How new engine rules will affect strategy

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F1 teams will be able to manage their engine use better this year

Ferrari’s Stefano Domenicali has been talking about the changes to the F1 engine rules for 2009.

Gone are the days of teams using one engine for each two consecutive rounds. The 2009 system is more complex: it could face some teams with challenging questions – especially at the end of the season – and it could be a headache for us fans to follow too.

The new engine rules

The new engine rules can be summarised as follows:

  • Drivers get a total of eight engines for the 17-race season
  • If they have to use a ninth engine they get a ten-place grid penalty
  • They don’t have to use the same engine in consecutive races
  • As in 2008, the engines they use in Friday test sessions are not subject to these rules – just Saturday practice, qualifying and the race

If you want the full detail have a look at article 28.4 of the 2009 F1 Sporting Regulations which you can find on the F1 Fanatic account.

Teams will obviously want to manage the amount of work their engines do to reduce the risk of one failing. Almost every Grand Prix is run to the same distance, 300km, except Monaco which is 260km, so that will not play a great role in their thinking. A greater concern is what percentage of each lap is spent with the engine under maximum stress – i.e. at full throttle.

Engine demands at F1 circuits

Here’s a list of the tracks on the calendar ranked by the proportion of time a driver spends on full throttle during a typical lap. (I haven’t been able to find data for all of them – please fill in the gaps if you can).

Monza – 70% full throttle
Spa-Francorchamps – 70%
Melbourne – 65%
Sepang – 65%
Interlagos – 65%
Silverstone – 64%
Istanbul – 63%
Bahrain – 63%
Nurburgring – 58%
Hungaroring – 58%
Catalunya – 57%
Shanghai – 55%
Monte-Carlo – 42%
Suzuka – ?%
Abu Dhabi – ?%
Valencia – ?%
Singapore – ?%

Spreading out the number of races evenly between the engines means seven engines would do two races each and one would have to do three. Red Bull used one engine for three consecutive races last year.

Engine strategy

Not having to use the same engine in consecutive races frees the teams to mix and match their engines to minimise strain. For example, the same engine that does a high-strain race like Monza or Spa could also do Monte-Carlo – the lowest-strain event. Of course, this assumes their engines are happy to sit for four months in between.

There are other complications. In wet races engine strain is greatly reduced, so an engine that does at least one wet race may become a candidate for the unit that has to do three events.

Drivers are also not required to use the same engine all weekend – they could qualify with one engine and swap it for a different unit for the race.

This is generally good news in that we are much less likely to see a driver receive a grid penalty for a race. However at the end of the season drivers may find themselves having to make difficult decisions about which engine is the one to do three races.

Finally, it’s not clear whether the FIA intends to publish details of which driver used which engine in which session. Hopefully they will, and fans will be kept in the picture.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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31 comments on “How new engine rules will affect strategy”

  1. The first thing that comes to my mind is how an earth are they going to guarantee that no “tinkering” is done while an engine is sitting on the side for four months. And no way in hell are the teams honest enough to leave the engine alone during those four months!

    1. I would imagine this issue will be handled in the same way the stewards previously sealed the engines that had to be used for the next Grand Prix or even overnight under parc ferme conditions.

    2. According to the Sporting Regulations:

      c) After consultation with the relevant engine supplier the FIA will attach seals to each engine in order to ensure that no significant moving parts can be rebuilt or replaced. Within two hours of the end of the post race parc fermé, and if the Competitor intends to use the engine at the next Event, exhaust blanking plates (with one 10mm diameter inspection hole per cylinder) and further seals will be applied in order to ensure that the engine cannot be run until the next Event. These seals will be removed at the start of initial scrutineering at the next Event.

      d) If any of the FIA seals are damaged or removed from an engine after it has been used for the first time that engine may not be used again unless they were removed under FIA supervision.

  2. Terry Fabulous
    15th January 2009, 1:52

    Keith you know what i love about your site.
    It is interesting to read about what other fans think, and to keep up with the news but there are two things that set it apart.
    1. You aren’t afraid to get irreverent. (We’re going to need a montage) which keep things fun.
    2. I learn stuff! This article is very informative and interesting and will really get us all thinking.
    Good on ya.

