Honda RA617H power unit, 2017

F1 engine complexity now “way too high”

2019 Monaco Grand Prix

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Formula 1’s power units have become too complicated and should be simplified when the next generation of engines is introduced, team representatives have said.

The current V6 hybrid turbo engines will remain much the same in 2021 despite major changes being planned for other aspects of the sport. Speaking in Thursday’s FIA press conference Racing Point technical director Andrew Green said the sport should reconsider simplifying the engines at the next opportunity.

“I think what we have now is an incredible piece of engineering in the back of the car,” he said. “But it could just be too incredible.

“What we have is potentially something where the technology bar of the power unit is just way too high and I think I would like to see something that is just slightly simpler. That’s my view.

“I’d never say no to more horsepower. I think the sport can’t have enough horsepower. We need to make the cars harder to drive. I think more power; a simpler power unit. That’s where I would be going.”

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown backed Green’s call for more powerful engines but said he would also like to see competition between different engine formats. “I don’t know that it’s achievable but if we could have some diversity in the engine itself and not be limited to a certain amount of cylinders, things of that nature, I think would maybe spice up the show.”

F1’s MGU-H, which generates energy from waste heat, has been given a stay of execution for 2021 after originally being earmarked for deletion. Cyril Abiteboul of engine manufacturer Renault said the sport will have to carefully consider whether it should remain part of the power units.

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“In my opinion we need to look at the next couple of years to form an opinion regarding MGU-H road relevance, because it’s clearly a component that was introduced for that purpose,” he said.

“Right now, we don’t see any application on road cars but it may come. It may actually be in the pipeline of some manufacturers, so we need to be careful not to be basically in reverse in that respect.”

Abiteboul has reservations about opening F1’s engines rules up to competition between different designs. “Diversity of technology would be great but we need to be careful not to open up the field and create some discrepancy.

“One thing that might be interesting that starts to be discussed is not necessarily not the next generation of engine but the next generation of fuel, because we still believe that Formula One is about hybrid technology, not full electric, for a number of reasons.

“Clearly we need more power and sustainable power and long races, but there will be new forms of fuel coming up in the next few years, whether you are talking about more bio-fuel, so a different composition, or even synthesis fuel, coming from non-fossil sources, that could be attractive and that would require new development.”

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  • 48 comments on “F1 engine complexity now “way too high””

    1. Really, where do you start with this. The teams are all going to want something different, its going to be so hard to lock in a format

      1. The road relevance is also something that was important in the past but seems to be less practical each year. The road car industry is moving towards renewable energy sources but will that direction for F1 improve racing? Personally I would like to see V8’s compete with V10’s and V12’s, very different sounding cars blasting over the circuit would be awesome. Crank up the horsepower and keep the amount of driver aids to a minimum so the cars have to be manhandled around tracks.

        1. That’s why my first choice motorsport for the last couple of years has been GT racing.
          Big booming V8’s from Bentley, Corvette, Mercedes … the singing Audi & Lamborghini V10’s … Porsche’s unmistakable V6 boxer … Ferrari’s screaming V8 … Aston Martin’s V12.
          And the racing has been incredibly close with different manufacturers winning, endurance races that have just become complete multi-hour sprints often with up to 10 cars still fighting for the win on the last laps, and really top quality driver lineups at the moment.

          1. @neviathan: As exciting as that might sound, it wouldn’t work in F1. In F1 that would lead to a technology race that would yield huge differences in power, with top engines delivering 200-300 hp more than the rest. The difference between the top teams and the rest would become much worse than it already is. In F1 you couldn’t use the tricks they use in other series to equalize the field because that would thwart technology development, and technology development is what F1 is all about.

            1. That’s what everyone said with GT racing, but with proper rules and proper enforcement of the rules it works perfectly.

              And I’m afraid your comment explains why F1 is doomed.
              Technology development is NOT what F1 is about.
              It’s been allowed to become that because the FIA and Bernie allowed manufacturers to hijack the rule process slowly over many years. It is now an engineers championship that is boring just about every spectator.

              F1 is meant to be all about the best drivers racing fast cars around the best & most circuits.
              It ran successfully for with what many view as its best years with teams operating out of home garages, with cars that had lifespans of many years.

