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Thursday, December 2, 2010

2011 Hybrid Motorsport Regulations for Formula One and Le Mans

The 2011 FIA Formula 1 World Championship Sporting and Technical Regulations have yet to be published on the FIA’s website, but it appears they were effectively firmed up when teams’ technical directors met with FIA technical head Charlie Whiting in Sao Paulo during the Brazilian Grand Prix weekend.

In essence there are two fundamental regulatory changes over the 2010 technical regulations – three if the deletion of the moveable front wing is included. Those two are, of course, the switch from Bridgestone to Pirelli tyres, and the return of KERS, which, although never removed from the books, was by common agreement a no-show during in 2010.

The kinetic energy recovery concept, KERS, was originally pioneered in F1 by Adrian Newey while at McLaren. At the time, it was banned prior to its introduction by the FIA. The governing body then dusted off the concept ready for presentation as its own. It enjoyed a mercurial debut year in 2009 before the teams, acting under the FOTA umbrella, agreed to voluntarily suspend its use for 12 months on cost/operational grounds.

Since then the sport has adopted a refuelling ban, adding considerably to the length and width of cars in order to accommodate the additional 120 kilograms of fuel required to complete a full race distance. Quite how and where engineers will accommodate the KERS motor/generators and battery packs, the latter with cooling devices, remains a big question.

Although Frank Williams fears his cars will end up ‘the size of a London bus’, his partner and Williams co-founder Patrick Head believes otherwise.

“It might make the cars a fraction longer; they’re already quite long because of the displacement of fuel volume (six to eight litres) in fitting the batteries in,” believes Williams’s engineering director.

Head expects batteries to be accommodated in the sidepods, as was the norm in 2009, while the amount of cooling fluid (with a viscosity about 10% that of water according to a supplier) is ‘very small’. “You won’t have a visible influence on the external parts of the car,” believes Head, although he concedes cars will be “marginally longer”.

There had been initial suggestions that KERS output (currently 80bhp) or usage per lap (six seconds) would be upped/extended in order to encourage use of the device, but it seems one particular system – believed to be that of Mercedes – could not be significantly upgraded despite originally having been developed at great cost. So F1 is stuck with the original 2009 KERS formula, with the next big step expected in 2013.

When F1 last ran KERS however, the minimum weight remained as-is despite the 35 kilogram penalty the device brings to the overall package. This severely handicapped heavy drivers. Robert Kubica, in particular, was affected, while Mark Webber escaped simply due to Red Bull’s refusal to embrace the system. In 2011 though, weight will be increased by 10 kilograms, with approximately half of that being taken up by a doubling in wheel-tether strength and increased (front) underbody reinforcement to prevent injuries from chassis puncturing, as suffered by Timo Glock in Japan 2009 – and nearly Vitantonio Liuzzi in Brazil this year.

Still, five kilos makes a massive difference at this level, particularly as front:rear weight distribution has been fixed at 46.5:53.5 with a tolerance of plus or minus 0.5%. This had previously not been the case, with the weight problem being compounded by Bridgestone’s ‘weak’ front tyre of the time.

Le Mans

The ACO who control the Le Mans 24 hour wishes to give manufacturers the widest possible scope to use and develop such systems by putting a certain number of controls in place. Energy recovery systems will be allowed provided that they respect the following rules :

* Recovery and release systems of energy at each axle (front or rear) to be a free choice.
* Maximum quantity of energy released between two braking phases to be 500 kJ.
* Energy storage: by electrical or mechanical systems.
* Systems to be activated by the accelerator pedal only ('push to pass' buttons, e.g. KERS forbidden).
* Hybrid safety specifications to be drawn up by the ACO.
* Other means of energy recovery will be allowed: exhaust, engine heat, dampers, etc. provided that they respect the specifications drawn up by the ACO (safety considerations, banning of driver aids, evaluation of the increases provided by the systems, the reduction in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions).
* Energy recovery systems using brakes must not be active during braking for curves (driver aids banned).
* Fuel tank capacity reduction: 2 litres less for both petrol and diesel-engined cars.
* Pit lane test obligatory for the cars in the hybrid category according to Article 1 / Definitions, Section 1.12 of the ACO LM P1 & LM P2 technical regulations, which stipulate that a car in this category must be able to cover the distance of the pit lane (400 metres) at a speed of 60 km/h using only the power generated by its hybrid system.

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