F1 ‘risked losing manufacturers’ without new engines

2014 F1 season

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McLaren racing director Eric Boullier says Formula One’s new engine formula was necessary to prevent engine manufacturers from leaving the sport.

“With this new power unit we have developed is a completely industry-relevant engine formula,” he said. “This is why actually we could attract some new engine manufacturers – and keep some of them on board, actually.”

Mercedes, Renault and Ferrari are the only engine manufacturers competing in Formula One following the loss of Cosworth over the winter. FIA president Jean Todt credited the new rules for encouraging Honda to plan for a return to the sport with McLaren next year.

The quieter sound of the new V6 turbo engines provoked some criticism following the first race weekend of the season.

“With every big change there is always some problem comes,” said Boullier. “It’s true that we cannot dismiss the fans’ complaints.”

“But we are also seeing some positives and we need to not focus only on the noise.”

Boullier said the increased torque of the engines and reduction in downforce on the cars made them more challenging to drive.

“It is more of a driver formula and you could see that this weekend, there were a lot of small mistakes,” he said. “And even if there is a need to manage and save fuel and energy, it was still interesting to see some overtaking, however, and it was really a challenge for the drivers.”

“It’s true the engine sound is different but that is not very different from the turbo engines we had in the seventies. I think it needs a little bit of time to see what is going on and how it develops.”

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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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72 comments on “F1 ‘risked losing manufacturers’ without new engines”

  1. Hmmm and what’s the problem with losing the manufacturers? the teams would have to make do with smaller budgets but would that be bad for the sport? I guess there would be less competition for Ferrari, so they would probably dominate the sport again.

    1. thatscienceguy
      20th March 2014, 11:32

      If the engine manufacturers leave, who will make the engines?

      1. I’m sure there are plenty of companies like Cosworth that would happily sell the teams engines.

        1. Perhaps they would be. But could these companies actually afford to develop the engines in the first place?

          1. Cosworth developed and built the 2.4L v8 without much problem

          2. Sam, if they could why did Cosworth back off? Probably they didnt have enough resources to get the ERS-K integrated into the engines according to the new formula.

          3. Cosworth aren’t supplying an engine this year because the spec changed, and it doesn’t make sense for the teams to pay them to develop a new one when they can get a massively subsidised one from Mercedes, Renault or Ferrari.

          4. Cosworth did design an engine, no one bought it.

    2. The teams have certain overheads they can’t avoid, such as entry fees, travel/transport, factory overheads etc. So less manufacturer money will mean smaller budgets yes, but that may well lead to teams folding rather than operating on a reduced budget. Some teams are already running at pretty much the minimum budget to stay in the sport.

      While the main interested in F1 is undoubtedly at the front of the grid, i don’t think it would survive if there were only 3-4 teams on track. After all, fewer cars means less action, more predictability, less drivers/teams to support in the first place, and ultimately less people watching.

      1. The smaller teams aren’t getting the same handouts as the big teams from the Manufactures, the smaller teams wouldn’t be as affected.

      2. @keithedin
        This is why I think the budget cap idea is absolute nonsense. It only affects the teams at the front who already have the money to compete, forcing them to lay off thousands of professions. For the teams at the back, the ones genuinely struggling for money, it will make absolutely zero difference. I don’t know why people are failing to recognise this seemingly obvious point, that making the rich teams less rich won’t make the poor teams any less poor.

        F1 needs to be made cheaper at a much more fundamental level.

    3. The teams may have to actually increase spending. It’s simple economics,- less suppliers means, less substitute goods. This leads to a price-hike due to low price-elasticity of demand. I know if I was one of just two engine manufacturers, I would put my prices way up, as any normal company would

      1. The teams can’t spend money they don’t have anymore, The big manufactures are financing the sport and making it harder for smaller independent teams, Mercedes and Renault aren’t making engines to make money out of the teams, they’re doing it advertise their brands.

    4. Losing manufacturers as constructors is one thing, but losing them as engine suppliers is something else entirely, and a far bleaker prospect.

    5. I think rather than having a single manufacturer making the power unit, F1 should allow the 3 main components i.e. Engine, motor generator unit-Kinetic (MGU-K), motor generator unit-Heat (MGU-H) to be manufactured by different manufacturers. The racing teams will build the control electronics (CE). This will allow engine constructors such as Cosworth to remain in F1, and also bring in other specialists manufacturers into play. This should create more competitions with added bonus of bringing the costs down. Situation we have now is, that Mercedes supplied power units are likely to dominate and unless a racing team has a Mercedes unit it will have no chance of becoming competitive.

