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Mario Illien on the F1 engine 2021: 'Only possible with a sponsor'

Mario Illien on the F1 engine 2021
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B ei the three exploratory talks between FIA, Formula 1 management and engine manufacturers were joined by Mario Illien. He missed the decisive one on October 31. The 68-year-old Swiss drove a classic car rally in South Africa. In the meantime he has studied the concept of the world association and the rights holder.

In principle, he finds the path taken right. But he would like to know more in detail. Above all about the flow rate, the use of pressure sensors in the cylinders and the freedom of the turbocharger. This could hide cost drivers that are more difficult for private providers to swallow than for a car company. But more on that later.

In order to better classify the dimensions, you first have to understand the basis on which the former chief designer of Mercedes Formula 1 engines now builds racing engines. There are currently 87 employees at Ilmor. For comparison: Mercedes and Ferrari each employ 500 people and more in their engine departments. A small but subtle difference that depicts the madness of Formula 1 in 2017 very well.

Ilmor and his lean team developed the current IndyCar engine. It is a 2.2 liter V6 biturbo that delivers 720 hp at 0.5 bar. This engine has to last 4,000 kilometers. The Formula 1 engines are operated with a boost pressure of up to 4.5 bar and, together with electrical power, have a system output of over 950 hp. Their lifespan is 5,000 kilometers.

The development of the IndyCar engine from the blank sheet to the use in racing cars cost Ilmor around 7.5 million euros. An additional 4 million euros are added each year for further development, construction and use of the engines. Each team has to pay Ilmor 950,000 euros per car.

In Formula 1, engine service per team will be reduced to 12 million euros next year. But there are only three drive units per car. According to Renault, the development costs for the technology miracle amounted to a good 100 million euros. The French fear a similar investment if they had to build the engine, which was presented at the end of October, in 2021.

Standard turbocharger costs $ 3,000

Mario Illien estimates the effort if certain requirements are met Parameters to “15 to 20 million euros”. The Churman explains the difference to the figures given by the manufacturers with derision:“Everything is expensive with them. They can't even turn on the light without spending 1,000 euros. ”This is not only due to the high number of employees, but also to the tools. “Such a dynamic test stand with a car and transmission on it costs something between 20 and 25 million euros. We don't have anything like that. '

lllien judges the presented concept quite critically:' In principle it is the right way. The technology must become simpler and cheaper. But even this formula cannot be represented by a private manufacturer without outside help. I couldn't develop a business model from it like in the IndyCar series, because I would probably only have one or two customers, but they won't refinance the start-up costs and the deployment. In the USA I equip half the field - and Chevrolet is also giving money. So I can survive. ”Conclusion of the horsepower magician:“ Without a sponsor I couldn't build such an engine for Formula 1. ”

The development of the IndyCar engine cost around 7.5 million euros.

On the surface, the future Formula 1 engine is not that different from Ilmor's IndyCar units. You could say an IndyCar engine with only one instead of two turbochargers and KERS on top of that. Then why would it be more than twice as expensive for Ilmor? Illien explains: “There are several cost drivers hidden there. If you build your own turbocharger, it gets expensive. We buy them in the IndyCar series from the unit manufacturer Borg Warner for $ 3,000. KERS also devours money. If you commission something like this from a large manufacturer, you are paying a fortune. If I build the electrical machines myself, I have to hire people. And find the right one for it. ”

“ A very important point is what the FIA ​​is planning with the flow rate. If they only go up with the flow rate or only with the speed, one will continue to try to achieve the best efficiency at a low speed. The manufacturers who are already there naturally have a huge advantage, even if the fuel quantity and flow rate shift upwards. The knowledge about the high combustion pressures and temperatures is still there, and I asNewcomers would have to put a lot of effort into the same notch as they would in order to burn as efficiently as possible. ”

Pressure sensors in the cylinders are a cost trap

So how should this topic be? Fuel consumption and flow need to be regulated in order to take the pressure off costs? “Now a maximum of 100 kilograms per hour can be injected at 10,500 rpm. Behind it the power curve runs flat. In fact, you lose power because you produce more internal friction with more speed. So it doesn't make any sense to turn higher than the point at which you achieve optimum efficiency. '

' That wouldn't change much if you increased the flow rate to 120 kilograms per hour pushing up or just increasing the speed. The best efficiency would still be well below 15,000 rpm. You would still be forced to run insane combustion pressures to be efficient. It would therefore be better if the flow rate is dynamic and not horizontal from a certain speed. It must be worth turning higher. That is also better for the sound. ”

The pressure sensors that are installed in the cylinders to prevent knocking damage are also a cost trap. Their use is not limited by the regulations. One knock and the sensor is broken. A sensor costs 2,800 euros. The manufacturers spend millions on this alone. Illien suggests knock sensors that are attached to the outside of the block. What would be the difference? “They're cheaper, don't break down as often and force you to design your engine on the safer side. If you want to help private manufacturers, you have to forbid the pressure sensors in the cylinders. ”

MGU-H tests burn fuel for a GP season

The MGU-H is to be abolished a good thing according to Illien. “The development of the MGU-H costs as much as that of the combustion engine. An incredible amount of money is wasted there. Whenever you change the characteristics of the engine towards better combustion, you have to adapt the turbocharger and MGU-H. That means new turbine and compression blades for better recuperation. '

' This depends on a lot of coordination work and simulations that are carried out by the major manufacturers on specially developed test stands. The systems are fired by gas generators with combustion chambers, which generate exhaust gases and pressure for a closed system. The fuel that is burned in the process is enough for an entire Formula 1 season. ”Does this mean that the MGU-H is being phased out from a private provider? 'It would only work if you introduce standardized technology.'

In general, the current regulations with the restriction to 4, from 2018 to 3 motor units, according to Illien, are a pure money-burning machine. What you save on components is spent twice or three times through test bench runs. EachModifications to the engine must be tested over 5,000 kilometers on the test bench due to the long running times of the engines. That means almost 30 hours of test bench work per new development.

Since you can try out as much as you want in a quiet little room until you get it ready for racing, the development is in theory a billion dollar grave. One hour of the test stand costs 4,000 euros. With a simpler drive concept and cheaper components, the FIA ​​could give up the quantity restriction again. That would save money and abolish the unpopular motor penalties.

Illien sees many good approaches in the concept, but also weak points. If he were to get involved in such a project, he would have to add 15 to 20 employees to his team. And yet he couldn't take the risk single-handedly. Even if he were to supply two teams. 'If a customer doesn't pay his bill, I'm dead.'

There is one thing he agrees with the manufacturers. One of the ideas of the new owners was that all engine manufacturers present their NASCAR-style drive units to the public and the competition in a disassembled state every August. “Of course that doesn't work. It should still be competition. And you want to keep your secrets to yourself. ”


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