Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Circuit de Catalunya, 2018

Can the FIA hit its nine goals for F1’s 2021 engine?

2018 F1 season

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While F1’s 20 competitors prepare to dispute the 2018 world championship this weekend, the stakes are arguably even higher off the track.

Negotiations over Formula One’s next engine formula, due to arrive in 2021, will play a critical role in shaping the future of the sport. With television audiences dwindling and manufacturers increasingly looking elsewhere, F1 cannot afford to get this decision wrong.

And, as FIA president Jean Todt explained to media including RaceFans last week, much is expected from the new formula. The new power units must be simpler and cheaper, yet also rev higher and sound louder. Doing all that while retaining the hybrid format will be challenging enough, but it doesn’t stop there.

The fuel flow limit is to be higher and limits on fuel use unrestricted, allowing drivers to push flat out from lights to flag. All this must be achieved in a package which both attracts new entrants while respecting the investment made by the fourth existing power unit manufacturers.

F1’s Holy Grail 2021 engine must therefore satisfy nine goals, some of which appear to be contradictory in nature. And it needs to make its mind up quickly, as Todt explained: “I’ve been talking to some potential new entrants they are interested to come is but they want to know what are the rules.”

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“If you are talking about introducing new engine manufacturers to be ready by 2021 they must know what it will be by the end of the year,” he added. “Because they need ’19 and ’20 to make the engine, which is a fair period.”

Retaining the hybrid engine format is a point some will take issue with, but Todt is firm on this point. “We must have some sense about what is happening behind the golden gate of Formula One,” he said.

“Clearly pollution, climate change and all that must be taken into consideration because Formula One has to be an ambassador of motorsport. Formula One has to be representative. I think everybody will agree with that. Everybody with a minimum of good sense will agree that we need to take into consideration the evolution of the society.

“We cannot be talking every day on autonomous car, connected car, hybrid, fuel cell, electric and then say ‘oh Formula One, pinnacle of motorsport, let’s forget all that’. That would be completely foolish. We must be responsible.”

Ferrari, Albert Park, 2018
Ferrari may not accept the kind of F1 Aston Martin wants
The FIA revealed its planned changes to the engine rules in October last year. While the MGU-K is to be retained, therefore meeting the desire to keep hybrids, the proposal including removing the MGU-H, which recovers waste heat energy to change the battery.

Deleting the MGU-H would make engines less powerful. But neither retaining nor increasing the current near-1,000bhp power levels has been stated among the many targets for 2021. It would, however, satisfy several of the stated goals: Reducing complexity, cutting costs and improving noise.

It could also help lure at least one new manufacturer. Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer said removing the MGU-H is essential if his company is to enter F1.

Palmer said the FIA is “going in the right direction” and has begun laying the groundwork for creating an engine to the new rules.

“We don’t expect to see the final draft regulations published before the end of the year,” he said, “but we are preparing our engine concepts so that we don’t lose any time.”

“If we get that simplified engine and we get a cap on costs, then that is something that we are very interested in doing.”

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Existing engine manufacturers, notably Mercedes and Ferrari, have been more critical of the proposals. This is to be expected: they finished first and second in the constructors’ championship last year and therefore have positions of advantage between them. At the same time they supply engines to more than half the current grid and so their views have to be taken seriously.

Some have pressed their point more forcefully than others. Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne has threatened it will leave the sport if the final terms go too far towards standardisation.

The FIA’s response has been restrained. “If you have influence you don’t have to say ‘I have influence’,” Todt said of his approach. “It’s clear. Have ever seen powerful people saying ‘I’m powerful’? It’s obvious.”

“So honestly I don’t care. I do care about what will be the final achievement. And the final achievement will correspond to what we want. That’s what matters.”

Will Todt get what he wants? The last round of engine negotiations which produced 2014’s power units were at best a qualified success.

The devices are incredibly advanced, though much of their cutting-edge technology is hidden away or largely unappreciated by the watching world. The 2014 rules arguably helped ensure the continued participation of existing manufacturers and lured Honda back, yet costs rose sharply and independent engine builder Cosworth was lost. And once they were introduced the 2014 power units were repeatedly blamed by F1’s previous commercial rights holder for all of the sport’s problems.

This time Todt is “convinced we will be able to find a solution” which all parties will find acceptable. “For me in life if you have shared good sense you always find solutions,” he said.