  2. Didn’t 3 new manufacturers join Aussie V8s recently?

    1. Nissian joined last year and a team used Mercedes Benz e class as an entry no official factory support for the team
      Volvo joined this year and came 2nd in the first weekend of racing so pretty impressive

    2. Thats more down to a change in regulations. Uniform chassis and certain parts has made it easier for new manufacturers to join. Plus they run E85 fuel and are slowly moving towards a DTM route which could mean V6 engines in a few years.

    3. @spawinte – and now they will set to go because of the TV deal with less races exclusive to Ten as 6 or 7 races will be shown live on Ten. V8s won’t last till 2020 because of James warburton who has mucked up the place already and has been in office for less then a year. I feel sad for our own Aussie V8s. James Warburton didn’t answer any questions regarding the TV deal as he declined to come in which in a V8 podcast

      1. I’m way up in California, but I would hate to see the Aussie V8s weakened in any way. I honestly think that the class can successfully expand to other areas, especially to the USA, which desperately needs a relatively inexpensive, crowd-pleasing, great sounding sedan series.

        And “great sounding” is a very important component, in my opinion, much more so than some would think, so adding V6s to the Aussie V8s would be a step in the wrong direction. We’re already seeing the negative feedback concerning the 2014 F1 engine sounds. Racing is supposed to be noisy, … so noisy that it offends some and makes the hair on the backs of the necks of true fans stand on end. If you lose that, you dilute the sport.

  3. Which new manufacturer are we expecting to join?? Honda has joined, but Cosworth has left.

    Also we need new teams, not just engine manufacturers. This new formula might bring a host of new engine suppliers, but not enough teams to buy their engines.

    Finally I get a sneaky feeling that all this is done to try and woo the Volkswagen group. That will be a shame, coz Audi have categorically stated that have no plans for F1 in the near future.

  4. Funny that with all the new electronics we actually have a driver’s car again. Boullier is not the first to take up the argument of manufactures leaving, if there would be a change in engines. The development of F1 had been standing still and changes made were on safety, downforce and overtaking. You could of cause pick the discussion that F1 should be a free class, but with today’s economics that wouldn’t work. Personally I like the new sound and like that you can hear what is going on with the power supply, turbo, tires and so on. And on top the cheers that was coming from the public when Riccardo drove past.

    1. Personally I like the new sound and like that you can hear what is going on with the power supply, turbo, tires and so on. And on top the cheers that was coming from the public when Riccardo drove past.

      You wrote my exact thoughts! I really started liking the sound. There was this Birthday Ecard I made once with a quote “As each year pass, you start realizing that the volume knob also turns left” and now find it so right :P

  5. I have to say I think it’s funny how all these high-up personnel in Formula One are saying: ‘Oh yes we hear the fans’ complaints about the new engines and something must be done about it.’

    And yet all of the complaints on double points (of which there are considerably more) have kind of fallen on deaf ears.

    1. @bradley13: +1, they probably don’t give a xxxx about the fans oppinion.
      They worry about the threat of reduced payment, because of the lack of spectacular noise.

    2. @bradley13 +1 That’s exactly what I was thinking when I read his statement.They will know once they experience it’s fallacy . Double Dhabi will be interesting to watch in a notorious way .

    3. I was about to make exactly the same point, having read this “It’s true that we cannot dismiss the fans’ complaints.” From Big Eric.

  6. Honda will have time to boost the noise, after all they have a great sound with high revving engines for the road cars :D

    1. None of which are muffled by a turbocharger …..

    2. @nidzovski I doubt Honda will re-enter formula one and build a deliberately inefficient engine. I strongly suspect their aim will be to beat the opposition rather than to make a loud noise.

      1. @jerseyf1 I agree and that is smiley at the end of my comment :D

      2. I think the noise-level is more tied to the regulations, than the efficiency of the engine. The noise level and main frequencies can be tuned by the design of the exhaust turbine and the exhaust pipe size, shape and length. So it is not necessarily an “either noisy or efficient” problem.

  7. Now, F1 risks losing spectators!!!

    1. @kikk If the spectators were only watching so that they could make their ears bleed are they really worth holding on to?

      1. Paul Sainsbury
        20th March 2014, 15:24

        Have you been to a GP? It is hard to describe the sort of primal excitement that a big F1 fan gets from the sound (pre 2014). That is why if you visit Spa the in the evenings the sound of F1 is being played loudly through PA systems. these are real F fans, and I have a feeling there won’t be much point in playing the 2014 engines the night before……..
        So I think these people are indeed worth ‘holding onto’.

        1. I’ve been to grand prix with both V10 and V8 engines and can’t wait for my first V6 turbo race visit to hear the new noise – sounds great so far.