            2. Technology development is NOT what F1 is about.

              History disagrees.

              Technology & development was an important part of F1 since the very start even before the world championship was created in 1950.

              The high level of technology & development of new ideas & technology is along with the overall performance a big part of F1 has always been considered the pinnacle of open wheel racing.

              It’s been allowed to become that because the FIA and Bernie allowed manufacturers to hijack the rule process slowly over many years.

              Max actually did a lot to restrict technology/development & ban areas of development that had been opening up through the 80’s/early 90’s.

          2. BoP is the devil and it is not racing, it is politics on wheels and should never be allowed into F1.

            1. BOP is fine. It’s either that or have spec chassis. Considering the amount of dodgy politics in F1, it’s kind of rich for you to be talking like that lol.

        2. @neviathan

          The problem is the cars will never need to be manhandled as long as Pirelli continues to make tyres that degrade the way they chose to. Once a tyre is over heated even within a qualifying lap, nothing much can be done because as announcers say “they’ve overcooked their tyres”

          1. Exactly correct, the pirelli garbage tires are the limiting factor for all F1 performance.

        3. F1 banned turbos and allowed any number of cylinders for 1989, by 1996 EVERYONE, including Ferrari were running V10. Why? Not because it was mandated by the regs, but because it was the best solution. The same thing would happen again because past knowledge isn’t forgotten. The current PU’S are the most powerful race day powerplants in F1 history. They have more power, torque and longevity than the most powerful v10s and use half the fuel.

          1. @megatron
            But ten times the oil…….
            And perhaps these engines are the most powerful in the history, and they have more power and whatever, but no one bar a few technical minded people seem to care and the majority of fans rather mourns the loss of the v8’s and v10’s because they sounded better (not necessarily louder, but simply better), were easier to comprehend/understand and didn’t take 3 or 4 hours to change.

    2. I think where they need to start is with all car manufacturers as to where they plan to be with “engines” in the next 5 – 10 years.

      If they all say that they have no plans and no interest to develop heat recovery systems, the MGUH needs to go. Same with turbos – are they still part of the various car makers plans or will they too disappear in favour of greater hybrid tech.

      This should have been done 3 years ago when FOM had the aim to encourage more manufacturers to the sport, but they got no interest because manufacturers considered the F1 PU’s to be too complex and not relevant to their road cars.

      Surely a collective of manufacturers (those in the sport and those that might be interested if it was viable) could come up with a framework that would produce high performance and relevant engines/pu’s

      1. Basil (@flyingbasil)
        24th May 2019, 8:26

        @dbradock before KERS was introduced almost every manufacturer said it was irrelevant, expensive and too heavy to be practical. Now almost every new premium car has a small turbo engine with KERS. They will put MGU-H in eventually in some form.

      2. Where they need to start is NOT consulting the manufacturers.
        This is Formula One, where manufacturers would form a queue to join if they could spend $150-200mil to race on an equal footing … but none of them will be interested in spending a cool billion or to arrive while current manufacturers have a massive head start on the technology.

        FIA and Liberty need to decide that this is no longer a engineering championship & rather a showcase for drivers, teams & simpler technology.

        Until they make that decision, the rot will continue.

        1. FIA and Liberty need to decide that this is no longer a engineering championship & rather a showcase for drivers, teams & simpler technology.

          So basically you want F1 to become Indycar+.

          F1 has always been & should always be an engineering championship as well as a showcase of drivers/teams & high level of technology. That is what sets it apart from everything else, What makes it more special than anything else & why it’s considered the pinnacle of open wheel racing.

          If you don’t like the engineering or technology side of it then watch something like Indycar & leave F1 to those who understand what it is & enjoy it for that reason.
          The engineering & technology is a big part of what drew me to F1, Whats kept me watching & why I love it more than any other category, Take that stuff away & F1 loses a big part of it’s appeal.

          1. Times have changed like it or not. Most don’t care about technology, engines or aerodynamics, they just want drivers racing hard, emotion, action, drama.

            1. Then why do series like Indycar, F2, F3, Super Formula etc.. only get a tiny fraction of the viewers/attendance that F1 does?

              The fact F1 is so much more popular than anything else suggests that all that stuff IS important to fans.

