Formula One - On And Off Track Week 31

Formula One - On And Off Track Week 31

: Berthold Bouman, F1 Correspondent

Story Highlights

  • Formula One in Electric Mode for 2014
  • All in the family - Nico and Keke Rosberg
  • Formula One title in the bag or not?

Formula One in Electric Mode for 2014

The FIA has recently published a summary of the 2014 regulations, and due to the thrilling 2011 season one would almost forget to check out what’s on the agenda for Formula One in 2014. With the new 1600cc V-6 engine, which should consume about 30 per cent less fuel than the ten cylinder engine, the FIA is also very keen to give the sport a greener image by doubling the energy that can be recovered with the KERS system, which will be called “Energy Recovery System” or ERS in 2014.

Get used to it: KERS will become ERS in 2014
Get used to it: KERS will become ERS in 2014

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The FIA has introduced new terms for the different parts of ERS. There is the Motor Generator Unit - Kinetic (MGUK), described as “the electrical machine mechanically linked to the drive train as part of the ERS”; and there is the Motor Generator Unit - Heat (MGUH), described as “the electrical machine linked to the exhaust turbine of a pressure charging system as part of the ERS.”

Currently KERS recovers and stores the energy generated under braking, in 2014 energy generated by the exhaust turbine, aka the turbo charger, may also be used to charge the ERS: “The MGUH may only recover energy from or give back energy to the car via its mechanical link to the exhaust turbine of a pressure charging system. This mechanical link must be of fixed speed ratio to the exhaust turbine and may be clutched.” Which means the MGUK is linked to the drive train, and the MGUH is connected to the exhaust turbine, other configurations are not allowed.

Also a new name for the storage unit, in 2014 called Energy Store (ES), described as “the part of ERS that stores energy, including its safety control electronics and a minimal housing.” This is in fact the battery pack and its electronics. The FIA has also introduced a number of regulations regarding ERS to insure it is used as it is intended, and there are limits to its maximal input and output levels.

As for the engine, only one turbo compressor is allowed, as the regulations state: “Pressure charging may only be effected by the use of a sole single stage compressor linked to a sole single stage exhaust turbine by a common shaft parallel to the engine crankshaft and within 25mm of the car center line. An electrical motor generator (MGUH) may be directly coupled to the same shaft.”

The new ERS will provide a 120kwh or 160bhp boost for about 8 seconds, twice as much as the current system. But that is not all, the FIA also wants teams to use ERS to power the car while in the pit lane, and Article 5.19 this is described as the ‘Electric Mode’. The article states: “Electric mode: The car must be run in electric mode (no ignition and no fuel supply to the engine) at all times when being driven in the pit lane.”

Which poses a problem, the engine has to be switched off completely, but more important, it has to be restarted again at the end of the pit lane, but the FIA has of course foreseen this in article 5.18: “Starting the engine: It must be possible for the driver to start the engine at any time when seated normally at the wheel and without any external assistance.” Sounds nice doesn’t it? But unfortunately it doesn’t give the answer as how this should be done, and what is allowed and what not.

The pit lane is already a crowded, busy and dangerous place
The pit lane is already a crowded, busy and dangerous place

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The simplest solution is the use of an electric starter like the one on normal road cars, but another idea would be to use the forward momentum of the car to push-start the engine when the car has gained enough speed to do so. The car is first propelled by the electric system, if it has enough speed the fuel engine is coupled to the power train again, et voila, the engine is ‘push-started’ without using extra energy, and without mechanics having to literally push the car. Some hybrid road cars use a similar system, and because Formula One is also looking for more affinity to road cars, this could be an excellent alternative for a start engine, and would also save weight.

Another problem is that in case of a malfunction, ERS could not have accumulated enough energy to power the car in the pit lane, let alone get out of it as well. Recharging ERS during the time a car is in the pit lane is strictly prohibited, and cars could be stranded once the fuel engine is shut down. It is also unknown whether engaging the Electric Mode is done manually by the driver, or will be controlled by the software of the ECU like is done with DRS, which means the FIA will change engine modes once a car enters the pit lane.

But back to the silent pit lane, where cars will no longer be audible, which is of special concern from a safety point of view for the pit crews working on the cars in the pit lane. Of course cars running in electric mode will make some noise, but one should not forget that at same time on the other side of the pit wall on the main straight, cars will be passing at full speed on the fuel engine, and although the revs have been restricted to a maximum of 15,000 rpm, will make it impossible to hear the faint sound of the electrically powered cars in the pit lane.

