High-revving Thrills: Formula 1 Engines at 20,000 RPM!!


With Formula 1 lowering the maximum rpm to 15,000 for the new engines in 2014, EngineLabs is reflecting on the current model of 18,000 rpm and even the days when engines could exceed 20,000 rpm.

Check out these videos to see some screaming Formula 1 engines on the dyno or in the garage. There are some very interesting dynamics on display, especially in the video showing the fuel injectors above the trumpets.

Just how do these engines rev so high and produce around 800 horsepower? Let’s count the ways:

Low friction: High-tech bearings combined with precise tolerances and special lubricants reduce parasitic losses to near zero. The clearances are so exact that there is a specific startup strategy with regards to fluid and ambient temperatures.  

Balance and harmonics: Internal parts are matched perfectly and sophisticated engine management controls make sure no cylinder works harder than any other.

Lightweight materials: Even though many exotic materials are banned, F1 engineers use the lightest, strongest aluminum or iron-based materials and machine them to extremely close tolerances–then use advanced coatings for friction and thermal control.

Pneumatic valve springs: No coils to break here, it’s all done by air pressure–and it’s quite effective.

Big-bore, short stroke: F1 V8 engines are currently limited to 2.4-liter and 98mm maximum bore, or 3.858 inches. That means the maximum stroke for that bore is just under 40mm or 1.566 inches.

Advanced airflow design: Elaborate CFD analysis ensures maximum VE within the rules, even with only one injector per cylinder.

One can only imagine what a Formula 1 engine would be like if there were no rules, like in the old days.

About the author

Mike Magda

Mike Magda is a veteran automotive writer with credits in publications such as Racecar Engineering, Hot Rod, Engine Technology International, Motor Trend, Automobile, Automotive Testing Technology and Professional Motorsport World. He was the editor of four national automotive magazines, including Chevy High Performance, and has authored hundreds of automotive technical briefings. In covering nearly every type of motorsport, Mike has collaborated with many of racing's top engine builders and factory engineers.
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