Still say F1 could have kept the V8

Once again, I find myself asking, “wouldn’t it have been a real road-relevant and challenging technical regulation back in 2013 to tell teams they would now take these homologated V8 engines and run them on much less fuel as a fuel flow rate restriction would be in place and they would also supplement with KERS?”.

I reckon one of the most immediate technology innovation blocks would have been to reduce, dramatically, the use of fossil fuel through better engine design and components and while Formula E and other road car industry engineers beaver away on better electric systems, F1 would be making an immediate impact for internal combustion engine (ICE) technology that would be immediately available to road car hybrid models as well as turbo and normally aspirated engines.

I said this back then and many considered me not very forward-thinking or Neanderthal in my denial that pure electric cars are the future. Fair enough, we’ll see if that happens but producing good, relatively affordable privateer-inclusive racing is Formula 1’s DNA and I reckoned they could still be entertainment and sport while doing something with immediate effect for road cars if that was the carrot to entice manufacturers.

Reading the wonderful Mark Hughes over at Motor Sport Magazine (get well very soon Nigel Roebuck), I was once again reminded that I may not be the oafish idiot many consider me to be:

the big efficiency gains are clearly being made in combustion, given that the conversion efficiency of the recovered energy through the ERS-h and ERS-k has increased only from 85% up to 95% in those two years, according to Mercedes.

In large part, the improved combustion has been coming from advances in the science of fuel chemistry, even within the EU road car fuel octane limit that is defined in the F1 regs. Slowing down and better controlling the spread of the combustion flame and delaying the onset of detonation (or knock) has brought big gains.

Now, the article is about the ignition technology that Ferrari are using and it’s a great read so go over and take a look here. I just happened to stop on the fact of much of the power unit’s gains are though the ICE portion and not the ERS or KERS and if I read another story about how the V8’s had reached the limit of their innovation and development, I may experience heartburn.

It’s true, they had reached their limits, as I have said many times before, and the series wasn’t moving forward with those engines due to the homologation and frozen nature of the regulations. That’s completely different than saying there were no more innovative developments in engine design, ignition, fuel technology etc. Clearly there are.

The technology that Mark reveals is a huge step by Mahle in making internal combustion engines achieve performance and efficiencies that only diesel could achieve before. Getting more out of the most common type of road car power unit in the world is a noble charter by anyone’s measure and while the world may want an autonomous driving electric car to go from 5th avenue to the lower east side of Manhattan, the rest of world have things to haul, roads to travel, fields to harvest and thousands of miles to go.

All those years ago, Steve Matchett and I had one of our podcast chats and he said back then, and I agreed, that starving the V8’s would be a real idea and we would see incredible engineering that would be amazingly salient to road cars with immediate effect. We have these hybrid power units in F1 and yet the biggest gains are being made from the ICE, not the electric. To me, that’s very telling indeed.

Hat Tip: Motor Sport Magazine