From zero to one hundred at motor racing's pinnacle
In 2018, a new era begins in Formula 1: For the first time in the history of motorsports’ premier class, the world automobile association (FIA) is prescribing the use of a cockpit protection system. Nico Hülkenberg’s Renault R.S. 18 is also equipped with “Halo.” And DEKRA is part of the ride: For the last 14 years, the expert organization has gone onto the race track as a partner of Nico.
The vehicle at Nico’s disposal is the new yellow-black Renault R.S. 18. The car is seen as a logical development of the previous year’s model, the R.S. 17, the first Renault speedster under the Formula 1 regulations newly introduced for the 2017 season. However, there is a lot new about Nico’s current car. The most noticeable change is the new cockpit protection Halo, which all teams are obligated to use as of 2018. The rollover bar, made of titanium, is attached directly to the chassis and is to keep debris and tires that are flying around away from the driver. The design is extremely stable: In crash tests, Halo must withstand a load of 125 kilonewtons and must not deform by more than 17.5 millimeters under the pressure of approximately 12,500 kilograms – so that the safety of the driver is ensured even in the event of a serious accident.
Nico’s R.S. 18 is powered by a 1.6 liter turbo engine of the type Renault R.E. 18 and by a 120 kilowatt-strong electric engine, which makes the vehicle a hybrid. The system performance of the Renault speedster is approximately 950 hp. Under qualifying conditions, Nico can thus reach a maximum speed of over 370 km/h. His car accelerates from naught to 100 km/h in about 2.6 seconds and provides for a background noise of 118 decibels at a maximum 15,000 revolutions per minute.
In 2018, Formula 1 is placing special focus on the drive units, whose lifespan has been extended again. While last year four of each component were still allowed for the complete season, this year Nico and his driver colleagues must make do with three combustion engines, three turbo chargers, and three MGU-H units as well as two energy storage units, two electronics packages, and two MGU-K units. This is to reduce costs; on the other hand, the demands on the material rise. Hence, technical reliability, for which DEKRA stands, is essential for success on the race track.
And this will be put to the test on a total of 21 race weekends on five continents. In its almost 70-year history, Formula 1 has never held so many races in one year. For the first time ever, three Grands Prix will be held within just two weeks – Le Castellet (France), Spielberg (Austria), and Silverstone (Great Britain). For France, the race in June also represents a comeback in the Formula 1 calendar: It is the first time since 2008 that the country will be the venue for a Formula 1 world championship race, while Le Castellet itself last held a race in 1990. Germany, too, is back: After a one-year break, the Hockenheimring is again the venue for the race, as in 2016. On the other hand, there is no longer a Malaysian Grand Prix, as the Formula 1 contract there was terminated early. The country is thus missing from the race calendar for the first time since 1999.
There were also driver departures: Felipe Massa, who finished as runner up in the world championship in 2008 and was a long-time team colleague of Michael at Ferrari, ended his career following the 2017 season. His Williams cockpit is being taken on by the Russian Sergei Sirotkin, who, like Charles Leclerc from Monaco, is competing in his first Formula 1 season. The German Pascal Wehrlein is returning to the DTM; however, he remains a test and replacement driver of the Mercedes racing team in Formula 1. In Nico at Renault and the four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari, only two German regular drivers are starting the 2018 season. In total, ten teams with two drivers and vehicles each have registered for the 2018 Formula 1 season. Lewis Hamilton will defend the drivers’ title, while Mercedes will defend the constructors’ world championship title.