Now why do I say that… well because sometimes your enemy needs to be your closest friend in territories that need common endeavour…. for the ‘greater good’…. and where no one can prove different. Engine development often goes through periods of gradual consistent improvement…but here we have a situation where R&D uncovered a new direction. A significant breakthrough in controlling efficient combustion, preventing the ogres of detonation and pre-ignition in what is a lean-burn turbocharged application…a very, very different animal altogether and achieved by one manufacturer first, Merc. This is not simple stuff and requires design variation along with fuel and additive multiples that would boggle the mind. I am willing to bet that new measurement and Dyno techniques had to be developed to find and measure what these guys were looking for as well. Let’s just say that the resultant findings, however they then arrived for Ferrari, have put the two into an exclusive club….probably ready to unleash new developments based on the work being done…and now the FIA want to chuck all that good work out the window and go back to controlled engines. I can understand their collective frustration…but if new tech and resultant sophistication is resulting in continuous exclusivity for only those who can afford this level of research….is that going to help competitive racing on track? I don’t think so.
Where are Renault and Honda in all this? My Guess? They have not been part of the initial club and have done the majority of the hard yards themselves, although word has it that Honda have been given some help more recently, we shall see.
The Ominous part of this is that Merc have recently advised that their 2018 engine has been upgraded from the ground up in all areas of Combustion, Friction, Weight and in-situ reliability….and we think that the progress made by the others is going to be better than that this year…I doubt it. I have closely held belief that as a result of the history, Merc still have a full year’s development stretch on the next best in engine development department and are divulging this is stages. But not having any in-house detail, I cannot claim this to be fact …but just watch this space…
Where will this go? Well I believe a compromise is in order and I can only think that the two opposing views of what should be a 2021 engine must be a combination of the good work that has already been done by all…with the control envisaged by F1 being built into areas that will limit ridiculous R&D and take into account the freebie that has been handed to Merc. We can cover this in some more detail in future posts but for now there is one area that needs a drastic review…
As an enthusiast and a techie at the same time, I find it really demeaning that the F1 lobby at large has chosen to be so secretive about engine development and for that matter meaningful tech detail in general. I believe for the sport to be more interesting not only for us techies but to involve those non techies out there who are perfectly intelligent enough to understand logic and get more involved. Sure, I understand that tech detail and breakthrough findings such as those noted cannot be bandied about willy nilly, but in a “sport” such as this where the fundamental of the whole thing starts with the power output of the machines we follow…we don’t even know the basic data…this needs one of those expletives I used three years ago…. Never mind the easy stuff like bhp figures, does the average enthusiast out there know how much data is constantly being fed back to teams whilst cars are on track? I do not think so…. and if they did, I think they would be as concerned as I am that info is being corralled.
So, just how easy is it to make a short list of the key pieces of data that would be of most use, make those part of the non-negotiables in the contract with F1 teams, create apps for us at home to work with the stuff and bingo you have opened a new door in the interest level….. but you have also made the players acutely aware that their work is going to be more public…that raises their level of accountability to us the enthusiasts.
As an example, when the V6 turbo era started we had a fuel usage monitor broadcast during the race…that’s gone….probably because it embarrassed a few teams but the Aussie Supercar guys give running commentary on fuel fill as part of the unfolding strategy…it makes it interesting. That’s just one tiny example and I think the F1 folk should take a serious look at divulging good real time tech data.
Also F1, take 10 minutes to watch the ‘Hino Hub’ the Supercar lads do before a race and do so just to get an idea of how simple it is to make techie stuff digestible. Talking to ex racing drivers and the odd personalities on the pit apron as the f1 gang do, gets boring after the second race of the season.
This how we could start the tech commentary on the probable Merc/Ferrari stand off…….
“folks from what we now know on the mechanicals of these two teams Both Ferrari and Mercedes are within spitting distance of that magical 1000Bhp mark in combined mechanical and E power, Ferrari declaring 960 Bhp and Mercedes 980 . Now we know those are the max figures that these two can run at in qualifying trim and for the race strategy may decide to run just enough on the envelope to meet their race plan as it pans out…But here is the joker in the pack…the Merc IC engine is doing that at an efficiency some 4% better than Ferrari. That translates into either a reduced fuel fill for Merc….or the ability to run at banzai power for longer and stay within the fuel usage window…..let’s get commentary from Ferrari on how they plan to run the race and when they are going to get to that magic 50% efficiency number.”
C’mon guys that sounds more to the point than discussing track temperatures and tyre compounds….aside from the drivers….motor racing is primarily about the tech stuff is it not??
THE 2018 PREDICTIONS
So finally we get to 2018 and what’s happening this season. Firstly the Melbourne layout has not been an easy track for Merc and in a successive series of races the real threat from the silver cars has seldom come to the fore before Bahrain. So I will use the first race as a final test session before getting into predictions of any sort. That does not stop me from making comment. Merc have not shown their hand yet and Wolff has continued with the diversionary tactic of telling us how fast the rest are to avoid having to make too much comment on his own outfit…they will be up there and if not fastest, will be close. Ferrari look good mainly because between the drivers and varying conditions they have been consistent and reliable…as well as fast. The Red Bulls could be the cars to watch for Melbourne, they have done it before and Verstappen is a hungry man. The best to come?….Alonso… he has so much of a point to prove I’ll give him half a second a lap free, he is going to wring that McLaren’s neck and would not be surprised to see him as high as the second row. In all Honesty the scraps I want to see play out this year are firstly the McLaren Vs Red Bull fight simply because they are both running customer Renault engines and secondly, just how fast are the Torro Rossos with their Honda engines compared to McLaren last year? Biggest surprise in testing to me was the Haas, very quick on “slow” tyres. Can’t wait to get answers to all these.