Panasonic Toyota Racing
Inside a Formula 1 Car - Engine, Gearbox, Exhaust, Radiator
Think of Grand Prix racing and you think of passion, excitement, glamour – and noise. The roar of an engine has become a trademark of Formula 1 throughout the years, an unmistakable sign that the best in the business are in town.
To the expert ear, of course, that roar has changed several times over the decades, incorporating turbo engines and now the normally-aspirated (non-turbo), 2.4litre V8 engines in accordance with the latest regulations.
Unlike previous years, engine development is now restricted. Teams had to submit an engine at the end of the 2006 season to world governing body the FIA. For this season, engines must be of the same design as given to the FIA, with a limited number of changes allowed only to improve reliability – not performance.
But don't be fooled into thinking a Formula 1 engine is anything but a high-tech beast which can really pack a punch, producing over 700 horsepower for a top speed of around 360km/h at Monza, the fastest track on the calendar.
Luca explains: "In the engine we use almost every kind of material you can on a Formula 1 car, for example you can see aluminium made with complex casting techniques but you also see carbon material. It is very important to keep the centre of gravity of the engine very low so we tend to put the very light parts on the upper part and the heavy parts on the bottom."
But the engine cannot power a Formula 1 car on its own, it needs the help of a gearbox - and that's not your standard five-speed road car transmission with gear stick and clutch.
In Panasonic Toyota Racing's TF107, there is no clutch and no gear stick, instead the driver flicks a lever behind his steering wheel to change up or down and the gearbox makes the change.
A new development for the team's 2007 car is a 'seamless shift' gearbox, which maintains constant acceleration even when the driver changes gear. This gets the car to top speed quicker than the previous technology.
Luca says: "Over 700hp has to be transferred from the engine in the right way to the wheels. In the Formula 1 car the gearbox lay-out is a bit different to a normal car. In a road car the engine and the gearbox is the same unit - the power train. But historically in Formula 1 the gearbox is part of the chassis, because the suspension wishbones are connected to the gearbox."
The quest for high performance does not stop with the engine and gearbox, as the exhaust system also plays a vital part in maximising power output. Any engine needs to breathe and the efficiency of an exhaust system has a direct influence on engine performance.
In principal, a Formula 1 exhaust behaves exactly as a road car's – it takes gases away from the engine and expels them safely at the back of the car. In practice, the intricate welding and precision design of the TF107 exhaust looks closer to a work of automotive art.
In order for the bodywork to be as aerodynamically-efficient as possible at the rear of the car, the exhaust system is designed to fit as tightly around the engine as possible. Therefore, a successful exhaust design serves two purposes – maximising engine performance and minimising aerodynamic compromises.
Luca says: "Engine people start with the details of the flow inside the exhaust. We are tuning it like a musical instrument, like an organ, to be sure the engine torque is the highest possible in all the rev ranges."
With all the power, performance and noise of a Formula 1 engine comes heat, so much so that the exhaust system glows orange at full throttle. As any driver knows, an overheating engine can be a serious problem, so a modern Formula 1 car has sophisticated radiators to keep the engine within safe temperature limits.
These radiators, produced by the team's official partner Denso, are located in the sidepods, to the right and left of the engine and contain around three litres of coolant. To fine-tune engine cooling, different air vent options are available on the bodywork, allowing more, or less, air to reach the radiators, depending on the cooling required.
Luca adds: "The radiator has a very important role in the speed of the car. It is not just the engine that makes a car fast – it is a partnership with other parts. The radiators have to be small because a smaller radiator makes it easier to design a fast car, when it comes to aerodynamics. We tend to have a very narrow engine cover, but the engine also has to run in a very narrow temperature window."
The heat of competition in Formula 1 is intense and Luca and his team are doing their bit to give Panasonic Toyota Racing the power to succeed.