          2. True but it’s killing the sport.

      3. The problem is Ferrari’s sway. Aston Martin, Porsche and Lamborghini came to negotiate a potential join if MGU-H turbine system was simplified. Ferrari slapped them down so they all left. If nothing changes in 2021, the changes will have been a good for nothing easy of money.

    3. Perhaps open it up? Maximum engine size 1200cc. No turbos. No rules on configuration of or number of cylinders or RPM. No limit on battery assistance (if any). 3 engines per season, back of grid penalties for 4th & 5th engines, disqualification thereafter. Limited fuel allowance, per race, but unlimited fuel flow. Unrestricted gearbox/clutch development (auto permitted). Poorer teams will remain test beds for the manufacturer teams with strict engine supply price limits. Let the creators create. It would benefit road cars.

      1. Basil (@flyingbasil)
        24th May 2019, 8:20

        @inkpen99 1200cc without boost? You want less power in F1?)

        1. No reason they can’t get 1200bhp out f that capacity, with no other restrictions in place. Two stroke, 30k rpm, power band about 300 rpm wide, 15 speed gearboxes…

          Ok,that would be awesome.

        2. As @dave said, the limit on power would only be the creativity of the engineers. I would expect a massive “boost” from RPM – perhaps from V6, V4, W6, W4, vertically opposed ICE, not limited by RPM, not limited by restrictions on KERS or (temporary) fuel flow. Within a couple of years, cars would be faster than now. Then, after 4 years, you pick the best from the crop & reign in the formula for another 4 years, then repeat it with 800cc.

    4. Basil (@flyingbasil)
      24th May 2019, 8:17

      What is so special about F1 engine now? The only part that is not used for road cars is MGU-H.
      Clever Ignition – Mazda
      Hybrid Turbos – everyone from Volvo to Nissan
      Electric motors to boost acceleration aka MGU-K – everyone

      Current F1 engines showed the world that you can make all this tech work, before that it was either Prius like hybrid or Diesel, but now everyone is doing a hybrid system much like we see today in F1

      1. Yes, MGU-H is just too complicated and expensive to justify its use. Hence it hasn’t gained traction lol.

    5. You know what does not have a lot of complexity? Electric motors.

      1. Basil (@flyingbasil)
        24th May 2019, 8:27

        you know what does have a lot weight?)

        1. Matteo (@m-bagattini)
          24th May 2019, 9:02

          @flyingbasil iridium?

      2. I’m sceptical of that. Even if they are, once F1 engineers get hold of them they will become very complex.

    6. If we must be road relavant then why have massive aero, 13 inch wheels, ground clearance, open cockpit. The argument of road relevance is nonsense, otherwise start racing cars from showrooms.
      Governing body needs to step in and create a set of engine rules which are broad. As for engines EVERY engine must use an FIA standard oriface plate air restrictor. Thats it. Have as many cylinders, whatever configuration, non turbo, turbo, supercharged, whatever fuel flow. Do what you like but you will only breathe through a set air inlet size.
      Get tyres that are durable and last not this rubbish we have now.
      Allow refuelling give the teams complete flexibility for strategy. Get rid of the stupid aero. It’s got totally out of control.
      As long as the governing body allows teams to set the rules we have no hope for change.
      Someone needs the balls to lay down the law and change this rubbish that has become current F1.

      1. Basil (@flyingbasil)
        25th May 2019, 9:17

        You cant put a restrictor plate on electric side of the engine, and most of the difference comes from that area now.

    7. Why are they banging on about needing more power? These are the most powerful engines F1 has ever seen in race trim. Everyone bangs on about the mid 80s turbo monsters producing up to 1500 bhp, but they also ignore that they could only do that for 3 laps before needing to be thrown in the bin. They produced more like 600 bhp in the races.

      Complexity and cost are the issues, not lack of power.

      1. You are correct about the power, but neither cost nor complexity is a problem either. The current customer lease prices are the lowest since probably the DFV, and the complexity is handled by the PU manufacturers with no problem for the customer teams.

