Technical analysis - Sochi

F1i’s Nicolas Carpentiers reviews technical upgrades spotted at the recent Russian Grand Prix, while also providing you with exclusive images of new concepts



The Scuderia spent three of its nine remaining engine development tokens ahead of the Sochi event in a bid to tweak its internal combustion engine (ICE). Ferrari has already planned on improving its turbocharger by the Canadian Grand Prix in June, for this has been the weakest link in the Italian power unit this year. However, opinions differ about the root of the issue.

According to Autosport’s Craig Scarborough, the Ferrari turbo would not be able to spin at full speed. In order to spare the turbine, the Italian engine engineers would detune the component by having the MGU-H set it in motion at the end of straights. This compromise would hurt top-end speed (as it creates ‘clipping’), but it would enable Ferrari to harvest more electric energy before deploying it somewhere else on the circuit.

However, Italian sources with good knowledge of the situation put another theory forward: the 059/05 would feature an oversized turbine that would require a bigger amount of electric energy to keep spinning at the appropriate speed and help reduce turbo lag. The clipping phenomenon witnessed on the SF16-H at the end of straights would thus come from a lack of electric power. According to an engine supplier, if all components are correctly sized, the unwanted turbo lag is all but a minor issue on the current breed of 1.6-litre V6 turbocharged power units. A few hundreds of watts are needed to make the turbine spin, which amounts to a few hundredths of a second per lap.

To this date, Ferrari has spent 26 of its 32 tokens, while Mercedes still has 11 in hand after using two ahead of the Russian Grand Prix. Renault, which has a major upgrade lined up for Canada, also spent one token for Sochi, which means the French constructor still has 24 left. Honda has yet to dip into its 14-token allocation for the season, though Fernando Alonso recently hinted that the Japanese manufacturer should start using some of it by calling for more power in qualifying.