During the Friday press conference of the German Grand Prix, Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali and Lotus Renault technical director James Allison admitted discussions are still going on about the Electric Mode, and not all teams seem to be happy with the FIA plans. Domenicali, “There are different opinions on that. As you know, there are some manufacturers that are keen to go ahead with this project. Some others fear that, not from a technical point of view, just from a show point of view, it is something that we need to make sure that the sport is happy for.” And added, “There are different opinions on this subject because on one side there is the technical aspect and on the other side there is the sport and the passion.”

Domenicali is Italian, and Italians are very passionate when it comes to F1
Domenicali is Italian, and Italians are very passionate when it comes to F1

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The passion? “You may say that in the pit lane, with no noise, it would be difficult for the people to perceive the passion that Formula One is all about. On the other side, you may say that Formula One has to be the pinnacle of motor sport in terms of new developments and research and so this goes in the opposite direction. I think this is something that we will discuss,” Domenicali explained, hinting at the ongoing discussion about the ‘sound’ of Formula One.

More changes have been introduced, mostly concerning the new engine formula, also the position, length, materials and shape of exhausts is described, driver aids like computer controlled accelerators are still banned, as are exhaust blown diffusers. A number of changes have been made to the gearbox regulations, all cars must ‘be able to be driven in reverse by the driver at any time during the Event’, and only eight forward gear ratios are allowed, currently teams can select their own gear ratios for each event. Article 9.6.2: “Each competitor must nominate the forward gear ratios (calculated from engine crankshaft to drive shafts) to be employed within their gearbox. These nominations must be declared to the FIA technical delegate at or before the first Event of the Championship.” Only for 2014, teams a re-allowed to make one single change to the gear ratios.

That about sums up the most important changes for 2014, especially the new engine formula and the new ERS system will pose a lot of technical challenges for designers and engineers, but in a way that is what Formula One has always been about, changes and challenges are always good for a sport that has always been the pinnacle of motor sports.

All in the family - Nico and Keke Rosberg

Nico Rosberg will celebrate his 100th Grand Prix at the Hungaroring this weekend, but the 26-year old German doesn’t really care about figures too much, “It's a nice number but statistics aren't that important to me. I'm looking forward to the weekend in Budapest as I like the Hungaroring very much, Hungary will be my 100th Grand Prix which seems crazy when my father completed 114 races over his whole career.”

Nico Rosberg will celebrate his 100th GP in Hungary
Nico Rosberg will celebrate his 100th GP in Hungary

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At Motorsport we do care about statistics, therefore a short career summary. His first race was the 2006 Bahrain Grand Prix, and his last was the 2011 German Grand Prix. In-between he has scored five podium finishes, four of them being third place, and one second place and therefore his best result so far, during the Singapore Grand Prix in 2008 -- yes indeed the same Grand Prix that later became famous for the Renault crash-gate affair.

He retired from 18 of the 99 races he participated in, his worst season being his first season, when he retired from nine of the 18 races on the calendar. He started his career at Williams in 2006 where he stayed until the end of 2009, and scored four points in 2006, 20 in 2007, 17 in 2008 and 34.5 points in 2008. Now it gets a bit tricky, as the points system was changed in 2010, but nevertheless, he scored 142 points in 2010, and his efforts this year have so far resulted in 46 points, and he is currently seventh in the Drivers’ Championship, the same position he ended up in 2009 and 2010, which up to now has also been his best championship result. Thus during his 99 Grands Prix Rosberg scored a total of 263,5 championship points.

Although his father Keke is Finnish, Nico has the German nationality and has lived for the major part of his life in Monaco and Germany. He speaks fluently English, German, French, Spanish and Italian, but little or no Finnish, and has a German race license. He moved to the Mercedes GP team in 2010, where he has regularly outpaced his compatriot, seven-times champion Michael Schumacher, who made his return to Grand Prix racing in 2010.

Nico already made the comparison with his now 62-year old father Keijo Erik “Keke” Rosberg, winner of the 1982 Driver’s Championship. He started in 114 Grands Prix between 1978 and 1986, and made his Formula One debut in 1978 driving for the Theodore team, founded by Hong Kong millionaire Teddy Yip. His first year was a bit of a roller coaster, as he started at Theodore, then went to ATS, three races later went back to Theodore, and four races later finished the season for ATS, without scoring any points.

