Are the 2014 cars powerful enough for Formula 1?

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The change in regulations for the 2014 season has prompted debate over whether the new generation of cars are fast, powerful and exciting enough for Formula One.

The combination of an overhaul in the engine regulations plus another rise in the minimum weight limitd has led to concerns that the new-look F1 will be less exciting than what went before.

How will the performance of the new cars compare to previous generations of Formula One racers? Let’s take a look at the data.

F1 car power-to-weight ratios, 1966-2008

The chart below shows the power-to-weight ratio of McLaren’s F1 cars between 1966 and 2008 and gives a useful indication of the performance of competitive Formula One cars during recent eras of engine regulations.

In 1966 the short-lived 1.5-litre engine capacity limit was scrapped and teams were allowed engines of up to three litres. The Cosworth DFV was the engine to have for much of this time, with Ferrari taking a few titles in the second half of the seventies.

However the arrival of Renault’s F1 entry in 1977 heralded a coming revolution in F1 engines. They took advantage of a rule allowing for 1.5-litre turbocharged engines and by the early eighties these were clearly the future of F1 engine development.

McLaren were a little late to get on board as reflected in the data below – Renault and Ferrari’s early eighties contenders were more powerful, though also considerably heavier. When the turbo era ended in 1988 their all-conquering Honda-powered MP4-4 represented a peak in terms of power-to-weight ratio.

In 1995 the F1 rules were changed so that the minimum weight for a car had to include its driver. To make for a fairer, albeit rough comparison, that 90kg hike has been added to previous years’ data in the ‘adjusted’ line below.

That shows us that when V10 engines were scrapped at the end of 2005 their power-to-weight outputs were comparable to what had been seen during the turbo era.

However it’s very doubtful they approached the extremes of the qualifying laps of the early eighties, with unlimited boost and ‘hand grenade’ engines which destroyed themselves after a single lap, during which they produced more power than the dynamometers could read…

Power-to-weight ratios in the V8 era

Two changes have affected power-to-weight ratios since 2008. The first was a steady increase in the minimum weight limit, which by 2013 had risen by 47kg to 642kg. This obviously has a negative effect on power-to-weight ratios.

The second change was the addition of energy recovery systems, which made a further contribution to total power output.

With engine development rules frozen the introduction of KERS in 2009 represented by far the most significant opportunity for engine manufacturers to increase horsepower. And even then only to a limited degree – the regulations permitted an extra boost of 80bhp for 6.6 seconds per lap.

This indicates that by the end of the V8 engine era last year Formula One cars had a power-to-weight ratio of over 1,300 bhp per tonne – comparable to what Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari was producing when he won his third world championship.

Power-to-weight ratios in 2014 and beyond

The engine rules have been completely overhauled for 2014. The new units are smaller in capacity (1.6 litres) and have fewer cylinders (six). But for the first time since 1988 they are sporting turbochargers and, perhaps most significantly, boast considerably more powerful and sophisticated electrical energy recovery systems than has been seen before in F1.

The cost for this in engineering terms has been another substantial increase in the minimum weight limit. It now stands at 691kg and with most teams struggling to hit that mark it will rise again to 701kg next year.

Simple maths shows us that in order for this year’s F1 cars to have a comparable power-to-weight ratio to last year’s they will need over 900bhp.

A recent report indicated one engine manufacturer may be close to that. Mercedes have indicated their engine is producing close to 700bhp before the extra 160bhp-plus from the energy recovery systems is taken into account.

That indicates a power-to-weight ratio of around 1,240bhp per tonne. But it’s important to keep in mind that power isn’t available at the exit of every corner – a major part of the new regulations requires teams to manage the energy they have and unleash maximum power when they need it most. We look set for some exciting qualifying sessions this year.

It will remain comfortably the highest-performance single-seater racing championship in terms of power-to-weight ratio. The current IndyCars produce over 900bhp per tonne and the new Japanese Super Formula racers will be close to 850. While NASCAR’s monstrous machines are at least a match for F1 in terms of sheer power their huge weight – 1,515kg for the lightest drivers – results in a more modest 560bhp per tonne.

All torque

Formula One engineers’ pursuit of maximum power for minimum weight has been repeatedly thwarted by the rule makers and often with good cause – in the name of improving safety or protecting teams from the worst excesses of an out-of-control spending war.

But seeing the world’s best drivers grapple with light, powerful racing cars is a fundamental part of the sport’s attraction and one which those who write the rule book should be wary of diluting.

However there are encouraging signs that the new generation of engines will not leave us wanting in terms of the spectacle. The difficulty of handling the power and torque of the hybrid-boosted turbos had drivers slewing sideways out of the slow corners at Jerez.

“The power of the engine is awesome,” Jenson Button enthused after his first taste of new-style F1. “It’s very torquey.”

“It feels the most powerful engine I’ve driven. Obviously it isn’t in terms of outright power but as a racing driver you feel the torque, you feel the power at low-speed, high-speed, throughout the corner, you don’t really feel the difference.

“But it’s coming out of the corners when you have so much torque it’s exciting.”

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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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92 comments on “Are the 2014 cars powerful enough for Formula 1?”

  1. Take that Villeneuve.

    1. JV is not wrong. He speaks of HP diminishing over the years. He does not speak of power to weight ratios. HP is down and some HP is added back in recent years with KERS and now ERS, but as the article explains, that power is not available to the drivers all the time.

      1. Power is not down much (even without ERS) from his champion year though.

        1. He is also speaking of a trend though, and that trend doesn’t necessarily start in 97, even though 96 is the year from which he can speak from practical experience. Again, it’s just one aspect of F1 and JV is not wrong. And I think if pushed for further commentary JV would not put HP highest up on the list of concerns he has. My guess would be the biggest concerns would be DRS, paying drivers making for a diminished grid quality and the indication that instills of F1’s money issues, fuel conserving that is out of the drivers hands, and tires, although I suspect they won’t nearly be an issue like last year and the year before. And JV doesn’t dwell too much on the double points but we all know the huge backlash to that already.

