Cosworth engineer, Monaco, 2010

Cosworth ‘would have made Aston Martin F1 engine’

2021 F1 season

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Cosworth’s managing director says the company would likely have built an F1 engine for Aston Martin in 2021 but the championship’s decision to keep the MGU-H prevented it.

Aston Martin was known to be considering an entry into F1 from 2021. However it backed out as it became clear F1 had scrapped plans to drop the MGU-H from the engine architecture.

Bruce Wood, MD of Cosworth, said the MGU-H is too expensive, has little application outside the sport and is an “obstacle” to new engine builders joining the sport.

“It certainly is where very few people, including ourselves, have direct experience,” said Wood. “Obviously Ferrari, Renault, Mercedes, Honda, have got that tapped to varying degrees of success. And the amount they’ve invested in that MGU-H technology is enormous.

“Of course it’s not just the technology of the hardware itself but then the strategy of the deployment of it and suddenly you realise that once you’ve designed and developed it there’s another 100 people to decide the strategy of how to use it.

“In our view it’s great technology but it is, in our view, something of an obstacle because it is so expensive to develop. And it has very limited application outside of motor racing. The applications for e-turbos in the mainstream world are probably pretty low so again to invest in all that technology for motor racing you could maybe convince yourself to do that if you thought ‘well, that’ll trickle down and be everywhere’ but we don’t really think it will.

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“So while MGU-H I wouldn’t want to ever say isn’t a good technology – it’s really interesting but it is something of an obstacle, it is certainly one of the things that we were pushing for to be deleted in Formula One to make it easier for somebody new to come in. Not because it’s impossible to do but just because it is so burdensome to do.”

Cosowrth, F1’s second-most successful engine builder in terms of wins, were last active in F1 between 2010 and 2013 when they supplied engines to Williams, Lotus, Virgin (later Marussia) and HRT.

However Wood said they would have been unlikely to return to F1 as a customer engine builder had the MGU-H been dropped. “We don’t imagine there will be a Cosworth-badged Formula One engine whereby we are trying to lease it to teams and recover our investment like that.”

A tie-up with a car manufacturer like Aston Martin would have made more sense, he said. “When Aston Martin were talking about going in there was a reasonable chance that Cosworth would have done the engine for Aston Martin. That would have made a lot of sense and whether our name ever got mentioned, who knows but there could have been an Aston Martin Formula One project.

Removing the MGU-H could have made F1 more attractive to other manufacturers by slashing costs, said Wood. “In our view, deleting the MGU-H would have facilitated someone like Aston feeling it was more affordable.

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“They are not going to spend half a billion on Formula One – would they spend 100 million? I don’t know but maybe – there’s far more people who can spend 50 million or even a hundred million than can spend five hundred million. So in our view, deleting MGU-H would make the whole thing more affordable for somebody.”

“It would make it more plausible that another car manufacturer entered Formula One. That bit needs to happen for them to then come to us. That was our logic in the whole thing, kind of ‘we’re trying to help you help yourselves here, guys.’ You’re saying, FIA, that you want more car companies in it – which we understand, it needs more car companies in it, it’s become too much of a closed shop – but you’ve got to make it more affordable.”

Existing F1 teams shot down the proposal to remove the MGU-H, he said. “I went to one of those meetings and Ferrari’s [Maurizio] Arrivabene stood up and said, very eloquently ‘Basically, Mr FIA, we have spent a billion dollars on this set of rules and you can’t just tear it up and have a simpler one because the world doesn’t work like that.’

It’s like ‘We’ve paid a billion dollars for our entry ticket and now just because you don’t like the show, you can’t sell tickets at 10% of face value’ so it’s a big problem but that’s our whole logic, if you make that billion dollars a hundred million dollars there are far more people who could afford it.”

The difficulty Honda has had with its return to F1 since 2015 has also deterred manufacturers, he added. “I think the whole Honda situation has been horrible.”

“If I was a car manufacturer I would look at that and think ‘wow, they, of everybody would know how to make this work and they’ve struggled for three years and they’ve been mercilessly murdered for it’ – why would you, as a car company, think ‘yeah, we’ll have a go at this.’ Personally, I think it will be a long time until we see another car company enter Formula One.”

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Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a motorsport and automotive journalist with a particular interest in hybrid systems, electrification, batteries and new fuel technologies....
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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43 comments on “Cosworth ‘would have made Aston Martin F1 engine’”

  1. I’m confused – didn’t the proposed regs for 2021 (in the call for entrants) remove the MGU-H? Before it turned out that even with that, there were no new entrants for an engine supply.

    1. To be clear, I meant “Before it turned out that even with that removed, there were no new entrants for an engine supply.”

