The production of an F1 engine passes through three primary steps. The aim is to ensure a powerful, reliable unit: here is the explanation.
1. The motored dyno
Driven by electrical motors, this dyno allows the team to test the accessories on the new engine, such as the different pumps. As soon as the major components of the new engine are ready, this equipment is used to check that particular zones of the powerplant are functioning correctly.
"For example, we test an engine block fitted solely with the cylinder heads in order to test the distribution" explains Stéphane Rodriguez, head of dyno testing. "In this configuration, the engine is not fired up: the electrical dyno permits us to check certain technical solutions, or do short endurance runs. The tests are designed to ensure that everything is working correctly, and are therefore not particularly severe."
2. The thermal dyno
Once the first engine has been built, it is 'christened' on the thermal dyno. This step comes about four weeks after its electrical counterpart, according to the arrival of the primary components and the adjustments that need to be made during installation.
The engine will then roar into life for the first time. "It is a pretty special moment. The first aim is to ensure the engine starts! Then, we check and measure dozens of parameters connected with the lubrication systems and temperatures. We also draw the first power curves."
The first fire-up is above all to reassure the engineers. At the beginning, the test is relatively undemanding: the RS24 was thus analysed in its tiniest details for an entire day. "Then, the engine begins its development programme" adds Stéphane. "From this moment, our programme is split into two: the thermal benches will chase absolute performance, testing engines with modified cylinder heads, or valves for example. We test specific components and the performance of the engine according to a number of precise parameters."
Amongst this bewildering range of tests, only the parts which bring a significant performance gain are retained. From this point onwards, the two (soon to be three) dynamic dynos at Viry-Châtillon are running all day.
3. The dynamic dyno
The versions of the RS24 which have demonstrated an acceptable level of performance, then make their way to the torture chamber: the full dynamic dyno. Viry-Châtillon possesses two dynos: the first allows the gearbox and engine to be run together (the full dynamic dyno), while the second is a more traditional configuration with just the engine.
" At this point, our aim is to check the engine's reliability" explains Stéphane Rodriguez. " We steadily increase the load on the engine in order to give it a thorough workout."
The most demanding circuit on the calendar is produced in its smallest details using the telemetry from the previous season: the V10 must complete 700km at qualifying speed. "The process then becomes a continual exchange between the thermal dynos, which propose performance gains, and the dynamic dynos, which check their reliability. It is a difficult balance to find: in developing the engine, we are constantly treading the fine line between performance and reliability," concludes Stéphane Rodriguez.