First Spielberg, then Monza. For the second time this season, on the Sunday of the Italian GP, the CEOs of the car companies interested in the new generation of power units, which will be used starting from the 2025 season (but more likely in the 2026 one given the slow progress made in taking clear decisions), met to discuss the future engines.
Not only Ferrari (Elkann as representative), Mercedes, Renault, Red Bull Technology and Volkswagen took part in this meeting but also Honda, despite the fact that they will leave Formula 1 at the end of this season.
Not an afterthought, but the desire to stay up to date on the ‘motorsport’ future of the top sports series and then decide in the coming months about a possible resounding return. However, it would not be the first time if we consider the return of 2000 and then again in 2015 (until today).
The meeting did not go into too much detail, as reported by formu1a.uno. For those details there are specially more technical working groups that, based on what was decided in the meetings between the protagonists, elaborate them and transform them into drafts, then actual regulations.
In the first months of this 2021 an agreement was quickly reached on the macro typology and on the primary objectives that will have to guarantee the new power units. For the FIA and F1, technical innovation should no longer be so relevant. From next season the two main objectives will be sustainability and cost reduction.
As for the first, fuel will be increasingly eco-sustainable, with zero CO2 emissions. Fully synthetic fuel or second generation biofuels made from organic waste.
The FIA has already wanted the teams to test some ‘prototype’ samples during the first part of this 2021 with the first barrels delivered to the engineers last December. For now, more for teaching than anything else. But the direction which F1 will take will be that.
E-Fuels will be able to guarantee an important contribution in the energy transition towards a sustainable future and towards the decarbonisation of fuels. But not only that: they could be one of the big businesses for the oil giants in extending the life of the internal combustion engine.
As for the layout, Formula 1 will not become a double of Formula E, at least not with the next generation of engines; there will be no radical changes as, instead, will happen in aerodynamics starting from next season.
The focus will again be on hybrid units, consisting of an internal combustion engine coupled to an electrical part that will become more important in terms of power than the current 120 kW.
From the last meeting, the desire emerged not to completely overturn the endothermic part, which could also remain the current one, namely a six-cylinder 1.6L displacement. There seems to be no convergence on the Volkswagen group’s proposal, also present at Sunday’s meeting, to completely ‘erase’ the past, switching to a 4-cylinder.
An agreement was also reached on the need to build power units at half the cost of the current ones. For this reason, F1 will focus on the standardization of many components of the internal combustion engine which will take on less importance than the current one with respect to the electrical part.
To encourage Volkswagen’s entry, there is still discussion about the elimination of the expensive MGU-H motor generator as its development costs as much as that of the combustion engine (ICE).
But not only that: in the middle there is also its combination with the endothermic and the turbocharger; in most cases, when the ‘thermal’ part of the unit is modified, the turbocharger and MGU-H must be suitably updated.
For a new manufacturer like the German giant, reaching the level of the current engineers would mean spending around one billion dollars. A madness.
The abandonment of the MGU-H would also go hand in hand with the will of the FIA and Liberty Media to no longer put technical innovation in F1 at the forefront. Its introduction in 2014 significantly raised the level of sophistication of the current drive units, Honda knows something about it, while until the previous year designing an engine was much more affordable for other manufacturers.
For the elimination of the MGU-H, an agreement in principle has already been found, albeit bound to the fate of Volkswagen and its possible long-term commitment to F1.
However, an engineer has rightly pointed out that without the MGU-H, the units will become much less efficient in addition to the fact that that motor generator is an average source of 70-75% of the energy recovered in a race lap.
The MGU-H should thus be replaced by an energy recovery on the front, even if not acting as an engine, to avoid switching to an all-wheel drive that the teams, but not even Liberty Media, do not look favorably on for one reason: mainly weight.
Considering that the power of the MGU-K will rise from the current 120 kW, at least double this value, it will be necessary to recover more energy than the current units, for the same time of use.
For this reason, the possibility of keeping the MGU-H in one version has not yet definitively faded, although it is today the least probable solution if the German giant were to confirm entry into F1 (otherwise, it would instead take more altitude) standard and not developable by the engineers themselves.
Sure, there are still many details to be discussed in the coming weeks but overall, fortunately, we are getting positive signs that the discussions are heading in the right direction.