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A new factor for the 2008 season: ECU
Next season will see a revolution in the area of electronics as the FIA technical regulations impose a standard ECU for all the teams. It is one of the most significant changes of the past few seasons for the engineers. The ECU has become the car’s brain, so modifying a way of thinking built up over many years is going to pose a few problems.

All-purpose ECU
In the twenty years since Renault pioneered the first electronic systems in F1 on the turbo engine, the processors have expanded their influence. Today, they have invaded all areas connected with performance. It is now impossible to start the car without a battery of computers. The chips monitor, analyze, record and control. To sum up the ECU sends signals and receives orders in real time. It guarantees the functions of all the car’s components and measures huge quantities of data. These are stocked, sent by telemetry or used for calculations. The measuring unit is the nanosecond, a thousandth of a millionth of a second!

Over the years the ING Renault F1 Team designed a real gem of an ECU. The Step 11 distinguished itself by certain physical advantages: one unit instead of two provided faster reaction time as the dialogue between the engine and chassis units was eliminated. Its powers of calculation were four times quicker than the system used by the team beforehand. Its data acquisition capacity was ten times more powerful, and its stocking capacity six times greater. The band, which gathered the information, was three times wider. Compared to the Magnetti Marelli Step 10 its speed was multiplied one hundredfold. This miniaturized technology was put back on the shelf after the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Back to the beginning
This winter all the F1 teams will have to serve an accelerated apprenticeship. The ECU and its program will be the same for everybody. This decision was taken by the Federation to limit the influence of electronic systems on driving, and also to give it better control in an area that had its grey zones. The ECU designed by McLaren Electronic Systems in collaboration with Microsoft will be used in the 2008, 2009 and 2010 seasons. “It will be able to generate 100 to 500KBs of information per second”, says the manufacturer. While this figure may seem impressive it is slower than the performance of the free ECUs up till the end of the 2007 season. The installation of the new component in the chassis will also have to be revised, as it has not been designed for any specific car.

What will be the first task of all the teams in the private test session on the Barcelona circuit this week? It will be to get to know the new ECU in racing conditions. Last summer some teams could hardly start their V8s when they tried the standard ECU for the first time. Then it will be necessary to feed its program and optimize the on-board systems. The program can be developed by the teams themselves and a standard instructions program can also be supplied with the ECU. So it will be up to each team to make its choice. Some back-up units are available from the manufacturer. Adopting them will, overall, enable those who so choose to gain precious time. The race against the clock has already begun! Source Renault

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