Q&A with Cosworth's Tim Routsis on their return to F1 Cosworth group chief executive Tim Routsis was on hand in Monza to give his thoughts on the company's return to F1 and on discussions about greener 2013 F1 engines, which he is part of.
Q: What is your overall verdict on 2010?
At the start of the year we set out to produce an engine that was competitive and above all reliable. That was the facet that gave me the most concern. I think we had between six and nine months to get everything ready and get the engines built and obviously the competition had something like 300,000kms each of running while we'd been away. I'm quietly proud of the job everyone's done. But we are now working into the phase of really learning how to use the engine.
Q: Can you expand on that? Do you mean you've been a bit too conservative?
The issue is that the engine is becoming much more integrated into the way the whole car behaves. You've obviously seen things like blown diffusers coming out and we're seeing from the performance of the cars across the whole grid that people who can get the way the engine interacts with the diffuser working well, get some really good performance advantages. But, the type of thing we're having to do with the engines are completely unusual in terms of the way historically engines have been run. It's true to say that some of the strategies debated would be almost guaranteed to blow the engine up very quickly and so working out how you can really get the benefits on the car without destroying the engine have been quite a lesson for everybody.
Q: That involves still pumping air for the blown diffuser while off-throttle?
Yes. That's not something in the past that we had to put a great deal of thought into.
Q: Can you explain in lay man's terms how you make that work?
There's a bunch of things I can't say because there's people up and down the paddock who would love the answers but, in essence, the task is well understood. What we're trying to do is keep airflow going across the diffuser when the driver is off throttle and there's a number of different strategies to do that within the engine. If you don't run that very carefully you can take a lot of goodness out of the engine.
Q: Your performance here on a power circuit has been impressive. Where do you think you are relative to F1's leading engines?
I think all the engines are extremely close and the best measurements we've been able to take say that everyone is within about 4%. I think we are towards the front of the pack and it's where we wanted to be. Now what we've got to do is get on the podium.
Q: How close were you to getting a deal with Red Bull?
We did have a lot of conversations and obviously at the time we were at a bit of a disadvantage because we were talking about what we were going to do, not what we'd actually done. I suspect if we'd been able to wind the clock forward 12 months things may have been different.
Q: Looking ahead to the new engine regs in 2013, how much of an investment does that involve?
The investment needed for 2013 is going to be dependent on the shape of the regulations but from what we can see at the moment it is certainly going to be a quite reasonable eight figure sum needed to develop the new engine or, more accurately I should say power train. From our point of view it will depend a bit on the relevance of the technologies. If the structure of the rules is such that everything was point designed for F1 and we wouldn't see any applicability outside F1, then we'd have to be pretty hard-nosed and say that if the teams can't afford to pay for it, then we're not going to do it. If we can see more relevance in terms of creating technology that we can move into other areas, obviously we could take a more wide-ranging view of the finances but, generically, I would say most engine manufacturers would want to see three teams as a steady state going forwards. If it drops below that you have to be looking at a quite different model.
Q: 2013 is not finalized but there's a good idea of the direction. As things stand, are they regulations you're happy to work with?
Firstly, the whole process has been led by the FIA and they are the one that have to declare the outcome of that process, which has been running now for nine months plus. From what we can see they are a relevant and technically exciting set of regulations. I think the piece of work that we've still got to do is to make sure that we don't inadvertently trigger a financial arms race. The one thing that's very clear to me after discussions with all of our colleagues in the manufacturers working group is that big or small, nobody can afford to contemplate an out and out spending race. And that is going to take some wrestling with, I think.
Q: How are you going to avoid it?
There are a number of approaches. One is to constrain areas where we know you can spend a great deal of money for very little gain and just keep the development focused on areas which are relevant to the future. The other is to look at the amount of resource that each of us deploys on the job. It is very much work in progress but everyone is committed to finding an answer.
Q: What do you mean by constraining certain areas - a freeze like today?
