Should F1 be a fuel efficiency formula? (NO!)
As well as proposing a three year freeze on engine development from 2008 to 2010, FIA president Max Mosley has also touted the idea of scrapping current engine regulations in favour of a maximum amount of fuel per race from 2011 onwards. This "fuel efficiency" formula was proposed by the late Keith Duckworth. There are many reasons why this is a terrible idea but they fall into two main categories: The impact on racing and the cost of it all.
I really cannot think of anything more at odds with Mosley's own anti-innovation cruisade on costs than opening up the engine regulations like this. The engine format was fixed at V10 in 1996 (maybe 97?) in order to stop teams wasting money on engine research. The principle is that if, as an example, Ferrari made a 3L V12 and it turned out to be more powerful than what could be achieved with a V10 then everyone would have to go and make a V12. If you could make any engine you liked the possibilities are endless from rotary engines (unlikely if we're trying to save fuel) to compression ignition engines (if diesel fuel were allowed), all the way to photo-detonation engines. That last one only exists as an experiment at the moment, but if works out (and with F1 money behind it, there's more than a little chance), it would have greater efficiency than a diesel engine, running on gasoline. If Max thinks F1 engine programmes are expensive now, the possibility of exploring 4 or 5 different types of engine would blow things away. Of course teams can only spend the money they have, but that earlier principle remains - if one team develops a photo-detonation engine, everyone's got to have one or it would be too big an advantage to give away.
At the moment fuel efficiency is an issue in F1, but not a huge one. If your engine is less fuel efficient you spend more time stationary during re-fueling and you carry more weight around, especially at the start of a stint, but you might overcome that disadvantage by going faster. In fuel-efficiency racing, if you are less efficient you are dead, you lose - going faster won't help because drag increases with speed which just makes your problem worse.
The impact of a fuel efficiency formula on racing is the main concern. You create a situation where it's actually in the driver's interests to go slower rather than faster as long as no-one else is building a lead. We all know cars have lower gas-mileage figures when they are driven faster. You lose in two ways: Drag squares with velocity and the faster you accelerate to on a straight, the more energy is wasted when you brake. I'd really need to write some sort of simulaton to say for sure, but it seems to me you'd have a strategy that's much more like long-distance running than the majority of motor-sports we have now. There would be some pace that the engineers have calculated would leave a decent margin of fuel left for the last few laps.. the cars would pootle round occasionally changing order, slip-streaming as much as possible. Then someone would make a break in the last 10 laps and it would be an all-out sprint finish using the uncurtailed power of their free engine design.
Another idea would be to send out one car at a faster pace, knowing that they'll run out of fuel, in the hope that competitors will make a break with them and then slow down when they realise they can't finish the race at that pace. OK, it's unlikely, but there are probably many different strategies the teams could come up with. The only certainty is that we wouldn't see traditional motor-racing before the last few laps, because there isn't the incentive for the drivers to use the full power available to them.
There are also safety concerns. If your sole control on the performance of the engine was the fuel supply you could have hugely powerful engines, way beyond what is allowed now, as long as there was a way to run them efficiently when the power wasn't required (via cylinder deactivation for example). That has severe safety implications. Sense dictates there would already need to be some additional measure such as an air intake restrictor or a limited fuel flow-rate as well to limit top-end power, especially as the cars will likely run less downforce than now in order to save fuel early on in the race. As a means of limiting engines for safety reasons, limiting total fuel supply is a bust.
I have mixed feelings on it. I think it could be made to work if the limit is right. And the geek in me would love it. But the realist in me says the FIA would make a mess of it and use it as a stick to beat the teams.
(Oh and the V10 was specified in the rules around 2001 – when Toyota were testing a V12. The reasoning was exactly as you suggested though. The other teams all been running V10s since 1996, with the exceptions of Minardi and Tyrrell who ran V8s until the end of 1997.)
Don Speekingleesh (URL) - 23 02 06 - 16:30
May I suggest a Perpetual Motion Machine? http://tinyurl.com/g9fqu)
Hey call me crazy, but you have to admit, no more so than Bernie and Mad Max with their wacky ideas of the past few years.
Marc () (URL) - 23 02 06 - 17:55
Some, but not all, of the objections to a fuel efficiency formula disappear if it is regulated by a fuel flow meter, rather than a simple tank capacity limit. Drivers can’t back off to save fuel because the actual limit is on the amount of fuel that can be put into the cylinders at any given point in time.
Fuel capacity limits, on the other hand, can ruin racing. Takes me back to Group C days, when guys would drive Porsche 962s at about 50% because the fuel allowance wouldn’t enable them to go any quicker. And the Toyotas always ran dry about 10 laps from home…
Patrick () (URL) - 24 02 06 - 10:38
I disagree. If u keeps limit on fuel capacity alone u´ll end up with tons of creativity. Winning still means crossing the finish line first no matter what. Low drag downforce was banned in the 80s. It’ll come back and be developed further. If slip streaming would be an advantage to competitors. Teams would work towards eliminating that advantage.
We´d have lots more variety in cars and strategies, lots more overtaking, small teams with big ideas can have a chance at winning, It´d be tons more entertaining both on site and on TV.
Yeez - 07 12 08 - 05:49