The 2022 Formula 1 season will see some significant technical regulation changes, with the most notable being a radical new car design meant to promote better racing. However, that’s not the only thing that’s different, as teams are required to run their cars on E10 fuel (10% ethanol).
According to Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains (Mercedes AMG HPP) managing director Hywel Thomas, this requirement has affected the performance of the power unit (PU) that will be used by the cars of the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team.
In a video posted by the racing team, Thomas explained that F1 cars have been using fuel with biocomponents throughout the hybrid era. From the 2014 to 2021 season, teams used fuels that had a 5.75% by volume of biocomponents, but for 2022, the percentage has been increased to 10% and the ethanol is the only component that can be used.
“The change to the bio-content being ethanol, what that means is: the engine is going to react slightly differently to the fuel. Some areas of the performance we are really happy with, and other areas… honestly, we are less happy,” Thomas said.
“What we have to do is change the fuel where we can and the change the hardware of the PU where we can in order to maximise the effect of the things we do like and minimise the effect of the things we don’t,” he added.
Thomas also noted that the Mercedes F1 team will work closely with Petronas to ensure optimum performance is extracted from the power unit and every drop of fuel developed. Petronas has been the Mercedes F1 team’s technical partner since 2014, supplying both fuel and lubricants.
“The change this year to go to the E10 [fuel] is probably the largest regulation change we have had since 2014. So, it was a sizeable undertaking to make sure that we really developed that fuel and… shouldn’t be underestimated how much work that took,” Thomas asserted.
“With 2022 being an all-new chassis, there are areas on the car which will be very sensitive to lap time and there are other areas on the car that are less sensitive. What we are trying to do on the PU is to make sure we stay as far away as we can from the sensitive areas to give as much flexibility as we can for the car designers, and to package parts of the PU into areas where there is less sensitivity,” he continued.
Teams will take part in the first pre-season testing near the end of this month in Spain, followed by another in Bahrain near mid-March before the first race of the season kicks off in Bahrain during the March 18-20 weekend. The testing sessions are crucial to determine how the cars will perform relative to the simulations and development work.
It’s important that teams get their power units sorted as 2022 will see development of power units in terms of performance be frozen be frozen from March 1, and from midway through 2022, the performance of electrical systems will also be frozen performance-wise. Only reliability upgrades are permitted, and this power unit development freeze will be in place until the next generation of power units make their way into cars from 2026 onwards.
The new power units will retain the same 1.6 litre turbocharged V6 specification but boast an increase electrical output of 350 kW (from 120 kW). The expensive MGU-H (motor generator unit, heat), which recover energy from heat, will be omitted entirely, and a cost cap will be implemented.
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