Start, Hockenheimring, 2002

Why F1 isn’t attracting new engine manufacturers


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Although Formula 1’s current engine regulations expire at the end of 2020, as exclusively revealed here last July the FIA abandoned plans to overhaul the engine format for the sport’s 2021-onwards era due to a lack of commitment from motor manufacturers.

Although Porsche was rumoured to be building an engine to the new regulations – subsequently confirmed, but aborted – the Volkswagen Group subsidiary elected to commit to Formula E. Therefore F1 reasoned it made little sense to expect existing suppliers to incur additional development costs when there is little wrong with current power units bar their complexity, which all four manufacturers have (now) mastered.

Indeed, any criticism of their cost to teams had previously been addressed by the FIA, which imposed a cap of around $20m per season for two cars, depending upon exact specifications. Clearly, expecting manufacturers to throw development money at an overhaul designed to potentially save money was oxymoronic. Extending the validity of the current regulations would also provide longer amortisation periods.

Thus, the current engine format remains (largely) in place until end-2024. What happens thereafter is currently under discussion. There is talk of two-stroke cycles or even split cycles, of variable valve phasing/timing and electric valve gear, with additional emphasis on improved heat recovery (MGU-H) units. Not least, electrification systems could be upgraded to operate on up to 600V and over 800W. Serious – but costly – stuff.

This is likely to disappoint those calling for cheaper and less complex power units. Such as Racing Point’s technical director Andrew Green and McLaren CEO Zak Brown who did so during the FIA’s Thursday press conference at the Monaco Grand Prix.

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

Brown put it simply: “More power would be great. Less expensive would be outstanding.”

However neither is directly linked to an existing engine supplier. There is a stark difference between their comments and those of Cyril Abiteboul of Renault and Christian Horner – the latter’s tune on engines having changed markedly since Red Bull signed up as Honda’s ‘works’ partner.

Cyril Abiteboul, Christian Horner, Monaco, 2019
These two have found something they agree on
Looking to the future, Abiteboul believes next-gen fuels will play major roles in shaping F1’s power unit formats.

“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 1 is about hybrid technology, not full electric, for a number of reasons,” he said.

“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.” That means additional costs.

Although the ‘romantic’ in Horner yearns for a power unit that is “normally-aspirated, high-revving V10 or V12 and loud”, the realist in him said: “Unfortunately I think they’re rather outdated now.”

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“We’ve now got a period of stability with the engines until 2023 I think or 2024, so it’s important that Formula 1 makes the right decision for the future,” he added.

“Obviously the automotive sector is moving an awful lot at the moment, and what technologies are going to relevant then? Because when that engine comes in 2025 that’s going to have to be for a five-to-10-year period, so we’re actually talking up to 2035, which is a long way down the pipelines.”

One might cynically wonder whether F1 will still be around by then.

Ross Brawn, Bahrain International Circuit, 2019
Brawn wants to attract new manufacturers – but how?
Such thoughts aside, the projected engine technologies are very much in line with comments made by Ross Brawn, F1’s managing director and the man ultimately charged with delivering F1’s spectacle, who last August said: “We want to create a set of technical regulations on the engine that are appealing to new manufacturers.”

But will such technologies attract engine suppliers? Equally crucially, will such regulations also appeal to the sport’s existing suppliers, for what good would it serve to attract three incomers if the four current suppliers are lost?

Over the years F1’s engine suppliers have evolved into three distinctly different categories:

1) Independents, who design, develop and manufacture F1 engines for sale, paid for either by teams directly, or by commercial entities. In this regard think Cosworth, which produced the record-setting DFV, bank-rolled at the time by Ford. Cosworth has also produced F1 engines for its own account, such as the CA family supplied to Williams in 2006, and budget teams between 2010 and 2013.

Other such entities include the original Ilmor operation, (now the Mercedes F1 engine facility, which produced engines both for its own account and contractually for Mercedes-Benz), Climax, Weslake, Judd and Hart.

