The power unit is one of the five main areas of change for 2022. The legislation governing engines presents some innovations, not sufficient on their own, however, to be able to define it as a real regulatory revolution, as the rewriting of the regulation in the section dedicated to engines it is decidedly less substantial than the changes in aerodynamics and mechanics. However, 2021 experienced by some teams as a season of transition towards new technical regulations and engine freezing that will follow 2022, have provided the engineers with time and incentives to make substantial changes to the power units. In fact, the units introduced in the next championship will no longer be able to be developed until the advent of the new generation of power units in 2026, which is why the engineers will play everything in order not to be in a condition of technical inferiority for the next four seasons.
As for the regulatory aspect, the first novelty for 2022 concerns the introduction of E10 fuel. Until the last championship, the technical regulation required that 5.75% by mass of the fuel be composed of renewable components, a component extended in the 2022 regulation, which establishes the obligation to use a fuel consisting of 10% ethanol. From the numbers filtered among the insiders it was initially expected that the change of fuel would involve a loss of power for the same engine between 5 and 10%, an estimate that was then progressively reduced with the work of the engineers to adapt their units. The drop in power is not proportional to the reduction in the calorific value of the fuel 2022, i.e. the chemical energy potentially released during the combustion process. In fact, to this must be added the impact on the efficiency of the combustion itself and therefore on what fraction of the energy extracted from the fuel is then effectively transmitted to the crankshaft and converted into useful motive power. With a change in the chemical composition of the fuel it is reasonable to expect a different structure of the flame, whose propagation speed determines the conditions present inside the chamber along the arc of the combustion process and the heat dissipated to the walls.
The engineers then worked to optimize the shape of the combustion chamber, the intake ducts and the opening and closing times of the valves, so as to make the most of the turbulence of the incoming air to structure a combustion process suitable for the new fuel. At the moment, conflicting news is leaking about how much the individual engineers have managed to recover the lost power, forcing them to wait for the track to be confirmed.
A novelty of 2022 will be rather the standardization of some components of the fuel system, on all the pump for taking the fuel from the tank and the pump of the high-pressure petrol circuit. The standard components will further improve the Federation’s control over compliance with the maximum fuel flow limit imposed by the regulation, following the introduction of the double flow meter in 2020, of which the second is random sampled and read exclusively by the FIA.
In 2022 it will also be interesting to evaluate how much the drivers will be forced to save fuel in the race through the technique of lift-and-coast, if more or less than in the recent past. On the one hand, the different external aerodynamic philosophy points to a more massive generation of load from the underbody compared to the airfoils, a feature that could reduce drag and associated fuel consumption. On the other hand, the weight of the cars is 43 kg higher than in 2021, equal to an increase of around 6%. In addition to the considerations on the pure weight of the single-seater, there is that on its equivalent mass, including the resistance given by the rotating elements, on all wheels, whose inertia is destined to increase with the transition to 18-inch diameter rims. All in all, the increase in the equivalent mass of the cars given by the increase in weight and by the greater rotating inertia will contribute to an increase in fuel and electricity consumption, which however remains to be assessed whether it will prevail over the opposite effect given by the different aerodynamic philosophy.
Until 2021, however, it was common practice for teams to take less petrol than the 110 kg allowed by the regulations into the race, in order to lighten the car and preserve the tires. Overall, this strategy proved to be profitable on race pace, despite the need for fuel-saving driving techniques. In 2022, on the other hand, the use of the new low-shoulder tires is planned, the characteristics of which include less wear and a tendency to overheat, so much so that Pirelli expects riders to be able to push on the tires with fewer worries than in the past. It will therefore be important to monitor whether the greater “longevity” of the tires may push teams to take on more fuel, thus benefiting from a more aggressive and less cost-saving driving style, without discounting excessive tire degradation.