          Also, in my experience a large proportion of fans trackside at F1 races use ear plus or ear defenders, I’d say probably more than half. That to me suggests that the majority will find the change in volume an improvement.

        2. @paulsainsbury Yes, indeed I have. I have been an F1 fan all my life and I love nothing more than the noise of an F1 car. BUT, simple fact is that the 2.4 liter, rev limited V8’s were not and will never be the be all and end all of F1 engines. Anyone making out that they are or where, or that if F1 is powered by anything but a high revving normally aspirated engine, is totally incorrect.

          @kikk Interesting that the video link you posted was to a turbo engine, not a normally aspirated screamer. I think my point is proven. ;)

      2. there are many many F1 fans that were in love in the magic (where the sound was an important trademark) and spent loads of money at the race weekends. For sure worth holding on to and that penny seems finally have droped by some people like bernie. Add the fuel- and fuel-flow cr-p and people will focus other things. F1 has lost the wow-factor. A bit late, I would state but now we need to look fwd. How to get FIA to acknowledge? They seems not to give a s–t and loads of denial acting. Worrying.

      3. @GeeMac Do you know which are our senses? These are the traditional – vision, hearing, taste, smell, touch. Obviously, the important senses for F1 are VISION, HEARING and SMELL if you are some type of guy, who wants to smell the exhaust gases. I am really sorry if don’t understand. Listen to this McLaren MP4/4 and tell me you are not feeling something in your stomach.

  8. I’m with gatekiller on this.. We lost one manufacturer and we won’t gain one till 2015

  9. F1 must be thrilling as it was in past time… you need to hear an F1 car and you need to feel humble in front of this… at this moment F1 is no more than a Real Live Video Game where young kids like Magnussen and the others (no disrespect to any young driver in F1 here) practising in Simulators all day/night and jump in a car and drive it … this is wrong in all areas.
    I watched a interview with Button in Saturday i think in SkyUK and he was saying that when he was young and joined F1 it was troumendous and frightening but now the youngsters step in and drive fine.. this backups my thoughts all this time.
    As for the difficulty in driving which is the extra tork this is not so biggy except if 3-4 spins from the back that all saved correctly from the No1 drivers of the world was this years extra difficulty.

    1. “As for the difficulty in driving which is the extra tork this is not so biggy except if 3-4 spins from the back that all saved correctly from the No1 drivers of the world was this years extra difficulty.”
      … What?

      1. Yeap.. in comparison last years driving this year the only change is more torque in low revs… in the whole race where you saw that this was a problem except Botas touching the wall? its obvius that the drivers managed easily to use to this. Also dont watch the Melbourne which was damp etc… lets move to high temp tracks and then we see if any car will slip from the back after full throtle above 3nd gear.

  10. Lucas Wilson (@full-throttle-f1)
    20th March 2014, 11:20

    You’ve kept three and Honda is joining next year…but its hardly like it was 7 or 8 years ago where there were many manufacturers.

    1. More will come though.. The current formula appeals more to potential suppliers than the old V8s.

  11. Would it have been possible to keep the V8s and incorporate all the ERS systems introduced this year?

    1. Its not the number of cylinders that defines the volume of noise in dB – its the turbo, which greatly reduces the noise.
      My 1990 BMW 3 series had a 3,0 liter Schnitzer engine with a very nice and sporty sound. I swapped it for a 3,2 l BMW engine with a big turbo – the sound level and quality dropped, as the power level increased about 40%. And the rear muffler was the original Schnitzer for both engines.

      1. Noise is vibration, which is wasted energy.

        Everything you can harvest makes the car faster.

        Expect Toyota back as an engine supplier, they have a long term commitment to this technology.

  12. While I agree with some of what Boullier touches on, and I’m generally ok with this new era, there are unfortunate negatives too, and I am hopeful that things will get tweaked the right way as time moves along.

    I agree the cars have less downforce and are very torquey and therefore more of a handful to drive, but I worry that F1’s obsession with downforce will see them claw that back. I worry that fuel conservation is something the driver does not have to do…he only has to flip switches on the steering wheel in accordance with direction from the pits…so that element is gone from the drivers’ task and is also a limiting one. DRS is something I will never agree with. Double points has a chance a ruining what may or may not be a great season. And once things settle down and the teams have fairly well tackled the steepest part of their learning curves, will we then see a return of bad tires? Will the gadgets and gimmicks keep coming?

    I’m trying to be hopeful and optimistic, but the direction of recent years has been wrong imho, not power unit wise but gadget and gimmick wise, and while I think it is great that the cars are a bit more of a handful to drive, there are still too many other things counter to that. Every great pass will be countered with a mundane one, and the true Champion might not win the WDC.

