Love or hate them, hybrid powertrains at the pinnacle of motorsport are here to stay.
The hybrid era has not necessarily been the most popular in Formula 1. It had to contend with the dominance of Mercedes-Benz in the power stakes and a perceived lack of audible oomph when hybrid designs first came into use in 2014.
However, the design of the current powertrain - it can't be referred to as simply an engine because it's so much more - has played, and continues to play, a crucial role in the development of some of the most highly-efficient motoring technologies to have ever been devised.
We can. Therefore, today celebrate the current Formula 1 designs and look at what the future could hold for this unique technology.
change born of necessity
It's perhaps fitting to begin by taking a step back from introducing the hybrid powertrain. Hoping to understand the significance of such a move for a sport that has for so many years epitomized the pinnacle of automotive design and performance.
At the end of the 2013 season, the FIA - the governing body responsible for Formula 1 - was keen to bolster the sport's mass-market appeal.
The creation of a new generation of engine designs focused on enhanced efficiency and lessening the environmental impact of racing was viewed as a means to achieve this.
As a result, a new set of regulations would be implemented for the 2014 season.
The scrapping of the old V8 engines that powered the previous Red Bull-dominated era of F1 and the introduction of new, more minor V6 designs would make engine manufacturers' work more challenging to maximize efficiency and performance.
smaller but no less powerful
Therefore, the FIA introduced a raft of changes for the 2014 Formula 1 season, the most far-reaching being the change in engine design from 2.4-litre V8s with a limit of 18,000 rpm to 1.6-litre V6 designs (15,000 rpm max) with accompanied hybrid-electric systems. While the smaller traditional petrol engine does mean a reduction in overall power from the past, this loss is more than made up for through cutting-edge electrical usage.
Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS) had been a factor of the previous formula. But this was further refined to a wider-encompassing Energy Recovery System (ERS) that significantly boosts overall performance and dramatically increases torque for current F1 cars. The immediacy of electrical power means the drivers can apply the throttle with split-second precision, giving more excellent drive out of corners and off the start but requiring a gentler touch to avoid wheel spin.
KERS operated through the harvesting of braking energy, which in turn charged an onboard battery that could use to apply additional horsepower when defending or overtaking. And to an extent, today's ERS works similarly by recovering heat from the exhaust and energy when braking. However, the increased efficiency and battery capacity in new powertrain designs mean that the additional 80 bhp of KERS, which was available for just 6.7 seconds per lap, has been dwarfed by ERS. Indeed, the current ERS provides an extra 160 bhp for ten times the performance duration that KERS ever had.
a whole far greater than the sum of its parts
The engineering behind these latest F1 powertrains has been genuinely revolutionary. It combines the worlds of traditional engine design with cutting-edge energy recycling to deliver an enormously sophisticated and increasingly efficient whole - using less fuel to provide the same level of performance. Therefore, the challenge presented to engine manufacturers at the start of the hybrid era was immense, and it's no surprise that specific teams have significantly benefited from enhanced performance in relation to their rivals.
Indeed, Mercedes-Benz has been a step above the rest throughout the last three seasons, claiming both the manufacturers' and drivers' titles each year. Honda, on the other hand, having had a season's less development time following their return to F1 with McLaren in 2015, has faced some well-documented struggles to catch up. Ferrari and Renault also continue to lag in their pursuit of the Silver Arrows.
developing a greener future for all
What must be remembered, though, is that the overriding driving force behind the current designs of the F1 powertrain has been to create high-performance racing cars that provide real-world benefits for all motorists. By focusing on enhanced efficiency, lower fuel consumption and the advantage of hybrid electric power, the brain's trust in F1 has broken new ground in engine design used in many of the latest road cars.
This real-world application means should remember the hybrid era as one of great importance not only in F1 but for automotive design in general. It's also not over yet, as the current powertrain regulations are expected to be in place until 2020. Therefore, fans of the sport can expect further refinement of these systems in the seasons ahead. At the same time, the technology created through Formula 1 innovation will benefit all drivers for years to come.
Randstad has been the official partner of the Williams Martini Racing Team since 2006. Success in Formula One requires the commitment of a talented team performing at the best of their ability. The expertise, spirit of excellence and trust on which we base our relationships are illustrated daily in the Williams Martini Racing team.
In both the racing world and the HR business, one has to be proactive and have quick reflexes to perform well.
Like Randstad, the Williams Martini Racing team is innovative with a solid track record and a remarkable workforce.