As from the start of 2006, new technical regulations will see all the top Formula One outfits switch from V10 to V8 powerplants and B.A.R Honda is up to speed on its preparations for the new engine formula.
“The engine group has been working on the V8 since late last year, and the programme is advancing well,” explains technical director Geoffrey Willis. “As you probably know, we had the V8 in a test chassis in Mugello earlier this year. That was the first prototype; we have a number of steps of prototypes evolving towards the final race specification. The latest specification prototype is now running on the dyno and, like many of our rivals, we will be testing the V8 again on the track at the beginning of the winter testing in an intermediate chassis. On the chassis side, although there are a number of changes to the overall layout of the car with a shorter engine, the chassis design schedule is very much as last year and we are quite a long way through that already.”
Clearly, the introduction of a more compact V8 engine will result in extra space behind the driver but it remains to be seen whether the next B.A.R Honda will maximise this change by featuring a shorter wheelbase, a longer fuel tank or totally revised aerodynamics.
“Those are certainly a number of the options,” agrees Willis. “It is interesting because the one big change with the new engine rules is that there is a minimum engine weight and a minimum centre of gravity height, which means we are not suddenly going to see a big step in chassis-side performance from the very much smaller V8 engine. There are a number of different options open to us. The teams will have spent quite a lot of effort on how best to use the 90mm or so that they are now going to have free. Some may have shorter rear ends, some may have slightly longer gearboxes. It will depend on their design philosophy and what they feel they need to focus on for their car’s performance improvement. The aerodynamic regulations are only changing very slightly for next year, so you will see a lot of the concepts being refined from this year to next year”
Willis, however, admits the lack of clarity regarding next year’s qualifying procedures isn’t helping his design team. “It does actually make a difference,” he confirms. “It’s may surprise some people how inter-related the sporting and technical regulations are and specifically how significant is the change in qualifying format. For example the possible low fuel qualifying will tend to change the normal strategies the teams will want to use. Even a proposal to lower the pit lane speed limit during the races will have an effect on strategies and, at the moment, most teams will be having to commit to their chassis geometry, if not already, certainly by the end of August. It doesn't make it easy with the sporting regulations unknown and in the absence of definite Sporting Regulations the engineers will have to take a trade-off between not having enough fuel capacity to take the sort of strategies that you may want to do next year or, if the regulations don’t change in that direction, the penalty of having a slightly heavier chassis, slightly longer chassis or wider chassis than you might want …so it is difficult. It’s always a problem to try and change the sporting regulations independently of the technical regulations.”