The 2021 championship is experiencing its most heated phase, with the duel at the top between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen increasingly under the banner of uncertainty, while McLaren prepares the counter-offensive after the overtaking suffered by Ferrari in Baku costing third place among the constructors . At the same time, however the preparation for next season has catalysed almost all of the teams’ resources, ready to make the most of one of the biggest regulatory changes in the history of Formula 1.
The novelties for 2022 will be many, from the different aerodynamic philosophy to the adoption of 18-inch wheels that will lead to the debut of a new family of Pirelli tires. In the imminent revolution, the power units will also play a decisive role, the importance of which will lie in the three different changes awaiting the thrusters.
In the first place, the subversion of current aerodynamic concepts it could lead to re-evaluate the current architectures of the power units, taking into consideration a different packaging of the internal components to design a bonnet capable of maximizing the potential of the new aerodynamics.
Secondly, but not least, fuels in use from next season will feature a blend consisting for the first time of 10% ethanol, the first step towards the progressive transition to sustainable energy sources. The different chemical composition of the fuel will inevitably affect the combustion process, which could be optimized through a different geometry of the cylinders and the heat engine. The same ethanol will also guarantee an effective anti-knock action, the same effect sought in the past through the injection of oil into the combustion chamber to precisely delay detonation, i.e. the anomalous combustion of the fuel which involves dangerous consequences for the structural integrity of the engine. The lower tendency to detonate thus opens the door to a different calibration of the basic operating parameters of the engine such as the compression ratio, the composition of the air-fuel mixture or the average boost pressure of the turbo. We could therefore see an increase in efficiency and average power possible thanks to a more aggressive exploitation of the engine which, with current fuels, would instead lead to the onset of detonation.
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Finally, the design features of the 2022 power units will be frozen by the regulation until the advent of the new engines, tentatively expected between 2025 and 2026. For this reason, the engineers are investing large resources in next season’s projects, as their goodness will determine competitiveness in the years to come.
Ferrari is the manufacturer most at the center of discussions on the subject, with numerous often conflicting indiscretions that follow one another about the innovations planned for the next engine, with which Mattia Binotto aims to repot the Maranello Scuderia to be a point of reference among engine engineers. It therefore becomes appropriate to order the various items in the corridor, to understand what the future characteristics of the Maranello power unit may be.
On the occasion of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, the technical in-depth program Tech Talk, available on F1TV and whose production is entrusted directly to Formula 1 itself, has reiterated the most widespread indiscretion in the last period. According to reports, the Ferrari 2022 power unit could convert to the architecture of split-turbo adopted by Mercedes and Honda, thus abandoning the more traditional solution in use.
Since the advent of hybrid power units, the Maranello engine has mounted the turbine and compressor close to the rear end of the engine. Mercedes, on the contrary, in 2014 revolutionized the vision of the turbocharger, by installing only the turbine in the rear of the engine and moving the compressor in the forward position at the opposite end. The MGU-H electric motogenerator and a long shaft for transferring the rotational motion of the turbine to the other two components were then placed between the two engine banks.. The split-turbo architecture was later taken up by Honda as well, contributing to the rapid growth of the Japanese manufacturer.
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The hypotheses about the advantages of the split-turbo are many, although never officially confirmed by the Brixworth engineers. It is legitimate to assume that the spacing of the two units reduces heat transfer from the hot gases driving the turbine to the compressed air from the compressor. The air flow entering the engine is thus denser and colder, also hindering the onset of detonating phenomena in the combustion chamber.
Secondly, the compressor in an advanced position with respect to the engine is closer to the dynamic air intake located in the air-box above the rider’s head. This proximity allows a simplified drawing of the entire intake system including, in addition to the ducts, also components such as the plenum and the intercooler. The result is a significantly more compact power unit, allowing Mercedes-powered teams to design the distinctive bonnets characterized by minimal dimensions, to the advantage of external aerodynamics. Finally, the simplification of both the intake and exhaust systems also affects the pressure loss of the flows along the ducts, with indirect repercussions on the useful power of the engine.
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A contrasting but complementary hypothesis
Tech Talk analysts therefore seem to give credence to the hypothesis of Ferrari’s transition to the split-turbo solution, but another authoritative source re-launches a conflicting indiscretion. According to what was reported by the editorial staff of TheRace.com, the engines of Maranello will instead maintain the current architecture with turbine and compressor grouped at the rear, despite having seriously considered the possible transition to split-turbo. The work of the Ferrari technicians would instead focus on energy recovery from the hybrid and ignition combustion superfast.
This adjective, which has been around for months in the environment, indicates the search for a faster combustion process, possible thanks to the optimization of the vortices and turbulent motions of the air inside the cylinders, which accelerates the propagation of the flame and also improves its mixing with the fuel injected directly into the combustion chamber. Turbulence is controlled through the design of the combustion chamber itself, the angle of the valves and the geometry of the intake ducts.
It is also not to be excluded that the search for a faster combustion may be dictated by the desire to make the new engine work at a higher rotation speed, taking advantage of the abrogation from next year of the regulatory limit of 15,000 rpm. At the same time, however, it is difficult to understand how this can be achievable and advantageous, given the confirmation of the fuel flow limit imposed at 100 kg / h for speeds above 10500 rpm.
The different hypotheses therefore seem to agree that, in light of the importance of 2022 engines, the Ferrari power unit will present important innovations. The hypotheses on the architecture of the turbocharger remain instead conflicting, assuming the nuances of Erwin Schrodinger’s paradox, whose confirmation or denial is still postponed. At present, therefore, the quantum approach is the most appropriate, since until the hood of the Red in 2022 is uncovered, the only possible assumption is that the new power unit has both the split-turbo and the solution compact that both.