Formula 1 Engine       

The Formula 1 engine, for all of its sophistication and
precision, is ultimately a ferocious monster.  It has a
terrible growl when awakened, deafening roar as it
accelerates and a furious wail when spun to full speed.  
It gulps air and fuel, and exhales fire.  It shakes
violently.  The only way to appease the monster is to
keep it well fed and well exercised.  A magnificent beast.

The Formula 1 engine is a beast defined mainly by the
rules determined by the FIA, the international
motorsport governing body.

Simplified the engine is a 90 degree V8 naturally
aspirated with 2.4 liters of displacement; a block and
cylinder heads constructed of aluminum alloy;  4
camshafts; 4 valves per cylinder; fuel injected and
computer controlled; oil lubricated and water cooled.

Formula 1 engines are very lightweight, by FIA rule they
must have a minimum weight of 95 kgs (209 lbs).  In
fact, most engines weigh less than 95 kgs and require
ballast to be added to bring them up to FIA spec.  This
while maintaining the structural rigidity necessary to
hold up the entire back end of the car, including the
gearbox, rear wing and rear suspension.  Each
component of the engine not outlined by the FIA rules
is minimized in weight and size to provide the least
resistance to achieving speed.  For example the 2009
Toyota engine (taken apart by RET magazine) utilized
hollow camshafts with even the lobes of the camshaft
themselves are hollowed out.  Every gram is considered,
the spark plugs weigh as little as 11 grams (Champion).
 For comparison a conventional spark plug weighs close
to 65 grams.  

Arguably, the most intriguing aspect of the Formula 1
engine is the speed at which it can rotate, up to 20,000
rpm.  However, this speed is mandated at a maximum
of 18,000 rpm by the FIA.  For comparison a typical
Nascar or Indy car engine spins up to about 10,000
rpm.  The primary reason the engine can achieve such
high speeds is extremely short length of the piston
stroke.  The stroke of a Formula 1 engine is
approximately 40 mm, less than half as long as the
bore is wide (98 mm).  The shorter the distance the
piston has to travel the faster the engine can spin.

The physics of spinning an engine far above 10,000
rpm prevent the conventional coiled metal valve springs
from closing the valves fast enough to keep up with the
cycles of the engine.  This is overcome by the use of
pneumatic valve springs.  The valves push against a
compressed cushion of air which is able to react and
close the valves much faster than a metal coil spring.

Engines in Formula 1 for 2011 are built to last between
two or three 2 hour long races including three practice
sessions (1 hr 30 mins) and one qualifying session
(maximum of 1 hr).  The FIA rule allows for the use of
eight engines for the duration of the season, which is
19 races, and there is a 10 grid spot penalty for using a
ninth engine.

There is no opportunity to rebuild the engine after each
session or each race even though some Formula 1
teams have the means and manpower to do so.  Once
an engine is homologated it is effectively sealed, with
only ancillary items allowed to be changed, such as
coolant, oil, spark plugs, and filters.  As a result a
certain amount of durability must be built into each
engine often at the sacrifice of weight and power.  That
being said, everything on a formula 1 car is built on the
edge of reliability in order to gain every last bit of
performance.  In effect, the fastest car is often the car
that comes closest to failure without actually doing so.

Material selection is critical to both reliability and
performance of a Formula 1 engine.  By FIA rule the
engine block and cylinder heads are aluminum alloy,
and cannot be made from magnesium or other high
tech metal or composite.  The crankshaft and camshafts
must be made from single pieces of iron alloy (like
steel).  The pistons are aluminum, connecting rods
titanium, valves titanium.  In addition, material coatings
and treatments are also used to give more ordinary
materials like aluminum or steel the ability to withstand
the massive forces exerted in Formula 1.  Coatings
must not exceed specifications:  total coating thickness
does not exceed 25% of the section thickness of the
underlying base material in all axes or 0.8mm.
This is the sound of a Formula 1 engine being put through
its paces.
A Formula 1 engine under construction-- be warned the
sound is loud on this one.
As of the 2011 season four manufacturers make engines.
Cosworth, Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, and Renault.   Each team
purchases their engines from one of the four manufacturers
and adapts them to their own chassis.  The cost of a
formula 1 engine is astronomical, however with the purchase
comes full service at the shop and at the racetrack.
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