      2. No internal combustion engine has all torque and power all the time. The *awesomely high* 775bhp that Villeneuve had in his RS9 engine back in 1997 were also not all available when he pressed the throttle at the exit of each turn. It would get there once the engine was running at the speed where it produced the max power (which would take very little I now).
        But much more interesting to push the car out of the corners is the torque, and that according to drivers reports is much more than before.

        So yes, when Villeneuve says that power levels at F1 are ridiculous low when compared to his time, he is being ridiculous.
        The power/weight ratio might indeed be lower, but he actually talked about power levels and has Keith said, the engines are very likely to be putting right now a max power of around 850HP!

        1. I’m sure JV knows his numbers and what power he had back in his day and how it was accessed. I think people are taking this a bit too literally and trying to quantify exactly what HP number equates to what driving experience etc etc. I think the idea behind his comment is that F1 seems to him to be dumbed down more and more, and he is not only speaking of small engines with less HP and other HP only available at specific times, but also engines that are pretty much the same for all teams, such are the restrictions on development. Crunch the numbers all you want…JV’s point is made. Everyone outside F1 seems to know the numbers…I trust someone whose been in it. Someone who had in his day an engine just for qualifying.

    2. In 2009 i went to the turkish gp and i was disappointed by the performance of the cars. That was not what i was usted to with the v10s, the tikedrome had huge runoff áreas, the fact that the engines had to last for a certain amount of races, lowered the poder to weight ratio. The kers was another problem, they just used it in a few places, the extra weight didnt help, and is silent.  It was the worse experience i ever had at a race track.
      Now i am listening to the same spin
      I wont make the same mistake again. My opinión, wait a few years to spend your hard earned money on f1. Watch on tv free if you still can. They will fix it with time, they always do.

    3. @matt90 Take that Villeneauve. he’s still right. Well everyone knew that really, nevertheless it’s nice to examine in detail the stats, even if we are considering peak power in the graphs, a steady increase is expected in the future even if we are experiencing a sharp reduction in peak power but more importantly in baseline power as mentioned in the article.
      This situation is expected to change but the purists may add that the power to weight ratio would drastically improve if f1 wasn’t using any type of energy recovery system apart from the turbo. It’s rumored that it should contribute in 160 bhp of peak power but all the energy systems weight at least 150 kg and the main culprit is obviously the big fat battery, and thus also the reason why people are struggling to reach 691kg whereas they would add 50 kg of ballast or more. Considering that the weight to power ration of the energy systems alone can’t guarantee the 1240 bhp or any higher that means they are there lowering that figure they are the reason why it is 1240 bhp not to mention as it is highlighted here these energy KW aren’t available all the time so it is certain that if teams were allowed to choose they wouldn’t use them as they stand as it happened in the beginning of Kers before the mandatory rule.
      All things considered the FIA didn’t expect this much when they devised this rules as usual, and we F1 fans may miss seeing cars reaching 200mph but torque can be the cure to the itch, who knows if torque is not going to save F1, get rid of DRS and reward skill, rule-makers inspired themselves in the 80’s but maybe we’re back to the late 70’s and to Ronnie Peterson racing completely sideways in his Lotus.

    4. Villeneuve is and always has been an arrogant loud mouth with only controversial things to stay which get him a juicy headline. I’d rather have used stronger language to describe my feelings towards him but you know how it is.

  2. Yes, the 2014 engines are powerful enough for F1.

    Watching at Jerez, it was noticeable just how tail happy the cars were getting under throttle out of the slower corners. Adrian Sutil lost the car exiting the Dry Sac and crashed into the left hand tyre barrier, while Kevin Magnussen had a couple of offs during the last day too.

    Drivers are going to have to be a lot more careful under throttle with these engines, because when the torque kicks in, it kicks in hard. I think that’s how it should be in F1 and I love that they’ve created powerful, torque-heavy engines with 21st Century hybrid technology, rather than standard, 20th Century-spec N/A V8 engines.

    1. I look forward to seeing how drivers manage the the torque kicks in wet conditions, it will be massively punishing & then frustrating for drivers, they will have to constantly re-tune their right foot to changing track conditions. It was drummed into me by my best friend mechanic that HP=Top Speed & Torque=Acceleration, you can gain top speed in other ways i.e. gearing, but acceleration is harder to find without sacrificing elsewhere.

    2. I love that they’ve created powerful, torque-heavy engines with 21st Century hybrid technology, rather than standard, 20th Century-spec N/A V8 engines.

      Exactly that.

  3. When you look at the graph, its clear that the rough development of engine power reached its zenit in the 1980′ and since then the FIA has more or less tried to keep it stable (apart from the blip for the powerless ford in ’93 for McLaren), and while manufacturer involvement had it peak at about the same as the early 1980′ its been more or less in that bandwith for the last 5 years.

    I do think it should stop getting more heavy, surely in 2 years time the manufacturers will have brought down weight of the PUs(lets compare KERS – estimated at almost 50kg, last years units came in at little over 20kg if I am not mistaken) by 10-20 kg, although minimum weight takes away part of the reason to do so.

    As for power, I think the delivery of that power looks to be quite exciting from what little we have seen so far, I don’t think its going down the drain quite yet.

    1. …although minimum weight takes away part of the reason to do so.

      Not so, the engineers would rather the weight be made up by a) movable ballast and b) the best driver on the grid (who may not necessarily be the smallest/lightest driver).

      1. To clarify, I meant the minimal weight (and COG) of the engine block that is stated in the rules @optimaximal, off course otherwise they would minimize the engine block and all UP components to do exactly what you say.

    2. Aren’t the cars going to weigh about the same as 2013? Won’t they be going out with 45 or so kilos less in fuel?

      1. @darryn of course at the start of races you will be about right, but in qualifying they are essentially 45-47kg heavier than last year – where it really matters.

