The new F1 racing year

This year’s season-opener has the added excitement of being the first race for the brand new 1.6-litre power units.

It’s sure to be an unpredictable weekend at Albert Park and one wonders how many cars will make the finish line on Sunday evening; when Melbourne first hosted the Australian Grand Prix in 1996, only 11 cars reached the chequered flag.

Irrespective of what happens on the track, the F1 circus loves racing in Australia. The laid back vibe, the passionate and knowledgeable fans and the chance of some sunshine after the European winter all add to its appeal. As for Melbourne: what a city!

Williams last won this race in 1996 and the team hopes to kick off its new partnership with Mercedes-Benz HPP with another strong result. Says Rod Nelson, Williams’ Chief Test and Support Engineer:

“It’s a street track so we expect a large increase in grip through the weekend as the Pirelli rubber goes down, and as we often see at other temporary tracks it’s also quite bumpy.

“There’s a high probability of a safety car in the race – usually it’s about a 50 per cent chance around here.

“The weather can also be quite changeable as it’s the end of the Australian summer, and with the circuit being less than 1 km from the sea this can have a large effect. The race also starts late in the afternoon so visibility can become an issue for the drivers as the sun goes down.”

It’s been a very busy winter for Sahara Force India. Adds Team Principal, Dr Vijay Mallya:

“It’s been a massive challenge, especially for a smaller team like ours. That was why we put so many plans in place early last year to be ready for what has become a very different Formula One. All the hard work has paid off, but it has been a very steep learning curve and a huge undertaking to get where we are today.

“It’s the first time for many years that Formula One has been properly aligned with the automotive industry. The prospect of Formula One driving forward technical advances for road cars is a very exciting one.”

According to Renault Sport F1’s track support leader, Cedrik Staudohar, the main challenges of Albert Park will be focused on the power units:

“The high number of low speed turns will put the focus on low speed driveability through correct turbo response. Heavy braking will also need effective engine braking from the ICE to support the new brake-by-wire system. Short bursts of acceleration between the turns compound the challenge, while massively increasing fuel consumption.

“Heavy braking will also give an opportunity for the MGU-K to recover energy, particularly in turns three and four and the last complex through turns 14, 15 and 16 coming back onto the straight.

“Recovering as much energy as possible here is crucial to minimising lap time. Short straights don’t give huge chances for the MGU-H to recover from the exhaust, but there are several of them so it should be sufficient to keep the battery charged.

“It’s one of the tougher races. Fuel consumption is the second highest of the year, and the mechanical challenges add to the difficulty – Melbourne is in the upper half of the table.”

(The Energy Recovery Systems (ERS) which form an integral part of an F1 car’s power unit from 2014 take the concept of KERS to another level, combining twice the power with a performance effect around 10 times greater.

ERS comprise two energy recovery systems (Motor Generator Unit – Kinetic (MGU-K) and Motor Generator Unit – Heat (MGU-H]), plus an Energy Store (ES) and control electronics.)

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