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Future vision: Engineers discuss 2014 changes 15 Aug 2013

Renault's Energy F1-2014 engine Upright detail.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Practice, Barcelona, Spain, Friday, 10 May 2013 KERS signage.
Formula One World Championship, Rd7, Canadian Grand Prix, Preparations, Montreal, Canada, Wednesday, 5 June 2013 Williams fuel drums.
Formula One World Championship, Rd7, Canadian Grand Prix, Preparations, Montreal, Canada, Wednesday, 5 June 2013 Caterham CT03 rear floor and exhaust exit.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, Hungarian Grand Prix, Practice, Hungaroring, Hungary. Friday, 26 July 2013 Mark Smith (GBR) Caterham Technical Director.
Formula One Testing, Day 4, Barcelona, Spain, Friday, 24 February 2012 (L to R): Riad Asmat (MAL) Caterham Chief Executive Officer, Mark Smith (GBR) Caterham Technical Director and Tony Fernandes (MAL) Caterham Team Principal.
Formula One World Championship, Rd14, Singapore Grand Prix, Practice, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Si Caterham CT03 front wing detail,
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Preparations, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, 13 March 2013 James Key (GBR) Scuderia Toro Rosso Technical Director.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, Hungarian Grand Prix, Preparations, Hungaroring, Hungary. Thursday, 25 July 2013 Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR8 rear detail.
Formula One Testing, Day 2, Barcelona, Spain, Friday, 1 March 2013 Mark Smith (GBR) Caterham.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, German Grand Prix, Practice, Hockenheim, Germany, Friday, 20 July 2012 Charles Pic (FRA) Caterham CT02 rear detail.
Formula One Testing, Day 4, Jerez, Spain, Friday, 8 February 2013 James Key (GBR) Scuderia Toro Rosso Technical Director.
Formula One Testing, Day 1, Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, 28 February 2013 Scuderia Toro Rosso STR8 front wing detail.
Formula One Testing, Day 2, Barcelona, Spain, Friday, 1 March 2013

The 2014 season will bring with it some of the biggest changes to Formula One racing’s technical regulations for quite some time. Not only is the sport adopting new 1.6-litre turbocharged V6 engines, there are also tweaks to the rules concerning aerodynamics and a far greater emphasis on energy recovery systems. We spoke to two technical directors - Toro Rosso’s James Key and Caterham’s Mark Smith - about the new regulations and what effect they’ll have on the design of next year’s cars, but first, here is a summary of the main changes:

Engine - it’s out with 2.4-litre normally-aspirated V8 engines and in with 1.6-litre V6 turbo engines, revving to a maximum of 15,000rpm. The current engines produce more than 750bhp, whilst the 2014 units will produce around 600bhp with additional power coming from Energy Recovery Systems (see below).

Gearbox - gearboxes are to have eight forward ratios - rather than the current seven - which each team must nominate ahead of the season.

Energy Recovery Systems (ERS) - in 2014, a larger proportion of each car’s power will come from ERS which, together with the engine, make up the powertrain or power unit. As well as generating energy under braking, ERS units will also generate power using waste heat from the engine’s turbocharger. Unlike the current KERS - which give drivers an extra 80bhp for six seconds per lap - the 2014 ERS will give drivers around 160bhp for 33 seconds per lap. To compensate for the extra power being generated under braking by ERS, teams will be allowed to use an electronic rear brake control system.

Fuel - to promote fuel efficiency, fuel will be limited to 100kg per race. At the moment fuel is unlimited, but teams typically use around 160kg per race.

Minimum weight - to compensate for the increased weight of the 2014 powertrain, minimum weight has been increased from the current 642kg to 690kg.

Exhaust - unlike today where two exhaust tailpipes are used, the 2014 regulations mandate the use of a single tailpipe which must be angled upwards to prevent the exhaust flow being used for aerodynamic effect. Additionally, bodywork is not allowed to be placed behind the tailpipe.

Nose height - for safety reasons the height of noses will be reduced in 2014. The maximum height is currently 550mm, whereas next year it’s 185mm.

Front wing - front wings will be a little narrower next year with the width reduced from 1800mm to 1650mm.

Rear wing - the rear wing will also look a little different in 2014 compared to this year’s models. The lower beam wing is being outlawed and the main flap will be slightly shallower in profile.

