MARCH 18, 1996
What is the secret of Yamaha's V10 engine?
To give an idea of just how big a leap forward Yamaha has made this year one should consider the improvements made by rival companies since F1 adopted normally-aspirated engines in late 1989. The hugely successful Honda V10s weighed about 330 lbs and the early Renault V10s were 310 lbs. Today's Renaults - after thousands of man-hours of development - weigh in at about 290 lbs - a saving of just 20 lbs in six years.
This year's Yamaha weighs no more than 230 lbs and yet can be made to run as fast and as reliably as the front-running engines. The OX11A is 44 lbs lighter than last year's OX10C - twice the weight-saving that Renault has achieved in the space of six years of development.
The implication is very clear. There is something revolutionary inside the new Yamaha - which no-one else has yet thought about. Whatever the secret, any F1 engineer will tell you the value of a small and light engine. Cars can be packaged much more neatly and the weight saved on the engine can be distributed around the car to where it is needed to produce the best balance - as close to the ground as possible.
In Melbourne it was quite clear where the Tyrrell ballast had been put. The team's undertrays would be removed from the garage with two mechanics staggering under the weight, while other teams have undertrays so light that one man can lift them without difficulty.
Although Mika Salo's sixth place in the Australian race was promising, it was a disappointment to the Tyrrell-Yamaha engineers who reckoned that Salo would have finished fourth if he had a clear run in qualifying, instead spending much of his race stuck behind slower cars and having to settle for sixth place. They reckon that the Tyrrells will soon be fighting with the McLarens and Benettons on a regular basis.
That remains to be seen, but there is no question that the Yamaha engine has a secret which everyone else wants to know, which is why the Tyrrell and Yamaha clans are being very careful not to leave their V10s lying around.
It should be remembered that a few years ago Renault lost two of its V10 engines in thefts from motor shows in France.