New power unit deal to lower costs and raise noise

2017 F1 season

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The FIA has announced details of a new agreement to reduce the cost of F1 power units. It also intends to harmonise performance levels between the different engines and increase the noise they produce.

The deal will bring the price of customer power unit supplies down next year and again in 2018.

It will also require manufacturers to supply a power unit in the event a team finds itself without a supplier. However a statement from the FIA did not indicate whether these would have to be current-specification models.

In order to reduce the performance gap between the engines, restrictions on engine development are to be relaxed. Further changes are also been considered to increase the noise volume produced by the engines.

The new deal has been “approved by all levels of the F1 governance structure, including the World Motor Sport Council, and will now be included as Technical and Sporting regulations for the 2017 and 2018 FIA Formula One World Championship”, said the FIA.

The FIA also vowed to ensure the power unit regulations remain stable until at least 2020.

“As part of the power unit agreement, adherence to the measures outlined below will see the FIA commit to supporting power unit regulations stability and the maintaining of the current Formula One governance structure for the 2017-2020 period,” it added.

FIA statement on power units


Agreement has been reached on a significant reduction in the price of power unit supply to customer teams and a reduction in cost to manufacturers over the coming years.

• In 2017 the power unit price for customer teams will be reduced by €1m (£782,000) per season compared to 2016.
• From 2018, the annual supply price will be reduced by a further €3m (£2,347,000)
• Cost reduction on power units will be driven by changes to the Sporting and Technical regulations in 2017 and 2018, with a progressive reduction of the number of power unit elements per driver per season.


Supply of power units to customer teams will be ensured, as the homologation procedure will include an “obligation to supply” that will be activated in the event of a team facing an absence of supply.

Performance Convergence

The new agreement includes a package of measures aimed at achieving performance convergence.

• The token system is to be removed from 2017
• Additionally, constraints on power unit part weights, dimensions and materials, and on boost pressure will be introduced in 2017 and in 2018.


Manufacturers are currently conducting a promising research programme into further improving the sound of the current power units, with the aim of implementation by 2018 at the latest.

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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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35 comments on “New power unit deal to lower costs and raise noise”

  1. This all sounds like a fairly reasonable compromise. The cost-reduction figures initially thrown around were never realistic but here we have a gradual reduction to the cost, and some extra standardisation of parts, which will hopefully bring the teams closer.

    The “obligation to supply” sounds interesting, and if the ‘improvement’ to the noise will quiet those who constantly moan about it, then that cannot be a bad thing.

    1. @craig-o

      The “obligation to supply” sounds interesting

      The devil really is in the detail of the regulations on that one or we’ll have teams trying to play the rule book to tip Mercedes’ hand into giving them engines.

      1. @keithcollantine if this rule had of been in place last year (obviously forgetting that Red Bull had a contract for 2016 with Renault) could Red Bull have demanded a Mercedes engine over the Ferrari option? Who decides on which team is going to be forced to supply? Is it the FIA? Is it based on how many engines a manufacturer is already supplying to customers? What’s to stop Red Bull allowing its Renault contract to expire next year and demand a Mercedes engine?

        1. Ferari and Mercedes already supply a few teams I think Red Bull should of been foredeck to use Honda engines as they only supply 1 team so the supply is more even amongst manufacturers. This would expect very fair. Red Bull will get Honda if they do not want Renault, or the used 2014 Ferrari enginesell from last year’s Manors.

          1. The rules will not allow that next year. All the cars have to have the current year engines I believe

        2. “could Red Bull have demanded a Mercedes engine…”
          Yes, that is exactly what this is about. F1 engines aren’t made on a production line. According to Gene Haas an engine takes about 6 months to build (link below), so Mercedes, Renault, Ferrari, or Honda aren’t able to just get an engine off the warehouse shelf. To accommodate Red Bull they would have to break a contract with another team.
          What could happen is you will get a stratification on the starting grid according to wealth and engine performance. The teams that earn the most money could demand the best engine from that manufacturer, forcing them to break contracts with lesser performing teams, who will then demand engines from the second best engine producer, in turn forcing them to break contracts with their even poorer customer teams, who will then be forced to demand engines from the least performing engine manufacturer.
          What this means is those teams that earn the most will break and then demand supply according to which engine they deem best for themselves (and probably at the least convenient time for everyone else), and so continue to earn the most, and those that earn the least will find themselves suddenly without an engine, and so be forced to demand lesser powerful engines, and have to take short cuts in the design of their next generation car to suddenly cater for the unforeseen change in engine, so continue to earn the least and have the least performing car.

