So, here we are. In the world of Formula 1, downsizing has won this round, and Greenpeace has had its way with those naturally-aspirated V8 blocks. When the lights go out at the Sao Paulo circuit in Brazil this November, it will be the last time we hear the sonorous wail of the 2.4-litre V8 - like the Mercedes engine (pictured above) that’s in the Mercedes AMG F1 W04 car. This engine has been at the heart of racing at the apex level for eight long years now, and as it makes its way out, we look back at how it arrived on the world stage.
Back in 2005, teams were still using V10s that could produce as much as 1,000bhp and touch top speeds of up to 370kph. From 2006, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) decided to bring in less powerful units in the form of 2.4-litre V8s, which, unofficially, churned out around 750bhp. However, FIA allowed free rein in terms of engine development, and under the pretext of mid-season updates, teams would up the engine’s output higher than what FIA would have liked.
So, in 2007, FIA ‘froze’ or homologated these engines. In 2009, the rev limit was lowered from 19,000rpm to 18,000, but it wasn’t like anyone complained about the engines being any quieter. Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) was incorporated into the V8s in 2009, and has been part of F1 since 2011. However, on 29 June, 2011, the World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) decided that the V8 had to die. For the sake of furthering technical development, making the sport’s advancements more relevant to road cars (and secretly, saving polar bears), the 1.6-litre, turbocharged V6 was given the green light.
This downsizing won’t make F1 cars any slower or less powerful, though. The new motors, apart from being turbo-charged, will feature direct injection and an energy recovery system (ERS) that is similar to KERS – only here, it’s not just kinetic energy that is utilised, but also the power generated under braking and the gases spewed out by the exhaust. ERS should put out a further 160-odd bhp to complement the power from the engine.
ERS can also be used for longer – 33.3sec to be precise, instead of KERS’s 6.7sec. Fuel allocation (down from 160kg of fuel to 100kg per race) as well as fuel flow rate have been limited too, which will likely see team boffins scratching their heads over fuel management in races.
What we know for sure is that F1 will never sound the same again. Mercedes and Renault have previewed the sound of their 2014 engines – which only have 15,000 revs to play with now. And they do sound loud and whiny, but not in a screaming-V8 sort of way.
Oh, V8 beloved, our wrecked eardrums shall miss you.