    3. What is totally missing in the article is the change in torque numbers when the cars went from V10s to V8s. The V10 era is the best not just in horsepower numbers but in torque as well.

      Current cars also look deadly boring when you watch onboard laps compared to the monsters of late 90s/early 2000s V10s.

      Personally I think the kers and the ers are all mind bogglingly boring. They are mainly used on straightaways when they are invisible. They make no sound – in fact they make the cars sound worse. And the worst part? Fuel saving. Nobody likes fuel saving. Yet the coming season looks like it is all about managing your fuel saving.

      It is all for show. Current cars would be faster without the kers and ers if the displacement of the engines is correlated with the loss of power with the electronics simply because these kerses and erses are heavy. Racing cars are supposed to be light. F1 cars are not just unexciting, boring to watch and underpowered but they are also fat.

      1. lb.ft = (BHP x 5252)/RPM

        1. That is ONLY true for the peak number. The V8 is a lot more very peaky when you look at the torque graphs. What this means that when you look at the torque graph anywhere else except the peak number it is considerably lower than with the V10s. This means corner exits where with V10 you could get wheelspin despite being at higher gear simply because at that rpm you have more torque. Bigger V10 engine simply makes proportionally more torque all the way from idle to max revs than V8.

          Two engines can have the exactly same max horsepower numbers despite having totally different looking torque curves. A 4 litre 500hp sports car engine looks very different than 2 litre 500hp single seater engine.

      2. All that would be great if we lived in an ideal world, but we don’t. I don’t agree with everything that the FIA have done to change F1, but the sport did (and does) have to change. I think that if it weren’t for other mistakes and missed opportunities, we’d have the best F1 there has ever been right now. But the engines are relevant, gutsy, and pushing the boundaries of what’s technologically possible (hence reliability concerns).

  4. Well, they are powerful enough for Formula 1, but they are not powerful enough for this day and age. Some people say, that 30-40 years ago F1 cars were less powerful than now, but they don’t take into consideration that so many things have changed.

    F1 cars now are more advanced, thay are becoming easier to drive. Of course, drivers are claiming that this year cars will be harder to drive, but for how long. Development will be enourmous and it’s just a question of time when downforce levels will get back to last year’s levels. Yes, this year cars will have more torque, but teams will find solutions how to make them faster (therefore, easier to drive).

    Another thing is if we compare F1 to production cars and cars from other racing series. They all cought up with F1 and overtook it. We have production cars with over 1000 hp these days and such racing series as Le Mans (Endurance racing championship) or GP2 are almost as fast as F1, which was not the case 20 or 30 years ago. F1 has to remain pinnacle of motorsports, but it’s not the way to do it, if F1 is just marginally faster than other racing series.

    I don’t mean, that F1 cars have to have bonkers power levels or V12 engines, but I liked V10 cars, which had 900 hp. Nowadays F1 cars should have similar or even higher power levels. It’s not the question of laptimes, it’s the question of power and awesomeness of F1.

    I started watching F1 in 1999, when I was 9 years old. Dad said then that it was pinnacle of motorsports, and no other series was even close to F1 of advancement, power, sheer speed, drivers.

    I’m not against turbo-hybrid powerplants, I just want it to again be pinnacle of motorsports in every area.

    1. Here we go again, someone claiming LMP1 cars are almost as fast as F1.

      I love Sportscar racing as much as I love F1, possibly even more. But let’s be realistic here. In Silverstone Quali, F1 was 20 seconds per lap faster. In dry Quali at Spa, 10 seconds per lap faster. At Shanghai, 14 seconds per lap faster. At Austin, F1 was 12 seconds per lap faster. When it’s wet in F1 and dry for WEC (Interlagos), the F1 cars are 5 seconds slower – closer in the wet than the LMPs are in the dry!

      I love the LMPs, but let’s keep in perspective, F1 is much faster.

      Look, could F1 cars be 2-3 seconds faster? Yes, they could. But could you actually tell the difference while watching it? No, you couldn’t.

      F1 cars are still mentally fast. There’s still a long way to go before they become par.

    2. It is a question of lap times. Power isn’t everything, to be the highest regarded the cars have to be the quickest around a circuit. What’s the point in F1 having 2000hp for arguments’ sake, if they are lapping Silverstone in the 2 minute barrier?

    3. “Yes, this year cars will have more torque, but teams will find solutions how to make them faster (therefore, easier to drive).”

      You can’t have it both ways though. If making the cars faster inherently makes them easier to drive (not necessarily true imo), then you have to pick one or the other – faster, or harder to drive.

      It sounds like cars will be harder to drive this year compared to last, Sutil crashed twice in Jerez even though he wouldn’t have been going flat out (i assume), and i expect lots of these errors from other drivers throughout the year, particularly in qualifying.

      The rules have to be changed every so often for two main reasons. 1) to stop cars from becoming progressively faster and therefore more dangerous (track changes can only do so much) 2) to level the playing field, or mix up the order when one team becomes dominant and the racing becomes predictable and repetitive.

      I for one am satisfied that the new power units will be amongst the most advanced in the world, and F1 can still call itself the pinnacle of motorsport. It doesn’t really bother me that in pure lap times F1 will be closer to other series’. After all they are still faster, even with the restrictions which have been put in place. Anyway, we should probably wait until we’ve actually seen the races to make serious judgements on performance or even entertainment value.

    4. @osvaldas31 Sorry don’t agree with any of your post.

