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The Mercedes advantage has become quite the talk in recent days after the story was broke by…well, there are lots of people claiming they broke the news but Sky Sports F1 feels Mark Hughes broke the news and as a big fan of Mark’s, I am more than willing to think this fine gentleman of F1 journalistic circles may well have done so. Regardless, the news is out and Mercedes have pulled a “blown diffuser” innovation moment that may be impossible to catch up with. Sky Sports F1 explains:

[vsw id=”NuBB2F6IutQ” source=”youtube” width=”600″ height=”400″ autoplay=”no”]

So the turbo design—or location of the turbo and the design around it—has taken the Formula 1 world and shaken it up a bit. When I say a bit, qualifying in Bahrain had the Merc duo nearly a second quicker than Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo. In the race, they were lapping, at times, close to 2 or 3 seconds per lap faster than their rivals—admittedly there are a few complimentary factors that added to its turbo genius that made this possible.

While the turbo design is being hailed as one of those groundbreaking innovations—just as the dual diffuser was for Brawn GP—you have to wonder if this doesn’t spell domination for a few seasons to come. The teams do get to make performance upgrades at the end of this year but how much of the engine can Renault and Ferrari change? Could they, conceivably, offer a completely new design with this new turbo placement or a similar design?

I recall reading an article in which Adrian Newey suggested that the Renault engine was being difficult with their RB10 chassis but the way that Renault were using their engine was very innovative and if they could get the two to work together, it could be a real competitive package. I apologize for the lack of citation but I suspect it was on AUTOSPORT somewhere. One wonders if Renault has an ace up their sleeve as well but they have not been able to exploit it as of yet.

No doubt the folks at Ferrari and Renault are looking at this very closely and trying to decide how they can overcome this clear advantage that Mercedes has. Regardless, you have to take your hat off to Mercedes for their innovation in this area. As this is truly some of those unique F1-related innovations that could, and I say could, have a road car application. I say could because I’m not an engineer and I did not stay at a Holiday Inn last night…nor am I Mark Hughes.

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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.
  • Ferrari/Renault can absolutely copy this design for 2014. It will require a complete redesign, including the block, and must be in place by 2015, per the regulations I linked in your Raikkonen/Ferrari post. Needless to say, Ferrari/Renault have already investigated and are likely implementing it…

    Regarding road-car relevance, yes and no; manufacturers must look at platform-sharing to scale economics. The engines are usually modular in nature, able to be configured for various displacements/performance levels, oftentimes accommodating both forced induction and naturally aspirated, and offer different induction routes, in both longitudinal and transverse installations. In a few cases, the basic block must accommodate distinct fuel systems (Volvo w/ its new diesel and petrol modular engine family).

    Also, majority of road car turbo engines have the units and associated plumbing to the exhaust(s) exit sides of the block, or integrated into the exhaust run itself; a peripheral component to the engine, like an alternator or muffler. Here, the turbine is connected directly to the rear of the engine, where either a transmission or driveshaft normally is. As, there’s finite space in a road car engine bay, accommodating the added length (or width) will be an interesting challenge.

    The Mercedes design has the turbo unit integral to the engine block, like a cylinder head. The shaft connecting the exhaust-driven turbine and the air compressor runs through the block, affecting placement of all the internal gubbins (crankshaft/rods etc.)

    So the road car manufacturer looking to implement this will be forced into certain compromises. I believe it will trickle down, but at significant initial cost, and so expect it only in the “premium” sector, in high performance applications. I can’t wait, as the potential plumbing and throttle linearity benefits seem substantial.

    • I’ll take a look at the link because I can’t recall if they could offer a completely new design but I take your word for it. :)

      Good info on the road car capability. It supports my theory that outside of economics, the road car folks are doing some really great innovation of their own. :)

      • It’s amazing what cars today are like. Contrasting things I’ve owned/driven a decade ago compared to what’s currently on offer… it’s stunning the progress.

        A full sized SUV/baby-mobile carrier is faster in a straight line than my first car (a “5.0” Mustang in the early 90’s) I spent senseless $ modifying, and gets double the gas mileage. Oh, and it isn’t a tin can w/ horrible build quality…

      • Tom Firth

        I thought the engine Homologation for the season was locked other than for reasons of Safety, Reliability or Cost saving reasons without unanimous agreement from all the teams ?

        Did this change ?

