The lowdown on F1 Engine Rules


My knowledge of a car and especially an engine stretches as far as opening the bonnet, pointing at the big metal thing in front of me and then proceeding to make sounds much like the apes in a 2001: A Space Odyssey. I often stand around other men while they talk about cars, concentrating hard to act surprised and to jump back out of disbelief occasionally.

With F1 it’s no different. I have never fully grasped it and since they switched over to these new V6 power units in 2014 I really don’t. I did some research because I found myself left in the dark while the TV commentators were talking about the ERS and MGU-H and my usual aimless nodding of the head while saying “jislaaik” was getting me nowhere.

So, I’ve compiled some useful info about these complicated pieces of engineering so that when you’re surrounded by guys whose hands are covered in grease, almost looking like helpless penguins who got stuck in an oil spill, you can chip in and say something intelligible about these engines and then stand there and bask in your manliness right before you use your shirt to open your beer.

F1-Car-01 The lowdown on F1 Engine Rules

These engines are one of the most complex things you’ll ever come across. Honestly, I think that women are easier to understand. Since 2014 F1 cars have been powered by 1.6 litre turbocharged V6 engines which produce +/- 600 Brake Horsepower (BHP), with an additional 160 BHP coming from an advanced Energy Recovery System (ERS), which converts mechanical and heat energy into electrical energy. So their basically hybrids. They are limited to 15000 RPM, can only have one turbocharger and must be directly fuel injected.

The Power unit breaks down into these components: The Internal Combustion Engine (ICE), the Turbo Charger (TC), the Motor Generator Unit-Kinetic (MGU-K), the Motor Generator Unit-Heat (MGU-H) and the Energy Store (ES).

F1-Car-02 The lowdown on F1 Engine Rules

The ICE has always been the beating heart of a F1 car but now it’s just a part of the whole power unit.
The MGU-K harvests wasted energy normally lost under braking into electricity 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 returned to 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.

The MGU-H also controls the speed of the turbo, speeding it up (to prevent turbo lag) or slowing it down. Together, the MGU-K and the MGU-H make up the ERS. The ES is effectively a bank of batteries that hold all of the energy gathered by the ICE, TC, MGU-K and MGU-H.

F1-Car-03 The lowdown on F1 Engine Rules

The ERS makes these engines not only as powerful as the previous generation 2.4-litre V8’s of yesteryear but use approximately 35% less fuel. Each car is limited to 100kg – or about 130 litres – of fuel per race and engines must consume fuel at no more than 100 kg per hour. There are currently 4 engine manufacturers in F1. Namely Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault, and Honda.

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