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Purnell supports engine freeze

NEWS STORY
26/11/2007

Former Jaguar F1 team boss, Tony Purnell, now Technical Consultant to the FIA, believes that the 10-year engine freeze will be beneficial to formula One and to the manufacturers.

When the FIA rubber-stamped the freeze last month, there was uproar on message boards and forums, with fans predicting that it was the beginning on the end for F1. The manufacturers agree with the need for a freeze but continue to argue that it should last for no more than three or four years.

However, Purnell, writing for Automotive, the FIA's online magazine, argues: "Some manufacturers had project groups spending extravagant sums working on such minor areas as water pumps, exhaust pipes, inlet snorkels, the things around the engine that you were allowed to change. So we looked at that and saw that the only way to stop spending with finality is to prevent any changes whatsoever.

"Freeze the engine, freeze the peripherals as well, and do this long-term so there are no thoughts about retaining a department to develop future engines. This may seem brutal, but to contain spending, it delivers."

With teams spending an average of 150m on engines, Purnell insists that the freeze will bring significant savings. He also points out that none of the teams have complained that the ruling will leave them uncompetitive.

"It's significant that at no stage did anyone say 'we hate the engine freeze idea because we're down on power and disadvantaged by that'. In 2007, everyone seemed to be even on engines so the opportunity was there to extend the freeze, bring down costs, and yet be fair to all the manufacturers involved."

Mindful, not only of budgets, but also environmental issues, he also argues in favour of Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS), which will be introduced in 2009.

"Car manufacturers are already working flat out to develop optimal low-emission engines and there is little that engine development programmes in F1 will add to this effort . However, in five years or so, their attention will turn more and more to subsidiary devices incorporating energy recovery. By opening up this area now, Formula One can make a real difference to this important facet of future car technology."

"KERS is something the public can understand quite easily," writes Purnell. "The technical challenge is huge and there will be very little constraint on it. This is very different to the current engine or chassis regulations, which are massively constrained. As a project it is one of the freest areas of development in F1 for the last 15 years.

"When you think about the environment, F1 can be a wonderful vehicle for delivering a message," Purnell continues. "There is intense interest in the sport and most fans are petrolheads. So, if they see that F1 is going green and if they see kinetic energy recovery is cutting edge and sexy, it leads to an attitude change. We feel that is an important contribution."

As the FIA looks to the future, KERS is clearly the first step. In the long-term the sport could look at thermal energy recovery, which, though still in its infancy, could, according to Purnell, be developed within F1, as the sport continues to 'prove' its green credentials.

"This is all part of the strategic direction over the next decade. There will be technologies that will begin to become attractive to put on the car. For instance, researchers are developing a type of silicon which simply converts a heat gradient into electricity. Today they are very inefficient and bulky. But in future we can imagine such devices removing the need for an alternator and delivering significant amounts of power. Some 30 per cent of the energy available goes straight out of the exhaust pipe, so there's a lot of potential."

Purnell fully supports the FIA in its demands that the manufacturers create their KERS systems around the current F1 engines.

"Obviously if the teams were to redesign their engine blocks they could incorporate KERS in a much neater way. But this is hardly necessary. And as recent experience has shown, any opportunity to touch the engine is opening up a Pandora's box full of potential expenditure."

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