    8. Changing the engine format will again widen the field between winners and also rans; leave the engine spec alone and convergence of performance will happen and the gap between the back and front of the grid will become closer. Closer racing seems to be the holy grail for F1 fans not just big loud simple engines (a la Stock Car racing).
      In addition taking total energy usage into account the 50% efficient F1 engines of today are arguably more efficient than the propulsive units of electric cars which need: the electricity to be generated (with losses), then transmitted (with losses), then stored in batteries which take a lot of energy and other resources to construct (and then need to be recycled/disposed of at the end of their working life); taking all these factors into account the new efficient internal combustion engine compares well with electric power and has a good future as the motive power for road vehicles.

    9. Open up the PU formula completely. Throw it all in the bin.

      Allow a fixed energy (kiloJoules) use per car for the race. The teams can store that energy however they think best; they could store it in any form of potential energy they like – electricity, LPG, hydrogen, petrol, biodiesel, a giant spring, anything. Then they can spend that energy however they like in the race – electric motor, V6, V8, V10, W16, I4, turbine, etc. Energy recovery during the race is free.

      Then you’d get some diversity, and engine manufacturer interest.

      To make it more world relevant you could allow more kJ for less polluting fuels.

      Only downside is cost, but the FIA are making the equity distribution completely fair now… right?

      1. There will be NO new manufacturer interest until the aero black hole money pit is removed. Porsche could come to F1 with an engine 10% better than the Merc next year and bolt it into the back of the Williams and it would still occupy the back row of the grid. And that is why no new manufacturers are interested in F1 and are flocking to spec aero FE.

    10. Francorchamps (@francorchamps17)
      24th May 2019, 14:51

      Spec engines. Get rid of the MGU-H, give all teams a standard V6 hybrid and watch the field become closer than ever before :)

      1. @francorchamps17 So basically turn it into Indycar+?

        No thanks!

      2. Why do so many people want F1 to be a spec series? There are tons of spec series out there to watch. I would rather see F1 die than go down that road.

      3. Because this is the premier open wheel racing series.

      4. @francorchamps17 the cars at the front of the grid and the back of the grid currently use the same power unit. How would removing their identical MGU-H make them any closer?

    11. And here I am, just wishing they would bring back V10 or V12 screamers.

    12. I think they should strive for cutting edge high energy-density fuel cell EVs running on bio-butane. If that fails hydrogen fuel cells.

      1. That would be epic but way too expensive. Kind of just moving the problem they have now elsewhere.

        1. Compared to these convoluted internal combustion designs to squeeze out every bit of energy from sparse fuel? I don’t think so. Or at least the money would be sunk into developing useful things.

          (Why don’t I ever get notifications? :( )

    13. Its easy for racing point to say that f1 should make changes to the engines when they wont have to pick up the bill for designing and building a new engine.

    14. The flaw with these current engines is that the direction of technology is from roads to f1 cars. It should be from f1 cars to road cars.

      The fix is difficult. Road cars are going towards electric but electric batteries can not yet handle anything like the 2 hour races at current power levels without being massive. Unless you create some kind of charging that works at racing speeds. Which does not exist yet. The cold hard fact is that naturally aspirated or turbo petrol engine is still impossible to beat when it comes to weight and power. Modern f1 power units weigh 200kg with ancillaries whereas the v8s and v10s weighed something like 115kg maximum with ancillaries. The weight and cost increase has been enormous. No wonder f1 needs massive amounts of downforce to get even near to the v10 era lap times ran on grooved slicks and fraction of downforce. If 10kg is worth 3 tenths then how much is that 85kg increase in engine weight… Not to mention if you took a v10 with 85kg more fuel you’d still be faster than any hybrid all throughout the race because all that fuel is burned away making the car lighter.

      But that is past the point. F1 is not about peak race car technology anymore. It is about putting road car tech into f1 cars and making it work. The only direction for that is to increase the amount of computers and electric power and as a result make the cars heavier which means adding downforce to keep the lap times down. That is road relevance and that is the path f1 wants to take. Heavier, slower, more expensive, more complex, less driver controlled, more manufacturer focused, more political and more divisive. Obviously the path is not to go back to anything be that v10 or v8 but going forward the goal should not be toyota prius in f1 car.

      In the end f1 has decided that it wants what car manufacturers want. Not what the audience wants. So the costs go up and the noise and excitement goes down. Instead of peak performance f1 focuses on fuel saving. The f1 engine concept could not be any more broken than it is.

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