Not an engine freeze. I think we have to recognize that the internal combustion engine has been around for about 100 years now and there's an awful lot of areas that are very difficult to improve. We know, for example, that if we were to allow completely free bore and stroke ratios - for a given capacity you can do what you like - we would spend a huge amount of money doing sweeps to find the ultimate bore/stroke ratio and will it actually make any difference at the end of the day? No. There's a whole bunch of things like that when we can say, just fix it. Whereas, if we are going to look at getting a lot of efficiency out of the fuel, the way that we can make the engine exchange gas and getting better thermal efficiency out of it is where we need to be putting our development effort. By looking at that kind of a trade-off is how we can keep costs under control.
Q: Can Cosworth take on the might of a big car manufacturer?
I'm minded to the fact that this is our 40th year in F1 and we've never had the biggest budget around and have usually managed to make a creditable showing.
Q: We've had small capacity turbos before. What do you see as the main differences this time around?
I think the big difference will be the amount of fuel we can pour into it over the course of a race. It's going to be very, very restricted. We've got some engines in our museum which gave over 1500bhp, not for very long I have to say, but they guzzled fuel at a rate that would be completely unacceptable today.
Q: Will that apply to qualifying as well?
I think the regulations are being crafted so that we won't see anything wild in qualifying. The intent is that what you qualify is what you race.
Q: What sort of fuel-efficiency?
It's got to be a marked improvement. We are looking at numbers which are going to sit somewhere between 35 and 50% less fuel than we are using today. For a car that's got to do fundamentally the same sort of lap time and distance, so it's a big change.
Q: How will they sound?
It will be different but if you go back through F1's history we've had just about every configuration known to man and they've all sounded different. There's no doubt at all that a turbocharged engine will always be a little quieter than a naturally aspirated engine running open pipes. But I've never seen a really good racing engine that sounded bad. Are there things we can do? Yes, there are. Playing around with firing order does actually make a remarkable difference but if we are going to have less cylinders the amount that you can actually play with that is reduced. They will sound different. They will sound quieter but I don't think they'll sound bad. They are still going to be pretty high-revving by any normal standard.
Q: Is the idea a set amount of fuel or a fuel-flow meter, or both?
We are going to try and do both - a given amount of fuel allocation and also to restrict the fuel flow to stop wacky qualifying engines. If you are given fuel flow you are not going to be able to get stupid amounts of power out for a short period of time. And I think you are going to find that the integration of the waste energy recovery systems will become much more relevant in the future. We have to be mindful of the amount of waste energy that we put down exhaust pipes at the moment. And that is a very fertile ground to look at getting marked improvements in efficiency.
Q: A lot of manufacturers have disappeared recently. Do you feel they will return sooner rather than later or is it going to take a long time?
I think there will always be a cycle of manufacturers coming and going and I think what will be good for the sport is if we see a steady level of change. While F1 is still around, on balance of probability there will always be a Ferrari. But I think among the other manufacturers we will always see a level of change and turnover. What we've got to try and avoid is a situation where they all leave at once or come back at once because that is very destabilizing for the sport.
Q: Could 2013 be potentially explosive as some manufacturers do a sensational job while others don't?
It's certainly one of the questions that has been asked in the manufacturers working group. Because of that, some of the more esoteric thoughts that we had have been set aside because arguably they pose too much risk of exactly that. For the sport to attract the most important people, the folks who want to watch us, we have to have unpredictability. If we had a situation in 2013 where anybody just drove off into the distance that would actually be very bad for the sport, so we've got to be very sure that the regulations have opportunities for some to be just a bit better but the ideal is that we get to the point we are today where, frankly, if you took the winning car and put more or less anybody's engine in it, I suspect strongly it wouldn't change where they finished. And to some degree that's where we have to get to.
Q: Is that harder to achieve with engine rules than chassis rules?
If you look at the sheer quality of engineering in F1 and how quickly everyone gets back to an optimum solution, I don't see any reason why that won't be the case in 2013. Somebody might have a very short lead but I don't expect to see anyone disappearing or anyone being massively embarrassed.
Q: We have a freeze now. Are they thinking about doing that with the new regulations and, if so, how far in?
The intent is to homologate for a year and that the basic architecture will be locked down for probably a period of five years.