          1. Ah people moan at a Ferrari veto but Red Bull have the power to have rules changed to suit them. I am sure you cannot pick whatever engine you want but the next available. Red Bull could not ditch Renault and choose or vice versa as Renault have to supply. I am sure the small print will say something like if Renault pull out the manufacturer left who supplies the fewest teams has to step in so that would be Honda. To screw Red Bull if I were Merc or Ferrari in such a situation I would enter a brand new engine under the Lancia or Maybach brand, it would be a rush job and be useless and Red Bull would have to take it.

  2. I wonder how the obligation to supply will work. If Red Bull fall out with Renault again, with Mercedes and Ferrari already supplying 3 customers then surely only Honda, or even still Renault can be forced to supply them. If a supplier is already servicing at least 2 customer teams then the imposition can surely only fall to the supplier who isn’t?

    1. It seems that Renault have an obligation to supply engine hardware to any team (from when they bought Lotus), but no obligation to provide software to match. If Renault were to leave F1 then this arrange probably collapse.

      1. Then honda would be obliged to supply… And if honda pulls out, Ferrari and Mercedes draw a straw..

  3. I honestly don’t know one person personally who actually likes the sound of these cars. Fine, they’ll increase the volume (quantity) of the sound but in my opinion the quakity of sound is terrible!

    Just curious who actually likes the sound of these engines/exhausts? Who really likes them but “im getting used to it or it is what it is”?

    1. Really noisy but poor quality of sound ……that would be the V8 engines they used upto 2013.

    2. @s2g-unit – You don’t know me personally so I won’t skew your results but I like the sound. I also like the volume because it allows you to hear tires working, other engine sounds beyond pure exhaust noise, and the crowd.

      But if people want louder noise with increased variation, give the cars more fuel and a higher fuel flow rate. When the revs go up, so will the sound, power, etc. Fairly simple fix. (Yes, I know with knock-on issues such as reliability of parts made to withstand current rev “limits”, etc.)

    3. Not really a case of “I’m getting used to it”, but I find the Mercedes PU sound this year (and last year) quite enjoyable for me. Not the 2014 one tho. V8 is still my personal favorite but the current Mercedes engine is definitely right up there.

    4. Honestly I really do like the sound of the engines. They are nearly as loud as the V8’s but a completely different pitch. I think they are fun though because you can hear the turbo working and there is a clear difference between each one.

    5. I like them, I like that I don’t have to wear hearing protection with them, I like that I can hear the turbo and when the wastage opens. I like that I can hear the tires as well. They sound great, a little louder wouldn’t hurt, but not too much louder.

    6. I don’t have a problem with the sound level, if I want it louder I turn up the volume. I realise that sounds sarcastic, but the fact is most people watch races via the TV or the internet, and the engine loudness has to be compressed and filtered and balanced to fit within the audio constraints of that medium.
      What I do approve of is the lower volume at the racetrack has to be safer and more comfortable for those who are there. Not everyone is able to demand ear protection, there will be staff who are deemed to “not to need ear protection” even though they will be working in the same place as those who can demand it. Also there are animals that have very sensitive hearing and will suffer immensely from high volume engines, which may even result in them having life threatening disability.
      As far as I can tell there isn’t any justification for such high sound levels as they had in the V10 era, and even if it did give more horsepower, the safety aspect alone says a car should produce no more that a maximum amount when full RPMs are used.

