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F1 Fuel System Explained

F1 Fuel System Explained
The fuel system in a f1 car takes the fuel from the fuel tank and delivers it to the engine where it is sprayed on by highly advanced fuel injection systems, the fuel-air mixture is then ignited to generate power.

So, let’s take a look into the components of a f1 fuel system.

The Fuel system comprises of :

  1. Fuel Tank
  2. Lift Pumps
  3. Fuel Filter
  4. Mechanical Fuel Pump
  5. Fuel Injectors

Fuel Tank

It is basically the storage tank for the fuel. In a f1 car it is situated behind the driver and is leak proof made up of puncture proof Kevlar.  The tank also houses a gauge sensor which sends the information regarding fuel levels to the driver and to the pit wall.

All the fuel lines leading from the fuel tank are auto-cut off lines, so in event of any breakage fuel won’t be spilled thus preventing fire. There’s been no major fuel tank fire at an F1 race since Berger Imola crash in 1989 and no fire related deaths since Riccardo Paletti in Canada in 1982, or in testing with Elio De Angelis in 1986.

Fuel Lift Pumps:

These are electrically operated pumps situated inside the fuel tank . As the f1 cars are subjected to huge g-forces, the fuel inside the tank keeps moving which makes it difficult for the conventional fuel systems to extract fuel from the tank, this is where the electrical lift pumps come in.

The lift pumps are situated inside the fuel tank and there main job is to recover fuel from the fuel tank and deliver it to another  vessel within the fuel tank which is connected to the main mechanically operated fuel pump

Fuel Filter:

The fuel filter is present at the entry of electrically operated lift pumps and it basically prevents impurities which may be present in the fuel from damaging the pumps.

Mechanical Fuel Pump:

This pump is mechanically operated by the motion of the engine.It collects the pressurised fuel stored in the vessel by the electrical lift pumps and delivers it under high pressure to the fuel injectors.

Fuel Injectors:

The fuel injector is basically a tiny electric valve which opens and closes with an electric signal. A computer (Standard Electronic Control Unit: SECU) controls when the fuel injectors open to let fuel into the engine. The SECU intelligently determines the time at which the electrical valve has to be opened which would allow for optimum mixing of fuel-air mixture.

Here’s a flow diagram to explain how the fuel is actually transported to the engine:

Fuel stored in the fuel tank.

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Fuel then passes through a filter.

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Electrical lift pumps then take the fuel from the tank and store it in a smaller vessel know as the collector under high pressure.
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The fuel is then taken up by the mechanically operated pumps from the collector and delivered under high pressure to the fuel injection system
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The fuel injection system then controls the release of fuel into the engine via SECU (Standard electronic control unit) which allows for optimum fuel-air mixture to ignite producing torque.

Fuel Flow Meter:

In 2014, new regulations were introduced regarding the fuel consumption and under these new regulations, no more than 100kg of fuel can be used from start to finish and the fuel flow limit per hour to the engine has been limited to 100kg/hr.

2015 F1 Fuel Flow Meter

This is where fuel flow meters come in, these devices basically measure the rate of fuel delivery to the engine. In theory greater the fuel delivery greater will be the power generated by the engine, so under the new regulations it is required by all teams to have flow meters installed which allow FIA to monitor the amount of fuel going into the engine per hour.

These sensors are situated in the fuel tank area and the pumps in the fuel tank pump the fuel via these sensors to the high-pressure direct injection system, thus allowing it to measure the flow.

Each car on the grid currently has a fuel flow sensor manufactured by a company called Gill Sensors. These sensors are based on ultrasonic technology and according to the company here’s how they work:

“Using the time of flight technology principle, the meter measures the velocity of the fuel using ultrasonic pulses. The flow rate is calculated using the time it takes ultrasonic pulses to pass from one end of the sensor to another. As the meter is designed with no moving parts, it does not restrict or interfere with the flow of fuel passing through it. With measurement update rates up to 1kHz, the meter provides an immediate response to flow rate variations, measuring bi-directional fuel flow up to 8000ml/min, significantly larger that the 100kg/h Motorsport restriction.”

New FIA Technical directive to measure fuel pressure:

The FIA has issued a new technical directive regarding the fuel flow sensors, as according to reports the FIA suspects that certain teams may have developed systems which allow them to inject fuel into the engine at a higher pressure while maintaining flow through the fuel flow meter to 100kg/hr.

This means that the engine may be getting more fuel than the normal limit of 100kg/hr by some clever modifications made by the team downstream to the fuel flow meter.

It has also been reported that Mercedes and Ferrari have upgraded their turbo units to withstand 500 bar of fuel pressure while Renault turbo units can only withstand 250 bar of fuel pressure.

So, the FIA has now instructed teams to install fuel flow meters at multiple points of the fuel system, so that it can get pressure readings from multiple points between the tank and the injection system.

Hope, you have enjoyed regarding the article. If you have any questions feel free to ask in the comments below.
(Nishant Raj)

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