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The way to fix F1 - Part Four: F1 2021


In true Douglas Adams style, we come to part four of our trilogy...

In the previous three articles we've explored the business model, fan engagement and media, and the sporting rules.

In this final part we explore one last area, the engine, sorry, I mean power unit, and then we paint a future picture of F1 2021, Pitpass Style. A glimpse of the World as it might be, were editor Balfe and I allowed near the piggy bank and the toy box.

Power Units

I saved this until the postscript as cries of despair around the loss of howling V8 and V10 cars seems to sound long and loud around the canyons of the Internet.

I've loved engines since I first heard a Morgan Plus Eight flying down a country lane many years ago. Nothing has changed, as over the years I've delighted at V8 Ferrari, V10 Viper, and many other road car engines, and had the aeronautic delight of seeing, hearing and feeling a Goodyear Corsair powering along thanks to its Pratt and Whitney 18 cylinder radial engine at the Cavanaugh flight museum in Dallas, Texas.

Formula One now serves us power units, not engines. Technical items of brilliance, they are the result of a highly prescriptive set of restrictive rules, that, thanks to modern engineering capability, super computing power, and significant mandated restraints are all very similar.

Once again this hands the advantage to highly monied teams that can afford to chase the vanishing returns from Miss Physics as the laws of thermodynamics raid the wallet at an exponential rate.

Pitpass readers in the main appear to value the screaming drama of the V8 and V10 days as much as I do. We appear to value the chance for a small team to excel even more!

Generally comments were pushing us in the direction of an engine equivalence formula as so successfully used in other racing categories. Some argued for a standard engine, but in previous articles we have already agreed a "one make formula" is not Formula One, and we wish to see technology, and engineering genius remaining a significant part of the mix.

Again, I believe size and weight limitations, coupled with safety requirements, should be our base boundaries. Then apply an equivalence formula. And then apply an energy storage density limitation. Again an equivalence can be generated between the stored energy density of fuel, batteries, and even rubber bands if we wish. Place a limit on the total energy that can be stored in a stationary car at the race start. Then if the teams can recover, regenerate, gain from solar panels, or surf on the good karma being generated by fans, during the race to gain energy all is good.

This would encourage novel solutions to the "green" issue of regeneration, while placing a premium on minimal mass, yet leaving the precise solution open to each team. Imagine the innovation we might see! Fully electric, gas turbines, fuel plus energy recovery. All manner of approaches might appeal to different teams as an ideal solution. Imagine the cars covered in flexible solar panels at the sunnier races, and swapping to kinetic recovery in rainy Europe!

I believe most readers hanker after the Golden Age of screaming V8 and V10 engines, so let us hope that Liberty find a path to showcasing technology and green credentials while providing that animal howl down the back straight.

F1 2021, Pitpass World.

Having won the 2020 constructor's championship Ferrari elects to have the season launch at Fiorano. They have created a five-storey cylindrical building, currently draped in a huge cloth, dotted with the FIA flag, and pictures of past World Champions.

Promptly to schedule the drapes drop to the ground, revealing a spiral ramp running around a central column, with all the team cars nose to tail in reverse 2020 season finishing order.

The first two cars fire up (the centre column is the engineering support tower) and roll forward onto a raised podium. This continues to cheers from the crowd, until the entire grid is assembled on the start finish straight. With a roar they perform a formation lap, before returning to their set sponsor areas and parking.

Each driver is briefly introduced and speaks about their hopes for the season, ending with an amusing four way banter between the Ferrari and Red Bull drivers about the season to come.

The drivers then return to their sponsor areas for team specific engagements with team members, key sponsors, invited guests, and paying fans. All the action being streamed live across multiple media channels.

A charity ball and evening concert round out a perfect launch day.

Two weeks later we are in Melbourne for the season opener. This year we see Rolls Royce entering a gas turbine to counter the one launched last year by GE. Both are battling for Boeing and Airbus contracts this year. Mazda is another new engine manufacturer this year, bringing a small capacity quad-rotor, quad turbo engine to Sauber. Rumour has it peaking at 27,000 rpm, while using exhaust gas energy recovery and a brilliant variable mass fly-wheel in conjunction with braking energy recovery to realise the best ever fuel figures of a Formula One engine. But it blew up twice in testing. Will it last race distance?

Ferrari has gone down the V8 twin turbo route with brilliant energy recovery, while Mercedes is fielding a single turbo V6 hybrid. Renault is rumoured to be using a nano-technology elastic band, but Christian Horner says this is a wind-up.

