealing to sports car manufacturers (read Ferrari mostly!) It also allows the engine to be used as a stressed part of the chassis which helps the manufacturers to build a better car around it.
Direct fuel injection will be used at up to 500bar along with a fuel flow control system to help limit maximum power. The engine speed has been raised to 15000rpm, apparently to allow engineers more flexibility in power and energy management. Because the fuel flow has remained the same this should lead to even more efficient engines than the previous proposals.
There will also be two energy recovery systems. First, a beefed up KERS with twice the current energy storage. It has not been made clear exactly how this will affect its operation during a race yet. It could be the same time allowed to use it with double the power boost, double the time allowed at current power levels or some variation in between. Second will be an exhaust energy recovery system linked to the turbocharger. Turbos are normally run by exhaust gases anyway so exactly what this will turn out to be is still a little unclear.
One of the complaints about the new regulations is that the noise will not be the same. Formula 1 cars are incredibly noisy things and it is thought that this is one of the big selling points of the championship. Personally I'm not so sure. No doubt the noise is one of the things that you always remember about seeing a Formula 1 car in person, but its not as if there is suddenly a need to use silencers. It will sound different of course, but you can be sure that it will still be very loud indeed.
Formula 1 has used inline 4 cylinder engines in the original turbo era during the 1980's. Although there was a lot of talk about how fair the turbos were compared to normally aspirated engines, I don't seem to recall any talk at all about the noise.
The efficiency of the engines has been talked about a lot and this is something where I think the FIA are moving in the right direction. The rev limit on the engines has been raised, but in order to take advantage of those extra power cycles you need to fill the engine with fuel. The flow rate has not been raised so that means you absolutely must have a more efficient engine. The only ways around this simple equation is to use more of the wasted power and this is where the energy recovery comes into play. If we assume that the exhaust system will be used for more than just spinning the turbo, this is where the engineers get to start being clever and think up new ways to increase the amount of forward motion from a set amount of fuel. It seems that, as long as a little freedom is given in this area, we might actually see some interesting technology start to appear from F1 again.
I have seen it mentioned that Formula 1 would save more fuel by rearranging the logistics of the races than by reducing the fuel used in the race cars. In purely mathematical terms that is absolutely true, but it does miss the point a little. Fuel prices are not going to go down at any point and it makes no sense for F1 to continue along what is essentially a dead end in car development. The current engines are way beyond what can be responsibly put into a road car already. Changing the rules will bring them back into the area where they have some connection to the cars ordinary people use. A pretty tenuous connection yes, but it is there. Efficiency is the new feature that all cars must have, in much the same way as safety was before it. For Formula 1 to be lagging behind won't be good for its image, and for the manufacturers that image, and the sales it generates, is everything.