When Grand Prix racing started cars were built as a complete unit, chassis, engine, gearbox etc. with the expectation that this unit would see out its racing life together. This approach persisted post war and in the early years of the Formula 1 World Championship. Yes engines were rebuilt during the season (changing bearings and pistons as required, but this certainly wasn’t done every race. This is why cars of the period when sold now will attract more money if the engine and chassis numbers ‘match’ i.e. they were originally paired during the car’s racing life. It also explains how for some particularly collectable cars there are occasionally more cars in existence now than were ever built by the factory (an original engine is housed in a replacement chassis during restoration as the original chassis is considered too damaged, followed by some enterprising soul restoring the chassis and putting in a replacement engine).
As the engine formula changed, the engines became more developed and needed rebuilding more often. By the late 1960’s / early 1970’s the Cosworth DFV was being rebuilt for every race. However in researching this article it became apparent that engine numbers recorded at the time may not have been wholly representative of the units actually being used. Teams may have bought ten engines from Cosworth, but had applied for the necessary customs paperwork for only four, so suitable ‘engine numbers’ on aluminium plates were stamped out and glued onto the engine block to match the customs carnet.
Once the turbo engines came in in the late 1970’s development really took off, and this is where qualifying engines come into their own. With added boost and capable of lasting only a few laps, teams were changing engines before each session. Once established this practice continued even after the turbos had been banned. In the 1990’s it wasn’t uncommon for a team to use eight engines in a single GP weekend, and as a cost saving measure longer life components were required. In 2005 each engine had to last for two complete GP weekends, and the life of the engines was gradually increased, so that last season each driver had eight engines to last the entire season.
For 2014 each driver will only have five power units to last the 19 races of the season. While the power unit is divided into several components:
Internal Combustion Engine;
Motor Generator Unit – Kinetic;
Motor Generator Unit – Heat.
These components can be mixed and matched within the total of five complete Powere Uniits available to each driver, the implication is that each of the items must be capable of lasting for a fifth of the total mileage of the season. Article 5.3 of the sporting regulations states:
‘The distance of all races, from the start signal referred to in Article 38.9 to the chequered flag, shall be equal to the least number of complete laps which exceed a distance of 305 km (Monaco 260km’)
the total distance travelled over a race weekend is much further taking into account the free practice sessions and qualifying. The maximum number of laps travelled by a single driver in each race weekend, and the total travelled by the winning driver are shown in the following table:
max distance km
winners distance km
So if we assume that the drivers will complete a similar distance this season as last season, each power unit will need to last somewhere between 14,052/5 and 15,378/5 km, that is between 2,810 and 3,075 km.
So far, in winter testing teams have completed the following distance:
|Team||Engine||Jerez km||Bahrain km||total km|
So only Mercedes has come close to the distance each power unit needs to cover (and then only if they haven’t had to change any of the components). The Ferrari team should be able to complete the necessary distance during the remaining four days at Bahrain, but any of the Renault teams may struggle, with only Caterham looking anywhere near capable of putting in the necessary laps to give confidence that the Power Unit may last the distance. The Homologation deadline for these Power Units is Friday this week, so there isn’t really time to confirm if any changes made before then have actually increased the reliability enough. We could see a lot of penalties for Power Unit changes come the end of this season.