    7. They sound different to anything I’ve heard on the track before, but I like the sound. Especially the Honda.

      I don’t understand why white noise at an unbearable amplitude has to accompany F1, with all due respect to the source of the noise.

      That said, I just like the sound of engines. Racing or not…

  4. The FIA statement says “further improving the sound”, not “raise noise” as in the headline. I hope the FIA find an approach to improve the tone of the noise without making it noisier. It’s one of the nice things that the current cars can be watched without sound protection, more volume could spoil that.

    1. +1. More sound = more wasted energy. Do we really want more greenhouse gas produced just to make sound?

      1. The problem I think is that fans mias the howl of the naturally aspirated engines. Personally I like the almost bionic sound these engines produce. To me, it’s the sound of progress. As for the greenhouse gasses. That’s an interesting one. As teams and the fuel companies are experimenting with fuels… I wonder what sort of chemicals are being uaed as anti-knock agents in these hughly boosted turbo engines. The fuel characteristics and requirements are vastly different to naturally aspirated port injected engines… Perhaps they could actually be worse for the environment? This is something I have been curious about for a while now.

        1. *miss *highly boosted

  5. With the way the FIA currently do things I read the headline as ‘New Power Unit Deal to Lower Noise and Raise Costs’

    1. Ha. Ha. Good one. Next up Boost restriction to limit fuel consumption?

  6. What about fuel/race limit? Will they increase 105kg/race or stay 100kg/race?

  7. I have an idea how to safe money with those engines:
    Stop conducting research programmes to artificially change the sound!

  8. I think this package of measures has the potential to increase the cost of manufacturing engines. Up until now a manufacturer has a set number of customers, and builds engines to accommodate them. This minimises waste, hence keeps costs down.
    We saw this when Lotus cancelled their Mercedes engines contract and Manor took it up. Manor then cancelled their contract with Ferrari and Torro Rosso took it up. Torro Rosso had a contract with Renault, but that was cancelled and the engines from that went to Lotus, who are now Renault’s own team. Yes, there would have been penalty payments for cancelled contracts and all the legal stuff, but overall the engine manufacturers didn’t have to change any of their production levels, so the cost of making the engines remained the same.
    Now, however, engine manufacturers will have to keep in mind that another customer might unexpectedly turn up demanding an engine, and yet they have an obligation to supply their own customers as well, so that engine manufacturer will have to make not only the parts for their existing customers, but adjust their production schedule so at least some of the parts for extra engines (especially the most time consuming parts) are in stock in case a new customer turns up at the start of a season. If, during the season, there is an engine upgrade that renders those previously made parts obsolete, then they will have to be written off. This is a cost the engine manufacturer will want to pass on to the teams they supply.

  9. Everyone seems to be overlooking the key wording in the press release –

    ““As part of the power unit agreement, adherence to the measures outlined below will see the FIA commit to ….. the maintaining of the current Formula One governance structure for the 2017-2020 period”.

    So the dreaded Strategy Group is here to stay for the four and a half seasons, at least.

    1. Still better than the dreaded Ecclestone show.

  10. • Additionally, CONSTRAINTS on power unit part weights, dimensions and materials, and ON BOOST PRESSURE will be introduced in 2017 and in 2018.
    What does this mean? Is this where they start making the engines equal?

    1. Yes and it annoying. There is no reason for this. The engines will get closer every year anyway.

  11. how does this reduce costs if it means the same teams are winning and everyone else has to pay to lose?

    I guess if you pay to play, and playing is all you really want, then sure, it’s seemingly a more affordable deal, but if you really want to win, what is the point. Merc will continue to dominate this spec series until the political winds shift.

    The problem isn’t the cost, the problem is forcing people to pay to lose. I am reminded of a quote, some politician in Chicago once said, “You never let a serious crisis go to waste” and Mercedes are making a mockery out of everyone who utters the party line. The only problem in F1 is a clear lack of freedom to choose. Well, off to the reeducation camps for me, another Sunday at the temple of F1 listening to the commentators.

    1. You do not know what you are talking about.

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