“If you are with lunatic people you never find solutions. But I think we put around the table some sensible people, we will find solutions.”

Ecclestone often insisted the only way to run F1 was as a dictatorship. Todt’s nine goals will test how much progress can be made with consensus and compromise.

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Author information

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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44 comments on “Can the FIA hit its nine goals for F1’s 2021 engine?”

  1. V10 Hybrid?

  2. FIA, Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault, RedBull had their says about this but where’s FOM? The proposed 2021 engine was a joint announcement from FIA & FOM. Liberty had promised to address this issue since November but all we got were story after story about harder stance from other parties.

    Man up Liberty! Said what you really gonna do.

    1. @ruliemaulana well to be fair to liberty since November they have introduced a new logo, theme tune, and increased the DRS. Clearly they are thinking hard about the new engine

      1. @strontium The FIA is responsible for the addition of the 3rd DRS zone, though. They are the ones responsible for the details regarding circuit layouts and technical regulations etc., not the commercial rights holders, so it’s a bit wrong to try to give credit and or blame LM for almost everything, LOL.

  3. I love how the guy who flies his private jet around the world race to race lectures us on how important saving fuel is.

    Amazing how men like Tony George and Jean Todt can single handedly ruin a sport.

    Please take your crap power unit and stupid halo somewhere else!

    1. Amen!

    2. Basically the power units we have now are a result of the manufacturers (mostly Renault but Mercedes too) wanting F1 to be more relevant with their business. A few years ago hybrids were the new cool kid in town.

      So yeah, they ruined the sport, lets get rid of them, probably Ferrari as well, they stink.

      1. @afonic, so your proposal would be to rip out all of the current engine suppliers – given that Honda was also part of the same working group that came up with the current engine regulations and has also objected to the proposed 2021 regulations – and, by throwing them out, also cause considerable damage to teams such as Force India, Haas and Sauber who have long standing development partnerships with those manufacturers? Your proposal seems to be an ill thought through measure that seems to have been drafted with the objective of completely destroying the sport.

        1. Sarcasm, methinks.

  4. I still feel the engines should be left as they are.

    By 2021 cost’s will have come down anyway, Performance will have converged more & the technology more efficent & reliable due to everyone having figured them out by then…. And for those that care about such things they will also be louder (Sky were reporting through testing they were louder this year).

    I like the current formula, I find the technology interesting & I think what they have been able to do in terms of performance, efficiency etc… to be wonderful & something that should be applauded rather than sneered at. It’s been nice to have differences in engines again, To have a reason to talk about them & something interesting to look at regarding them which was never the case with the V8’s because nothing about them was interesting or worth talking about at any point during that formula, They were boring in every sense.

    1. the engines should be left as they are

      We can see engines slowly converging in terms of power and reliability, and new rules are gonna reset all the progress and give advantage to someone else, and most likely it’s gonna be mercs again, because, well, they are the best atm I guess. It’s gonna be 2014 all over again.

      Also I honestly don’t believe anyone’s going to join. Even with simplified engines F1 will still cost a ton of money, and there’s no reason to enter F1 when you have much cheaper and much more relevant FE as an option. I really think that Aston Martin are just trying to generate some free publicity around their brand right now, and they have no intention of actually join F1.
      But by changing the rules they risk losing current manufacturers, which would be a shame. New rules will also hurt smaller teams as they’ll have to rebuild the cars from scratch to adapt them to new PUs. F1 just needs some stability for God’s sake.

      1. @albedo This +1.6

        Todt wants to be F1’s next little dictator.

    2. Isn’t that basically what they’re talking about doing? As I understand, the new PU would still be a V6 hybrid, they would just be removing some of the more complicated bits (MGU-K). I can’t imagine all the work that has been put into the current gen would be thrown out the window.

      I have to agree though, it seems like manufacturers have just now begun to catch up with Mercedes. It would be silly to press the restart button again only to have whoever can devote the most resources to a radically new design dominate for another four or five years. They should increment on the existing design in ways that will benefit the ENTIRE field. It can’t remain exactly the same, that’s called stagnation.

      1. They would be removing the MGU-H @knewman, not the “K” – that one is more or less the “KERS” they had before these current engines.