A completely different world: Keke Rosberg in his Williams in 1982
A completely different world: Keke Rosberg in his Williams in 1982

Photo by: Jean-Philippe Legrand

In 1979 he joined Walter Wolf’s Wolf Racing team, but only participated in eight races, and again scored not one single point. He spent the next two years with the Fittipaldi team, scored 6 points in 1980 and no points at all in 1981. But his luck changed when Sir Frank Williams signed him up for the 1982 season and Rosberg took the title that year, with only 44 points in 16 races, the lowest average number of points per race a Formula One champion ever scored, and only winning one race, the Swiss Grand Prix. Nevertheless a great result, as the Williams was certainly not the fastest car on the 1982 grid.

He stayed with Williams until the end of 1985, scored 27 points in 1983, 20,5 in 1984 and 40 in 1985. He joined McLaren in 1986, scored 22 points, which adds up to a total of 159,5 career championship points. Comparing Nico and his father Keke is tricky at best, Formula One racing in the 1980s was completely different, but Nico certainly inherited the determination and talent of his father. They both drove for the Williams team, albeit with different results.

His father was renown for his edge-of-the seat driving, like no other driver in Formula One, he knew how to sometimes literally smash his car through corners and chicanes, his driving style was simply spectacular to watch and has inspired many wannabe Formula One drivers. His son Nico seems to take it a bit more easy and is a bit more of a cleaner driver, but wouldn’t it be a great thought if he could finally score his maiden win during his 100th Grand Prix on Sunday?

Formula One Title in the bag or not?

Is the Formula One championship ‘in the bag or not’ is a question which keeps in- and outsiders busy the last two weeks, and it will be no surprise the opinions are divided. Sebastian Vettel is 77 points ahead of his nearest rival, his team colleague Mark Webber, and 82 points ahead of Lewis Hamilton, who is currently in 3rd position of the championship. With 10 of the 19 races now run, Vettel actually scored an average of 21.6 points per race, one of the highest averages ever. The changed point system, which now awards a winner with relatively more points than drivers who finish in second and third place, is the main reason for his advantage and many believe Vettel and Red Bull have already bagged both titles.

Third place man Hamilton is sure last weekend was a once-off for Vettel, “This was a small glitch over a long period. I have no doubts he will have some interesting comments made about him but he will be back, no doubt,” the Briton said. But he still thinks he has a chance, "The fight for the world championship will be very, very, very hard now. We’re back in the fight though, and I really hope we can carry this forward and keep the momentum going." Team principal Martin Whitmarsh was happy with the result, but said, “I don't think we can say that this victory shows we are on a roll.”

Fernando Alonso also still sees opportunities, but reckons it will be extremely difficult to beat Red Bull, “We need some help from Red Bull," said the Spaniard, hinting only mechanical failures or bad luck can stop the Austrian team. "If they keep finishing the races, even third or fourth, it's enough for them.” Like Whitmarsh, Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali is also much more realistic, “I don't forget that last year in Hungary we were one second off the pace of Red Bull.”

Championship in Red Bull’s bag or not?
Championship in Red Bull’s bag or not?

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Ex-Formula One driver John Watson also thinks Vettel now has time to relax as the gap to second and third is just too big to bridge, “The only thing that can have a bearing would be something that would stop Vettel from competing in the next three or four races and that's very unlikely.”

Niki Lauda is also adamant Vettel is going to win the next race in Hungary again, “If normal temperatures prevail, and if everything goes to plan, then yes -- he is the clear favourite.” And added, “He still has a big gap in the standings, he need not worry.”

Webber however, has warned his team the result of the German Grand Prix is a wake-up call. “It's been brewing for the last two races, we need to address it soon. The last two races we've been done and we've not had much to punch back with,” the Australian said.

Although Vettel’s performance during his home Grand Prix was in fact his worst season result, the 24-year old driver only lost three points to his nearest rival last weekend, and still has nothing to fear. The opinions are divided, but it must be said, Vettel really has to make a mess of the rest of the season before Webber, Hamilton or Alonso would even stand a chance to snatch the title from him.

Join us again next week for another episode of “Formula One: On and off track”

Formula One - On and Off Track week 30

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About this article
Series General , Formula 1
Drivers Michael Schumacher , Mark Webber , Fernando Alonso , Lewis Hamilton , Niki Lauda , John Watson , Keke Rosberg , Nico Rosberg , Frank Williams , Sebastian Vettel , Martin Whitmarsh
Teams Williams
Tags bouman, ers, fia, hungary, kers, red bull, rosberg, vettel