        • It’s my understanding that they are locked except for reliability upgrades that have to be agreed upon by other teams and then at the end of the year, they are allowed to make performance upgrades.

          • Tom Firth

            Fair enough , Yeah I just saw Jeff’s link too , Thanks all.

        • I find the FIA “Power Unit Guide” helpful at looking how the teams/manufacturers can modify their units on a yearly basis. It’s p.15 under “Limitations of Development:

          http://www.fia.com/news/2014-f1-power-unit-guide

          Basically, various engine/power unit components, such as a turbocharger or [iston, are assigned a numerical value or “token,” the summed PU value being 66 . Prior to each new season within this Formula, the manufacturers nominate the components they want changed, whose summed numerical value must not exceed that year’s FIA-allocated tokens. For 2015, the token budget is 32, for 2015, only 15.

          So, the teams can change the PU’s next year, but not completely. Hypothetically, if a turbo was 20 tokens and an MGU-K was 13, one couldn’t upgrade both simultaneously, as the total value for those 2 would exceed 32.

          Also, as the manufacturers will be allowed fewer annual performance upgrades, we’ll eventually reach a spec PU, at which point (hopefully) the formula changes again.

          I’d be interested in seeing the values assigned each component; can’t find a document of yet.

      • Rapierman

        If that’s what they’re doing, then I imagine that there will come a day where the turbo and the engine are integrated into one single unit, and that’s HUGE on road-relevance.

        • I agree. Some are already dipping their toes in here, integrating the turbos directly into the exhaust manifolds rather than downstream, eliminating some piping and thus potential lag and heat.

          A problem stems from subcontractor supply; the manufacturers generally source off-the-shelf turbos from Garrett/Borg-Warner etc., and so “segregated, through the block” turbos obviously necessitate custom units appropriate for the specific engine. It’ll drive costs up both developmentally and through manufacture; hence why I think the premium marques will be the first to adopt it (at ridiculous costs initially).

          However, it’s too good an idea to discard, and with road car manufacturers verticalizing chassis and engine platforms, I’m sure this turbo, as well as electrical assist technologies will in fact make it into Honda Civics/F150’s/Vauxhall Astra’s down the road.

          Sorry all for bombarding recent chats; I find it fascinating.

      • 2015 is as early as possible.
        Just a note, though, the first spot of the split turbo design came from images on Twitter, subsequently analyzed by Craig Scarborough, a.k.a. @ScarbsF1
        He had this idea back in 2011.

        • nofahz

          Ditto

        • That early? I recall Scarbs mentioning it as a possibility before the pre-season tests, but sounds like he read the early 4-cylinder regs and pieced it together; I’m envious of his technical well-roundedness and detailed brilliance…

          Speaking of which, has anyone seen actual pictures of Mercedes’ intercooler setup? We’ve long heard rumors about an air-water setup, but I haven’t seen evidence, just conspicuously absent space in small-volume sidepods.

          If I remember correctly, some were mentioning it being buried somewhere behind/below the driver, near the ES, but I might be wrong about that. That dual-route intake manifold looks interesting, perhaps it’s compact enough to be integrated up there, but doubtful, and the COG penalty would be high.

          I’m curious what actual water composition Mercedes might be using to mitigate heat soak in the medium. Doubt they have a bunch of ice cubes in a freezer hidden somewhere… :D

          Seems like a pretty big weight penalty, comparing Mercedes packaging to, say, the Mclaren’s exchanger-filled sidepod, it obviously feels the packaging benefits worthwhile for uninhibited backend airflow.

          Anyone have a link to this or other information, please post: Scarbs is mostly on Twitter now (which I avoid), and F1 technical sites mix prodigious garbage-talk with the actual discussions.

  • This certainly is some ingenuity in engineering. However, it cannot explain the dominance on its own, because the Mercedes customer teams get the exact same engine and the Mercedes works team is still a second faster over a lap.

    • It certainly is a combination to be sure. Seeing Williams and FI up there is the Merc influence (one could argue) but seeing Merc way ahead is more than lump. I found Toto’s comment about sacrificing previous years performance to get this year’s correct very interesting indeed. Too bad the guy who started this isn’t here to see it…sorry Mr. Brawn. :(

      • jiji the cat

        i don’t think he’d mind too much. The “right” people know it was his influence that got this going.

    • The Works team did have several years to design around the PU, whilst the customers received specs when they signed their respective contracts (with the last year for Williams/FI? Mclaren?) That has to account for some of the performance, as well as the proprietary ECU tuning for the ERS to ICE integration.

