23 Feb 2014

Another turbo era

With the 2014 F1 season commencing with the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne in a few weeks a new era of 1.6 litre V6 turbocharged cars starts.These cars will be very different to the previous turbo era cars where the engines were absolute screamers with some producing amazing amounts of power for just two laps in "grenade" qualifying tune.It is said that the works BMW 1.5 litre engines used by the Brabham team produced over 1500 bhp in qualifying tune.That's 1000 bhp per litre.Oh happy days.

The rules for the 1.5 litre turbo era were pretty simple and  aside from the capacity the engines were "free".You could have a turbo engine upto 1500cc -any number of cylinders or a naturally aspirated engine upto 3 litres with any number of cylinders.
The new era's rules are incredibly complex but the engines have to be V6 1.6 litre turbos.The cars are restricted to just 100kgs of fuel per race which means that some races will be driven more like economy runs but the drivers will be used to that after the degrading short life tyre nonsense which went on for much of last season.The cars will be fitted with a energy recycling system (ERS) which stores energy and uses it to power an electric motor.It is the next stage on from the kinetic energy recycing system (KERS) systems used in the last few years.

For an explanation of the complexities of ERS I have had to go to the official F1 website. KERS worked by harnessing waste energy created under braking and transforming it into electrical energy, providing an additional 60kW (approximately 80bhp) of power for up to 6.67 seconds per lap.

The Energy Recovery Systems (ERS) which form an integral part of an F1 car’s power unit from 2014 take the concept of KERS to another level, combining twice the power with a performance effect around ten times greater.

ERS comprise two energy recovery systems (Motor Generator Unit - Kinetic [MGU-K] and Motor Generator Unit - Heat [MGU-H]), plus an Energy Store (ES) and control electronics.

The motor generator units convert mechanical and heat energy to electrical energy and vice versa. MGU-K works like an uprated version of KERS, converting kinetic energy generated under braking into electricity (rather than it escaping as heat). It also acts as a motor under acceleration, returning up to 120kW (approximately 160bhp) power to the drivetrain from the Energy Store.

MGU-H is an energy recovery system connected to the turbocharger of the engine and converts heat energy from exhaust gases into electrical energy. The energy can then be used to power the MGU-K (and thus the drivetrain) or be retained in the ES for subsequent use. Unlike the MGU-K which is limited to recovering 2MJ of energy per lap, the MGU-H is unlimited. MGU-H also controls the speed of the turbo, speeding it up (to prevent turbo lag) or slowing it down in place of a more traditional wastegate.

 As this is all new technology there has been a frantic rush to develop the new power trains for the start of the season and there seems to be a view that some teams including some of the teams at the pointy end of the field may be far from ready when the season starts in March.

By coincidence the last grand prix of the previous turbo era - for the 1.5 litre cars- was also the Australian Grand Prix which was held in Adelaide in November 1987.The winner was Gerhard Berger in a Ferrari seen in the photo above on the front row  and next to him is Alain Prost in the McLaren-TAG (a V6 turbo Porsche engine).

It was very hot - heatwave conditions and you can see how parched the Adelaide Hills are in the background- and I was there in the main straight grandstand-not the best place to watch a grand prix but at least I was in the shade-and took this photo of the start on my Leica M4P with a 28mm lens on Konica colour film.I can't really remember why I was using Konica colour film except that I have a vague memory that it was being heavily discounted and I bought a brick of it.It has not discoloured as badly as many of my colour negs but that may be down to the processing rather than the film itself.
The Leica M4P was a beautiful piece of gear but today's photographers bought up on a diet of automatic everything and menus to cover every eventuality-98% of which are never used-would be in disbelief that the camera was focussed manually and did not even have a built in exposure meter.It was an accessory which coupled to the shutter speed dial and you had to read the meter and then transfer the readings to the camera.

The atmosphere in Adelaide for those Grand Prix was special particularly when the weather was so hot and the whole city and state got behind the race.Something which has not happened in Melbourne.South Australians were very disappointed when they lost the race-down to the usual Bernie skullduggery- but Melbourne offered more money and everyone knows that one thing you must never do is get between Bernie Ecclestone- F1 supremo- and a big bag of money.Indeed you must never get between Bernie and any sized bag of money.

The noise from those turbo engines was wonderful-particularly when they were massed for the start.Oh happy days.Noise is a key part of the motor racing spectacle for me and I suspect most spectators.That's why I am so cynical about the new Formula E electric car formula which launches in 2015 and which is being promoted as the future of motor sport. Whoosh-hardly stirs the soul does it?
Formula 1 is not yet for all electric cars and hopefully the new F1 engines do make a decent level of noise so all is not lost- yet.

See earlier post from the same race on Adelaide GP 1987

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