        Removing the H part will probably mean redoing large parts of the engine tough, because it completely changes the balance of what you want to achieve – the H part, recovering heat, was not limited in it’s power, so manufacturers could balance power spikes etc with that in mind. With “just” the K left, the engines will work quite differently over their power spectrum, meaning that to be successfull, the manufacturers will probably design them more or less from scratch, just using what they have learnt over the last decade to make better V6+KERS packages that are optimized quite differently to what they have now.

        The thing is, the H part really seems to be so complicated (and relatively expensive per unit to manufacture too) that it is hardly possible for an independant to find the money and knowledge to enter. So keeping them really is no option unless F1 wants to be reliant on these 4 current manufacturers supplying the field for another generation.

  5. Put V12 in, make the cars 90kg lighter and focus on saving fuel on the jets the circus uses to travel around the world. These engine rules are a bit like polishing a turd. The original concept is flawed and fine tuning won’t fix it.

    1. @socksolid The N/A engines that were previously used in F1 (V12s, V10s, and V8s) are just too relic to fit in today’s times, so they aren’t going to return to F1.

      1. get rid of the turbo then. We could still have a 2L V8 or V6 or V12 or whatever, hybrid, just lose the turbo so we can have 19000rpm ceilings again. That is where the noise and attraction is for spectators at the circuits. When you can’t hear an F1 car on the other side of the circuit, something is wrong.

        1. Eh, Kris, what you propose is exactly what @jerejj means – relics.

          Apart from a few leftovers, more or less ALL engines being build nowadays go towards turbos, because of the incredible boost it gives to the effectiveness of the engine. Huge, heavy NA blocks are just not comparable.

          You just have to look at how the current cars are all faster than cars of the past, despite still having less downforce, being limited on the amount of fuel they use AND being over 100 kg heavier (because of safety measures, but also because of limits on lightweight materials))

          1. @bascb
            Not this again. Hybrid is about 80kg heavier than v8. Probably closer to 100kg when you factor in all the radiators, batteries and wirings. And the hybrids are not heavy because of fia rules. Just like the v8s and their construction and weights are limited by fia rules so are the hybrids. Where do you come with these dreams?

            Let’s read from the rules. 2013 rules limited engine weight to 95kg+5kg. The new hybrids are limited to 145kg for the engine plus 20kg to 25kg for the batteries. Total of 100 kg vs 165kg. And that 100kg includes 25kg kers. That is in the rules. I know you can read but I don’t know if you want to. And that’s numbers you want to hear because in reality it is worse.

            Those numbers don’t include things like radiators. Hybrid engine needs bigger radiators so that too makes the hybrid engines heavier.

            But maybe the fia technical rules are lies as well? Let’s find another source!

            Racecar engineering 2013 engines special issue, page 11. Direct quote:
            ” ‘From that stage, one of the key areas we needed to investigate was the packaging of the power unit. The current V8 is 95kg, or 100kg if you add the weight of the MGU. This increases to 120kg when you include the ancillary parts, such as the radiators and other cooling devices. With the 2014 power unit, the V6 turbocharged engine will be a minimum of 145kg, plus 35kg for the battery.

            At 180kg, this is a 80 per cent increase over the current units, plus a further 20kg for the ancillaries such as the intercooler and other radiators.’ The additional weight is partly compensated for by an increase in the minimum weight of the overall vehicle to 685kg“”

            Do I need third quote or are you still going post more nonsense?

          2. Well, thank you @socksolid for digging up the exact details there!

            So the engine (and indeed ancillary parts) itself went up from 100 kg (120 kg for the whole package) to 180 kg (probably total of about 200kg) indeed +80 KG. And then we have further KG that went in because of the heavier tyres (last year) as well as the Halo.

            Making the current cars just from the rules changes more than 100 kg heavier, as I stated. The V8 where homologated as they were, with some use of light materials, others that were more expensive were already banned.
            But these V6 engines were made with even less special materials, that is one of the reasons for their defined minimum weight being as high as it is. A large V10 or V12, also using large cooling ancillary parts, especially with the same limits towards exotic materials, would be as heavy/heavier and require a far larger fuel cell as well.

            So again, thank you for filling in the exact numbers. Now please stop the “lies” “fantasy” etc things. It doesn’t give your comment any more weight.

          3. @bascb ”You just have to look at how the current cars are all faster than cars of the past, despite still having less downforce, being limited on the amount of fuel they use AND being over 100 kg heavier”
            – Actually, the current cars have in fact more downforce than the cars of the past.

