Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Spa-Francorchamps, 2021

Honda reveal details of Verstappen’s Spa power unit upgrade

2021 F1 season

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Honda has revealed new details of the power unit upgrade Max Verstappen received at the Belgian Grand Prix.

Red Bull’s power unit supplier confirmed a new specification of energy store was fitted to Verstappen’s car at Spa-Francorchamps last month. Manufacturers are only allowed to upgrade each element of their power units from their 2020 specification once this year, and Honda delayed the introduction of its latest energy store until after the summer break.

Honda F1’s head of power unit development Yasuaki Asaki said the latest upgrade was the culmination of several years’ work and part of their effort to win the world championship in their final season before leaving the sport.

“This new ES has been developed in a project that has taken several years, with an aim to combine improvements in energy efficiency with significant reductions in weight,” said Asaki in a statement issued by Honda.

“In what will be the company’s final season in the sport, Honda F1 has managed to introduce the new ES – fitted with a lighter, low-resistance, highly efficient and ultra-high power battery cell – just in time for the start of the second half of the season.

“In order to achieve the ultimate goal of defeating Mercedes and winning the championship before leaving F1 at the end of the 2021 season, we recognised the need to enhance performance. As such, the development plan for the new ES was brought forward substantially from the original goal of 2022 to introduction during the 2021 season.”

Energy stores include high-voltage components which require careful development and precautions during shipping. That, plus the tests required to ensure the hardware is safe to use in a race environment, contributed to the long lead time in introducing the upgrade. Honda’s road car battery development team contributed to the effort to bring its latest upgrade to the track.

Drivers may use a limited number of new power unit components over the course of a season. Red Bull’s efforts to manage the allocation for its two drivers was complicated by the damage incurred in crashes for Verstappen at Silverstone and Sergio Perez at the Hungaroring.

A complete new power unit was fitted to Perez’s car at the race after Verstappen received his upgrade, leading him to receive a penalty. Red Bull previously indicated Verstappen’s power unit may also require replacement parts, potentially leading to a penalty later in the season.

Ferrari confirmed during the summer break it intends to introduce an upgrade for its power unit over the coming races.

Will Formula 1 succeed in using its forthcoming change in power unit regulations to entice a new manufacturer into the sport? Learn the latest on the future rules plans in the new edition of the RacingLines column today on RaceFans

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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21 comments on “Honda reveal details of Verstappen’s Spa power unit upgrade”

  1. Isn’t power output from battery electronically limited? If so, what exactly have they improved? Does it charge quicker?

    1. “This new ES has been developed in a project that has taken several years, with an aim to combine improvements in energy efficiency with significant reductions in weight,” said Asaki in a statement issued by Honda.

      “In what will be the company’s final season in the sport, Honda F1 has managed to introduce the new ES – fitted with a lighter, low-resistance, highly efficient and ultra-high power battery cell – just in time for the start of the second half of the season.

      Everything bolded relates to efficiency. That has at least two significant components. Firstly, a more efficient system saps requires less energy input to charge. As a very crude example, think of a 10kW battery and a 10% efficient system to capture energy. You need to put 100kW into the system to get 10kW you can use – that’s energy you are building up by consuming fuel. If you have the same battery and a 90% efficient capture system, you are taking ~88kW less power from the ICE to charge the battery. This is obviously better for pace, but it also leads directly to the second significant component, which is what happens with all the energy you take in but lose to inefficiencies – it ultimately manifests as heat. A more efficient system not only charges faster and costs you less momentum but it releases less heat you need to dissipate and manage, and cooling systems = aerodynamic inefficiency.
      Everything in italics relates to weight, and probably also then relates to being more compact. The advantages of a lighter weight system are obvious, but packaging flexibility also obviously advantageous.

      1. Okay, all the bolded bits went away. Oh for an edit system…

        The bolded parts were “improvements in energy efficiency” and “low-resistance, highly efficient”.

        1. @bookgrub Nice write up.

          With the incredible amounts of energy being produced in a single lap and then it needing transferred in a hurry (to put it mildly) into the battery cell to be stored and then available to take out; I cant imagine the resistance that gets created and hence like you said the (white hot) heat; it must be immense and the protection built in the system needing to keep it functioning and reliably. Everything built around it has to be made well and robust enough to serve the master, if they can solve and improve energy transfer with reduced resistance, then the benefits are exponential (huge) allowing those systems and the protection to be refined and then allow even more energy to be transferred. And like you said, the increase in efficiency would certainly be a major boost in performance. You could then perhaps utilize the MGU-H even more than before if they can pour more energy into the battery from it in a shorter span of time.
          The composition of the battery cells must have also been improved to handle energy surge increase that was normally lost from resistance.

          Great article and exciting new tech to read about that I hope finds its way to everyday users, sooner than later.

      2. Honda runned allways out of juice unlike for example Mercedes but they fixed that now.

      3. Seems like you may be able to carry less fuel as well, which is another gain.

      4. Nicely explained Book grub

  2. ” combine improvements in energy efficiency with significant reductions in weight,”

    lighter equals faster.

  3. Isn’t the weight of the energy store capped?

  4. To summarize, this engine goes to 11.

  5. Didn’t see much of this in Monza really. Still down on power.

    Seems Mercedes’ cooling trick (cheating) is much more effective.

    1. @balue High rake causes more drag.

      1. @f1osaurus High rake cars gets pushed down at high speed, so the drag effect is not as pronounced as you might think, but it’s irrelevant here when Red Bull has top straight line speed the whole year until Mercedes not only caught up, but surpassed them, and now has that advantage.

        That’s not a huge step, it’s a massive one. Especially as both Wolff and Hamilton said they had stopped developing the car, and only had a mino aero upgrade at Silverstone. Both Ferrari and Red Bull believe Mercedes is doing something illegal with air inlet cooling, and it wouldn’t be the first team to cheat in order to get ahead in a tough fight.

        1. @balue High rake cars have more drag. Period.

    2. Seems Mercedes’ cooling trick (cheating) is much more effective.

      Well, I think you should email Jean Todt and send him all those precious and technical infos on how Mercedes are cheating.

      I’m sure all F1 community will thank you forever…

      1. @becken-lima You mean like you sent them the details of Red Bull’s flexi-wing?

        1. @balue You mean like how they did already and the FIA saw no issue? As opposed to Red Bull having had to remove all their cheats over the season.

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