Finally, the different shapes of the 2021 single-seaters could affect the arrangement of the elements inside the bonnet, on all the components of the cooling system, including the radiators. The section of the regulation dedicated to aerodynamics allows the opening of large grids in the body, up to an area of 150,000 mm2 per side, to which an additional 30000 mm must be added2 for vents no more than 25 mm from the longitudinal central axis of the car. The teams will thus be able to arrange the radiant masses with slightly different inclinations and positions compared to the recent past, being able to take advantage of the new grilles for the evacuation of hot air as well as the terminal vent in the queue. Furthermore, the arrangement of the components inside the bonnet cannot transcend the new aerodynamic philosophy, as the housing of the power unit is closely interconnected with the shapes of the external bodywork.
Ferrari and Alpine: important news awaited
Power units introduced in 2022 will no longer be able to be updated until 2026 except for reliability reasons. The technical freeze has therefore pushed the more delayed motorists to drastic changes compared to the past, aiming to recover as much as possible the technical gap from the top of the class. Ferrari will mount the new hybrid system already tested in the race in the last third of the 2021 season, gathering encouraging results. The nominal voltage of the battery has gone from 400 to 800 V, thus reducing the intensity of current with the same electrical power transferred between the different components, a useful feature to reduce energy dissipation and improve efficiency. Some components of the hybrid have also been miniaturized, leading to marginal weight gains. Finally, the MGU-K is able to work at lower temperatures than in the past, releasing a smaller amount of heat to the cooling system, thus allowing the design of marginally less bulky radiators, all to the advantage of freedom for the aerodynamic department. and of the aerodynamic resistance to the forward movement.
On the thermal engine front, the rumors leaked by Maranello and circulating among the insiders predict an engine designed to speed up the combustion process, useful among others to reduce heat dissipation to the walls and convert a greater fraction of thermal energy into useful power to the wheels. The turbocharger has also been the subject of important studies, although the hypothesis of a transition to the split turbo philosophy of Mercedes and Honda / Red Bull seems to be increasingly distant, in which compressor and turbine are separated with the MGU-H electric generator. interposed between them.
In 2021 Alpine has explicitly preserved the architecture of the previous power units, instead investing large resources on the 2022 unit, which should mark a clear change with the previous engines of the French company. The French team could abandon the compact turbocharger group, switching instead to the philosophy of split-turbo first introduced by Mercedes and which Honda then conformed to. On the Anglo-French car it will also be important to monitor the configuration of the cooling system, as the latest cars had a substantial fraction of the radiators centered under the bonnet, at the head of the power unit and immediately behind the driver. The choice stemmed from the desire to streamline the bellies, to free up a wider passage section for the flows above the bottom and directed towards the rear. In light of the different aerodynamic philosophy of the 2022 cars, it will be interesting to evaluate whether Alpine has preferred to change the layout, also considering the need to take advantage of the cooling grids that will appear on the hood.
In 2022 Red Bull will own the intellectual property of the Honda power unit, for which no upheavals are expected. The changes initially planned for 2022 were in fact anticipated by the Japanese engineer in 2021, contributing to the world title of Max Verstappen. Furthermore, during the past season, at the Spa stage, Honda introduced a new, more efficient and lighter battery, characterized by a new generation of cells and materials that replace those previously used since 2015. Finally, Red Bull will benefit from the new engine oil developed by Exxon-Mobil and employed in 2021 starting from the trip to Baku. The new specification can withstand higher temperatures and has fewer cooling requirements, allowing designers to design a more compact dedicated radiator for the benefit of external aerodynamics.
For Mercedes finally, the main objective is to correct the reliability problems that emerged in the last championship. In addition to involving numerous engine replacements, with related penalties on the grid, the problems progressively reduced the power delivered by the engine as the mileage increased, in contrast to the Honda units characterized by a constant performance for the entire life of the power unit. Mercedes has shown that it has a maximum power even higher than the competition, which however in 2022 it will be necessary to maintain constant use of each engine from the first to the last race. [Continua]
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