          4. More downforce than those from the last few years certainly @jerejj

          5. @bascb
            Sorry for the harsh words. It is just frustrating because I’ve posted those numbers many times and it is always the same people who… well let’s say continue to ignore it.

            Please don’t argue about exotic materials. The weight limits for the engines are set in the rules. Lighter material doesn’t effect weight. It can’t because the engines have to be certain weight. It can effect the center of gravity but that was set for v8s in the rules just like it was set for the hybrids. Sure the hybrids have stricter material limitations especially for moving parts of the engine. But even then the weight effect of the exotic materials is small. Some of the exotic materials used were used for ballast for example. The new rules only allow ballast material to be tungsten for example. But the main effect is cost. Not weight. And the weight effect on moving parts is also much smaller because the hybrids rev a lot lower.

            Not to mention a 1.6 liter is smaller than 2.4 liter engine. Any weight saving you get from exotic materials is in the single percentages and smaller because the engine block is smaller.

          6. Well, @socksolid, i agree that discussions can be annoying sometimes, but I am glad we can give it our best to keep exchanging views!

            I am sure (reading many analyses here, with Scarbs, etc. at the time) that a large part of the REASON for implementing these relatively high minimum weight limits was to prevent manufacturers from even looking for exotic materials to get weight (and indeed centre of gravity, as you rightly point out) low. It might also have been about limiting the impetus to be very creative with complicated construction elements (which also makes for higher cost). I even remember reading a comment from an eningeer about them being able to easily save about 30-40 kg on the main thing, if only it was allowed.

            You are right as well when you mention the 1,6 l engine naturally being lighter (because of being smaller) than a 2 liter etc. Engine. But then, that is exactly where I am coming from when I counter the idea Kris mentions of having V10 or V12 NA engines, because to get the high power he wants, they would clearly have to be larger volume engines compared to tubrocharged engines.

          7. But then, that is exactly where I am coming from when I counter the idea Kris mentions of having V10 or V12 NA engines, because to get the high power he wants, they would clearly have to be larger volume engines compared to tubrocharged engines.

            Sure. Higher in capacity but smaller in weight. A 3 liter V12 or V10 would weight almost the same amount as 2.4 v8 with the kers. The V10s weighed something like 105kg so a V12 is going to weigh more but it is not a massive difference. Obviously there are oddities in history (like the beryllium block ilmor mercedes engines) but say 120kg for 3 liter V12 is fine without going crazy with the materials.

            Turbo engines are heavier. Even the 1.6 liter turbo engine without the hybrid parts is still heavier than the v10s. The intercoolers, turbos, piping all add up. And then there is the size. A v10 or v8 is relatively small package whereas turbos take more room and hurt the aerodynamics. The turbo also needs more cooling air which means more drag on the car.

            Kris doesn’t mention any power levels though. To get to somewhere 850-900hp for example or use fuel flow limiters would be relatively easily (in f1 terms). A 3 liter V12 can do 900hp at 120kg. With turbos you can go for really small engines sizes to get that kind of power but the engine won’t be lighter or smaller even if it has smaller displacement number. Obviously smaller engine can have less cylinders which reduces weight.

  6. “Clearly pollution, climate change and all that must be taken into consideration because Formula One has to be an ambassador of motorsport. Formula One has to be representative…”

    Without even saying what type of power unit that I would like to see introduced in 2021, I can still say that this statement is ridiculous at best. The engines sitting in the back of a grid full of F1 cars (hybrid, NA, whatever) have next to zero to do with the sports contribution to global pollution and climate change when compared to all the bad stuff spewing out the back of a fleet of 747 jumbo cargo jets as they whisk 100’s of tons of cars and gear around the globe over the course of the season. The only way that F1 could have a positive impact on environmental issues would be to shut the whole thing down.

    1. But if R&D from F1’s work and knowledge on hybrids trickles down to domestic cars, the positive environmental impact could be quite big.

      1. @schooner @robbie The biggest contributor to global warming is actually cow fart. And they are used as fuel for us humans. So it’s actually much better if more people use protection and keep their children number around 2 or 3.

        1. Actually, one of the largest sources of air pollution is container ships burning bunker fuel.

  7. I would love for everyone come to an agreement on an engine formula that will see many more legitimate firms look at F1 as a viable series which to enter. We’ve been in this “hybrid” era for many years now and it doesn’t seem like team budgets of the top running teams have gone down much with most of that being due to the powertrain being used and its overhead. The ACO and it’s LeMans LMP1 class cars are in the same boat which is why only Toyota is left after Audi and Porsche decided it was more expensive than it’s worth.