2) Original equipment manufacturers (OEM) suppliers, but without an in-house team, such as (currently) Honda, but have on previous occasions included BMW, Renault, Mercedes, Porsche and even Lamborghini.

Jim Clark, Lotus, Zandvoort, 1967
Ford funded Cosworth’s game-changing DFV engine
3) Full teams producing their own chassis and engines, usually OEM-owned as with the current Renault and Mercedes operations. Other examples include the Alfa Romeo teams of the fifties and eighties, Toyota and Honda (1964-68 and 2006-08). Plus, of course, Ferrari. Before compulsory supply regulations intervened, many such operations enjoyed both sole use of their engines and/or supplied outside teams.

Saliently, since introducing its full hybrid engines in 2014 F1 has failed to attract any independent suppliers despite regular calls to do so. Cosworth conducted a feasibility study and quickly realised that such a project was not viable without outside support. When such entities (including Aston Martin) are expected to invest upwards of $150m/annum for a maximum return of $60m (three teams), that’s a big ask…

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Another drawback of this group – a factor that applies equally to OEM suppliers – is that such suppliers have no direct say in F1’s governance, nor do they derive benefits from sponsorship income or shares of F1’s revenues; however, this last point may change going forward should Liberty its promise to pay engine suppliers a subsidy of $10m per annum. It’s small change, though…

Indeed, as Renault discovered during its 2010-15 hiatus from being full team owner, being engine supplier only has major drawbacks in that the partner team is handed bouquets in victory while the engine supplier suffers briquettes in defeat. Hence the French company elected to make a full return as team owner from 2016, following Mercedes’ lead from six years earlier.

Honda’s situation is slightly different: the Big H is the world’s largest engine manufacturer, offering a variety of products for marine, two/four-wheel, botanic/agricultural, stationary/ industrial and even aeronautical applications. Thus, in purely practical terms, the two Red Bull teams are simply further applications for Honda engines, albeit high-profile ones.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Baku City Circuit, 2019
Mercedes exemplify the power of ‘full team’ status
The third engine supplier category – full team entries – provides manufacturers more control over their destiny (and results) and offers political and commercial clout, yet is by a substantial margin the most complex and expensive F1 entity to manage. Thus only two major OEMs have won titles in their own rights – Renault (2005/6), Mercedes (2014-date) – but only succeeding after granting their respective team bosses Flavio Briatore and Toto Wolff total autonomy.

However, a major drawback under current regulations – which force OEM teams to supply a number of customer teams – is that parent suppliers find themselves embarrassingly beaten by secondary outfits – such as occurred with Red Bull/Renault, and Brawn/McLaren-Mercedes before that, and presented with Renault and McLaren-Renault.

The overarching question, then, is: which company would want to enter F1 as engine supplier in future, whether as team owner, or not? It is doubtful whether a Cosworth, a latter-day Ilmor or Ricardo has the resources to develop competitive engines incorporating the high-tech and next-gen without the full backing of a commercial partner, particularly given that full electrification now appears to be the way forward for the industry.

Plus, as outlined above, F1’s current and proposed commercial and regulatory structures provide little incentive for OEMs to enter F1 as engine supplier only – whether in their own right or as partners to specialists – while 2025 is just five years away. That is the timeframe required for prospective incomers to conduct feasibility studies, obtain board approval, and then go through all the engineering hoops.

The lead time from white paper to introduction for the current regulations was five years (2009-2014), having been postponed for a year while arguments raged back and forth over inline-four or V6 formats. And, as Honda can attest, it can takes four years to become competitive with an engine that is arguably less complex than the proposed technologies outlined above.

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Then factor into the equation that, according to Brawn, “the major (performance) differentiator” in F1 should not be the engine. “The first differentiator should be the driver,” said Brawn, “the second should be the car, and the third should be the engine.” Which sane OEM would throw gazillions at power units that do not, by design, provide competitive advantages? That surely is the name of the OEM game?

That leaves the third category: full team ownership. Now consider that such an incomer would be unlikely to enter before 2025, for that would require the design and development of two different power units, and that testing is heavily restricted under the regulations. Which OEM would commit without being able to test and acquire data?