      Faster is not the same as easier to drive. The 1994 Williams was certainly faster than the Benetton. But it was harder to drive, nervous. Still won the WCC though. Designers are concerned with speed and it’s up to the drivers to control it(not to the extreme of that Williams which got Senna killed of course)

      And your statement here “Another thing is if we compare F1 to production cars and cars from other racing series. They all cought up with F1 and overtook it. We have production cars with over 1000 hp these days and such racing series as Le Mans (Endurance racing championship) or GP2 are almost as fast as F1, which was not the case 20 or 30 years ago. F1 has to remain pinnacle of motorsports, but it’s not the way to do it, if F1 is just marginally faster than other racing series.” looks like you haven’t read any of what Keith has written here: “It will remain comfortably the highest-performance single-seater racing championship in terms of power-to-weight ratio. The current IndyCars produce over 900bhp per tonne and the new Japanese Super Formula racers will be close to 850. While NASCAR’s monstrous machines are at least a match for F1 in terms of sheer power their huge weight – 1,515kg for the lightest drivers – results in a more modest 560bhp per tonne.”. Do you have any sources to confirm that you’re right and Keith is wrong? Don’t bother to look because you’re the one in the wrong, and there aren’t any

      Just for your info, there were sportscars engines much more powerful in absolute terms than F1 in 1990-92 already. But they still weren’t close to F1 in terms of performance because the relevant figure is not bhp, but bhp/tonne. and aero of course

      Mclaren F1, the supercar produced 627 bhp. The Mclaren Ford F1 car produced 700 bhp, so 95% of the power. However the F1’s car bhp/tonne was 1267 bhp/tonne while the road car only had 550 bhp/tonne

      You say the gp2 is almost as fast as f1. We’ll let’s see. In 2013 there was an average of 9 sec/difference between a Gp2 pole time and F1 pole time. while this certainly will be less than that at the beginning of the season, by the end of it it’ll be back to almost the same level(as experts predict F1 cars will be 4 sec faster at the end of the season than the beginning). All the other championships including WEC are even further behind? “Almost as fast”? Not even close

      1. Forgot to add “in 1993” in the part about the Mclaren F1 and the Mclaren Ford F1 car

      2. @montreal95 By saying faster, I meant having more downforce, because adding downforce adds the biggest share of speed nowadays.

        Yes, F1 remains fastest racing series, but you didn’t read my comment until the end. F1 has no such speed advantage as it had years ago, there is not such big difference as it used to be, to F1 be considered as clear pinnacle of motorsports. I consider Le Mans has cought up with F1, because it’s more advanced, more inovations are allowed, they have similar power levels as F1 (ok, not as powerful, but not very far behind), downforce does not dominate Le Mans series.

        Talking about GP2, even some drivers said that this year GP2 cars will match F1 in some circuits. I wasn’t talking about last year, nor article’s main point is last year.

        1. @osvaldas31 More downforce will not neccesarily make cars easier to drive. It’s the way downforce is delivered that matters. In my example the 1994 Williams had more downforce than the Benetton, the Benetton was easier to drive

          I did read your comment until the end. You, on the other hand keep ignoring this part in Keith’s comment: “It will remain comfortably the highest-performance single-seater racing championship in terms of power-to-weight ratio. The current IndyCars produce over 900bhp per tonne and the new Japanese Super Formula racers will be close to 850. While NASCAR’s monstrous machines are at least a match for F1 in terms of sheer power their huge weight – 1,515kg for the lightest drivers – results in a more modest 560bhp per tonne”. No series comes close. You say the gap is less big. That’s wrong too. The CART indy cars of the late 90s were closer to F1 in terms of performance than any current series. The WEC cars you mention are 8-10 sec/lap slower than GP2, let alone F1. How is that close? All the WEC has that is better than F1 is PR department to convince so many people of this “we’re almost as fast as F1 now” drivel

          Drivers have said that, but the evidence suggest otherwise(and only 1 or 2 drivers said that at all-most drivers and engineers think the gap will be closer which is the correct definition). here’s why: GP2 cars as I said above were on average 9 sec/lap slower than F1 in 2013. Smallest gap was about 8 sec in a couple of tracks, most notably Monza. Even in their first test with all the problems, the current F1 cars are less than 8 sec slower than 2013. in the beginning of the year(read:first GP) they’ll be much faster than Jerez. And by the end of the year they will be 4 sec/lap faster than the first GP. So most of that gap will be eliminated. This is the first year of the new formula after the most radical chamge in the history of F1. So in the beginning they of course are slower but come the end of the season you won’t even notice it. The Merc already produces close to 700 bhp without the ERS. Engine development, performance wise will cease at the end of this month, but the rest of the car will be hugely developed, both in aero, fuel efficiency and mechanically too to compensate the increase in weight

          To sum it up: your argument is very logically constructed, but the premises on which it’s based are incorrect

          1. All the WEC has that is better than F1 is PR department to convince so many people of this “we’re almost as fast as F1 now” drivel

            The WEC has never claimed this in any official promotional material. Of course, that doesn’t stop the press from twisting the most meaningless snippets into full-blown controversy.

          2. @raceprouk Indeed, you’re right. I accidentally managed to bash WEC, when I didn’t mean to, with my poor choice of words

    5. faster cars, therefore easier to drive.
      I stopped reading your comment at that point, sorry.

      1. @alfa145 W Saying that I meant adding more downforce, because engines will be freezed after February. Besides, drivers said, that at the moment cars have less downforce, and therefore are harder to drive.

    6. …but I liked V10 cars, which had 900 hp.

      It all comes out in the wash. Basically, you’re saying ‘I liked something how it was, why did they change it without asking me first’.

      The Ford Fiesta on Top Gear last night is good for 125 mph with a turbo-charged 3-pot 1-litre engine and a curb weight of just over a tonne. A huge, naturally aspirated V10 lump is hardly progressive when you consider this is supposed to be ‘the premier racing championship’.

      I also like how you clarified that a V12 is bad, but a V10 is okay, despite no modern (non-US) manufacturers really using anything so Neanderthal.

      1. I don’t say V10 is good, I just say that I liked it, and I’d love if F1 cars would be powered by V10 engines nowadays, but it wouldn’t be good for F1.

    7. We have production cars with over 1000 hp

      From an 8-litre quad-turbo that has to meet Euro-V emissions regulations, and last for over a decade (125hp/l).

      That should put into perspective just how much power these ‘microscopic’ 1.6s put out (430hp/l+).

