How Does Chromatography Keep F1 Drivers in Line?

Feb 17 2017 Read 1446 Times

Starting in Australia on 26th March, the 2017 Formula One season will be the 68th season of the championship to date. And yet again, there have been several changes to the rules regarding the cars — new restrictions aiming to make the competition safer and better than ever. Read on to see how chromatography is helping Formula One change for the better.

Goodbye to tokens

One of the main changes heading into the new season is the removal of the token system. Introduced in 2014, it was supposed to regulate the development of engines by giving each engine part a weighting from one to three depending on its importance. Teams were allocated 32 tokens, while the sum of the engine parts could not exceed 66.

The system essentially put a cap on engine development. But it was controversial and divisive consequently it was a short-lived development. Now, engines must stay within physical weight and dimension restrictions — such as a minimum of 300g for pistons and a maximum compression ratio of 18.0 for crankshaft cylinders.

Inside the engine

As well as changes to engine development, the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) have put limits on fuel use. Teams will have to nominate five fuel blends for the season, with a maximum of two fuels being used each race weekend. This will increase the need for quality control and production values for the fuel manufacturers as fuels will need to match the original samples given to the FIA.

Each weekend, around 40 samples are tested using chromatography. The analysts use gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC-MS), the optimisation of which is explored in the article ‘Adding more Power to your GC-MS Analysis through Deconvolution’.

Chromatography separates the fuel into its components, whilst the mass spectrometry allows the analysts to identify its exact molecular makeup. Using this information, they can ensure the fuel is suitable for use and meets the regulations.

More speed

The change in fuel rules may also be affected by the new aerodynamic regulations. The FIA suggested speeds could increase by up to 25 mph on some corners because of the changes. While this may make it more exciting for the fans — there will be more of an onus on fuels, lubricants and other components.

The performance and longevity of the engine and its components is highly dependent on fuels and lubricants. They may need to be adjusted to accommodate the potential higher speeds and stresses, meaning more tests afterwards. So far, however, GC-MS is providing an equally fast solution for fuel analysis.

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