ATLAS F1   Volume 6, Issue 46 Email to Friend   Printable Version

Atlas F1   Motorvation II

  by Karl Ludvigsen, England

After the Canadian Grand Prix, award winning writer Karl Ludvigsen made an attempt at assessing and comparing the power of the various engines that ran in Formula One this year. Now that the season is over and done with, he's back to re-evaluate the Power Units of F1


During the Canadian Grand Prix, sections of which were revealing of the relative power of the various Formula One engines, I had a go at assessing the outputs of the various V-10 Formula One units. After that, I heard from Trevor and Alex, both of whom felt I'd been overly generous to Ferrari and Mercedes, and in retrospect I agree.

Generally, of course, engine makers don't actually announce the power of their units. I believe that the only exception to that this season has been Peugeot, who stated that their engines were developing 793 bhp near the end of the year - presumably a qualifying rating. This was part of their effort to declare publicly that the problems that the Prost team were experiencing were not all the fault of Peugeot, no matter what the Prost people said.

I wasn't the only person trying to interpret F1 engine power at the Montreal race. Some shrewd observers were on hand with phonometric instrumentation that, they say, is capable of assessing output with an accuracy of 0.5%. Their results were published by the magazine Quattroruote. They said that in race (not qualifying) trim the most powerful engines were reaching peak revs that were substantially higher than 17,000 rpm and not far short of 18,000. They also commented that there was not a strong correlation between engine speed and output; some of the less powerful engines were among the higher-revving.

They quoted the horsepower figures that applied during the race. Thus they may well have been short of the levels that could be reached in qualifying or indeed if pressed in the race beyond levels that were known to afford good reliability. The findings were stated as follows:

Car Engine Make Engine Model Power (bhp)
Ferrari Ferrari 049 803
BAR Honda RA000E 800
McLaren Mercedes-Benz FO110 790
Jordan Mugen-Honda MF301HE 785
Williams BMW E41 780
Jaguar Cosworth CR-2 775
Benetton, Arrows Supertec FB02 770
Prost Peugeot A20 755
Minardi Fondmetal (Cosworth) V10 715

This table makes a lot of sense. The ranking is about as we might have expected, except perhaps for the high standing of the Honda in the company's first season back. This suggests that they haven't been 'resting' at the Honda R&D Center. The low figures for both the Peugeot and Fondmetal engines can perhaps be attributed to an effort to run them at a level that would improve reliability - the Peugeot to overcome various problems and the Minardi to reduce the cost of overhauls. The Mercedes figure might be seen as low, but it was no secret that this season's new engine put lightness at a high priority, at the expense of power if necessary.

Quattroruote said that the Ferrari evaluated in Canada had raised its performance by 15 horsepower since the beginning of the season. The previous year's engine, it said, had spoiled its combustion by using too large a cylinder bore. The change to a smaller bore had made the 2000 unit more amenable to development. Seeking the ultimate in compactness, Ilmor had gone for an even smaller bore and longer stroke in its 2000 Mercedes engine. "With a longer stroke, Mercedes reaches the same revs we do," said Ferrari's Ross Brawn. "God knows how they do it." Suspected was the use of beryllium and its alloys in the pistons; the costly and poisonous metal will be barred in 2001.

Actual bore and stroke dimensions are seldom divulged, although one source quoted the measurements of the Cosworth CR-1 as 96 x 41.4 mm. This was the ultra-light engine introduced in 1999, made very compact by spacing the cylinders at only 99.5 mm. As developed for 2000, its compactness contributed to cylinder-head cracks and block distortion - so much so that last year's heads had to be used for a spell on this year's block. And then problems were caused by sharing the same oil supply between the engine and the gearbox. These had to be separated during the year.

It's obvious that BMW can be very pleased with its achievements in 2000. "We stated before the season that we had five targets for the five-year program," said BMW's Mario Theissen. "They were: first finish, first points, first podium, first victory and eventually hopefully the championship. We achieved the first three in the first race, so we can't complain. Originally we planned to have one big evolution step halfway through the season but then we found out in the early races that it was more about reliability than power. We decided to focus on reliability and that's what we did for the first eight or nine races."

Theissen was generous in crediting his immensely experienced predecessor, Paul Rosche, for BMW's fast start: "It really was a big achievement from Paul Rosche. He had to simultaneously set up a company, build a facility, build the team, design the engine and get the engine ready for the first race. To take on all these challenges at once was really unbelievable. In the summer of '99 we had the current engine on the test bench for the first time. In October it was in the car and we worked right up to the last day before the first race to get ready. We just managed to do it." Pressing for more power in 2001, will BMW lose its reliability? It wouldn't be the first to have that problem.

The darkest of dark horsepower for 2001 is AMT, nee Peugeot. You remember Peugeot? After their successes in sports-prototypes in the early Nineties under Jean Todt, they decided to build engines for Formula One. They even supplied McLaren's engines once. Now they've left F1 and, like so many unsuccessful participants, they've rubbished the series on the way out the door. "We came to this decision way back in November 1999," said its president Frederic Saint-Geours, "because we simply do not believe that the massive investments in Formula One are justified by the returns.

"I want one thing to be made totally clear," Peugeot's Saint-Geours felt it necessary to state, "and that is that we are pulling out of Formula One for good. In life, one must never say never, but if you want my opinion, it is that Peugeot will never again race in Formula One." These are the words of the head of the company that in 1912 revolutionized Grand Prix racing with its introduction of the twin-cam four-valve engine, the company that indeed was one of the dominant forces in racing before World War I. If you want my opinion, M. Saint-Geours, Formula One will get along quite well without Peugeot. And when you decide to come back, it will be much more graceful in welcoming you than you were in departing.

Peugeot successor AMT seems to have enough money from Asian sources to fund a serious development program for its engines, to be used by Arrows. But is Argentine Enrique Scalabroni the man to lead AMT? He's known for his chassis work - most recently for the Qvale Mangusta - but not for engines. Scalabroni should at least be aware of what his engines ought to achieve in order to be competitive. And in Formula One, that's half the battle.


Karl Ludvigsen© 2000 Kaizar.Com, Incorporated.
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