The starting order for races in the second half of the season could be in for a shake-up with some drivers likely to be hit by grid penalties for exceeding their annual allocation of power units and their related components.
Last year teams were limited to using eight engines in a season with a driver taking a ten-place grid penalty every time an engine over and above the allocation was used.
This year, it’s a little bit more complex.
THE POWER UNIT VS THE ENGINE
To begin with, unlike last year, when the engine was essentially a single whole, this year’s complex power units with all their hybrid systems comprise six individual components:
- The traditional internal combustion engine
- The turbocharger
- The motor generator unit – kinetic (MGU-K) which harvests the kinetic energy under braking like the old KERS system.
- The motor generator unit – heat (MGU-H) which harvests waste heat energy from the turbo
- The energy store or battery that stores all the harvested energy when it isn’t being used to power the car
- The control electronics which basically act as the brain of the power unit and control all of the complex process that keep it running.
WHAT THE RULES SAY
Article 28.4 of the sporting regulation states:
- “…Each driver may use no more than five power units during a Championship season.
- “Each driver will …be permitted to use five of each of the above six components during a Championship season and any combination of them may be fitted to a car at any one time.
- “Should a driver use more than five of any one of the elements a grid place penalty will be imposed upon him at the first Event during which each additional element is used.”
Now, all the six components mentioned together make up the power unit and according to the rule stated above each driver is essentially limited to running just five whole power units in the entire season.
Going further, a driver will also not be allowed to use more than five of each individual component that make up the whole power unit.
What this means is that not only may a driver not use more than five whole power units in a season but that a driver will also be limited to using just five turbochargers, five internal combustion engines, five energy stores and so on over the course of the season.
A driver is allowed to mix and match the various components that make up the power unit, for example turbocharger number three can be used with internal combustion engine number two and so on, so long as the five per car per season limit is not exceeded.
But should a driver exceed his allocation, he will then be hit by a sliding scale of penalties, depending on how many components over and above the allowance of five each are used.
Article 28.4 outlines the following penalties for exceeding the prescribed allocation:
- Replacement of a complete power unit: The driver concerned must start the race from the pit lane
- The first time a 6th of any of the elements is used: Ten grid place penalty
- The first time a 6th of any of the remaining elements is used: Five grid place penalty
- The first time a 7th of any of the elements is used: Ten grid place penalty
- The first time a 7th of any of the remaining elements is used, and so on: Five grid place penalty
This means that should a driver use say a sixth turbocharger, he will be demoted ten places on the grid. But then if at the next race he uses a sixth internal combustion engine, he will get a five place penalty.
A further five place penalty will be applied if he uses a sixth energy store, or battery, and so on.
But then the moment he dips into the ‘sevens’, that is if he uses a seventh turbocharger, he starts a new cycle and once again drops ten places on the grid, with further five-place penalties for using a seventh engine, a seventh battery and so it goes.
If the whole power unit is replaced however, he then has to start from the pitlane.
The rules also state that if a driver’s grid position means the full extent of the penalty cannot be applied, it can then be carried forward to the next race.
So if a certain driver has a fifteen place grid penalty for using firstly a sixth battery and then a sixth turbocharger but has qualified tenth, he starts from 22nd and last, dropping twelve places.
In that case, he will still carry over a three-place grid penalty to the next race which means should he qualify tenth again, he will then have to start 13th. These penalties, however, cannot be carried over for more than one event.
STATE OF PLAY:
Renault’s head of track operations Remi Taffin conceded in Hockenheim that there would be some drivers hit with grid penalties in the second half.
The table below put together by the FIA, which details the number of power unit components used by each driver heading into the German Grand Prix, offers some clues as to who that might be.
Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat, for instance, has already used five internal combustion engines and five MGU-Ks, the only driver in the field to have used five of any component.
He is right up against the five-per-season threshold and with half the season still to run looks likeliest to exceed the allowance and trigger a penalty.
There’s nothing to stop him going back to already used components but each part will have a shelf-life beyond which it cannot be used.
The Marussia drivers and Lotus’s Pastor Maldonado also look vulnerable as does Sebastian Vettel to a certain extent, the German one short of the five-per-season allowance on five of the six components.
The Mercedes powered cars all look to be comfortably within the season’s allocation. But Nico Rosberg appears to have used one less energy store than title rival Lewis Hamilton.
The FIA-compiled table below sets out the details of the state of play in full:
|Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull (Renault)||4||4||4||4||2||4|
|Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull (Renault)||3||3||3||3||2||2|
|Romain Grosjean||Lotus (Renault)||3||4||3||3||2||3|
|Pastor Maldonado||Lotus (Renault)||4||4||4||4||2||3|
|Jenson Button||McLaren (Mercedes)||3||3||3||3||2||2|
|Kevin Magnussen||McLaren (Mercedes)||3||3||3||3||2||2|
|Nico Hulkenberg||Force India (Mercedes)||3||3||3||3||2||2|
|Sergio Perez||Force India (Mercedes)||3||3||3||3||2||2|
|Adrian Sutil||Sauber (Ferrari)||3||3||3||3||3||3|
|Esteban Gutierrez||Sauber (Ferrari)||3||3||3||3||3||3|
|Jean-Eric Vergne||Toro Rosso (Renault)||4||4||4||3||3||3|
|Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso (Renault)||5||4||5||3||2||2|
|Felipe Massa||Williams (Mercedes)||3||3||3||3||2||3|
|Valtteri Bottas||Williams (Mercedes)||3||3||3||3||2||2|
|Jules Bianchi||Marussia (Ferrari)||4||4||3||4||2||4|
|Max Chilton||Marussia (Ferrari)||4||4||4||4||3||4|
|Kamui Kobayashi||Caterham (Renault)||3||3||3||3||3||4|
|Marcus Ericsson||Caterham (Renault)||3||3||3||3||2||3|
ICE: Internal Combustion Engine; TC: Turbocharger; MGU-K: Motor Generator Unit – Kinetic; MGU-H: Motor Generator Unit – Heat; ES: Energy Store; CE: Control Electronics
Image courtesy of Octane Photographic