    Having said that, there will definitely be some late season juggling as they try and work out how to avoid grid penalties, (which I reckon will disappear). I can actually imagine one of the big teams in the title race at the end of the year using two or three engines over the weekend to get a good qually spot.

    Slick tyres, multiple engines, Piquet on the grid (and maybe Senna), WE ARE GOING BACK TO 1986 PEOPLE!!!!!

    1. Thanks Terry :-)

  3. And on top of this we have KERS to add the icing on the cake !

  4. Wow, it sounds like there will lots of different possibilities regarding engine management, however I thought the FIA was trying to reduce the cost of F1?

    Isn’t this new rule going to increase the cost? Now instead of having a rule where an engine has to be used for at least two consecutive race weekends or a team / driver / car is penalised, there will be the scenario where the teams need to employ extra engineers and mathematicians to constantly analyse engine performance data, track data, and constantly rework engine management plans, to manage the best performance out of the available engines. This means more staff, and highly skilled and smart staff at that, which means the teams are going to have pay them very well, because they are probably in demand, which means more cost for the team.

    1. Except most of the teams are scaling back their engine staff anyway, so more likely it’ll mean they don’t need to lay off as many staff. That is if they didn’t already measure all these things before anyway.

      I wonder if any teams will have one engine which they decide is their “qually” engine, and they only use it for qualifying but give it a more agressive engine mapping? Also will any teams get the 3 consecutive races out of the way at the beginning of the season when there may be reliability concerns anyway due to KERS bedding in….

      It’s going to be fascinating!!

    2. But most of these extra staff will be employed at the factory, and not in the pits on a race-weekend, so won’t affect Max’s ‘Show’.
      I am wondering how many engines the teams will be allowed to bring for a race though – if they are allowed one for Friday practice, can swop another one for Saturday practice and qualifying, then use one of the ‘8’ for the actual race – thats six engines per weekend, for two cars. That doesn’t sound like cost-cutting either.
      How are the FIA going to keep track of all these engines? And does this apply to the gearboxes too?

  5. I like these rules, makes the championship interesting towards the end :)

  6. i like that they can mix/match, u could almost erradicate gri penalties now, also FIA to publish engine use details? not a chance! that’d b helping fans understand whats going on………… and KERS u could say, is like a Turbo, so it is ’86! hope to have a season as good as that one too!

  7. It’s good that the FIA explains these new rules to us clearly, and we don’t have to hear them second or third hand from someone else…oh.

    They got anything else up their sleeves that someone else can tell us?

  8. I’ll never be able to explain it to the wife!

    1. Alianora La Canta
      15th January 2009, 12:20

      Short version: they can use 8 engines however they like.

      If they use more than 8 engines, they’ll get a 10-place grid penalty each time they use the 9th engine, and the penalties stack (so if someone uses 10 engines, there’ll be a 20-place grid penalty).

      So unless a team actually blows up 8 engines, there will be no penalties. But there will be a lot of engines in various states of disrepair. Don’t worry, I’ll try to keep track across the year.

      But it’s not good when people are reliant on a blog for this information, which is one reason why I don’t like multi-race engines.

    2. Exactly – it will be useful to know when a driver’s trying to do his third race on an engine.

    3. My understanding is that you could only get a 20 place grid drop for using engines 9 and 10 in the same weekend (final Friday practice, qualifying, race).

    4. Just to correct myself (off to a flying start with my first f1fanatic post ;))

      This useful guide says “If anyone uses a ninth engine in the season, they will have a 10-place grid drop for every race until the end of the season”.

    5. First post, you say? Welcome aboard Paul!

  9. I’m curious as how this is supposed to REDUCE (engine development costs). Aren’t these engine limitations intended to decrease the investments in engine development? With these new rules high budget F1 teams (i.e. Ferrari, McLaren etc) will be able to develop purpose-made engines for qualifying or particular races. Smaller teams will not be able to afford this type of engine strategies and will consequently suffer in terms of qualifying and overall competitiveness. I do acknowledge the need to “improve the show” (as Mosley points out) and remain the “technological competition” (to quote opponents of standardised engines), but I think the main concern now is to reduce overall development budgets while maintaining “the show”, particularly when the credit crunch is squeezing all types of advertising and particularly for international banks (ING, RBS, Santander etc..?), not to mention the diffuculties basically all car manufacturers are facing (and their “promotional” F1 teams, cf. Honda). I’m not fully convinced these new engine rules are heading in the right direction.

