The reason Mygale is introducing hybrid-powered F4 cars: ‘It’s getting more difficult to overtake’

Round 4 of French F4 at Magny-Cours, fans surrounded the Mygale box to get a glimpse of their new hybrid-powered prototype developed with ORECA . F1 Feeder Series spoke with the Founder and CEO of Mygale Cars, Bertrand Decoster. The French engineer shares the details of this hybridisation project and its potential for driver development.

By Perceval Wolff

Mygale Cars raised eyebrows and questions after the presentation of its hybrid Mygale M21 prototype. The question on everyone’s lips was about the usefulness of introducing hybrid engines to feeder series: what would it bring to the racing action? “If we wanted to introduce hybrid engines to improve the global performance of the car, that would be stupid for sure, it would only waste money for nothing” answered Bertrand Decoster. “But if we bring hybridisation to help the driver deliver a boost of power then it
makes sense.”

Push-to-pass

“At the moment, with the Gen2 F4 cars, it’s getting more difficult to overtake.” comments Decoster on the current state of French F4. “The level of drivers is extremely high this year and the new cars don’t give a lot of tow which doesn’t help overtaking.”

If hybrid engines are there to facilitate moves and on-track battles, why didn’t Mygale think of a Drag Reduction System (DRS) like in F1, F2 or F3? “Most of the people don’t realise but DRS is very costly,” “DRS would mean more marshals, more racing lines for the activation zones, some detection zones, etc. Most of the feeder series can’t afford this kind of expenditure.”

Our goal is to deliver a boost of power with a push-to-pass system

Bertrand Decoster

So, how would hybridisation work for F4 cars? “Our goal is to deliver a boost of power with a push-to-pass system. French F4 has 20-minute races, the push-to-pass could be used during ten or fifteen seconds and the drivers will have to use it well to prepare an attack. It won’t be like in F1 where they have a nearly-instant energy regeneration. The regeneration should take around 2 laps to be completed” explains the French engineer.

Bertrand Decoster also expects that this hybrid push-to-pass system will enhance the racing action and develop the drivers early in their careers: “Push-to-pass will need for the drivers to be intelligent, they will have to learn how and when to use push-to-pass. It can perfectly prepare them for FRECA and especially for F1 where energy regeneration is one of the key elements of driving. In F4, drivers would need to learn how to manage a race, how to manage the energy of their car.”

Formula 4 is often first step into single-seaters and is there to judge the level and potential of younger drivers. But with comparatively short races drivers often push flat out without the need to manage fuel, tyres or energy stores.

Formula 4 Gen 2 | Credit: Mygale Cars

Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine (FRECA) – considered as the next step up from F4 -has recently introduced push-to-pass system. However, unlike the Mygale-Oreca project, the push-to-pass only allows more power to the thermic engine instead of a hybrid system.

A cost explosion?

Would the introduction of a push-to-pass system provoke a cost explosion in a sport already so expensive? “No, not at all and for a simple reason: it’s a low-voltage hybridisation. It’s not the same as in F1, it’s much simpler” explains Decoster, “It’s not free for sure, but we estimate the price will be around €10,000. French F4 is the cheapest national F4 series (around €100,000 – €150,000 for a season), it’s quite marginal.”

Environmental impact

It’s not just racing on the mind of the Mygale Cars CEO when talking about the introduction of hybrid engines in F4: “We are working together with the French Federation (FFSA) to create a more sustainable racing industry. We started with 100% biofuel this year, it was one of the simplest short-term solutions, but we aim to continue with hybrid engines.”

A push-to-pass button is already present on the steering wheel of the Mygale M21 cars. For the moment, nothing happens when the drivers press it, but things could change next year: “Push-to-pass was a success on the bench test at the factory. The first official tests will be in a few days. I can’t tell if French F4 will use hybrid engines in 2023, I just don’t know. We are still in a developing phase. The French Federation is already convinced, but most of the ongoing talks are with the FIA, so I can’t answer yet.”

Header photo credit: Mygale Cars

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