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Performance in F1 cars

  1. May 12, 2004 #1
    I am new to this site and i have a question that has been making me thinking for ages, what factors other than different grades of fuel and oil in F1 engines increase the power, because i have found that say Honda or BAR are down on BMW and Ferrari in terms of power by up to 100HP.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 12, 2004 #2
    F1 Engines

    Hi Max:

    It's pretty difficult to learn much of the latest technical info about those engines.

    The greatest power increases, in recent years, is that they're all using some type of desmodromic valve arrangement. Generally, I think, six valves per cylinder, 10 cylinders, no turbochargers. Valves are closed with a combination of springs, air and oil pressure, allowing rev limits of over 19,000 rpm. Cam timing can be changed by software and/or will react on-the-fly to torque and power needs. Optimum valve timing can be continuously tweeked by computer or driver input. Rev limits, fuel mix and ignition can be optimized by internal computers, reading data thousands of times a second. The degree of constant monitoring of fuel, spark, temperatures and output are all a function of cubic $$$.

    My guess is Ferrari and BMW maybe getting circa 940 bhp. BAR-Honda perhaps 25 bhp less, Renault and Toyota seems +/- 40 bhp less, Jag, Sauber then Jordan probably a little further down and Minardi...well...

    There's obviously a lot of other factors, i.e. combustion chaimber shape, rod angle, intake and exhaust flow, and flame propogation that add to overall efficiency and power output.

    Them's the generalities I can think of off the top of my head. There aren't many photos, videos or diagrams. Ferrari moles are short lived.

    ZZ Boson
  4. May 12, 2004 #3


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    Actually the fuel is controlled as well, samples are taken by the FIA to ensure compliance just like the tires are impounded and so on.

    Its an internal combustion engine like any other except for the optimizations (especially cost). For more attainable engines with more information about how they are constructed, the performance motorcycle is much more open since the engineers' secrets are at least revealed in part when the marketing people need to sell these bikes and the competition can purchase and reverse engineer them as well.

    An F1 engine is 3.0L 10 cylinder so each cylinder is only about 300cc, about the same size as a large displacement performance motorcycle's cylinder, not a perfect comparison, but gives a relative benchmark.

    For the piston and its sealing rings, the connecting rod, and crankshaft its all about being lightweight parts with a predetermined service life to allow them to become big factors in freeing up horsepower. The stresses on the parts increases with the square of the RPM and spinning 19,000 is quite a feat. For a product that a typical consumer would purchase, replacing these parts made from exotic alloys more frequently than a typical oil change (metal fatigue has weakened the parts) wouldn't work in that commercial setting. Even the FIA tired of the costs of running such special short-life motors and implemented the one engine per weekend ruling in 2003, and it sounds like they will go to engines next year that must last 6 races. McLaren's woes this year demonstrates that in spite of their resources designing an engine to last a weekend at close to the level of performance needed to be competitive is challenging at best and quite humbling.

    The cylinder heads and valvetrain is another story, that's where the 'magic' is and I think pretty much everyone but the engine guys have no more than a clue what's really going on there. I think the techonolgy used in the BMW 745 engine with its extensive use of the valve control to eliminate a throttle valve is one of many technologies that have actually made their way from racing to production. Another would be the Mercedes S level cars with the active suspension, traction control, and braking that would translate to early-mid ninties F1 cars (a friend's father has 3 of the S55 AMG cars, very impressive) but the pricetag is still very high.

    ZZ Boson covered most of the rest, except its not too fair to pick on the Minardis as their cars have actually finished most of the time so their reliability is better than McLaren so far in 2004! ;-) Heck its hard to predict who's got any HP advantage as Toyota was strong for a race, Renault was strong for a few, and Honda awoke from its slumber as well recently. Plus the Sauber just needs aero help as they're on the Ferrari drivetrain (assuming its built the same) so it could be anyone's game as to who finishes behind Ferrari. :-)

  5. May 13, 2004 #4
    horsepower is product of engine torque and rpm. Take 3.0L engine, make it 300hp at 6000rpm, not a daunting task. Now make sure it sustains same torque at 18000rpm, and voila, you've got 900hp engine. So all the trouble is concentrated on reliability and combustion speed at those insane rpms.
  6. May 13, 2004 #5
    Thanks guys
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