      1. Out of interest, do you happen to know what the production engine with the highest bhp/l figure is @raceprouk? I imagine the McLaren P1 must be pretty high up the list with 238 (including ERS) or 191 (discounting it).

        To put the ERS figure into perspective, which Mercedes’ highest estimate, the value for the new engine is 538bhp/l – quite staggeringly high.

        1. You can’t include ERS in that seeing as it is pretty much a separate power unit that could be bolted onto any engine. Or work independently and produce infinite bhp/litre.

          1. True @matt90 but I am thinking of it as a PU! The purpose was really to illustrate how impressive the package is, as the ICE is inderctly powering the ERS unit (through the MGU-K and the MGU-H).

            Tell you what though, the bhp/tonne figure on the LaFerrari is staggering @raceprouk, even if the bhp/l figure isn’t quite as amazing.

        2. Not a production car, but was designed to be one before its cancellation:
          Jaguar C-X75 – 313bhp/litre from a 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine.
          Engine might still make it to one of their future cars.

        3. do you happen to know what the production engine with the highest bhp/l figure is

          No idea I’m afraid, though I guess the P1 is more likely than most to be that.

    8. If you want power get out of here and go see Top Fuel dragster races.

      1. @crandreico, good point and interestingly drag racing is about as professional as the F1 garagists of the 60’s and yet these small business’s and home garage enthusiasts manage to continue in a development race with engines that only have to run for a few minutes between re-builds. I suppose they must have bigger crowds and TV coverage than F1 and higher prices to attend so they can pay the costs of running their sport in a manner that F1 cannot afford any more.

        1. @hohum I don’t know. A quick investigation shows you that tickets to a complete weekend at those races varies between 25 and 95 euros. For races that last a few seconds I think that it’s still pretty high. Maybe they attend races only for the sound of the engines, just like us F1 fans ;P A full F1 weekend, costs no less than 100 euros. And that’s on the “worst” places of the circuits.
          Also, a bit wandering here and there, I guessestimate that running a Top Fuel dragster costs between 2 and 4 million euros, for the entire racing season. Pretty much minuscule compared to an F1 team budget, even with the Marussias (around 50 million on 2013). Maybe they appreciate their sport, and manage it for the sake it. Sadly, uncle Bernie and FOTA (and the rest of the teams) doesn’t know how to do that.

      2. @crandreico they run with what I like to call “suicide engines” though – i.e they will destroy themselves within a very short time (or any other appropriate imagery, such as Keith’s “hand grenade”). And the fuel is terribly corrosive is it not?

        They essentially aren’t as much useful engines but ballistic devices. So I’m not the biggest fan of them and find them far more crude than an F1 engine, where the engineering is genuinely brilliant.

        1. @vettel1 yes, the fuel is corrosive. And yes, they only last (I guess) for less than a kilometer.
          My point was to present an absurd counter argument for an absurd argument presented by the OP: that F1, is the pinnacle of motor sports because it has the most HP. Oh c’mon! Thank god that finally they got rid of the done to death V8’s and came with those V6’s hybrids. At least they are not anymore stuck on the 19th century with only IC engines.

    9. In 1999 champcars were had more power then f1 cars, revved nearly as high (16000+rpm) and did 400kmh on super speedways :p

  5. Yes, they are powerful enough!

    1. Who knows, maybe @Keithcollantine is that fast and you just gave him the nudge to do an article he had lingering in his head already @geemac

  6. I think that while it is a fact that HP has been diminishing, which speaks to a trend that not everyone agrees with, I don’t think it will be the main talking point if this year’s new formula does not improve the product. If we still have a spread apart grid of drivers by 5 or 10 laps into the race, and processions, passing only via DRS, otherwise delta time fuel conservation running, and more unreliability, along with such divergent strategies that we have no driver to driver action until the last few laps, it won’t be HP or lack thereof that folks within F1 and without will be decrying.

  7. Good article Keith. I think there has been far too much doom and gloom about the new regulations, and we’ve had some choice words from a former champion thrown in as well. But I think this year, and the formula for the next few years, should be very interesting and exciting.
    We’re going to have a return of all out banzai quali laps with everything turned up to the max, and hopefully all of the top 10 always running in Q3.
    We’re also going to have a huge mixture of strategies in the race that are going to make the final 10-20 laps totally unpredictable; do you do a Vettel and run off and build a lap, or do you do a Hamilton and fight your way through the field? Or can anyone do both?!
    I think the start of this year could well be fairly chaotic. It would be amazing if the FIA could see some sense and reduce the power and impact of DRS and just let the drivers race and overtake normally. Unfortunately though we appear to be stuck with that ‘innovation’ for some time to come.

  8. I think that the bhp/tonne ratio is over blown as a measure of performance. The characteristics of a car with more electric power are so different that you now have to consider torque/tonne and perhaps even more importantly torque-time curve as the electric motors add a huge boost in the low speed, early portions of accelerating.
    With the ability of the traditional ICE engine with turbo to drive top speed and supplemented by the electric motor to drive the low speed power, you have a machine that is capable of more pure “power” throughout it’s performance curve.

    The weight of the batteries will come down over the next couple of years and the teams will find a way to get their aero better and the down force back as they work it….and these cars will be just as fast as the 2013 cars by 2016-2017. And I think THAT is the real measure of how “powerful” the cars are.

    1. @daved – “I think that the bhp/tonne ratio is over blown as a measure of performance.”

      Agreed. Too simplistic to measure peak hp and call it a good comparison. A more accurate study would include torque measurement and hp available throughout the rpm curve. This would be a more difficult study, obviously. I think the comments from drivers so far about the newly available torque in the 2014 cars compared to previous years is revealing. The torque/low end power is allowing for a complete rethinking of shifting techniques, cornering, and many other aspects of racing this year compared to previous years. In other words, what good is higher peak hp when it is nearly only available at the peak rpm levels? Keep the RPMs up or you don’t have much power. Not to mention how many cars racing or otherwise ever actually use that peak power? It is only one way to make a comparison.

