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Drivers explain possibilities with IndyCar’s 2024 hybrid system

There has been a lot of mileage, moving parts and learning with the IndyCar Series’ switch to hybrid power for 2024 throughout this off-season on all kinds of track.

Alex Palou participating in Indianapolis 500 Hybrid Testing

The hybrid assist unit, which is a common system fitted to the current 2.2-litre engines, is set for competition next season.

Since the 2023 season concluded on 10 September at Laguna Seca, preparation has ramped up with the new addition wrung out at all the different track disciplines, including Gateway (short oval), Barber Motorsports Park (road course), Sebring International Raceway (street circuit) and recently Indianapolis Motor Speedway (superspeedway).

Additionally, in the tyre test at Milwaukee on Wednesday, Team Penske’s Will Power was running the hybrid car, while Chip Ganassi Racing’s Linus Lundqvist pounded laps with a non-hybrid version.

While push-to-pass has been a common practice at road and street circuits, the addition of the hybrid system will provide something new on those tracks. The hybrid will also apparently play a unique role to provide a boost on the ovals too.

There were four teams that split time testing at IMS last week, with Chevrolet represented by Power, along with Arrow McLaren’s David Malukas and Alexander Rossi. Honda was equipped with the Andretti Global duo of new signing Marcus Ericsson and Colton Herta, with reigning IndyCar champion Alex Palou also on track for Ganassi.

The energy for a hybrid system is traditionally boosted under braking, and that’s the common practice for road and street circuits. At IMS, though, braking is absent when pushing 220mph around a 2.5-mile oval.

Based on the test, the concept is that the energy will regenerate through being in the draft or tucked in traffic before deploying a boost for increased passing opportunities – a push-to-pass-type of system specific to the oval.

“I think that's the idea,” Palou said. “It's honestly what I'm looking forward to because it can play a big role.

Will Power participating in Indianapolis 500 Hybrid Testing

Photo by: IndyCar Series

Will Power participating in Indianapolis 500 Hybrid Testing

“If you're leading, let's say, you cannot regen. As soon as you regen, you're going to get passed. If you're second, you can regen a bit, but not too much. And the third, normally these past two years it's just waiting.

“If you can regen aggressively and hopefully deploy aggressively as well, hopefully overtake and be from third to second, then have more movement, which is what we want.

“We want to be able to be in the pack, overtake slowly one by one, and have more chances, which I think we will be able to get that.”

The deployment of the system also provides a paddle for the driver to pull in the cockpit, which becomes another item to keep track of on top of the weight jacker and fuel mixture, among others. In the case of road and street courses, that will also include the button for push-to-pass.

“It's a completely different thing,” Palou said. “It doesn't look like that from the outside, but it's actually a lot of things that the driver needs to think and stuff. I never had to think about regen at IMS.

“It's already a lot of work trying to be on track, weight jacker, bars. Now you need to regen and deploy. You still have the weight jacker and bars. It's a lot of stuff that we're adding, which hopefully it's not too much.”

In theory, the system would put the race leader of the Indianapolis 500 in a precarious position late in the running come next May, but that also depends on the amount of boost the trailing cars have.

“Yeah, certainly you're understanding kind of what your charge is,” said Rossi, winner of the 2016 Indy 500. “But at this point, we're still not really sure what the best optimisation of the system is.

Alexander Rossi participating in Indianapolis 500 Hybrid Testing

Photo by: IndyCar Series

Alexander Rossi participating in Indianapolis 500 Hybrid Testing

“So right now, it's a lot of experimenting, playing around with different kind of theories. There's a lot to go through in the next several months before we come back to the Speedway.

“I think it will have more of an impact in group running. When I'm just running around flat out by myself with all the downforce on, it's not doing a whole lot.”

Although the horsepower increases with the new unit, so does the weight and that plays a role in the current speed compared to the non-hybrid configuration. Rossi said “it's certainly not faster”.

Power, the two-time IndyCar champion and 2018 Indy 500 winner, has undoubtedly logged the most mileage with hybrid of any driver. The Aussie provided his thoughts on how it will play a role on the road and street circuits.

“I think the way they're going to use it on road and street courses, it's not going to matter,” Power said. “The auto regen won't have too much interaction with the driver. To me, it's a good thing.

“They're still playing with the rules, because you may have it where you have auto regen and deploy, but you also have the ability to pull the paddle. Instead of getting into the hard limiter in top gear, you use that as a regen tool.

“It's still a lot of stuff to go through. I have had a lot of miles in that thing. I think if you're having to pull that paddle, it would be an advantage because that is quite awkward on a road course to be grabbing that, hitting it every time out of a corner.

“I don't think that will be the case. The last test we weren't doing that, it was auto everything.

“I think they're still kind of trying to understand how best to use it, which I think the best way to use it is to get the most out of it for lap time, which is using it as much as we can. At first, it's going to be reliability.”

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