      I agree, there must more. Interlinked suspension working better than others? Invisible tusks on engine cover? Ross Brawn’s ghost blowing through the diffusor? :D

  • NeilM

    Given the rotational speed of the turbine, over 100 thousand rpm, overcoming the engineering challenge of making the shaft that long, while minimizing inertia and controlling vibration, is no mean achievement.

    • I’d think inertia the bigger problem. Harmonics should be easily controlled w/ really well-done journal and thrust bearings, or more likely ball bearings, for the shaft. The much longer shaft (perhaps 18-20″?) will carry significant kinetic energy, but something really light and heat resistant and good over boost control from the waste gate and MGU-H should help matters.

      More road car obstacles; why Formula changes really are important, “it it ain’t broke” fans… :)

  • 10 bucks says Honda do this next year.
    5 bucks says if this proves to be a major innovation the FIA will ban split turbos for 2015.

    • jiji the cat

      i can see where your coming from as the FIA ban anything that gives an advantage, but if they want to stay true to their word that “F1 needs to be more road car relevant” then they can’t ban it.

      I hope when Honda come back that their engine will indeed rival Merc.

  • Thanks MIE; despite looking at that doc many times, still managed to miss the breakdown :)

    A potential problem for implementing this turbo setup is the “crankcase” freeze from this year on; if the first line item refers to the block as a whole, as it seems to do when referring to the bores, manufacturers can’t simply add deck height to incorporate the turbo shaft. It remains to be seen whether their respective current water jacket/oil lines/gubbins-layout allow for a big hole running through the top of the block. Leaving that much dead area in the center of the V seems pretty wasteful.

    It’s conceivable they build ICE’s with separate crankcases, but I wouldn’t think so.

  • Ground Effect

    So my brother and I have been kicking this around. Will someone try a second motor instead of the long drive shaft? MGU-H is hooked to the turbo and only generates electricity. Second motor hooked to the compressor and uses battery power to spin the compressor as needed to reduce lag. We believe the FIA probably has the turbo and MGU-H components locked down pretty tight but will someone try the split motor generator explanation?

    • If I’m understanding your proposal fully, MGU-H already performs the turbo spooling. The -H recovers wasted energy from the exhaust gases, converting it into electrical energy for distribution to either/both the ES and MGU-K, and regulates turbo spool down, as you mentioned. But, it also, via power from the ES, can act as a generator or motor that spools the turbo during initial acceleration, minimizing lag and potentially flattening torque curve dips/lumps.

      Think of the engine (ICE), the hybrid generators (-H and -K), and the battery (ES) as an interconnected system rather than a chain; all of them in one form or another can transfer/store/use energy from the other. Specifically w/ the MGU’s, both harvest energy and convert it either for immediate power or storage at a later date. The ES cycles and receives energy from both systems.

      As you can see, the tuning of the various components’ capabilities, and the smooth interaction of the system in its entirety, is a daunting thing, one in which there’s huge potential performance and pratfalls.

  • Ground Effect

    We were looking to remove the physical connection between the turbo and the compressor. Ideally the old MGU-H would be just a generator and optimized with the turbo to produce electricity most efficiently. The new second motor would be optimized with the compressor to produce ideal cylinder pressures most efficiently. As the driver pushes the torque pedal the control module decides the balance of ICE power and MGU-K power to drive the rear wheels then based on ICE power sets the fuel flow and cylinder pressure which sets the compressor speed. I think this single use of components leads to optimal design… much like a serial hybrid automobile drive train advantage where the ICE is optimized with the generator to produce electricity and the electric motor optimized to drive the wheels. I believe diesel electric locomotives have been designed this way for years.

    • I’m certainly no expert here, but I would think that the gain of such a solution would be minimal and could be mostly offset by clever software, while the penalty would be much bigger in form of the additional weight of another electric motor. On the scale of locomotives, that shouldn’t be a problem, but when you’re talking about a racing car, weight is everything. Think back at when KERS was first introduced and the best teams jettisoned the additional power from the electric motor and instead opted for a lighter car.

    • MIE

      Unfortunately I don’t think that such a system would be within the current regulations. The turbine and compressor must be linked by a common shaft, and the MGU-H also mechanically linked (although gearing is allowed).

    • As MIE mentioned, Tech Reg 5.1.6 mandates the turbine and compressor be linked on a common shaft.

