Cooling – a key challenge in the new Hybrid Formula One era. The down-sizing of the ICE from a V8, 2.4 litre configuration to a V6, 1.6 litre configuration and resultant increase in power per litre has created an engine that runs hotter, with yet further heat generated by the addition of a pressure charging system.
The Power Unit itself takes a completely different shape to its predecessor – with more hybrid systems, a more complex exhaust system, plus the intercooler required for the pressure charging system all contributing factors to the cooling requirements of the car.
Managing heat is not only necessary in terms of car integrity, but also performance and efficiency. For example, if heat can be saved in the exhaust primaries between the engine and the turbocharger, this can potentially be recovered through the MGU-H, leading to increased energy harvesting and an overall efficiency gain.
Two opposing influences thereby exist – one focused on ensuring that each of these components operates within an optimal temperature range, the other on packaging the related cooling systems in such a way as not to detract from the aerodynamic efficiency of the car.
Singapore aside, nowhere are the requirements for efficient cooling solutions more prominent than in Malaysia – a country renowned for its climate, which provides one of the most significant challenges of the year to both team and driver in this respect.
Contrary to Albert Park, temperature is, in fact, a fairly consistent parameter at the Sepang International Circuit. Ambient usually sits at around 30 – 32 degrees, so cooling requirements on the car can be tailored to suit with reasonable accuracy. While engines do have a different working life in these conditions, teams do at least know what to expect and do not have to deal with ten degree shifts as in Melbourne.
There remains, however, a notable challenge in preventing overheating without the aid of air flowing around the car and into the air intakes – i.e. when stationary. Ensuring the cars return to optimal temperatures as quickly as possible following a qualifying run, for example, can provide an extra window of opportunity. Likewise, the ability to delay laps to the grid until the track is suitably clear can also be of benefit. Each of these small elements can prove an important step in the bigger picture of overall race weekend performance.
This is where onboard cooling systems can play an important role – replacing the airflow generated by the momentum of the car with a fabricated alternative. Ambient temperatures at venues such as Sepang can reach up to 40°C, with ambient on-car temperatures up to 75°C and an operating temperature of over 120°C for the sidepod radiators.
Such is the extent of this requirement, the expertise of Official Team Partner ebm-papst has been enlisted to supply high power and high efficiency fans to the team – enabling a 518% improvement in car cooling for the F1 W06 Hybrid via side pod and roll hoop units.
Then, of course, there is the famed Malaysian humidity. While this doesn’t have as notable an impact on car cooling requirements as ambient or track temperature, from a team perspective the effect is significant.
With Grand Prix garages demanding space for two race cars, spare parts, tyre racks, engineering equipment and, of course, a sizable crew, a large area is naturally left completely open at the front – allowing heat to enter. In Malaysia and Singapore particularly, working temperatures inside the garage can exceed 40°C, with humidity often rising above 90%.
Humans feel humidity dramatically – often struggling to cope and even experiencing breathing difficult at times. Amidst all the technological considerations, it is all too easy to forget that there are human beings in both the garage and the cockpit who need to be operating at peak performance levels in very difficult conditions.
Such is the draining effect of the climate at races such as Singapore and Malaysia, ebm-papst has once again been tasked with producing an innovative cooling and heat extraction solution for the MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS team garage – a critical development in improving working conditions for crew members and drivers alike.
The bespoke system, due to be implemented for the first time at the 2015 Malaysian Grand Prix, consists of a specially developed water cooling system which cools the critical working areas of the garage down to room temperature. With dimensions measuring 1 m by 2 m by 90 cm and a modular air distribution system, the unit can also be configured for use across the range of dimensions and layouts seen in different Formula One garages around the world.
The impact of such a system will not be lost on the drivers. For even the most physically fit amongst the field (none of whom are out of shape, to say the least!), the physical exertion behind the wheel during a typical Malaysian Grand Prix will see a driver’s heart rate reach as high as 170 bpm, see him or her burn up to 1,500 calories and will result in a loss of around three litres of body fluid.
However, the worst effects of the humidity from a driver’s perspective can actually be seen once they return to the garage. At this point they no longer have airflow rushing around them and there is suddenly a huge amount of heat rejection and perspiration to endure.
In the heat of battle, Malaysia is a case of survival of the fittest – both mechanical and human. Moreover, it’s a showcase of just what can be achieved in the most extreme of conditions – the essence of Formula One!