Sakhir is a very tough circuit for engines
Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen will both have new engines in their F2007 for this weekend's third round of the World Championship, which is a positive element given that the races in Malaysia and Bahrain are two of the toughest on the calendar in terms of the stresses to which the V8s are subjected.
However, Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro's somewhat disappointing performance at Sepang was not directly linked to the effects of heat on the engine, as the Head of Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro's engine department, Gilles Simon explains. "We had tested in Sepang the week before the race and the data showed that the car had a good ability to keep cool, which means that the package does not lose much efficiency when the rear of the car is opened up more to improve cooling," began the Frenchman. "So, we did not really have problems with engine cooling. However, on Kimi's car, the engine previously used in Melbourne had overheated because of a leak from a joint between the radiator and engine and so, in Sepang, we had to ensure his engine ran cooler to compensate for this. Felipe's engine was able to run hotter than his teammate's."
The effects of running in hot conditions are not all negative: "there are two effects of the heat, the difficulty of cooling of course, but also, on the plus side, the air is less dense. In Malaysia this means that while we had between 30 to 40 horsepower less than in Australia, the internal components, such as pistons and valves are put under much less stress."
For 2007, the FIA regulations state that the engine specification must be frozen to the same state as the last engine that managed to complete two consecutive grand prix weekends in 2006. "In our case it was the one from the third last race of the 2006 season, in China," states Simon. "For the final race in Brazil, we used a one-off engine that only had to last that for that weekend. Then, we were given a list of parts on which we were allowed to work to optimize the engine performance up to a maximum limit of 19000 rpm. We did an enormous amount of work to try and squeeze a year's development into about few weeks. So we had a lot of work to do." However, with the pace of engine development artificially frozen, the Scuderia's power unit specialists have had to look elsewhere to use their skills. "Now this engine is built we are reorganizing our group to continue developing those areas where we are still allowed to." confirms Simon. "
"Another area where we can continue with development is fuel, so within the rules Shell continues to develop fuel for us and oil as this can also lead to an improvement in performance. Finally, we have restructured the way we work to help the GT program and we are also working on the engine for what could be our future cars in collaboration with Jean-Jacques His, Head of GT Engine Department."
As for this weekend, as previously mentioned, Bahrain is very tough in terms of the demands it places on the engines. "Compared to Malaysia, in Bahrain we spend more than 70% with the engine butterflies fully open, in other words at full throttle, whereas in Sepang the figure would have been over 60%," reveals Simon. "Sakhir is the toughest of all the non high speed tracks such as Monza. It is tougher than Barcelona for example, which prior to its layout change was our benchmark for this type of track. We know Sakhir well, we know it is difficult and in testing, we have completed the equivalent of eight race distances with four engines. Apart from engine usage, another factor in Bahrain is the sand, which has to be kept out of the engine." Ferrari