    In my perfect world, and while the cars are in some ways more back in the drivers’ hands, get rid of DRS, double points, and fuel conservation. We know these engines are less thirsty which is great…the drivers shouldn’t be passengers having to monitor that further. They should have to be slightly concerned about it and have to do that on their own. And keep downforce low.

    1. “In my perfect world, and while the cars are in some ways more back in the drivers’ hands, get rid of DRS, double points, and fuel conservation. We know these engines are less thirsty which is great…the drivers shouldn’t be passengers having to monitor that further. They should have to be slightly concerned about it and have to do that on their own. And keep downforce low.”
      I agree.

    2. Right on Robbie!

  13. This is why actually we could attract some new engine manufacturers – and keep some of them on board, actually

    Just make some valid rules and you will see how many engine manufacturers will come to F1

    It is more of a driver formula

    A driver’s formula was back in the 80’s when the legendary Gilles Villeneuve invented the left foot braking to reduce the turbo lag and the great Ayrton Senna invented the trick of cornering using the boost instead of the throttle to preserve the tyres from the excessive torque and the professor Alain Prost was able to preserve his car to the last millimeter……… these days it’s all controlled by software all what the driver has to do is to deal with it

    Every time Boullier(Horner bis) speaks he gets under my skin because he keeps always lying and repeating the same PR rubbish , i’m just wondering if he thinks the fans are that stupid because i’m pretty confident that on this forum alone we have many talented people, even more talented than him …..

  14. Lets face it, only Ferrari have been consistent as an engine supplier in F1. All other manufactures have come and gone and maybe come again.
    The manufacturers have their priorities for competing in F1 and road relevance is always given as an excuse. Honda have openly stated that they are entering F1 to win. What then happens if they don’t win anything for a few years? Road relevance or not, they will still pull out if they seem to just be throwing money into an endless pit.

  15. Boullier should take some English dissertation classes before tackling FIA policies. The only thing said that it is undeniable is that the cars are more fun to watch but they aren’t relevant as no road going engine will ever be built at the same spec of demand that these are and they haven’t contributed yet to increase the manufacturers in F1 at this point we’ve loss one.

  16. Last year Renault complained that they had supplied the engine to the Team winning for the last 3 years and they hadn’t been rewarded for that in terms of attention and marketing. Nobody had paid attention to the great job done by Renault. With the new regulations the situation is completely different – be careful what You ask for;-)

  17. In addition to not losing manufacturers, F1 may also gain previous or maybe new engine manufacturers. Now that it is actually using relevant technology, I am sure more will do what Honda will be doing in a few years. A return of the manufacturer like we had at the turn of the century until 2009 wouldn’t be bad for the sport, surely?

    We have three engine manufacturers this year, at least four next year. How long before we have 6 or 7?

    1. I don’t think it would be bad for the sport either. I know they like to pull the plug at will as they pump a lot of money into it to get quick results, but manufacturer-based teams are good to see, for me (look at Sauber now with the facilities left over from their BMW days).

      I liked watching F1 when you had a grid of works Ferrari, Mercedes, BMW, Renault, Toyota, Honda, Cosworth teams because you had so many big players involved.

      Hopefully in a few years’ time a few more manufacturers will be involved (I see BMW, VW, and/or Ford as most likely).

      1. *manufacturer-backed teams

  18. F1 must always be road-relevant I blve. We should justify the sport to ppl who think its just eco-hurting

  19. It seems clear that Mr Boullier is sent forward by Mr Todt. To me, it is pathetic that the FIA heads continue to hide in their ivory towers.

    Sure, development and new power train is needed also from time-to-time but the specification could have been set to comply with the fundamentals of the sport instead of going the environmental-efficiency route that’s FOR SURE is NOT F1!

    F1 fans do not want quiet – we want LOUD
    F1 fans do not want fuel limitations and fuel-flow limits – we want drivers RACING to the limit
    F1 fans do not want silly nose looks – we want COOL cars

    FIA heads, bite the bullet and drop the prestige and listen to your fans…you know the guy’s that pays for the sport.

    1. Yes, we may not want fuel conservation amongst other things, but if the sport went down that route things wouldn’t be sustainable.. I’d rather have a sport that’s inviting to multiple manufacturers/suppliers.. That’s what’s in the best interest of the sport and in the long term , the fans.