      Many years ago I had a Rickman 125 motocross bike with a Zundapp 2 stroke motor. All the hp was available in the last 500-1000 RPMs. If you lost your RPMs you had nothing and simply bogged down. In comparison my friends had Honda Elsinore 250s which had just come onto the market. They had power throughout the RPM band including a lot of low end grunt. This allowed for a completely different riding style. Instant power at any RPM level and the danger of having your rear end snap around at any moment coming out of curves and corners if the throttle was not applied carefully. Granted, different size motors, but the torque comparison still applies. My bike was smaller and lighter with less power and torque, but their bikes were bigger and heavier with a motor that had power on demand at any time.

      The low end torque available in the 2014 F1 cars will reward some drivers and likely punish others. I welcome this. The sole measurement of peak HP when comparing race cars or even consumer cars ignores too many other important factors.

      1. +1
        You brought up the other point I should have mentioned: hp and torque across the entire RPM spectrum. It’s really more of an “integral” where you have to measure the total area “under the curve” for BOTH hp and torque to see which one is better for racing. And even then, “better” is relevant as Monza and Monaco have VASTLY different needs if you want to define “optimal”. Then you throw in all the factors such as down force and aero…very, very different.

        Overall, a very complex subject that can not remotely be rated by looking at single number such as peak horse power.

      2. wow ! Those crossers ain`t half classics ;) .

      3. Thanks @bullmello and @daved, for giving me another excuse to bring up the 1966 Brabham-Repco, Jack Brabham realised exactly the point you are making, instead of striving to match the output of the BRM and Ferrari H16 and V12s respectively, effectively twice the power of 1965, due to financial necessity he opted for “enough” power but a broader powerband, he suffered on long straights but had better power at low rpm giving him an advantage in the twisty bits, better reliability was the icing on the cake.
        This is a lesson that could be applied with these new engines but for the ridiculously premature development freeze.

    2. @daved
      Sorry, but Torque/tonne is completely pointless.
      HP actually says something about a cars performance. Torque, does not. High torque usually just comes with an early HP peak in the rev range. But that is what matters. Not the torque number in it self.
      A Nascar has a 456Nm/Tonne.
      An F1 car had 303Nm/Tonne.
      A more extreme example:
      A 2012 BMW 550d has a ratio of 376Nm/Tonne!
      Noticeably more then the F1 car. Still the F1 car accelerates much faster then either of them.
      The BHP/Tonne ratio is, a much better representation of actual performance, even though it obviously isn’t fully representative. ICE or not.

      1. Actually, that’s not quite true. Acceleration = force/mass. Torque is a measure of force, hp is not. HP will tell you the total amount of energy that is spent over a period of time, but it doesn’t mean you can “spend” that hp quickly to accelerate.

        If you have a higher torque curve, then on a road track where you’re constantly slowing down and speeding back up for curves, you can spend more of that hp. If you’re at Monza or especially on an oval, then that hp is more important. Considering that a=f/m, then both the force and the mass are very important for an F1 car, hence the many gears to produce more torque in F1…at the wheels, not at the engine itself. The ICE torque is not really important in this case simply because of the gears so we have to be careful and specify *where* we’re talking about this torque for these discussions.

        Interestingly, Lewis Hamilton noted that the new cars are so “torquey” that he’s now taking corners in 4th or 5th gear that he used to do in 2nd. Essentially, the electric motor is providing much of the torque that used to be provided by the gears.

        As for different cars and their 0 to 60 times, we’re ignoring gearing, the type of tires (e.g. the coefficient of friction), the size of the contact patch of the tires, etc. But it is still cool to see the differences in how each one performs :-)

        1. @daved – “Interestingly, Lewis Hamilton noted that the new cars are so “torquey” that he’s now taking corners in 4th or 5th gear that he used to do in 2nd.”

          Bingo! That was one of the indicators that gives me renewed hope for this season.

        2. @daved

          Torque is a measure of force, hp is not. HP will tell you the total amount of energy that is spent over a period of time, but it doesn’t mean you can “spend” that hp quickly to accelerate.

          In a lorry or a bus. No. They need a lot of torque to get going, and haul a lot of weight.
          An F1 car does not. It is light. And since it is going to be used for racing it is going to be in the powerband 99% of the time. Which means that the work the engine can do is a lot more important then simply the twisting force at the crank.

          1. OK, I’m trying to be polite, but you’re just arguing because you don’t want to admit you were wrong. Here is a video with the telemetry of a Force India car from a lap at Monaco during 2011. Watch the RPM’s in the bottom left corner of the screen and tell us that it’s “in the powerband 99% of the time”.
            It simply is not. Torque (at the wheels) provides greater acceleration and that is a simple matter of physics.
            There is a reason why they have so many gears to try and stay in that powerband as much as possible, and expanding that powerband is good. That is simply obvious and a fact.
            But that does not change that fact that calling it a “powerband” does not equate to horsepower. We throw the word “power” around too loosely.

          2. @daved
            Don’t get so hung up on a detail. Of cause they aren’t doing +15.000 RPM all the time. But when they are out of the powerband, that through and out of the corners, and unless the driver is flat on the throttle, then he isn’t power limited.
            That said, we are quite severely sidetracked at this point.
            My argument is simply that HP/tonne is an actual gauge of straight line performance. Perfect? No. There are large holes in it, but it gets you in the ballpark of performance.
            Torque/tonne does not. Unless you make a sea of assumption, or take a lot of other parameters into account.

          3. Don’t get so hung up on a detail.

            LOL I made a simple statement that torque was important towards overall lap time. Sorry, but it’s a simple matter of physics to prove this on any track just like hp and top speed are important. These guys fight for seconds (or even hundreds or thousandths of a second) and better acceleration can give you some of those extra seconds off a lap. I stated a simple, verifiable fact and you chimed in and started picking it apart and then tell me not to focus on details? Come on, you’re messing with me…right??? :-)
            Look, I really don’t want to argue if you’re serious. I enjoy this blog because Keith clearly cares passionately for the sport and the comments are fun because most of the time people are civil and engaging as they discuss different view points. If you want to say hp is MORE important than torque, great…an interesting debate that changes track by track (Monaco vs Monza for example!). @hohum brought up a great example of this with the 1966 season!

