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The raft of regulation changes has provided us with new words for our Formula 1 lexicon such as MGU’s and ERS and McLaren’s new favorite, “driveability”.

We spoke about Jenson Button’s usage of that word in our latest podcast and today I saw it make a curtain call in Edd Straw’s piece at AUTOSPORT:

“It’s true that downforce on the car will bring pace, but driveability of the car and powertrain, and power unit management, is also going to give you pace, at least until everyone is up to speed,” said Boullier.

“The other parameter is the fuel situation where you have to adjust settings and driving style to make sure that you match numbers.

As I dug a little deeper—still not satisfied that we’d done the term credit in our interpretation of Button’s usage—I think it may be more pointed toward the changing elements of ERS, brake bias, MGU performance, torque control and power delivery coupled with aerodynamic downforce.

Perhaps the meaning could be more holistic than I was originally thinking. Drivers will not be adjusting the rate at which the ERS harvests energy—at least that’s my assumption—because it would have a serious impact on the braking of the car etc. Trying to change parameters of energy recovery would be a really tough thing to do at 180mph. Perhaps a mapping or automated program could handle that but I’m not even sure that would be legal per the regulations if memory serves correctly.

So what a driver is left with is a tricky combination of energy harvesting and deployment in the guise of pure torque that is applied with an equation that the teams will have to develop. When the throttle (or torque control) pedal is pressed, how much of that initial power will come from the engine and how much from the ERS?

The application of ERS power would have a different characteristic than the internal combustion engine (ICE) and the combination of the two will have a different feel than one or the other independently. So finding this balance and coupling that with aero efficiency in straights and both high as well as low-speed corners could be the overall conversation of driveability that they refer too. Then again, I may be way off the mark.

Regardless, the question still remains for the first flyaway races of the 2014 season, will ultimate pace win the day or will teams be more focused on power, fuel and ERS calibration as well as reliability? According to Edd’s story, ultimate pace is secondary to the notion of finishing races, being competitive and finding the driveability of the cars.

What are your thoughts about the quest for driveability in these new F1 cars given the rash of new regulations and the tech that goes into hustling the 2014 chassis around a track?

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An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry and as a CTO, he focuses on technology integration in commercial workspace design, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • jeff

    The rumors are trending this way, that good results will depend more on accessibility and reliability than package potential.

    An example is the rear brake-by-wire voodoo; as the fronts do more to brake a car, and the new system seems to have sufficient energy to stop the car, the potential to keep the braking zone as short as possible should be there. However, we’ve heard Sauber, for example, is having difficulties producing a setup that feels “right” to the drivers; Sutil and Gut both have attributed lock-ups and spins to the new system as it attempts determining how much braking is done by MGU or calipers. The performance is there, but it’s unpredictable for them.

    Or, supposed abrupt throttle tip-in on both the Ferrari and Renault PU’s is making Raikkonen and Vettel feather their throttles so the chassis settles; we’ve also heard how various hardware/software hybrid-to-engine interface issues are preventing Renault cars from running full power.

    I think ’14 will boil down to synergy between manufacturer’s engineers making potential performance more accessible to the drivers, Button’s “drivability,” and drivers’ increased understanding/compensation for these incredibly intricate systems. I asked in the Podcast post about driving past optimum shift points to allow extended MGU-H harvesting from the turbo; the technical mumbo jumbo is irrelevant, but I think the drivers will be experimenting along those lines, helping extract the most from the integrated ICU/ES/MGU-H & -K, ABCDEFGH… F1 does love it’s acronyms…

    As an aside, I think it’s paramount for this season the broadcasters are willing and capable of giving us presenters technically literate that can explain the technology in conversational, non-egghead ways. I’ve only watched local broadcasts a few times (love Slingbox from the UK), but the US coverage is abhorrent. I don’t blame the presenters, but NBC likening F1 to NASCAR; while excitement over a pitstop is great, there’s little discussion of how a car or race-strategy change, how driving style in wet vs dry, and so on, affect outcomes. For ’14, with the immensely complex PU’s, how will NBC explain to fans that, for example, a car might have one hybrid system fail, affecting performance, and that the other system will be harvesting more, affecting brake balance, etc…?

    In the 2011-’13 seasons, we were bombarded w/ the term “throttle-mapping” in double-diffusor, then blown diffusor definitions and their importance to car performance (Thanks Coulthard/Brundle et al). For those of us blissfully ignorant, it was explained that by manipulating engine parameters, namely engine efficiency and exhaust waste gas, in the ECU and independent of driver-input, performance gains could be had. BBC/SKY did it in a conversational manner, in 1 case using an oil/water in a glass example, associating hydrodynamics w/ aerodynamics and downforce principles. Simple, effective analogy.

    For ’14, if all broadcasters are unable to explain to us dummies during a race how these newfangled doohickeys (MGU’s & ES’s harvesting, storage, expenditure of electrical energy, e.g.), I fear fans both young and old will be lost.

  • AntioBob

    I appreciate your thoughts I was confused as well… especially after Kimi’s recent interview in AutoMotor & Ice when discussed drivability. Not sure of how well the mumbling was translated, but seemed he was suggesting this is all a matter of lumbar support and a cup holder.

    • LOL…now that makes a lot more sense to me. :)

    • F1derbar

      hahaha!