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What is an Internal Combustion Engine as Lewis Hamilton takes grid penalty?

Jake Nichol October 8, 2021
F1 Grand Prix of Turkey - Practice
Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Lewis Hamilton has been slapped with a 10-place grid penalty at the Turkish Grand Prix for taking a new F1 Internal Combustion Engine. What is an ICE and what else makes up a modern Formula One engine?

Hamilton penalty for new F1 Internal Combustion Engine

Hamilton’s Mercedes team has opted to fit the seven-time world champion’s car with a new Internal Combustion Engine ahead of the Turkish GP.

Drivers are only allowed three of the components per season, but Hamilton has exceeded his allocation – the new part being his fourth.

As a result, he will drop 10 places on the grid, meaning he will start 11th, at best.

Hamilton lost a unit when he conked out of Dutch GP practice at Zandvoort – the unit reaching the end of its life cycle.

Mercedes did not want to go into the final seven races on just two units, risking a potential failure.

F1® Mobile Racing | 2021 Season Update Trailer

F1® Mobile Racing | 2021 Season Update Trailer

It did not want to risk Hamilton retiring from a race as the result of a failure and giving title rival Max Verstappen an advantage.

Depending on Hamilton’s final grid position, it is possible Mercedes could opt to take further new elements.

What parts make up an F1 engine?

F1’s current generation of engines are turbo hybrid power units, which were introduced in 2014, as the old V8s were phased out.

The units are made up of six main components – all of which help the car to churn out close to 1000bhp.

The power units are in a 1.6L V6 configuration.

Of all the parts of the units, it is the ICE that is the most important.

It essentially works the same as in a road car and makes the car move.

In 2014, turbochargers returned to F1, having been banned from 1989 onwards.

Photo by Clive Mason – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

They essentially work by forcing more air into the engine, creating more power.

While F1 had previous experience with turbo-charged engines, it did not with the next two components.

F1 set to drop one power unit element

Current F1 power units have twin Motor Generator Units – one Kinetic and one Heat.

The MGU-K takes the energy lost under braking, capturing and storing it.

The MGU-H does the same job, but grabs the hot exhaust gases from the turbocharger.

In both cases electricity is created, which the driver can then use to attack or defend.

It is stored in the Energy Store, with the units as a whole controlled by Control Electronics.

It is the MGU-H that will be dropped from F1’s 2026 power unit regulations as F1 seeks a new manufacturer to join.

The Volkswagen group is believed to be interested in entering F1, but would only do so if the MGU-H was dropped.

A tie-up with Red Bull is possible, as the team’s current supplier Honda is withdrawing at the end of 2021.

Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images

How many parts of each can drivers use?

To limit costs, and increase reliability, teams and drivers are limited in how many parts they can use.

Since the beginning of the turbo hybrid era, the number of units allowed has reduced.

Below is a list of how many of each component are allowed, penalty free per season per driver.

F1 power unit element allocation

  • Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) – three
  • Turbocharger – three
  • Motor Generator Unit Heat – (MGU-H) – three
  • Motor Generator Unit – Kinetic (MGU-K) – two
  • Energy Store – two
  • Control Electronics – two.
Photo by Clive Mason – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

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Jake can usually be found writing about or watching anything to do with motorsport – from Formula 1 to NASCAR to British Truck Racing. His work as a motorsport journalist has been published by the likes of Autosport, and Motorsport News – all highly respected names. Away from racing he is a keen amateur astronomer, podcast listener and enjoys long walks in the park with his three dogs.