Formula One cars getting greener with engine downsizing and hybrid technology

FIAThe FIA (the Paris based Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile), the organization that’s behind Formula One racing, has approved preliminary specifications for the 2013 season. A major change is on the way, as engines will downsize and adopt turbocharging. Today’s F1 cars have 700+hp 2.4-liter V8, 2013’s cars will have 1.6-liter four-cylinders. Some people might look down of F1 cars with 4-cylinders, but it has happened before. Ferrari, BMW, BRM and Maserati have already successfully raced 4-cylinders in the past.

Besides this new engine size, the FIA will now allow high pressure gasoline injection, up to 500-bar (7350-psi). This will make race engines closer to street engines, as most manufacturers today are working with direct fuel injection. Ford’s latest 4-cylinder EcoBoost engine, by example, has an 80-bar (1176-psi) direct fuel injection system. Next, engine speed will be dramatically reduced, going down to a maximum of 12,000-rpm from today’s incredible 18,000-rpm screamers.

Much more needs to be clarified, like the number of turbochargers allowed. Or could that be superchargers? And what maximal boost pressure? But everybody’s getting the idea that the goal is to make F1 engines much closer to road car engines, very close to engines like, say, the Mini Cooper. And BMW (which owns the Mini brand) could develop a F1 race engine from this motor, just like they did 30 years ago with the M10 block from the 320i, which became the phenomenal engine that gave Nelson Piquet the world’s driver’s title in 1983.

These new engines will also be much more fuel efficient, and will come with all the latest energy management software available. More than that, energy recovery systems will be part of the game, more successfully we hope than last year, and they should also be made mandatory. The FIA will give all the details next year, saying the cars will have their fuel consumption reduced by 35%.