  8. I love how merc has enlisted aston, to lobby for them. Playing the game. Ferrari are the only foreign team on the top 5, renault needed to get their act together in order to get in but that will only happen next season.

  9. Jean Todt should grow a pair, and tell Ferrari and Mercedes that if they want to continue with their ways, and end up in an F1 championship where it is only viable for 4 teams to race each year, they are welcome to do so, and if they are too adamant, then just leave the sport for the greater good.

  10. If they want to remove an MGU to make it less complex and attractive to newcomers, why not remove MGU-K? Converting rotation movement to electricity is well understood, MGU-H in other hand is much more interesting. Almost everything around us have heat as waste byproduct. A technology that can convert those back into useable energy with high efficiency has lot more potential to improve our lives.

    1. I would be hugely in favour of that too – as you say the Kinetics part is by now well enough understood to be mainstream – it is more regularly used in serial production that F1 cars will be using it @sonicslv. The H part is the thing that is actually exciting about these engines since heat loss is the biggest loss in a combustion engine.

      It seems though, that the big issue there would be the sheer complexity of the H parts making it unviable for new competitors to enter the sport, as well as the costly hardware involved.

      1. @bascb Yes it is complex and expensive, but that’s one of the “DNA” of F1 too. Part of what makes F1 is the pinnacle of motorsport is because it’s the test bench of experimental and new technologies – to help it mature. The complexity and costly hardware (direct or indirect) is what gave us cheap carbon fibre, fluid dynamics, active suspension, double clutch, etc now. No disrespect, but if someone new wants to join racing as pure race team with low cost, they should join GP2 or other spec series instead. Joining F1 naturally comes with the baggage of R&D team instead of just car engineers and drivers.

        1. I agree with you on that

  11. I for one (seem to be in the minority here) want to keep the MGU-H. This is the only innovative part in the F1 power unit. Why go backwards.
    And PU with MGU-H is probably lighter than carrying the extra fuel (at the start) to overcome the power deficit.

    PS since F1 TV Pro comes with 4 commentary channels, can’t they add a 5th with a loud V12 revving in line with the action on screen. Everybody happy ;)

    1. +1. Agree.

      When Todt and Palmer are talking engines…all I hear is posturing and BS.

    2. F1 is a battle of technology and drivers, so lets keep the current concepts and let it get cheaper as it matures.

  12. “It’s clear. Have ever seen powerful people saying ‘I’m powerful’? It’s obvious.”

    In the USA we have to live with this every day right now.

  13. LaFerrari v12 hybrid unit….Ferrari thought it was cutting edge and if Ferrari are on board, Red Bull like it, Cosworth think they can do it then problem solved.

  14. Count on overly complicated engines that everyone will bitch about. Just cut all the dumb parts off the engine and give the drivers something they can beat the crap out of while on the track. Who cares if my turn signals can regenerate 7 horsepower by blinking or my paddle shifters creating a meaningful energy reserve by using them. Its all nuts. Time for a change and itll be universally unpopular anyway

  15. I think the approach to the next engine spec is wrong. The approach shouldn’t be “What sort of engine do we want?”, but it should be “How much should a power unit cost?” Each manufacturer and team will have a different idea. Some teams will think “top shelf” stuff, while others will think “we’re happy with a middle of the grid engine”. Once the idea of how much money each team should spend buying engines, software, hybrid systems, etc, has been worked out and agreed upon, then the teams and manufacturers can talk about what components can be included and what has to be excluded. It may be the price limit excludes hybrid systems, or it might include hybrid systems but exclude MGU-H. I’m sure there’s ways around these regulations, but something is better than nothing.

  16. I keep saying this, but my proposal is simple. Each supplier can homologate an engine at the start of the year. The only restriction being that it can produce a maximum of 1000hp.

    Every engine supplier should be able to achieve that reasonably easily. The incentive to develop is to improve fuel economy/reliability/usability/packaging. The existing manufacturers can still use their current engines, but have the option of developing something that sounds more brand specific.

    For example, Mercedes might want to go down the large displacement V8 route to have a car that thunders down the road, Ferrari might want something more in keeping with their traditions.

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