      1. @phylyp, the reports that came out before this all pointed towards there being no new manufacturers entering F1 even if the MGU-H was deleted.

        As noted below, I don’t think that anybody took Aston Martin’s proposals as being remotely credible – a lot of people were of the opinion that Palmer was showboating to get cheap headlines, particularly given the upcoming IPO for Aston Martin. It seems that, once they’d milked the discussions for what they were worth, they stopped turning up to the meetings long before the idea of dropping the MGU-H came about.

        It should also be borne in mind that Cosworth is, after all, pretty intimately tied in to Aston Martin and Red Bull now given that their rather small turnover – they are slowly growing again, but they’re still a long way from what they used to earn (turnover is about £54 million now, but when they had their partnership with Jaguar it was over the £70 million mark, and the company is barely breaking even – just £165,000 in profits). It’s probably not surprising to see them sing the praises of one of their bigger customers and to regurgitate their claims – they probably can’t afford to do otherwise.

        1. Regardless of why they are saying the things they said they are also right about it all. The mgu-h is extremely expensive piece of kit with little use outside of f1. The engine rules are expensive and because the big players don’t want to give away their progress under the current rules there is no engine rule changes coming either. As a result it is too expensive and too difficult to enter f1.

          Why would a company like porsche for example even bother being part of the engine rule discussions. It was clear early on ferrari and merc were doing all they could to keep things as they are. To enter f1 into the current engine regs would be nothing more than a financial catastrophe for anyone. As soon it was evident very little if anything would change porsche walked away.

          He is spot on about the 100 million vs 500 million comment as well. It is just bonkers to think that a one billion dollar/euro/pound engine rule set is how things should go forward. Yet that’s what happened. The two big teams have the sport locked down. They are winning with no threats in sight on track or off track. Aston martin entering f1 was mostly a publicity stunt. Even in the most optimal situation they just don’t have the money for f1 regardless of what engines. But all the problems they and cosworth have listed are all big and real problems.

          As long as these expensive leaf blowers stay there is nobody willing to enter f1. F1 can consider itself lucky if it can even keep the current 20 cars on the grid.

    2. Yes. Aston is just talk. They are doing this for publicity, and never really intended to enter the sport. Even without the MGU-H.

      1. Thank you anon, for that context, as well as @vjanik and @johnmilk

  2. But, wasn’t the final proposal to have a standard MGU-H?

    I think it is a bit odd that we only hear of them now the manufacturer’s and FIA decided not to change anything because there were no new guys coming in, and not when that was said, to counter it.

    1. Yeah, @bosyber , I’m confused by this, and a little surprised at Cosworth’s messaging here.

      This was the proposal for the 2021 engine regs, dated Oct 2017, which called for the -H to be removed, and the -K to be enlarged to compensate.

      And I remember teams agreeing to this only because Liberty threatened that if they persisted in retaining the -H, Liberty would impose the hard budget cap from 2021 itself, instead of the current glide path to 2023.

      1. Ah, seems we posted about the same time initially @phylyp, well said (I was travelling, so spotty connection, ie. didn’t see your post before).

  3. Cosworth will never get back into F1 with Bruce Wood at the helm, the man makes too much sense!

    1. Rather ‘hot air’ than ‘sense’.

      1. @coldfly – if that were true, they wouldn’t have trouble in making the MGU-H work, would they? ;-)

        1. Good one @phylyp

  4. Bruce says other manufactures will look at Honda’s struggles and say “F that”, but surely Toyota must be thinking they have a golden opportunity to embarrass one of their main domestic (and international) rivals? I know they spent BILLIONS last time out, but knowing they dropped the ball right before it went into the net (Brawn GP) must still sting – it could be like redemption for them.

    Wishful thinking, i’m sure!

    1. @joeypropane – Ross bought the team from Honda, not Toyota. Toyota withdrew and no other team picked up their entry. They were instead replaced by Sauber.

      1. Dave (@davewillisporter)
        2nd October 2018, 13:25

        Replaced by Sauber? Sauber were in F1 before Toyota joined!

        1. @davewillisporter – that entity was BMW Sauber, until and including 2009, when BMW withdrew. 2010’s Sauber was owned by Peter Sauber, and it was granted a new entry, by taking the place vacated by Toyota (since Toyota’s attempt to sell their F1 team as a running operation and enter F1 failed to materialize).

          This article explains it. That said, I understand the confusion, since there are various shenanigans behind the various entities & entries in F1.

          1. Dave (@davewillisporter)
            2nd October 2018, 16:11

            @phylyp – Aah. Yes thank you! Source was BBC article:
            “BMW Sauber lost their guaranteed place on the 2010 grid to Lotus because they failed to sign the Concorde Agreement in July but Toyota’s decision to leave F1 earlier this month has opened up a space on the grid which has been been handed to the Swiss outfit.”