The race runs brilliantly under the eyes of the professional full-time stewards with track limit infractions managed by real time FIA controlled braking on cars placing two wheels off the track. After safety worries last year all teams are happy with the system this year.

The revised rear-facing cameras feeding into the driver's head-up in-helmet displays, provide plenty of warning about cars behind, as do the head-up flag warnings and safety car information. Exceptionally close racing with no two-car crashes is the brilliant result.

Race a total success on track, as soon as the podium ceremony completes the eSport race kicks off, with drivers around the world being placed virtually on the grid to complete against the live team's just recorded efforts.

The teams relax on Monday, before returning to the mandated two days testing on track Tuesday and Wednesday. With the FIA now covering testing costs, other than staff salaries, and scheduling them when all teams are already assembled, the total simulator ban is ensuring plenty of on track testing action. Large crowds turn up and watch as current drivers and future potential stars, take turns driving hot laps.

First round a success the Formula One circus moves on to the next race. With money redistributed to give each team a sound financial base, and then further money provided for laps completed in the previous season, money flow has greatly improved for all the teams.

The move by Liberty to have series level sponsors, with the money flowing to all teams, has greatly improved exposure for advertisers, while increasing the money supply for the series as a whole.

While Ferrari insisted on keeping the historic bonus payment, basing it on total laps completed since 1950, with a scaling factor for each subsequent decade (providing more money per lap as each decade passes) was finally agreed by all teams. A grid of twenty-eight cars from fourteen teams confirms the new finance model works.

And here we leave our future dream and return to 2017.

There is so much to anticipate with this season. So much off track action, so much hope for the new designs, so much expectation that Liberty can actually tap into the Brawn genius, and the genius of the multiple new hires all coming in to do the job historically managed by one eccentric business great, Mister E. how will it all workout? Will it move toward the Nirvana outlined here, based on analysis of the fantastic dreams of Pitpass readers?

Or is Lady Gaga and the Super Bowl half-time show the shape of things to come?

We are about to find out. Gender-neutral drivers start your engines...

Max Noble.

Learn more about Max and check out his previous features, here



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1. Posted by sagosac, 14/04/2017 18:33

"to be fair: me, too, I am always sceptical towards changes in sports.
Because tradition matters much herein; and as the creators of a sport / rule book made up their minds in beforehand. (e.g. there was no reason to change the set-up of European Club Football Competitions).
But in case one grew up with a F1 that was quite diverse in all terms, this approach of ever narrowing all kinds of areas of technological innovation is just not so good.
Turbine might go too far, though (never a good idea to become too concrete in fundamental discussions)."

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2. Posted by Max Noble, 05/04/2017 0:55

"@sagosac - pleased you like the concept of the rules opening out to allow more power unit variations. As you note, most organisations act so as to preserve themselves, so the chances of those in F1 acting against their own self interest in the name of "Greater Good" is unlikely (which I must note is true of most of us in most non-life threatening situations). Liberty are however very keen to generate a return on their investment, so let's wait and see what they do next... it will be fascinating to watch. "

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3. Posted by sagosac, 04/04/2017 8:38

"How about a Power Unit with internal combustion engine that is to be equipped with different "helpers" throughout, maybe 5 seasons: 1) turbo + double hybrid 2) hi-rev + double hybrid 3) turbo + front axl energy recovery 4) you name it
Because I believe that there are areas of application where pure electric power won't be sufficient in near future (e.g. planes - this is why turbines should be allowed in F1-, ships, fire brigades etc.).
So, as long as electric power is not more efficient than fuel, there should be progress in both areas.
Evolution was faster if there were 2 Power Units per car per weekend.
So that one may blow up from time to time.
And money does not need to be an issue in this sport.
...T-Cars were so sexy :)

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4. Posted by sagosac, 04/04/2017 8:23

"Max, your scenario with different power concepts is brilliant, mouth-watering. I am thinking about such scenarios since long. I came to the "conclusion" that the bigger a business, the more reluctant the owners / powers in charge to change fundamental things. [Odd, that there were so significant changes like point systems, Qualifying (weekend) format.] So, if we want your scenario, we need to found a new series [not meant in a derogative way]. "

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5. Posted by sagosac, 04/04/2017 8:16

"I believe that in a not-so-far future, progress of Technology will be the sole justification for investing and burning such remarkable amounts of resources (alone the 6 Jumbo Jets for bringing F1 around the world). In my opinion, the crucial finding is that a "prescriptive set of restrictive rules" will always narrow the area of R&D, which not only slows down evolution, but also "hands the advantage to highly monied teams", as the tinier / smaller the area of R&D, the less creativity applicable; reverse conclusion: it's more about means than brains. "

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6. Posted by Spindoctor, 29/03/2017 17:06

"Hate to poop on the Noisy Vee-motor party (well not really!!), but quite honestly my dears, they are Sooo last decade's thing.
LOVE the notion of a "Power Unit" free-for-all, though I can't conceive of how the "equivalence" Formula might be designed, let alone implemented!

