How Recent F1 Engines Can Burn Oil for More Power

In road cars, burning oil is a bad thing. In an F1 car, it’s really good. Here’s why.

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In a road car, burning oil is a very bad thing, but in today’s F1 cars, it’s actually good. It seems counterintuitive that F1 engine designers would encourage oil burning in their engines, but when controlled, it can help make more power. Jason Fenske of Engineering explains in details the whole thing in his newest video.

Pictured above: Mercedes-AMG F1’s 2016 power unit.

Oil burns when it’s sent into a gas-powered engine’s combustion chamber, which aids generate more power at the expense of, well, oil. In F1 today, fuel is heavily regulated by the FIA, but there’s a lot more flexibility with the oil used. In practice, this means that teams can use certain additives to their advantage and create a more volatile fluid, helping with combustion.

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The regulations also states that teams are allowed to burn 0.9 liters of oil for every 100 kilometers driven, so there has to be precise control of how much oil is burned.

Fenske explains (hah!) two strategies F1 teams can use to manage oil burn, and both involve regulating crankcase pressure. One method involves regulating crankcase pressure using system scavenger pumps of their dry-sump lubrication systems, which lets oil around the piston and into the chamber. The other involves an ECU-controlled solenoid that lets crankcase pressure escape into the engine’s intake system.