      As a design exercise, I think I see your design intention. A Prius uses 2 generators, the larger of which acts more like a motor and also regens the battery under braking, the smaller solely as a generator. I think design philosophy is a major difference. Prius is designed w/ electric as the primary or constant-on motivation; as such, the battery needs to be kept at a constant-state charge, thus designers incorporated a 2nd, engine-powered generator soley for recharging the battery. The engine is primary a charging source for the 2nd generator, as well as supplemental power for the 1st generator/motor.

      As there’s no power expenditure or charging limitation save for technical prowess and cost, Prius can afford the size and weight to keep its battery full; I doubt an F1 car can. I’m no Prius expert, so feel free to correct me if wrong,

      I’m more interested in your turbocharger proposition. If the compressor (the “air sucking” intake side of the turbocharger) is disconnected from the turbine , the only way it can be driven is by the crank (i.e., a supercharger), or by an electrical source, obviating the turbine. Both options are inherently less efficient than exhaust driven, as you’re utilizing engine power (parasitic drag) or electrical energy rather than waste energy. The latter is particularly wasteful due to current power density tech and FIA’s limitation on storage/discharge.

      I think you’re fearing energy conversion losses in -H as it both harvests and powers-k/Recharges ES, and that by separating the functions into 2 units, you’ll increase efficiency, correct? I’m not well-versed w/ AC energy and componentry, but generally speaking, rotary electrical generators are very efficient; numbers bandied about by those analyzing these specific units are proposing 95% or thereabouts. More significant losses occur when adding additional wiring runs or units to the chain, which your proposal does here, or in energy conversion, which remains the same, just now from ES to generator.

      The ICE parameters you’ve mentioned have little relevance to MGU or generator operation; cylinder pressure (dynamic compression),and fuel flow (required fuel for optimum air/fuel combustion) dictate ICE power, the MGU’s roles are to add power or harvest wasted energy from that power. The -H, here, can use the wasted potential power, as it does w/ the exhaust-driven compressor/generator system in place, but, I don’t see how else the combustion cycle can influence it.

      Unlike Prius, the ’14 Engines are turbocharged, which means there’s significant compounded energy via the exhaust gases and sound waves coming out of the exhaust pipe. Why not harnest that waste gas to power a compressor, rather than some other means?

      Hope this helps, and if my conclusions misrepresent your proposal, I’d enjoy learning how it works.

  • Ominicorse posted an article highlighting Merc’s innovations, postulated by Giorgio Piola and confirmed by Paddy Lowe. Of particular interest is the intercooler setup and the continued highlighting of ERS to ICE integration by Merc.

    Poorly translated article: http://translate.googleusercontent.com/translate_c?depth=1&hl=en&ie=UTF8&prev=_t&rurl=translate.google.com&sl=auto&tl=en&u=http://www.omnicorse.it/magazine/36983/esclusivo-f1-gp-cina-segreto-mercedes-lo-scambiatore-di-calore-e-nel-telaio&usg=ALkJrhi7WUURIUtcrtEpKtEUzKYi-GnSxQ

    My Italian is shoddy, but the new info is how Merc’s integrated the charge cooler (intercooler) into the chassis rather than have the “radiator” in the side pods, taking up space. A rendering of its general location here:http://www.formula1.com/news/technical/2014/0/1179.html

    Like the split turbo setup, intercooler piping/location has a significant effect on ICE lag, charge temps, and overall power. Likely more important for an F1 car, packaging the intercooler this way frees up space in the side pod so it can be made smaller, allowing more non-turbulent air to the car’s butt, increasing downforce.

    Many have speculated about its location, as I did in an above post, but it’s nice seeing confirmation from those in the know. Merc truly integrated chassis, PU, and aero design teams.

    Other points in the article is the oft-mentioned split turbo, the compact-if power-restricting exhaust manifolds, and more pointedly the larger turbo and ERS energy exchange compared to competitors. Merc can get away w/ the larger compressor because of less lag inherent in shorter piping, meaning -H can spend more time spooling -K. -K running more off -H means less ES usage. In turn, the larger compressor means that -H can harvest more energy to send to -K or recharge ES, beginning the cycle again. More overall ERS energy means less fuel energy needed for a given lap. One advantage begats the other. Again, all postulated by us anoraks, but spinning in the internet means little until confirmed/disproved.

    Very cool stuff for the techno-interested.