Sadly it'll never happen....."

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7. Posted by Max Noble, 23/03/2017 12:45

"@ClarkwasGod- indeed! All fine machines! Let us hope the 2017 grid serves up some technical delights when qualifying commences on Saturday. "

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8. Posted by ClarkwasGod, 23/03/2017 12:26

"@Max - Quite right - I was thinking Chance-Vought even as I typed Grumman - brain fade!! But yes, one Corsair - or even a Merlin or Griffin, would drown out the entire grid - that would be an interesting app - one to overlay the sound from one of those onto the GP....."

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9. Posted by Max Noble, 23/03/2017 8:58

"@Cricketpo - good point too wide and too free with the rules and Christian Horner is bound to generate a seriously unintended response I'm sure! We would need to fall back on the trusty FIA weapon of "Banned immediately on safety grounds" to keep him in check!"

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10. Posted by cricketpo, 23/03/2017 7:48

"I know people don't like rules but the point of them should be to make sure like races like by and large. Otherwise it would resemble a scene from the Whacky Races cartoon I used to watch as a kid. Always felt Dick Dastardly drove a Ferrari :). One of Douglas Adams great skills as a writer was to highlight the law of unintended consequences. I can see solid rocket fuel creeping under the stored energy rules and a red bull slinging a sidewinder above the engine nacelle for overtaking manoeuvres.
The thought that the teams will not squabble like spoilt children under this new regime is of course entertaining. "

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11. Posted by Max Noble, 22/03/2017 23:40

"@ClarkwasGod - I checked with their web site here:

They say it was a "Goodyear/Chance-Vought FG-1D Corsair" designed by Chance-Vought, but this one being one of 129 built by Goodyear for the British Royal Navy. My understanding is that Vought did not have the capacity to build them fast enough, so they got subcontracted out. Regardless it is a magnificent machine.

I'm reasonably confident one Corsair is louder than the entire 2017 grid... :-)

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12. Posted by JimH, 22/03/2017 21:21

"Never mind the silly 'green credentials' - let's have some proper engines - 3.5 litre V12s et al. F1 isn't about saving money on the fuel bill (or anything else). F1 is about RACING! Limit the rules to basic sizes and weights and lets go RACING - something F1 hasn't done for many years. Pit stops not compulsory. Use any tyre and as many tyres and fuel as needed to get round to the finish. No driver aids. No radio communication. KEEP IT SIMPLE! And keep it FAST and NOISY! LETS have some RACING - for a change! PS F1 is too boring to watch these days - get back to it's core - RACING."

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13. Posted by ClarkwasGod, 22/03/2017 16:49

"Another good one! But wouldn't it have been a Grumman Corsair (maybe with Goodyear tyres)?"

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14. Posted by Max Noble, 22/03/2017 11:28

"@GrahamG. - warmest thanks for positive feedback. I've had the good fortune to conduct business in the US and met many, wonderful, polite, and welcoming people. A large number of these people are still coping with the wild excess of the Mary Tyler Moore show, but believe it is a pointer to a great future.

I'm all out of Super Bowl jokes for the rest.

Neither Taylor Swift or Mahatten Chase (Chevy?) have contacted PitPass at this point.

...and all jokes are retroactively screened by our esteemed editor. :-) :-)"

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15. Posted by GrahamG, 22/03/2017 9:16

"Not just "Douglas Adams" in the title, imagination and ideas worthy of the great man.
I think the overall message is "stop banning and reward innovation" and really, plus having the fastest car/driver combination win, that is what F1 should be about.
Chances of this kind of lateral thinking coming to fruition - sorry somewhere between nil and none. Don't forget that America is (you may have to think about this) a technology averse nation and the stress between American owners and European and Far East innovators is going to prevent any real change.
Technology averse? - think American automobiles, motor racing formulae, and from my own area, food and food manufacture, all years behind Europe. The reason - a massive home market protected from serious competition by scale and distance. Yes I know about silicon valley, but that's about individual entrepreneurs not industrial innovation"

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