As Formula One teams get ready to go racing in Melbourne, it has become obvious that the behaviour of engines will be considerably different during qualifying and the actual races.
Several drivers have already noted that in races, engine power will be considerably less due to the limit of fuel consumption. This is now set at a maximum of 100kg for the entire race, measured from the start line to the finish line. Essentially, this also means that cars have fuel tanks that are slightly larger than this limit, as each driver needs to drive to the start line, possibly by doing several warm-up laps, depending on the need of the day. Additionally, each finishing car also has to make it back to the pits as well, requiring another few drops of gasoline.
Sauber driver Adrian Sutil is the latest to highlight the changes that F1 teams face during a race.
"We have the new cars, which are still at a very early development stage. Everything is new", he said. "Driving in qualifying will be very different to the race, because the cars will have more power than in the race. Less downforce and more power will be a challenge for us drivers. Higher top-speed and less grip on a street circuit like Melbourne will be exciting."
"Also the 100 kg of fuel will see nervous faces on the pit walls. We were able to gain experience regarding the fuel management during testing, but over a race distance everything has to come together flawlessly. It will be a lottery as to who will finish the race in front, and the excitement will be extremely high."
The maximum flow of fuel into the internal combustion engine is also limited, and that will be the most limiting factor in qualifying. Drivers will be able to push hard during their one-lap endeavors, using as much fuel as this rule permits. It is also expected that out-laps will be mainly used to fully charge the ERS batteries fully, using all stored energy during the timed lap, added by energy that can be recovered during the qualifying lap itself.
This ultimate performance strategy will be rendered useless during a race, especially because the 100kg limit for an entire race is to be the limiting factor, much more than the fuel flow limit.
The maximum fuel flow is controlled and enforced by the FIA by mandating an FIA-approved fuel flow meter that must be installed in each car. This meter will only monitor fuel flow several times per second and cannot enforce this limit. It is up to the FIA to take action when the maximum flow of 100kg/h is exceeded.
Combined with increased torque, more immediate power delivery and less downforce, cars will likely slide more, putting an extra stress on the Pirelli rear tyres. But, with reliablity still far from perfect at this stage, most teams are simply targeting to get their cars to the finish first, and see where they go from there.