Could BMW be successful in today’s Formula 1?

Racing | March 17th, 2015 by 9
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Formula One has been going through drastic changes, in terms of technology, as of late. With the recent switch to 1.6 liter V6, turbocharged engines, …

Formula One has been going through drastic changes, in terms of technology, as of late. With the recent switch to 1.6 liter V6, turbocharged engines, from 2.4 liter naturally aspirated V8s, and the additions of ERS (Energy Recovery System), F1 cars are becoming faster and more fuel efficient. It seems as though car companies with the highest tech will benefit most from these changes, so it begs the question, should BMW get back in the game?

Let’s get this out of the way first, BMW will almost definitely not be getting back into F1, regardless of technologies. F1 is too expensive and, at the moment, BMW is very successful in DTM Racing, so it wouldn’t make much sense for them. It’s just interesting to look at how BMW would fair if it suddenly got back into F1.

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First and foremost, just the turbocharging alone would give BMW an advantage. At the moment, many F1 engine makers are designing the ERS system to work as a filler for when the turbo isn’t spinning to full capacity, like while slowing down to go through a corner for instance. BMW already employs technology like this to the i8, where the electric motor fills in torque to compensate for turbo lag.

BMW also uses a technology in the M3/M4 which allows the turbocharger to keep spinning at full capacity, even when off throttle. This allows the turbo to stay at full boost, so when the driver gets back on the throttle, there is no lag. While these sorts of technologies are already in F1, BMW has been using them in road cars, so it would be an easy transition and the expertise is already there. A reversed track to road approach.

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Also, BMW’s manufacturing of CFRP could help in making monocoques for the F1 car. The process BMW employs is cheaper than the conventional method and therefore would allow BMW to put more money into engine and suspension development. BMW has also learned quite a bit about aerodynamics from its i3 and i8. Carbon fiber and aerodynamics are the backbone to any F1 car, which makes BMW’s expertise in those two fields quite valuable in the world of Formula One.

BMW is also no stranger to small engines. The current EfficientDynamics family allows BMW to make 1.5 liter, three-cylinder turbocharged engines, which in i8 guise, can make 228 hp. While nowhere near the 600 hp of a Formula One car, it is also made using a fraction of the cost. BMW has a lot of experience in making small displacement engines, so seeking out that kind of power wouldn’t be an issue.

BMW hasn’t been in the Formula One game since 2009, and it doesn’t look like there will be a return in the near future. However, it’s fun to speculate as to how well BMW would do, given its expertise in the technologies currently used in the sport today.

9 responses to “Could BMW be successful in today’s Formula 1?”

  1. George G. Berberashvili says:

    who cares fuel efficient in F1?

  2. lunaslide says:

    BMW should definitely stay away from F1 for awhile, it’s a mess. It can’t decide what it wants to be, and while trying to limit costs, seems to chose directions that increase cost for little gain. There are too many rules and rather than letting manufacturers innovate, it bans anything new that comes along that gives an advantage.

    What I would love to see is BMW get into Le Mans with an LMP1 car. Audi is really killing it with their technology advances on the E-Tron LMP1 cars and with all the work BMW has been doing in electric and carbon fiber, they could be competitive quickly and start steeling Audi and Porsche’s thunder. In the US, Daytona prototypes are going away soon (not soon enough), and the remaining prototype cars are a lot more like LMP. This would be a good space to compete in as well.

    I can’t wait for the M6 GT3 to debut in TUSC and the WEC, and hopefully they’ll show up quickly in Blancpain and Pirelli World Sports Cars too. The Z4M GT3 has done amazingly well for what it is, but it’s always been a bit of a Frankenstein’s monster and has always suffered in straight line speed due to aerodynamics and the V8 that isn’t even properly homologated. I think the M6 race car is going to lay down a whuppin when it comes out.

  3. lunaslide says:

    Furthermore, BMW seems to have zero interest in developing a V6, and I hope that never changes. If they were really serious about a revolution in F1, they would throw out most of the rule book and simply limit manufacturers to the amount of fuel they may use during a race, minimum car weight, ballast to make up the difference between car weight and driver weight (so they stop starving themselves like supermodels) and not do much else in the way of restrictions. Let each manufacturer decide how it wants to approach that design problem with how many cylinders, displacement, forced induction, etc.

  4. Matt Stokes says:

    Maybe, maybe not. Teams/Companies with far more experience are struggling to compete, I’m not sure there’s any reason why BMW would expect to do any better than they did in ’08, or when they were at the top of their game with Williams in ’02 & ’03.

    Either way, I hope they don’t bother! F1 as a sport is not sustainable, the price it commands isn’t worth the value it offers, especially at the moment. And with teams going under, GP’s being cancelled, more headlines being about legal issues than racing… I honestly think it would be a colossal waste of resources for BMW.

    I’d love to see them with an LMP, but what I really want, is a new Touring Car program. The TCR series looks to be gathering a big head of steam, without a BMW in sight – back in the Super2000 days BMW dominated. Personally I like the idea of this more than an LMP entry for Le Mans or the WEC because it’s a more accessible formula for the fans (like me) who pay to go and watch the races. I’m looking forward to the DTM and SuperGT regs merging, but even then, I have to go abroad to see the cars racing.

  5. disqus_vEEJKWrEHs says:

    inline 6 or 4 will kill any f1 engine out there, bmw have always been great innovators on tech and reliability, hence the guy with the moustache used their engines for their bombers, first thing the americans did is bomb bmw factory says enough

  6. disqus_vEEJKWrEHs says:

    actually I do see bmw produce engines by 2017 for red bull just a hunch

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