Start, Circuit de Catalunya, 2000
Seven manufacturers competed in F1 at the turn of the millennium
Similarly, in order to commit, any incomer would need to know what commercial structures and technical/sporting regulations to expect, and F1’s recent history suggests that procrastination is very much the strategy, whether by design or simple delay. Finalising 2025’s frameworks in June 2023 is hardly likely to pique the interest of newcomers, who would require three years minimum to gear up.

Finally, to justify F1 engagements OEMs require TV ratings. Mantras of ‘fan engagement’ and ‘activation’ are all well and good but nothing beats eyeballs when it comes down to moving metal in global markets.

Here history provides a lesson: During the 2000s, a period of free-to-air TV, F1 had seven engine suppliers: (alphabetically) BMW, Ferrari, Honda, Jaguar (Cosworth), Mercedes, Renault and Toyota. After TV went predominantly pay-per-view, ratings dropped by around 40 per cent over ten years, and so did the number of engine suppliers (from seven to four).

There may be no correlation in the numbers; equally, there may well be, for no new manufacturer has entered since. What has changed that could suddenly attract OEMs to F1, whether as teams or purely as engine suppliers?

Like it or not, F1 is dependent on OEMs, even if only as engine suppliers – and that dependency has dictated the current engine formula, loathed and loved in equal measure. Strip the engines of their hi-efficiency gizmos, and there is little to zero appeal in F1 for main stream motor manufacturers, and F1 could find itself with insufficient engines for a full grid.

Thus F1 could find history repeating itself: With no incoming OEMs (or even teams) looming, there seems to be little or no sense in changing F1’s 2025 engine regulations, bar for some tickling around the edges. Equally, with no adaptation for the changing times, F1 may not be sufficiently appealing to OEMs to persuade them to commit to combustion-engined sport in the face of mass electrification across the motor industry.

It’s a vicious cycle. For F1 to break it will require imaginative thinking.


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92 comments on “Why F1 isn’t attracting new engine manufacturers”

  1. Panagiotis Papatheodorou (@panagiotism-papatheodorou)
    5th June 2019, 12:04

    I have been a fan for over 2 decades but 2019 is the first time I feel that F1 is a dying sport.

    1. I feel similar. I’ve been following the sport since 1995 – have barely missed a race since – but this year is when i’ve been most downhearted about the sport’s future. i think the thing that’s really killing it for me is the end of free-to-air coverage. it just totally removes the immediate interaction aspect of the sport. the shrinking grid and lack of competition is also a big negative for me.

      one thing the sport absolutely lacks is that sense that anything can happen – there’s very little unpredictability. the reliability of modern cars, the easy race pace, the fact that every strategy/eventuality is already evaluated and calculated to death back at the factory – I just don’t get that impression that ‘anything’ can happen any more.

      perhaps this is a symptom of technological progress (after a while all the teams converge on the optimum way of running a race) but the result is the death of sport.

      1. This is what I’ve been saying all season, Frood. There is ZERO unpredictability and all too often it is the winner into turn 1 of lap 1 that wins the race. That is not only stupendously boring, but ruins the product for the viewer. It’s like turning on a baseball game and if the visiting team gets a run to start off the game, that pretty much meaning the game is over. Who wants to see that?

        This is why we’ve got to have more parity in the sport and there has to be closer racing with incentives for taking chances. We need more variables and for God’s sake we need to stop seeing Hamilton win all the freakin’ time.

        1. Seriously? The cars are as close as they have ever been. A absolutely terrible Williams is only like 3 seconds off of the pole. In the 80’s and 90’s you would be lucky for the top 10 to be that close. The racing has always been predictable and boring if what you are looking for is a show. Even if you made it into a spec series I honestly don’t thing the cars would be as close as they are now. I wish they were farther apart in both time and appearance to be honest.

          1. Well, you’re in the minority. If you call this close racing then you’re blind. If you’re happy with Merc winning every race, you’re easily amused.

          2. @darryn

            what you are looking for is a show.

