F1’s new engines: 1-litre turbos?

FIA Trailer, 2006The FIA and the car manufacturers have finally found common ground on the future of the F1 rules.

Along with which comes some important and surprising decisions on the future direction of F1 engine technology – which could see a dramatic reduction in engine sizes.

In a question and answer session with Professor Bunkhard Goeschel of BMW, FIA President Max Mosley explained how the total power available to teams over forthcoming seasons would be boosted by the legalisation of energy recovery technologies.

From 2009 teams will be able to use energy recovered from braking to generate power. The following season the recovery and re-use of excess heat from engines will also be used to create power. These are both examples of environmentally-aware technologies that have obvious real-world applications.

Mosley also explained that this would allow for a reduction in engine sizes which would come with a move to more efficient, smaller engines, equipped with turbo chargers. These are beginning to make inroads into consumer motoring, such as Volkswagen’s 1.4 litre turbocharged and supercharged engine in the Golf GT TSI.

Nigel Mansell, Williams-Honda, Silverstone, 1987But just how small will these engines be? Two decades ago the leading teams in F1 were running 1.5-litre turbocharged engines that, in qualifying trim, could produce in excess of 1,000 horsepower. Current V8 engines have over 700 horsepower.

The hypothetical new engine for Formula One would not even need as much as 700 horsepower as these new energy recovery technologies would provide some power.

So just how small will the engine of tomorrow be? Conceivably it could be as little as one-third of today’s 2.4-litre V8s.

BMW Hydrogen 7Looking at the bigger picture, can the FIA really give F1 real-world relevance and make it ethically defensible through regulation of ‘green’ and ‘realistic’ technology? And where do alternative energy solutions just as BMW’s own hydrogen-powered 7 Series fit in?

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