            But to state that torque is meaningless is factually incorrect and not something we should bother debating.

    3. Especially since, a lot of the time, the figures from the 1980’s are especially dubious – a lot of the time teams would quote theoretical maximum power outputs rather than sustained power outputs, which would be much lower by necessity (reliability and fuel consumption).

      For example, there are various sources that indicate the MP4/4 produced about 685bhp in qualifying trim and about 660bhp in race trim. However, it is worth noting that the race trim figure is the power output on maximum boost, which was only rarely used – Honda subsequently revealed that, in reality, the engine normally ran at about 620bhp in race trim because the restrictions on fuel consumption made it impossible to run at full boost.

  9. An interesting analysis. Just wondering keith do those values include fuel weight? If not then this would have quite a large impact on laptimes at the starts of races. For example in the non refuelling turbo era 84-94 cars would’ve started with 220l of fuel so around 165kg assuming a density of around 0.75kg/l. Whereas in the refuelling era they would’ve had more in the range of 50kg. Then 2010-2013 150kg and now 100kg on top of the min weight.

    This wouldnt change things for the most part but interestingly it would mean that at the start of races the new cars should actuallly have a higher power to weight ratio than the outgoing v8’s did (one of the worst things about the refuelling ban is how sluggish it made the cars at race start imo).

    v8 = 750hp / (640min wt + 150kg fuel) = 950 bhp per tonne at race start
    v6 turbo = 700 + F*160 / (700min wt + 100kg fuel) = 875-1075 bhp per tonne at race start*

    *Depends on value of F which is how efficiently the ERS is used. But you’d have to say F would equal at least 0.5 and maybe as much as 0.8

  10. When red bulls are taking copse, turn 8 in turkey, turn 9 in barcelona and 130R with DRS open at 318kmh flat to the floor then you know something is wrong. Even since V8 came into play cars seemed massively underpowered. Not to mention everyone and their mothers are going trough eau rouge like it’s a no-corner, even overtaking trough it and then doing the same trough blanchimont with DRS open in 2011-12.

    1. that is the downforce of the car, and the resurfacing of the corner…. nothing to do with the power. what do you want? the cars doing 350kmh through eau rouge and not flatc out just to prove your point? with drivers risking their lives?

  11. yes they are powerful enough. the problem is people are looking at “numbers” too much. 1.6, 600hp, 700hp 3.5 3.0 v10 v8 v6 i4 turbo. people have a nonsensical mental issue with these numbers – you can not see those numbers when the car goes around the circuit. what matters is that the cars are still the fastest, and it seems they are – which means they are powerful enough. in the 80s a 1.5 turbo in qualifying trim maybe did 1400hp, but the modern cars with half as much horsepower would still trounce them. in the 90s the cars sounded fantastic – but the modern cars with smaller capacity and higher weight are faster! the FIA is rightly doing several things – 1. limiting the speed of F1 (it is already bloody fast), 2. using engines more in line with modern road car technology. 3. showing the world with whatever engine, f1 is still the fastest. 4. continuing the tradition of changing formulae in F1 – this is what makes the sport so interesting, and keeps engineers working at the highest level to make the fastest machines. imagine the uproar if f1 went turbo diesel with silencers, like lemans, well I bet the engineers will still find a way to make the cars faster. F1 does not care what these forums say, I think forum commentary is not representative of f1 fans oppinions, this is die hard fans here. the majority of casual viewers will not notice any difference – actually they are likely to see better racing. ****one last thing, bhp/tonne means much less with an 8 speed box and heaps more torque.

  12. Outright power doesn’t bother me as much as how hay contributes to the car’s driving characteristics, as that is what contributes to the excitement. In which case, the simple answer is yes.

    However, I do hope the cars are not slowed down too considerably as although F1 is likely to comfortably retain it’s fastest series status, there has been a negative performance trend which is not ideal.

  13. Thanks a lot for a proper analysis rather than the regular rants. Power means nothing without the correlation with weight. Very appreciated.

    1. There is more than it to that. The thing doesn’t work on thin air, it uses fuel – and they have close to 40% less of it in 2014, compared to last year. So it doesn’t matter that they have enough power/weight ratio to put the car in orbit, if they will have to spend most of the race going ginger on their accelerator.

  14. I’m surprised the 1988 cars have the highest bhp per tonne levels if I’m honest. The 2.5 bar boost limit meant that the McLaren had about 600 bhp maximum compared to over 800 bhp (race trim) in ’86 and ’87.

    1. I couldn’t understand that myself. I know the MP4/4 was hugely different, but was it light enough to offset the power deficit?

    2. @keithcollantine I know this is an old article so doesn’t really matter, but I think the numbers are incorrect. The MP4/4 is widely quoted as only producing 650 or 680 bhp in race trim. This makes sense as the boost greatly was down from 1987, which I believe in turn was down from the 1986 peak (peak boost and and I believe peak power too). If you used the 900 bhp figure which is as McLaren quote on their website, I believe that is the qualifying figure which you haven’t used for the other years. All the other cars’ numbers they give on the site are for race trim, presumably to avoid their most legendary car looking neutered. As I think the weights of the cars were fairly fixed during this period, I can’t see 1988 having the best power to weight.

      On top of that, I assume that the flat section from 1984 to 1986 is because only the MP4/2 was used in those year and a single power figure was given, which ignores the undoubted development cycle and makes it unclear when in those years that figure was actually reached and possibly even surpassed.