2014 Q&A - Caterham's Mark Smith and Toro Rosso's James Key

Q: Is the philosophy of the 2014 car as radically different from the 2013 car as it sounds?
Mark Smith:
Yes, I think it is. Fundamentally, the power unit is significantly different; it’s not as if we’ve gone from a 3.0-litre V8 to a 3.2-litre V8 - it’s a significantly different lump of architecture in terms of the physical size of the internal combustion engine and it also has a relatively big turbocharger assembly associated with it. The exhaust configuration - as a result of the turbo installation - is also a big departure from what we currently have. The way in which the turbo installation impacts upon the transmission is significant. We’ve had many changes of engine configurations since the previous turbo era (which ended at the end of 1988), but this is one that impacts in so many ways.

At Caterham we buy our gearboxes from Red Bull, but it impacts upon their design and that in turn impacts on installation of clutch assemblies and suspension. It’s quite far reaching.

But bigger than all of that is the cooling challenge. That’s probably the thing that, I imagine, has most people up and down the pit lane scratching their heads. It’s reasonably easy to come up with a solution that will cool, but to come up with a solution that will cool and give you the optimum aerodynamic performance is the challenge.

The charged air cooler, for cooling the air from the turbo before it goes into the engine, will, on all of the installations, be quite significant. Physically, the size of the thing will dictate the packaging of everybody’s cooling systems. That’s the biggest single thing, I think, that’s presented itself as a challenge in terms of the overall car architecture.

Q: James, do you agree with Mark’s suggestion that cooling is going to be a very important area?
James Key:
Oh yes, the cooling requirements are completely different. You’ve got a turbocharger with a charge cooler on it, you’ve got a much larger energy recovery system (ERS) which naturally pumps out more heat, and you’ve still got your gearbox, hydraulics, oil and water to cool, so you’ve got a completely different situation to what we’re used to. You want to package that in the tidiest way you can. There are new technologies involved in all of this - it’s not stuff you can carry over.

There are other challenges too: the weight limit is higher than now, but it’s tight. It sounds a bit trivial but it’s not at all; it’s a big challenge - there is a lot of stuff on the car.

I think the installation of the power unit and the rest of the bits that go with it provide another challenge. You’ve also got to select eight gear ratios that will do the job at all of the circuits - that’s pretty tricky when you’ve got a different power unit and different aerodynamics. How do you predict that accurately? You’ve got to go through and make sure that you understand if there are any sensitivities that you need to look out for.

The final big challenge is getting the car to work as one coherent unit - not as separate systems. What’s been most noticeable to me is that the interdependency between the different parts of the car is far greater on the 2014 car than today. The way you lay something out, or the way you install something, or the way something operates has a bigger knock-on effect on other areas than is the case now. Take for example the engine installation: there’s an aerodynamic implication, there’s a gearbox design implication, there’s a chassis implication - everything is much more interrelated than we’re used to.

Q: So does that mean the cars could look quite different to the way they do now?
It’s all relative. Will they look significantly different to people who don’t follow the subtleties of the sport? Perhaps not. But it’s honestly difficult to know. I think we’re trying to resist having to make significant changes that will affect the external appearance of the car because of what we’re trying to do aerodynamically, but we’re fighting a little bit of a losing battle.

I wouldn’t’ be surprised if we did end up with a few solutions that are a bit different because the challenge of just packaging the size of cooling systems that are on the car is quite extreme.

Q: Okay, so given a ‘clean sheet of paper’, do you think we’ll see more variation in car designs?
I think there are probably two parts to that. Yes, the current cars do look quite similar to each other, but the performance range across the grid is still quite big, so there are significant differences in the way the cars are working.

There’s a lot of increased complexity under the skin of cars nowadays - more subtle things that aren’t’ so obvious when you look at them - that can make a difference. I think that will continue.

It’s a tighter set of regulations, but I think that drives innovation. Look at the amount of innovation that’s occurred since the last set of significant aerodynamic changes in 2009 - we’ve seen F-ducts, double diffusers, blown diffusers, and all that stuff has happened since then because you are restricted from taking the normal steps that you would take.

When we started in 2009 - which is a good analogy for 2014 - generally, most of the teams had similar looking cars and the grid was closer than expected. That’s where the innovation had to come in to break away from that. I suspect it will be the same in 2014.

Whether that happens straight away or whether it develops I don’t know, but I think there will be some clever ideas and interpretations.

Q: At the moment, F1 racing is a very aero-driven formula. Do you think it will shift slightly so there’s more variety?
I certainly think it’ll be more of an engine formula than it has been. I think there’s more diversity for the engine manufacturers to produce performance. Because of the ERS and the way you can recover energy, a lot of different solutions are going to be looked at and there is lots of optimisation to be done. So it will be more of an engine formula, but I still think there will be a very heavy aerodynamic effect on relative performance.

MS: My own view has been that for a number of years, the pecking order is determined by the tyres, then aero, then drivers, then engines. I think that what we’re going to see is that the easiest way to bolt on or take off performance is the tyre manufacturer making a change to the tyres.

