Mario Illien, the engineer and former shareholder of Ilmor Engineering, is generally positive about the new F1 engine regulations which will be brought into F1 in 2013.
Speaking to Italian motorsport website 442race.com, Illien – whose company formed a partnership with Mercedes-Benz in the nineties to supply F1 teams (most famously McLaren) with engines – said that the proposed rule changes were technically ‘very challenging’ but thinks that four-cylinder designs can be made to work in Formula One.
Illien is no longer involved in F1 and, thanks to the engine freeze currently in place, feels that he is not missing out on much competition with other engine engineers.
“I think it’s too restrictive, [the freeze] we currently have,” said the 61-year-old. “There are many different engines, but more or less they are all the same. Obviously, as anengineer, I would prefer if things can be modified and improved and there is a real fight and challenge. But that’s where we are.”
In 2013, F1 is planning to introduce new ‘green’ engines – four cylinder, 1.6 litre turbos with built-in energy recovery systems – with the aim of increasing efficiency by 35%. Illien told 442race.com that this huge change in engine regulations could prove very interesting.
“I think technically it’s very challenging, especially in combination with the energy recovery,” he said. “I think that will be a real engineering exercise. They will obviously take some risks and at the same time I think one can be different from the others and make big gains. You have to look at the turbo engine and the energy recovery as a combined energy source, I think that’s quite good.”
Illien’s enthusiasm has not been shared by some of the teams, with Ferrari’s Luca di Montezemolo in particular arguing that four cylinders are not good for F1. “There is a point he has in that respect, especially because they are Ferrari,” said Illien, responding to the Ferrari presidents’ comments. “They only have older four-cylinder cars, so that’s obviously slightly different. The whole thing could have been made with a V6, but I still think it’s possible to have a good formula even with four cylinders 1.6.”
Other critics have suggested that the new engines will be too quiet for F1.Does Illien think that the change in sound will be less appealing for the fans? “Potentially yes,” he answers.”There are two things: the four cylinders with only 12,000 rpm and the turbo-charging, which is silencing the sound quite a bit. Having said that, I think right now they are probably too loud as they are. But yes, the sound could be a potential problem.”
Illien also notes that there will be differences between the integrated energy recovery systems to be introduced in 2013 and the bolt-on systems that will make a reappearance this season: “From 2013 you will be able to [recover] a little bit more energy from the braking. But at the same time you will recover exhaust energy in addition. So there’s quite a bit more energy you can recoverfrom the total package.”
The Swiss engine expect thinks that the new energy recovery technology have potential applications for the road car market and, as a result, thinks that the new regulations could attract more constructors’ to the sport. However, he points out that regular rule changes add to the costs of competing.
“Obviously, when you make a change, it costs a lot more money than if you remain with what we had,” he said. “Initially you will have to make a big investment. But in the longer term, if the stability of the rules is maintained, I think you will have a cost saving.”
In conclusion, however, Illien tells 422race.com that, despite the current crisis in the car industry, the move to greener technology is the correct direction for the future of Formula 1:”It’s probably never the right time [to make big rule changes], but car industry at the moment is quite positive and boiling. I think there is a need for more efficient cars on the road. That can be an incentive to invest into the new formula and hopefully carry forward some of the ideas into production. I think the timing is not as bad as some people might think. On top of that, Formula One does need to make a statement that they are improving on fuel economy and overall efficiency.”