    2. Brawn came from Honda, not Toyota. Toyota have been widely accepted as mismanaging their entire time in F1.

      1. The one (only?) positive outcome was a kickass wind tunnel, that’s still widely praised and used to this day.

    3. I’d be pretty surprised to see Toyota come back to F1. They had a tough time of it when they were in, and besides, they’re reaping great PR in the WEC right now.

  5. I don’t think anybody but Mercedes knew how complicated and expensive the MGU-H was going to be back in 2013. MB had it all figured out and convinced Bernie and the FIA that it would be a great feature in the upcoming hybrid era. I think everyone now, except for MB, of course, regrets that decision.

    1. Another salty Ferrari fan. It was Renault who pushed for the current engines, even making veiled threats to leave F1 if it was not implemented.

  6. Company that doesn’t have the money to enter F1 belittles F1 technology.
    That’s my takeaway from this article.

    1. it’s a well known F1 firm with lots of experience. They think that building a very expensive part with it’s only use: F1 is not interesting enough. So to take part in F1 they will need to develop a part which has no economical value .
      Logical and makes sense..

      1. Dave (@davewillisporter)
        2nd October 2018, 13:52

        And that’s exactly why Merc and Ferrari don’t want to change. They still have to recoup those massive initial and ongoing development costs by selling to their customers. Making the engines cheaper and easier to design attracts competition which may reduce their customer base. These guys might “say” they want more competition but they don’t really mean it!
        I think the development freeze worked ok last time. Give Merc and Ferrari a freeze after 2021 and Honda and Renault a year or two to catch up if they haven’t already.

    2. @skipgamer – I think the challenge Cosworth see with the MGU-H is that it is quite integral to the engine/turbo, and is not a standalone component.

      Therefore, they would see little use for their MGU-H knowledge outside F1. It’s not like they can approach a roadcar manufacturer and pitch MGU-H as something Cosworth can offer to integrate into their cars, that manufacturer would prefer that being offered by their engine/turbo supplier themselves (assuming they don’t already have in-house engines).

      1. The MGU-H, as with any turbine power extraction system in the exhaust stream, works well and at decent efficiency when at (or near) full throttle. In a normal road car application, it isn’t much of the time you get to go beyond 50% throttle and 50% of max revs for very long. At least not without careful monitoring of the road ahead and your mirrors.

        ” The applications for e-turbos in the mainstream world are probably pretty low so again to invest in all that technology for motor racing you could maybe convince yourself to do that if you thought ‘well, that’ll trickle down and be everywhere’ but we don’t really think it will.”

        He also alluded to the manpower required just to design and manage the deployment of the unit. Something that it appears Ferrari has been able to do. One can wonder if this is akin to “exhaust blowing” as was the application for diffusers in the past.

  7. But isn’t this “Cosworth” the Kalkhoven owned that has never supplied Formula 1 or any racing engines?

    The history of the racing-engines was continued by Mahle since the mid 00:s, right? And successfully so, still going on today

    1. Dave (@davewillisporter)
      2nd October 2018, 13:44

      No, the other way round. This Cosworth is the racing division of the original company, Mahle powertrains is the road car division. The last Cosworth F1 engine was in the back of the Marrusia, long after Mahle bought the other side and Cosworth are currently working with Red Bull and Aston Martin on the Valkyrie. They are still an awesome engineering company and still based in Northampton! :)

      1. In my earlier response to you above I said

        various shenanigans behind the various entities & entries in F1

        and here you are making clear the Cosworth situation :-)

  8. This sort of argument should have been around before the 2014 regulations were ratified. Putting it forward now, particularly after th MGUH was kept because there was no interest from other suppliers is nothing more than a publicity grab.

  9. Quote: Bruce Wood, MD of Cosworth, said the MGU-H is too expensive, has little application outside the sport and is an “obstacle” to new engine builders joining the sport.

    Say what you will, argue whatever you want, but truer words were never spoken. The FIA and LM caved to Ferrari and Mercedes both of whom feel that they have bought and paid for a permanently dominant in F1 and are insisting they must receive a larger return on that expenditure. There was never any guaranty implied or stated when they chose to put such astronomical amounts of money into building these engines. Now, they think they own the sport, and they are apparently still able to call the shots and dictate the direction of F1. Very disappointed in the FIA and LM for not taking control and managing their own enterprise.

    1. Very disappointed in the FIA and LM for not taking control and managing their own enterprise.

      @gwbridge – I agree with your sentiment. Unfortunately, the brand image of Mercedes and Ferrari is extremely strong, which is why F1 needs them as much as (if not more than) the other way around. So, while I’m sure that Liberty and the FIA would like to dictate a more equitable formula, they have to work through a series of compromises, at least until such time they can grow F1 itself into a strong brand (not in people’s minds, but their wallets as well).

