Formula 1 is the sport discipline where the technological development reaches its pinnacle. Due to the new regulations introduced in 2014, this aspect particularly fundamental. In particular the switch from 2.4-liter V8 naturally aspirated engine to the 1.6-liter V6 turbocharged one poses significant technological challenges. Despite the significantly smaller size of the engines, absolute power output, also due to the additional electric power of 120 kW, and thus specific output levels are substantially higher. With the introduction of turbocharging, peak combustion pressures of over 200 bar must be mastered, while the engines are running at extremely high speeds of up to the 15,000 rpm allowed by regulations. The result is primarily very high mechanical loads that impact components—above all pistons, by far the most critical mechanical components in modern racing engines. MAHLE motorsports has therefore intensified the ongoing development of materials: fundamental measures including improved aluminum alloys—including in powder-metallurgical form, too—and new coatings for the piston crown and ring groove side faces. Using 3D topology optimization, substantial advances were also made in the design of the piston structure. Because primarily mechanical effects are critical, the use of steel pistons in Formula 1 engines is also being investigated.
A second far-reaching change in the regulations for powertrain design related to the former “KERS” (Kinetic Energy Recovery System): the system, called “ERS” (Energy Recovery System) uses the turbocharger to convert thermal energy into electric energy and stores it. This not only increases the permissible electrical storage capacity, but also the maximum additional power output that the driver can tap. Instead of the approximately 60 kW that have been available for 6.7 seconds per lap, since 2014 it is up to 120 kW for 33.3 seconds per lap. The additional electrical power does not, however, relieve the combustion engine and its components. On the contrary, the high external torque that the electric motor applies to the engine via the transmission causes additional stresses. These bending loads must also be considered in the piston design.
The regulations finally also provide that, since 2014, only five engines are permitted per driver per season instead of the previous eight. So one engine has to last for significantly longer distances. Whereas 2,000 km used to be sufficient in the past, the mark is now 4,000 km—an enormous additional burden on all components. The engine regulation is thus nearly applicable to the other big racing series, such as the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
All Formula 1 engines of both the old and the new generation are equipped with MAHLE motorsport components.