Going into the 2014 season, Formula One faced one of the biggest rule changes for years – moving from 2.4 litre V8 to considerably smaller 1.6 litre V6 hybrid engines. The previous four years had been dominated by one team, Red Bull, but that was soon to change. From pre-season testing, it became obvious that the Mercedes power unit was the strongest, with Renault struggling with reliability problems. Mercedes dominance in 2014 meant they took all but 3 of the victories and won the championship with three races to go. So, why was their car so much better?
The new engines:
Since 2006, Formula One cars had been powered by 2.4 litre V8 engines, but in 2014 that all changed. Switching to smaller, turbocharged V6s – the engines became more fuel efficient. Featuring 2 energy recovery systems – the MGU-H and MGU-K, the new rules were designed to promote efficiency in engine design. The MGU-K works in a similar to KERS had in previous years, recovering kinetic energy under braking. The MGU-H recovers the wasted energy from the turbos and stores it in the battery. Read more about the hybrid engine here.
What did Mercedes do differently?
In 2014, it was predicted that Mercedes had an advantage of around 50 BHP over their rivals. So how did they achieve this? The main reason for this is the layout of the engine components. They were the only manufacturer to put the turbine and compressor for the turbo at opposite ends of the engine. The other manufacturers placed both of these components at the rear of the engine. As these components generate a lot of heat, cooling is very important. As the compressor is at the front, it is further from the turbine in the Mercedes engine – meaning it remains cooler. This results in less pipework being needed for the cooling system.
What are the benefits of this layout?
Firstly, because the intercoolers are smaller on the Mercedes, the sidepods can be smaller. Also, as the air has to travel less distance, there is less turbo lag. This means that less energy needs to be generated by the ERS units and therefore improves efficiency – less fuel is used and more power is saved for acceleration. In addition to these benefits the rear of the engine is cooler, allowing the gearbox to be closer to the engine. This brings the centre of mass further forward, improving overall handling.