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.
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.
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.