2014 will see the biggest change in engine regulations since the inception of the sport in 1950. Gone are the traditional V8s, in come the hugely complex hybrid powertrains. The KERS system used in previous seasons has also changed, becoming a far more important tool during qualifying and the race. But what makes these new powertrains work?

ICE (Internal Combustion Engine)
Engineers – they love an acronym, even the new V6 engine has to have one. The major changes are the obvious loss of two cylinders from the V8 and a drop in capacity to 1.6 litres from 2.4. Not that you should be fooled into thinking “but my road car is a 1.6!” – these are producing around 600bhp without any energy recovery systems, which are now completely integrated with the engine. When the outgoing V8s were first designed it was never envisioned that energy recovery systems would be required as part of the design, so the KERS units were more a tacked-on element. The rev limit has also changed from 18,000 to 15,000rpm, but the new engines generate more torque lower down the range, meaning wheelspin and hopefully spectacular moments of car control.

The Renault V6 powertrain. Moody lighting included. Photo Credit: Renault Sport F1
The Renault V6 powertrain. Moody lighting included. Photo Credit: Renault Sport F1

Turbo Charger
Going back to the future, with the return of a turbo charger. Last used in F1 in 1988 these new turbo chargers are used to provide additional power to offset the reduction in engine capacity from 2.4 litres to 1.6 litres. Connected between the engine and singular exhaust, the basic turbo charger works much like a road car version. A turbine is spun up by the exhaust gases and is used to force extra air and fuel into the engine, producing more power. The key difference here is the turbo is controlled by the MGU-H generator and can spin up to a spectacular 125,000rpm. Such are the forces involved if this were to fail, the FIA has stated this must be contained within itself – meaning protective covers or a heavily shielded turbo housing is in use.

Hi Dad! Turbo Chargers new and old. Photo Credit: Renault Sport F1
“Hi Dad!” Turbo chargers old and new. Photo Credit: Renault Sport F1

MGU-K (Motor Generator Unit – Kinetic)
KERS hasn’t disappeared from Formula 1 for 2014, merely taken on a slightly different form in two separate components, starting with the MGU-K. This is connected to the crankshaft of the V6 engine and has a few different roles. The generator works in conjunction with the rear brakes to slow the car down. This allows the generator to then capture kinetic energy from the brakes and turn it into electricity, and in return gives an additional 160bhp under acceleration for around 33 seconds per lap – twice the power and ten times the performance of the old KERS unit. If a KERS unit failed last season, drivers could just about live with it – in 2014 that will no longer be a luxury.

MGU-H (Motor Generator Unit – Heat)
This generator is connected to the turbo charger and harnesses the heat of exhaust gases passing through, converting the heat into electricity which is either housed in the energy store (ES) for later use or used to assist the MGU-K. This generator is also used to control the speed of the turbo charger by preventing  things like turbo lag.

ES (Energy Store)
The energy store is really just a fancy name for the batteries that are used to store electricity from the two MGUs to be used as required. Before, the batteries were discharged for extra power by the drivers pressing the KERS button on the steering wheel. In 2014 this is now completely automated by the ICE, MGUs and control electronics. The energy store also has to be located on the floor of the car in front of the engine and under the fuel tank. Previously, teams were free to locate this where they wanted to help with weight distribution.

All the components laid out. Photo Credit: Renault Sport F1
All the components laid out. Photo Credit: Renault Sport F1

Every component, including the control electronics unit, can be replaced independently of each other should one fail, but the teams can only use 5 of any given component over the course of the season. A sixth component would result in a grid-penalty.

All this technology has to then be applied to the new fuel limits: 100kg of fuel per race without refuelling (down around 35%) and a maximum fuel flow limit of 100kg per hour. This means that if the driver demanded maximum power and, therefore, maximum fuel rate he would not see the flag. This is where the electrical energy systems come in – the teams are going to have to use the electric motors to offset the amount of fuel used by the traditional engine. That and a driver with a frugal right foot and a clever strategist on the pitwall.