In Australian Grand Prix, first date of the 2018 World Cup F1, there was a lot of talk about "Party mode" that the English Mercedes would have used Lewis Hamilton and the finnish Valtteri Bottas over the weekend at Albert Park.
As the German hinted Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) that was what allowed Hamilton to take pole in Melbourne with a remarkable superiority. Although the champion denied it in the middle of the press conference, it was floating in the atmosphere that this variant would give the Silver Arrows an extra power superior to the rest of the park. Now, how do the modes of a motor work in F.1? Let's see…
To build an F.1 you need more than a million hours of work. While some developments can be seen with the naked eye, mainly those related to aerodynamics, there are others that are hidden inside the monoposto.
One of them is the power unit (UP), which by regulation is 1.6-liter V6 with turbo and a hybrid system. THEa UP is made up of six different elements: the internal combustion engine (ICE), the Turbo, the MGU-K (recovers energy from braking), the MGU-H (uses thermal energy from the exhausts), the electronic control unit and the energy storage system (batteries). These elements combine with each other to offer different modes that adjust the performance of the internal combustion engine and the flow of electrical energy.
The performance of the ICE is changed, for example, by varying the amount of fuel that is injected into the combustion chamber or by changing the ignition timing. On the hybrid side of the power unit, the modes will alter the interaction and programming of electrical power, both for the deployment of the 120kW (maximum) of the MGU-K and the MGU-H.
The main task of the modes is to balance performance and reliability. Formula 1 is synonymous with great performance and performance, but with just three power units per driver for this year, reliability is increasingly important. That is why the highest power modes were lowered.
At Mercedes three basic modes are used throughout the weekend: for free practice sessions, for qualifying and one for the race. All three can be altered with various settings for different situations such as controlling whether electrical power is fully deployed in one lap, recovered, or used in a balanced way (with deployment and energy recovery balancing each other).
At the start of the race, for example, the drivers choose a full deployment to defend or gain a good position. All that energy used is then recovered throughout the Grand Prix to be used in other situations that may arise or that the chosen strategy requires.
In the classification, meanwhile, the most powerful mode is used, which Vettel called "party mode". It can be used in a couple of laps during the entire batch or reserved exclusively for Q3, the final phase in which pole position and the other nine positions of the grid are defined.
The circuits in which the engine mode has a greater influence are those with long straights and many acceleration zones such as Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium) and Monza (Italy). Also the street map of Baku, scene of the fourth date of the tournament. That will be the first time this year that engine modes will really matter.