The biggest thing that the chassis guys have got within their control is still the aerodynamics, but there is a greater role to be played by the power unit now, for sure. It’s going to be a massively interesting challenge in terms of ‘we’ve got this chunk of energy - how can we use that over a certain period of time in an optimum fashion?’

Every time we have discussions with the engine people to look at next year’s power units, it’s almost a computer software game: how do you best use the combination of the two ERS with the energy storage and the internal combustion engine? How do you put all of that together in an optimum fashion with a limited amount of fuel to get your optimum performance? The opportunity to get that wrong and make a mistake is potentially quite high.

I think that certainly for the early part of the 2014 season that will be very interesting to watch. Therefore, it’s my feeling that the role that the power unit will play will be more interesting.

Q: So can you explain how and when you get started on a project like this?
I originally started looking at it with my old team (Sauber) when the regulations were developing - so that would have been at the end of 2011. Really I think that’s the period where you need to start thinking about the implications of such a massive change, particularly how your basic understanding of the car changes.

When I arrived at STR (Scuderia Toro Rosso, in September 2012) not so much had been done. Obviously there was the engine question as well, so it was a case of starting as soon as possible.

MS: For us, it was around March last year that we first started to have someone look at an overall layout of the car.

With such a sweeping regulation change, the first thing is to assign a small project team to thoroughly analyse the regulations as they exist at the time; understand the implications of those regulations in aerodynamic, mechanical and vehicle dynamic respects as best possible; then start to put down some basic lines in the sand in terms of wheelbase, engine length, gearbox length, fuel cell requirement etc.

Then we’re able to start fleshing out that basic backbone of the car with the narrower front wing concept, the shallower window for the rear wing and the way things like turning vanes might be implicated by the new regulations.

You start to look at the impact of that in CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics). Obviously then people start preparing the basics for the wind tunnel model.

JK: For a team the size of ours, you need to try and very carefully split your resource.

Clearly with the 2013 car arriving and hitting the track in February, there’s a huge amount of resource tied up in that. We had to split off areas of various departments to begin to work in parallel in certain aspects of the car, again to re-establish that understanding of the philosophy you need to pursue.

In one case we had to look at engine installation and what the implications of that were. On the aero side - which is the other big part of this regulation change - we had to get that underway and start looking at a) what the effects are and b) how we’re going to approach it. What sort of clever ideas and loopholes there might be - they are the bread and butter of getting performance on the car.

Q: Will the switching of resources from 2013 to 2014 happen earlier this year?
Yes it will. It’s a difficult balance. You want to leave it as late as possible because the flyaway Grands Prix at the end of the year represent a third of the season and they’re all as important as the first races.

So it’s a difficult split - you need to have a strategy that allows you to support the 2013 car, but you need to prioritise under the circumstances we’re in now, and you need to focus on the stuff which is going to give you the best return to make sure you maximise what you’re doing.

There are certain areas of the 2013 car that you’d love to look at but you can’t, and there are certain areas that won’t be touched now because we have to move on. If you can prioritise and say ‘we’ve got 10 things to look at, let’s look at these five’, that kind of alleviates some of the pressure of trying to work full on with the current car to the detriment of the future car.

Q: Finally, as technically-minded people, is a step-change in regulations daunting or is it something you embrace?
There’s always concern there because your performance is relative. You think you’ve done a great job and then someone pops up with something…

You’ve got no benchmark - if you’re going from one year to the next with stable regulations, you know what you’ve got to achieve to affect a step forward.

Here there’s no benchmark at all. You’re kind of thinking ‘we’re going to set some ambitious targets, let’s hope they’re high enough, but not so high that they’re impossible to achieve and people get demoralised.’

So there is a concern there that you might have missed something, but I think that’s far smaller than the enjoyment of the technical challenge and thinking what you can, as a team, put into a new car in terms of new ideas.

MS: I find it exciting. When the regulations remain fairly static there are two ways of looking at it. As a relatively young team, we’re kind of starting to find things out and our rate of development has been quite good. So there’s a little bit of frustration that the regulations are now changing just as we’re kind of finding our feet.

But on the other hand, from a technical challenge perspective, it’s very interesting. So much of it is different that you are having to think from scratch, and in many areas, from a blank piece of paper.

So purely from an engineering perspective it’s quite exciting. I think it’s going to be a more balanced formula, rather than just being dominated by aerodynamics. That’s been the criticism for a while.

In terms of the input that the engine manufacturers put into the sport, they now have more than a stake. Whether it changes my pecking order - if my pecking order is right - or whether it just changes the emphasis, I don’t know.

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