      1. Well, I am in the minority, I am certain, but I wouldn’t care if Mercedes and Ferrari both left because it would open up the series and create better racing and a variety of teams on the podium. I would love to see a scientific study done (speculative as it might be) about the effect on the sport of losing these two teams. I think people would still go to the races and still watch them on tv/cable/internet. I have paid F1 for their online feed and yet I didn’t bother to watch this last race. I don’t think I missed much except for the team orders victory. The reports bring back memories of Massa basically parking it in the final corner so that Schumacher could catch up and pass him.

    2. @gwbridge, even if the engine regulations were massively simplified, Cosworth still couldn’t enter by themselves though.

      Cosworth is barely making any sort of profit these days – their last set of accounts showed a profit of just £165,000 on a turnover of about £53.5 million. Furthermore, that turnover is still less than what the company was managing to turn over in the early 2010’s – I believe that it was around £56 million in 2011 (without adjusting for inflation, so in 2018 prices that would be worth more than that).

      They have made it clear that, whatever type of engine regulations, they will only do it if there is another automotive manufacturer who is underwriting the whole project. In fact, if you think about it, Cosworth has always relied on corporate musclepower to pay for its work – every single F1 engine, from the DFV in the 1960s right through until the TJ series engines in the 2000s were all paid for by Ford: they didn’t have a problem with the rules being “too expensive” then so long as somebody else was prepared to foot the bill…

      As an aside, I also find the claims that it is “too complex” a bit strange given that Cosworth have already produced a design which complies with the current regulations – they started developing it in 2010 and it was ready to go into production back in 2013.

      1. “In fact, if you think about it, Cosworth has always relied on corporate musclepower…” And that is why this time is no different from any other time Cosworth has been in F1. The difference is the MGU-H, and I personally buy their argument that it is a technology that does not add to the racing and apparently has no practical application in production automobiles simply because it IS too expensive and complex. Personally, I am not happy with the status quo in F1 and was really hoping for a shakeup if not a full reset in 2021. The changes I am hearing about are not a new and fresh direction for F1. We’re hearing about are band-aids. Business Dictionary: “Hasty solution that covers up the symptoms but does little or nothing to mitigate the underlying problem. See also quick fix.”

    3. TeselOfSkylimits
      3rd October 2018, 23:22

      I don’t know. I’d say that prospective companies are just as much at fault here as existing manufacturers are.

      I do understand Ferrari and Mercedes. They spend tons of money to make MGU-H work really well, only to have it thrown away after less then 10 years is… discouraging at best. If someone was to pull off stunt like that, you can be sure that their commitment would become much less dedicated; after all, if someone changes rules this willi-nilli, how can you be sure they will not do it again… and again… and again.

      Now that explains why Ferrari and Merc fought to keep MGU-H in. But IMHO, Liberty and FIA were serious on simplifying engine formula as long as they will bring at least one new manufacturer in. But what did we have? bunch of indecisive squirming like cat around hot milk and nothing solid from any major car company… Not Volkswagen, not Toyota, no Ford, no GM or BMW… Last thing FIA and Liberty wanted was to make a big enemy out of two juggernauts only to have all they relied on to compensate pull out last second. And with no proper commitment to enter F1 with new regs, they caved to big ones.

  10. Sky had a great feature in there pre qualifying show that looked at energy deployment but also did a nice job at explaining a bit more about what the MGU-H is & why the manufacturer’s in F1 currently see it as such a vital part of the current package.

    I get concerns about the cost/complexity, But I think the MGU-H is a great addition to these power units & exactly the sort of tech F1 should be about. Taking wasted energy from the exhaust/turbo & using it to not just help with turbo-lag but also help boost power (And a lot more than many fans seem to think) is brilliant & is going to be one of the key parts of development, Power improvement & efficiency going forward.

    1. @stefmeister – I think anyone interested in the technical detail are impressed by what the MGU-H offers, and what it entails. I remember a senior Mercedes engineer making an impassioned case for keeping the MGU-H in 2021, which didn’t sound like them trying to retain a competitive advantage, but was an engineer pleading to retain good technology.

      using it to not just help with turbo-lag but also help boost power

      Personally, I am more impressed with its use to fill out torque “holes” (i.e. countering lag, and given a smoother power curve), since I can see the relevance of that in road cars (fewer gear changes while coming up to speed, better mileage since the powerband is smoother and wider). I don’t disagree that the racing application is important as well, in terms of outright power.

      I was gutted when the final call for 2021 specified the MGU-H wouldn’t be present, and cackled like an evil mastermind when I heard there was no expression of interest from new players.

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