  15. Of course the 2014 version of F1 has NOT ENOUGH power!
    …the fact that the debate is ongoing and by simply looking at the numbers – says it all. Soo many present an former drivers states the same thing.
    …the magic is lost as F1 should be the pinnacle of motorsport with the most powerful and quickest cars with cool and loud sound. This years version is a farce (bernies word).
    The big question is WHY?
    I do not get it….
    – cost, hardly with all the funds spent for this year
    – environmental, should the pinnacle of motorsport drive that…there are other series (formula prius or something)
    – safety, do not think so
    – relevance, with lost magic the interest will be lost of the fans and the money less…death spiral
    – increase excitement, well slowing all down will not make it more exciting
    ….FIA has a lot to explain. Not many words comes from the guy’s in the top. I would state they have lost the contact with the fans up in their ivory towers.
    …don’t even get me going on the eco-drive and the silly looks.
    Change is normally good – but 2014 version of F1 is bad. Really bad.
    F1 will loose many many fans. I am one after 25+ yrs. Sorry to say. Sad times.

    1. your not a fan at all if you leave after 25+ years. you dont seem to realise for many years f1 cars have not been the most powerful, probably for the last 20 years, with champcars and nascars, and some lemans probably making more power

  16. I’d say no, they are not powerful enough. The show F1 has become will be fine this year. What i’am struggling with is that F1 is continuously getting slower. Not that we can all see it with the naked eye, but it’s just the thought of going in the wrong direction.. basic logic says technology gets better with the years, thus cars should go faster. That is obviously not the case. I wish they had made a monster of an engine this year, get the weight down again, and get a budget-cap in place, and give the engineers free hands (well, more than now..) to do whatever they like to do within the budget. The words “green” and “safe” are very positive indeed, but they shouldn’t replace “powerfull” and “exiting”.

  17. Well we’ll soon find out..

  18. The power/weight ratio isnt the problem. The loss of downforce this year is, but I suspect they will get most of that back slowly through the year so no worries.

    1. The loss of downforce is a bonus, not a problem. Aero dependency ruins close racing and is the reason they knee-jerked DRS into play…they can’t get off their aero/wind tunnel addiction. Thankfully downforce is curtailed at least a little bit for now, but they need to do way more in this area, along with banning DRS.

  19. Ultimately, F1 has to evolve. If not, we would still be racing cars with FR layouts.

    I dont see anything wrong with the new engine formula. Its in keeping with developments in automotive technology. It means F1 remains relevant. LMP1 has long overtaken F1 as the test bed for radical automotive technology, so switching to a hybrid V6 was the least that F1 could do.

    DRS and double points aside, F1 is F1, it will always be special. Whatever speed the cars lack now, will clawed by the brain power on the pit wall sooner rather than later. This why F1 trumps every other form of motor racing, the innovation is immense.

    Having said this, my favourie era was the V10s. The cars looked the best and sounded absolutely amazing. I have been to races in both the V10 and V8 eras…the former was just glorious!

  20. Jack Flash (Aust)
    18th February 2014, 1:42

    Keith – Sorry but I have issue with the inconsistencies of mensuration in this article. Not the data itself, nor the conclusion so reasonably presented from the data; just the manner in which it is identified in measures.

    In an International forum, such as this website on the internet, there is an element of responsibility to keep measurement units straight and within the relevant systems-of-units. Mixing Imperial units of mechanical power [brake-horse-power (bhp)] with that of SI units of mass (kg/tonne) is poor form.

    Formula 1 is a sport governed by the FIA, which ascribes itself, its inspection records, and all its regulatory sets to employ SI units, otherwise known as “Metric”. I have no problem with a choice to use Imperial measures to present data for some reason, but mixing them — No.

    SI based ‘Power to Mass Ratio’ (power to weight): Watt(W) per kilogram (kg), or kilowatt (kW) per tonne (t) is valid.
    Imperial ‘Power to Weight Ratio’ (mechanical output): brake horsepower (bhp) per ton (T) is valid.

    Our brethren American friends have enough problems trying to bend their heads around Formula 1 and the SI unit world. Mixing units is not helping their cause. A far more instructive international audience presentation would perhaps have shown both mensuration systems for direct comparative reference. Imperial unit plodders could have learned something Metric without realising it.

    Don’t misunderstand me. I really appreciate all the fine exemplar data you’ve collected and the insightful points you made based on that data (bravo and thanks), but the mixed units things I cannot abide. Please do not do that again. Jack Flash.

    1. Jack Flash (Aust)
      18th February 2014, 1:46

      Oh, and for Reference:
      1 bhp = 746 Watt (10 bhp = 7.46 kW)
      1 std ton (2240 lb) = 1016 kg

    2. Oh, please…bhp and lbs have been used by car enthusiasts for ever. Most people can translate it to other formsquite easily if they are desperate enough. We still use inches on our tools when working with cars.

  21. I can’t wait to see Fernando’s early upshifts exiting out of the corners!
    He’s so clever and sensitive doing that,and especialy this year it will make a difference compared to everyone else(having all that torque and low downforce at the rear end).

  22. I think the power is too low.
    I don’t mind the turbo engines at all, but I just don’t see the need to restrict power and fuel use so much.
    Keep the small turbo engines and ERS, and just allow them to use more fuel.
    We wouldn’t need to have this discussion, and I think more power with less downforce would be more fun to watch then less downforce and less power.
    Regardless of where they set the limit, it is going to be an efficiency race as long as they don’t reintroduce refueling, since fuel weighs a lot.

    1. I think the introduction level is alright – the real problem is the imposed development freeze along with the new engines. Without the freeze they might have reached 800 bhp + ERS within the first couple of seasons.

      It will be interesting to see what Honda ends up with since they are somehow escaping the freeze until introduction in 2015.

  23. Looking at those figures, especially during the 1980s, makes me wonder… what on Earth would engines be like now had turbos not been banned for 1989 and development allowed to continue with few restrictions?

    Sadly I’m not mechanically minded enough to be able to make an educated guess. If anyone is, would they have hit a plateau, even with the brilliance of F1 engineers working on them? Or could they theoretically continue to get more and more powerful…?

  24. And my car is at a sad 227 (without me)…

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