The F1 engine is the most complex car of a current Formula One car. It consists of close to 5000 parts of which around 1500 are moving elements. When all of these elements are fixed together after 2 weeks of work it it can produce more than 750hp and reach more than 20,000 rpm. At its maximum pace the current V8 engines consume around 60 litres of petrol for 100km of racing. At the moment, all f1 engines can produce around 720 hp with 8 cilinders in a 90 degree V-angle. The limitation of 19000 rpm as of 2007 however limits that performance a bit further.and. These engines are mainly made from forged aluminium alloy, because of the weight advantages it gives in comparison to steel. Other materials would maybe give some extra advantages, but to limit costs, the FIA has forbidden non-ferro materials.
It's not exactly known how much oil such a top engine contains, but this oil is for 70% in the engine, while the other 30% is in a dry-sump lubrication system that changes oil within the engine three to four times a minute.
Difference with road engines
- Higher volumetric efficiency. VE is used to describe the amount of fuel/air in the cylinder in relation to regular atmospheric air. If the cylinder is filled with fuel/air at atmospheric pressure, then the engine is said to have 100% volumetric efficiency. On the other hand, turbo chargers increase the pressure entering the cylinder, giving the engine a volumetric efficiency greater than 100%. However, if the cylinder is pulling in a vacuum, then the engine has less than 100% volumetric efficiency. Normally aspirated engines typically run anywhere between 80% and 100% VE. So now, when you read that a certain manifold and cam combination tested out to have a 95% VE, you will know that the higher the number, the more power the engine can produce. Bacause turbos are not allowed in F1, this item does not differ that much from a normal road engine.
- Unfortunately, from the total fuel energy that is put into the cylinders, everagely less than 1/3 ends up as useable horsepower. Ignition timing, thermal coatings, plug location and chamber design all affect the thermal efficiency (TE). Low compression street engines may have a TE of approximately 0.26. A racing engine may have a TE of approximately 0.34. This seemingly small difference results in a difference of about 30% (0.34 - 0.26 / 0.26) more horsepower than before.
- From all that power generated, part of it is used by the engine to run itself. The left over power is what you would measure on a dynamometer. The difference between what you would measure on the dyno and the workable power in the cylinder is the mechanical efficiency (ME). Mechanical efficiency is affected by rocker friction, bearing friction, piston skirt area, and other moving parts, but it is also dependent on the engine's RPM. The greater the RPM, the more power it takes to turn the engine. This means limiting internal engine friction can generate a large surplus in horsepower, and where in F1 the stress is on power, on the road it is also on fuel consumption.
These main optimization necessities are what causes the engineer's headaches. At the end of the line, an F1 engine revs much higher than road units, hence limiting the lifetime of such a power source. It is especially the mechanical efficiency that causes Formula One engines to be made of different materials. These are necessary to decrease internal friction and the overall weight of the engine, but more importantly, limit the weight of internal parts, e.g. of the valves, which should be as light as possible to allow incredibly fast movement of more than 300 movements up and down a second (this at 18.000 rpm).
Another deciding point trying to reach a maximum of power out of an engine is the exhaust. The minor change of lenght or form of an exhaust can influence the horsepowers drastically. It is both for performance and cost limitations that the FIA do not permit variable outlet systems in Formula One.
Considering internal combustion engines (thus leaving out oscillating and Wankel rotary combustion engines), there are basically three different ways of building an engine. The difference here is how the cylinders are placed compared to each other.
- Inline engines, where all cylinders are placed next to (or after) each other are not used in Formula One since the 60's. While the engines are small, they are long and therefore require a heavy cranckshaft.
- Boxer engines are actually one of the best ways to build an engine, if all external factors allow it. Two cylinder rows are placed opposed to each other. You could consider a boxer engine as being a 180° V-angle engine design. These engines became popular in F1 because of the low centre of gravity and the average production costs, but later on disappeared out of the picture as this type of engine is not sufficiently stiff enough to whitstand the car's G-forces in cornering conditions. Ferrari for instance have run 12 cylinder boxer engines from 1970 to 1980 before moving to a 120° V-angle engine.
- V-type engines, as currently used in all F1 cars. The V is in fact the geometrical angle that seperated the two cylinder banks from each other where the crankshaft can be considered the origin of the angle. Obviously for this type of engine the size of the V is a major factor and must be decided in the first phases of the engine design. Previously, engines have been designed with angles such as 60° V12 or 72° V10. Although it has historically been an interesting evolution to see the differences between the teams' engines, the FIA have fixed the engine type to 90° V8 models.