    1. With these new rules high budget F1 teams (i.e. Ferrari, McLaren etc) will be able to develop purpose-made engines for qualifying or particular races.

      I don’t think so, if you have a look at the technical regulations there’s very little they can change to achieve that.

  10. I’m trying to recall what Brundle said in one of his race commentaries, so correct me if I’m wrong. Brundle had spoken to Trulli before the race who said that apparently you can loose up to half a second a lap when you go racing with the same engine for the second time. Brundle new there would be a loss but was surprised it was that much. I wonder what this difference will be this year…

  11. If it was my choice I might be tempted to run an engine for 3 races earlier on in the season. You have 2 benefits with this:

    You could use the same engine for Catalunya – 57% full throttle, Shanghai – 55% and Monte-Carlo – 42%; 3 of the least taxing on the engine.

    Another benefit is if it does pack in you have plenty of time to play catch up, rather than at the end of the season, where losing a potential 10 points can be a lot more damaging.

    1. Agreed, and I expect a lot of teams will take this route. But don’t forget, that they can use all 8 engines as many times as they need, so even if they got to the season ender and their 3 race engine blew up, they’d still be able to reuse one of the other 7 engines without incurring a penalty…

  12. Hi Keith,
    I have read the 28.4 article of the Sporting Regulations, but actually it do not say anything about the fact that “engines they use in Friday test sessions are not subject to these rules”.

  13. Keith, great article as usual! It would be interesting to see the altitude for each track as well. I seem to recall an article explaining why Interlagos was relatively softer on the engine than it’s WOT% indicated due to the higher altitude/thinner air/less pressure. However it said i believe 67-69% WOT, but altitude corrected it would be similar to a 62% full throttle track. Looking at the Interlagos number you posted I wonder if it already has such a correction.

    @ DG, regarding gearboxes, i read they will have to run 4 events, but still must be consecutive events

    1. @ Alejandro – I understand where you are comming from with this logic but Interlagos is by the sea is it not?

  14. Adrian

    I wonder if any teams will have one engine which they decide is their “qually” engine

    That was my first thought.

    Have one that’s set up just for qualifying and then have the rest for the races.

    With the improvements they’ve made to the engines by the time the season starts would the rev limiter not be effectively “turning the engine down” as far as maximum power output is concerned ?

    If so then the reliability & multiple race performance of the engines should also have improved since last season as they’d be operating below their maximum performance limits.

    I know there’s meant to be a development freeze but we all saw what happened last season and the changes they’ll have to make for KERS should give them plenty of opportunities to get around that rule.

    As others have said, if they can now take engines for Friday and then the full supply of each drivers engines too then they could end up taking loads more engines to each race than they already do.
    Hardly helps with cost cutting.

  15. Keith, I would like to know whether wet races are really easier on engines than dry ones… In the wet, we have lower speeds (which, unlike some of us might think, is not good, as the higher the speed the better the cooling)Also, the humidity level is higher, which also hampers cooling. Nevertheless, air temperatures are lower, which is a good thing and water cools the surface of the car, which, in theory, cools the engine. But somehow I am still not convinced that wet races are easier on engines…

  16. @Chaz

    For a second you had me thinking cause i remember seeing water nearby, but yes it’s 800m above sea level, so that’s probably a lake or a manmade dam type of thing. The article i read was one of those renault tech notes, i just can’t find it now. As far as i know it’s the highest of the current circuits, and it also made me wonder how NA cars performed in the Mexico circuit at 2200+ meters.

  17. @ Andrew

    As I understand it no matter how quick they are going, F1 engines can only take full throttle for so long,ie the strain placed on the engine scales quicker than the cooling afforded by higher speeds after a certain speed; given wet races require less throttle the engine would still wear less, at least that’s how i understand it. Also wouldn’t more humidity also mean less oxygen thus less power/strain going into the cylinders?

  18. Yes the wet races definately allow the engines to run a little less full throttle time. Which in turn reduces the wear.
    With the rpm limit set at 18,000rpm this year i really cant see any problem with 8 engines lasting all season, most of the damage is made in the last 1000rpm and now thats gone.
    Unfortunately the sounds of the cars this year wont be as great : (

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