© Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport

The thing about rules

One rule change leads to another. This applies to Formula One as well as to industry. Learn how Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motor­sport and ebm-papst deal with changing require­ments.


The changes in the rules for the 2017 season of Formula One created quite a stir early this year. They were much more than a small facelift. They reached deep into the chassis and beyond to the aero­dy­namics of the vehicle.

Such changes to the require­ments by the primary players are normal in the capital goods industry. “For us there are two driving factors: regu­la­tions that we must adhere to and a constant improve­ment in effi­ciency,” empha­sizes Uwe Sigloch, Market Manager for Venti­la­tion and Air Condi­tioning at ebm-papst. Over the last ten years, he has been dealing with a ruling that partic­u­larly concerns ebm-papst and its customers: the Ecode­sign (ErP Energy-related Prod­ucts) direc­tive of the EU.

This is an expres­sion of the Kyoto Protocol with the goal of making all energy-related prod­ucts more effi­cient – from motors to fans, to entire air-condi­tioning systems. For example, the direc­tive estab­lishes minimum effi­ciency require­ments for fans.

Just don’t be the last

Uwe Sigloch, Market Manager for Venti­la­tion and Air Condi­tioning at ebm-papst (Photo | ebm-papst)

When the first phase of the direc­tive came into force in 2013 after years of plan­ning, approx­i­mately 30 percent of all fans did not meet the require­ments. “There are always market players who want to main­tain the status quo,” says Sigloch. “If you cannot clear the hurdle, you will be disqual­i­fied – and most likely disap­pear from the market.”

In order for this not to happen, ebm-papst had to adjust some things: orga­ni­za­tional struc­tures, data sheets –and of course, prod­ucts. “You have to tackle things and possibly redesign them. Often, a device can no longer look like it did before.”

If you cannot clear the hurdle, you will be disqual­i­fied
Uwe Sigloch, Market Manager for Venti­la­tion and Air Condi­tioning at ebm-papst

A good example is the RadiCal centrifugal fan where the flow­path of the air was opti­mized by ebm-papst engi­neers to reduce losses. In addi­tion, they also replaced the AC motors that could no longer meet the effi­ciency criteria with highly effi­cient Green­Tech EC motors. They not only work very effi­ciently in the ErP-rated peak effi­ciency range, but also in the partial load range.

The industry needs time to prepare

The car is being opti­mized throughout the year. (Photo | Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motor­sport)

Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motor­sport also has to allo­cate resources in the orga­ni­za­tion in the best possible way, as Perfor­mance Director Mark Ellis points out: “Throughout the year we constantly assess how we can best deploy our work­force and what percentage we focus on the present season compared to future projects.”

But there are also differ­ences. “In the capital goods industry, we need plenty of time to prepare for changes. It is quite different in Formula One,” says Sigloch. At least the Ecode­sign approach makes it clear where we are going. The trend is towards increas­ingly lower energy consump­tion – and the direc­tive provides for this step by step. The next phase is expected to come into force in 2020, which will allow us to work towards it. ebm-papst prod­ucts already exceed the minimum effi­ciency require­ments of tomorrow by far.

Of course the changes in the rules for Formula One are not as predictable. Never­the­less, it is impor­tant for Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motor­sport to work with an eye on the future, as Mark Ellis empha­sizes: “We have to keep ahead of our compe­ti­tion every single day. Obvi­ously the need for this changes most dramat­i­cally during a regu­la­tion change, but these changes never come out of the blue. We plan and organise in advance to take these changes into consid­er­a­tion.”

Once change leads to the next

Geoff Willis, Tech­nology Director at Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motor­sport (Photo | Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motor­sport)

The effects of the new rules are not over when a new car is presented before the start of the season. “We are constantly refining the aero­dy­namic compo­nents on our car, which can be intro­duced in isola­tion or as part of a bigger package,” explains Geoff Willis, Tech­nology Director at Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motor­sport. “The upgrades we brought to the 2017 Spanish Grand Prix following the first four races of the season are a great example of this. The new front wing and nose were redesigned for greater airflow and to work in harmony with the new floor design for the car.”

Changes on front wing and nose during the season:

Before Spain
After Spain

Slide the arrows in the middle to compare the front wing and nose.


Any inter­ven­tion in one part of the system will affect other areas. It is no different in industry – espe­cially when you are supplying compo­nents. “If the fan becomes bigger for some reason, the device may even­tu­ally have to be bigger, and maybe even the building will have to be bigger,” suggests Uwe Sigloch.

Such a large system is as complex as a racing car, but there are signif­i­cantly more parties involved – and all must comply with the same rules. “Rules are only as good as their enforce­ment,” empha­sizes Sigloch. And he wants that to work as well as it does in Formula One. “If someone cheats, he should be punished. There are still gaps in the industry. In this respect, Formula One is already further ahead.” But the market is also a bit smaller.

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  • Enrique Rivero on said:

    Muy buena nota intere­santes conceptos