    2. F1 fan here.
      I don’t want LOUD. Loud is good, but LOUD means permanent ear damage. I was able to take my son to Melbourne this year without making him wear ear protection all race. There were lots of kids running around at Melbourne this year – fantastic that it is turning into a family event. My wife may even want to go in the future!
      I think this might be like when they banned smoking from Australian pubs: the owners associations were all predicting doom and gloom as they lost their last (smoke-adicted) customers. Instead of the end of the world the pubs have been reborn as a great place for the family to go – dad gets his pint, mum gets to catch up socially and the kids get to play in the kids section and we all get a good meal. For F1, I’m hoping the acceptable level of noise means that I can continue to get my metaphorical pint, the missus won’t mind going to check out everyone and the kids get to play. If only there was good food!

      1. Well Juan, we love F1 clearly for different reasons. A pint and food I can get elsewhere. I used to go for the MAGIC and to me that is LOUD rev giving goosebumps everytime and smelling and feeling these COOL cars being RACED to the limit and preferably Kimi on the podium.

    3. we want drivers RACING to the limit

      @joctheman But F1 has never been about that, Tyre, Fuel & Car management has always been a part of F1 & always will be.

      A part of the recent problem with F1 has been the fans incorrect perceptions about what F1 was in the past.

      The F1 engines have not always been LOUD, The turbo’s of the 80s were not loud yet the fans still loved them, People still tuned into watch on TV & still went to the racetracks of the world.

      As I said above the drivers have not really ever driven races flat out or on the limit outside of a few, rare examples & thats why those rare example stand out & are remembered above the others.

      Something we have seen so far is drivers actually having to drive there cars, Watch there throttle application & therefore we see cars sliding around more, getting wheelspin & Im loving that aspect because that really is what F1 was once about.
      The torque-less V8s & to a lesser extent the fairly drivable V10s took away a lot of that & the drivers had a much easier time of things in the drivability department. About time driver skill was made a bit more important when it comes to putting the power down.

  20. I get they need to keep the manufacturers happy and F1 should be a place where technology is tested and refined but it doesn’t alter the fact the new engine are too dull and the cars are too slow.

    I mean is it right that a fat middle aged man in a lambo can go down straights at Imola or Abu Dhabi faster than an F1 car? No it isn’t, F1 is no longer the fastest motorsport on the planet and i miss that.

  21. “It’s true the engine sound is different but that is not very different from the turbo engines we had in the seventies.”

    Baloney! F1 turbo engines in the seventies were LOUD! And they sounded great. The new engines just sound weak.

  22. @keithcollantine

    The quieter sound of the new V6 turbo engines provoked some criticism following the first race weekend of the season.

    I can’t go against the numbers, but I have the feeling that other factors influenced the results. The sound the V6 engines produce may seem trivial at that stage, seeing at what kind of exciting challenges the teams are facing. What they achieved so far is incredible, but in the end, there is this small part of what made F1 which disappear.
    A new direction that has been taken with the electrical power units, not an insignificant one, and Formula E is another example. Those power units are much more efficient than classic engines, we saw that at the first race, it was thrilling, but the sound was missing somehow. There is no real replacement for that screaming madness, it’s just gone, a bit more. In a sense, it’s the nature of the sport to evolve, but I will miss this one.
    I couldn’t even give an even worse note to the poll, should it be renewed. There is so much exciting challenges with a new era, and maybe I am not the only one to have voted with that in mind?

  23. With the Old V8’s the only area the engine makers were learning anything from was the lubricants & fuels which is why most teamed up with companies working in those areas (McLaren/Mercedes with Mobil1 & Ferrari with Shell for example).

    With the new V6’s & all the ERS technology involved the engine makers are working with components & technologies which is way more relevant to what they do outside of F1 because what goes into the engines, The hybrid systems & turbo’s is much closer to what they use elsewhere & thats where it becomes more relevant to them.

    Fans may not like the ‘relevance’ argument, They may think its nonsense but the guys working on designing the power units do not & they have far more information on how relevant or not everything is.

    The sort of formula F1 has adopted for this year is the sort of thing I expect other manufacturer backed categories to be moving towards over the next few years.

    1. On a side-note, Fan reaction/criticism was the same when the switch to V8’s was made in 2006-

  24. When I mentioned missing the noise of previous F1 cars, I should have qualified that a bit. It’s not the loudness, but the quality of engine noise that I miss. I agree that pure loudness can harm the eardrums (anyone remember the F1 Matra from the late 1970s? Now THAT was painful), but a car can be quieter and still sound racy. The new V6 simply sounds flat and weak.

  25. Honda are coming back.
    Cosworth have an engine ready but need cash to develop it further.
    Pure have an engine design but again need funding.
    Zytek have expressed a serious interest in F1 thanks to the new formula.
    BMW have spoke of a return because of the new formula.
    Porsche said they woudl have entered F1 under the new formula had there Le Mans program not been green-lit.

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