            Fortunately or unfortunately, that ‘show’ part is lacking. If not for a show, then to a casual F1 fan, a race is nothing but 20 cars going around in circles !! As devoted fans you and me might even dare to watch another race in Valencia, but its not enough to pull in the casual viewer. The sport has to connected with the fan–putting up a show is perhaps the least that they should do i think.

      2. Yup. Can agree with most of this. My earliest memory is watching Schumacher around Adelaide (on free-to-air TV). Now it’s behind a paywall, I live in a flat with no TV (yes, millennial here), and the unpredictability is seemingly diminishing as each season progresses. I tend to go around to my mate’s flat who has SkyGo (paid for by family) to watch a race, without this, I’m unsure I’d even bother watching the short highlight clips on YouTube.

        I think F1 is really struggling in a rapidly changing world. Formula e is a much better spectacle to view, it’s accessible (city races), and is the technology that are and will be buying in the future. I think they are struggling to define what F1 should be with these new rules – more complexity or dumbing down the sport. As the article says, why would a company invest in F1 right now? I can’t see much going for it in terms of marketability. It feels stale.

        I personally think a simple move that would help improve the spectacle would be to move back to a manually operated gearbox. It would be an easy way to get to Brawn’s differentiator classification!

    2. You echo my sentiments also. I think this push for all the hybrid stuff and the influence of greenie weenieism is just a turn off for racing fans. They’ve focused too much on that crap rather than on the product and it shows.

      What they should do is dump the hybrid component altogether, keep turbos and go back to V8 engines.

      1. F1 was a major influencer in my decision to purchase a hybrid vehicle. Easily the best “family” car I have ever experienced. I find the American ESPN coverage inferior to the NBC coverage I enjoyed but it is still a basic component of my cable TV subscription bill so it almost seems free since I cannot avoid the ESPN fee.

        SKY Sports provides the ESPN coverage and it is TERRIBLE. This is likely a major factor in lack of acceptance for F1 in the US market.
        I became a fan with Juan Pablo, Berger, and BMW. Never left.

      2. There was an interesting item on Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme this morning. The Green ambition is to remove ALL internal combustion engines from UK roads by 2050. An expert in the technology said it was all very well to have such an ambition but to DELIVER it [in the UK alone] would require TWICE the world production of Neodymium; ALL the world’s production of Cobalt and HALF the world’s production of Copper [forgive me if I have got the specific details wrong – I was not fully awake]. Impossible without an enormous investment in discovering new souces for these elements and constructing massive mines to extract same.

        Not very green – but probably not visible in Brighton or Islington where Greens appear to congregate.

        1. Yes, you are right. It is going to be difficult.
          We should definitly give up and not even try.

          Ask yourself this. In ten years time who is going to be developing internal combustion engines?
          They’re about as good at converting chemicals into mechanical power as they ever will be.

          Massive mines to extract the ingredients for the electrical storage:
          Where do you think all the oil comes from?

        2. I still cannot bring myself to be downhearted as many are. I still see no reason to think F1 won’t sort the majority of their issues to at least a satisfactory level for 2021, and once that happens and we have a better product on the track, let’s then take it from there.

          Of course the issues and problems are complex, and any entitiy that was inevitably going to take over from BE around this time, was always going to have much on their plates.

          I still see nothing wrong with Liberty’s and Brawn’s main overall objectives, and am convinced most of the entities involved want to be in F1 doing what they love and getting rich doing it, and therefore will get it together, even if not in the most idealistic way as can tend to sound on paper.

          Bottom line for me…I’ll not be too critical of F1, nor Liberty, nor Brawn until they have actually been contractually able to do their thing, with the teams’ cooperation post-2020 contracts, and we have seen the new era in action. In the meantime, to me, this is all just Liberty trying their best to sort out the mess BE left them. Thank goodness they are trying to improve everything.

