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Formula 1 Hydraulic Power Units header image

Formula 1 Hydraulic Power Units


Formula One - it’s at the cutting edge of motorsport technology, constantly pushing the boundaries of power to weight ratios, grip and aerodynamic technology and of course, reliability (there’s no use in having the fastest car in the world if it cannot finish the race, right?).

Located within the Oxfordshire region of the UK, sits a major F1 racing team building some of the country’s finest race cars. (Sorry but we signed a nondisclosure document stating we would not announce the team name).

This story starts with a requirement for a simple air filtration product, to provide protection for their oil reservoirs on some existing hydraulic power pack units, that requirement soon changed however.


We received a call from one of the team engineers looking for a Donaldson TRAP breather, a simple device designed to trap any incoming moisture entering the hydraulic reservoir (moisture and oil are of course arch enemies and should not mix company). Zeus Hydratech are a UK distributor for the range of Donaldson products and so we were only too happy to help.


Above: Donaldson T.R.A.P breather 

It was after a conversation with Mr M, the site engineer that we dug a little deeper into the specific application for the breather. Mr M went on to explain that it would be used on their mobile hydraulic power pack units, used to test each of the F1 cars hydraulic systems.

F1 was about to experience a change in legislation and specification, the introduction of wider wheels would mean the car’s hydraulic system pressure would need to increase (to cope with the extra force generated by the additional grip from wider tyres). Consequently, their existing power pack units used for pre-race preparation would need upgrading.

Zeus were asked if they could design and build four new power packs for their team to replace the older units. The new units had to be the same size as the originals, be as light as possible, produce the additional pressure and finally, they required an improved oil heating system that could bring the system temperature to what was required quickly. The current system was utilising heat pads, but it was slow to heat up.


Following a factory visit, our lead engineers carefully assed requirements for the new power pack, ensuring we understood exactly how the pack would be used and in what conditions. We took critical measurements, weights and noted positions of key components to ensure the race team would be completely happy with the configuration.

We learnt on site that all F1 car hydraulic systems run hot, like REALLY hot! Typically, hydraulic pumps and valves are designed to run at around 50-60c, so finding reliable components that had to constantly perform at much higher temperatures would be a big challenge. Manufacturer’s data sheets were painstakingly researched to ensure we specified components that we had total confidence would deliver consistent and reliable performance for the client.

To ensure we could fit a larger electric motor (needed for the increase in system pressure) along with all other components (there was a lot – we needed a mini Tardis!) inside the same dimensional envelope as their original unit, we utilised our CAD system (solid works) and built a complete virtual power pack design which included all of the components that would be required to make it work. Utilising solid works as part of our proposal allowed the client to comfortably commit to the design without feeling like they were taking a total leap of faith, it gave them a comfortable insight of our vision prior to manufacture.


Building completely bespoke power packs like these will always be a challenge, the performance demands were high, the dimensional requirements were tight and the need for reliability in the F1 world is a total ‘must have’.

All four power pack units were completed on time, on budget and within the design criteria.

To ensure we gave the client the very best feedback from the power pack, we utilised digital flow meters and temperature sensors neatly installed in the operator interface panel. Furthermore, pump pressure and flow can easily be adjusted by hand from the same panel. To ensure the car’s hydraulic oil is at the correct temperature prior to leaving the pits, our power pack was designed in such a way that we can elevate the oil temperature in less than 10 minutes, it previously took hours – the operators love this new feature!).

Given the incredibly high cleanliness requirements of hydraulic oil utilised in F1 cars, we specified a very special, sintered steel pressure filter system capable of cleaning the oil to <3 micron (which is essentially hydraulic aerospace technology cleanliness levels).

Above: One of the completed hydraulic power units  

Oliver Starr, Managing Director at Zeus Hydratech Ltd commented, “working on this F1 project was a fantastic and engaging challenge for Zeus, our engineers really pushed the envelope in terms of thinking about ways to combine all the required features into such a small and neat package”.


Vat Reg Number: 846644204 Company Registration Number: 5230249

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