          Liberty didn’t start the Ferrari veto concept nearly 40 years ago, nor did they have a say in the power units and the tires for which the aero-dependent cars have been designed. They didn’t do the Sky deal. They tried to simplify the engines to attract incomers and got shot down by the teams. They’re trying to tweak the current cars in the short term for better racing, without causing unrealistic expense. Can we give them a minute to take it all in and sort through the barriers they have towards doing what they would like until they are contractually unencumbered? Had Liberty somehow been able to immediately change things, there would have been just as much criticism for knee-jerk decisions. And just as many problems. What’s to criticize when they haven’t been able to put the ball in play yet, nor have wanted to without thoughtful deliberation as to the best way to do that?

        3. Not all car manufacturers think that all electric cars are the future. Google “will toyota go all electric cars” and read the responses.

          1. @w-k

            Personal cars are not the future. Most of our cars are sitting doing nothing most of the time.

        4. @gnosticbrian

          Sorry but the UK is a complete basket case when it comes to transport and pollution.
          E-bikes are taking over from cars on mainland europe. The alternative to an ICE engine car is not always another car. We’ve been over sold cars.
          We are looking at complete life-style change.

        5. Just a note, we know where there are effectively endless amounts of those elements; it’s only a matter of increasing production. Over a few decades that’s not a big problem, especially compared to generating clean electricity to power the cars.

    3. Likewise, I have watched one full race and two halves in the last twelve months, and have been reading articles (like this one) very rarely. I don’t know what F1’s problems are, but I do know for as long as it’s behind a paywall they will continue to struggle with viewing numbers.

      I think that, unless F1 goes electric, OEMs will lose interest altogether. This is the twilight of combustion engines, no reason to spend money developing and advertising combustion.

      That said, I’d much rather F1 remained combustion. As technology is now developed on computers, F1 is mostly irrelevant to the world. As this technology becomes increasingly advanced, F1 becomes more boring for casual viewers. F1’s future might involve more spec parts (not necessarily engines), less cutting edge technology and may be more old-school. I would welcome that.

    4. F1oSaurus (@)
      6th June 2019, 20:42

      @panagiotism-papatheodorou That’s solely because your fav team is no competing well. If (or when) your team was racking up the championships, you would be (were) fine with it.

      1. no i agree with him. formula 1 needs to go electric beofre the end of the decade.

  2. Manufacturers won’t join because even if they make the best PU they could be last if the aero is not right, which is exactly what we see with Williams. Getting the aero right will cost more then producing a strong PU, and it has absolutely no road revelance. The aero black hole is why no manufacturers will join. If F1 was spec aero like FE then several manufacturers would have joined under the proposed simple 2021 PU regs.

    1. And as a by product of it, there is no real expectation for return on investment.
      What Renault has to show for all it had done so far – not even a podium.
      The fact that a auto maker can dump millions into a F1 and only get a second/lap from the leader makes it difficult to promote other automakers to join.

    2. Great point! This is why many of the aero components have got to become spec. What it also will do is create more parity between the teams and bring closer and better racing.

      1. Totally agree. Been saying the same for years!

        Yes F1 might lose a minorty of hardcore fans who get excited over endplates and winglets, but the increase in action and real racing will more than make up for it.

        F1 can no longer survive as it is, the world has moved on – not necessarily for the better, but people demand exciting racing from the so-called pinnacle of Motorsport.

        If they want to give us horrible sounding engines, rock stable, ultra reliable cars, the very least F1 should offer is close racing.

        1. Well said, Gulp.

          1. You must be kidding, guys. F1 has always been about ideas and if you want to take it away from it, you’re disrupting the DNA of the sport. I’m not a least excited by the “close racing” of FE or any other lower series, namely the electric circus with its prefabricated drama (extremely tight circuits, bumping into each other, looks just amateurish). If you say the name of a specific team (beit Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes, Williams or any other), there’s a whole history of creative ideas, an effort to outsmart, to bring something new, all spiced up by the technical warfare and the personal rivalries. Take it away and you just get a generic series full of fake starlets, fake tension etc. F1 has to move on, true, but in a different direction. Sharing a certain amount of data on engine development and offering it to serious new entrants would be a nice step forward. The whole future of F1 is about engines, not aero.

      2. This is why many of the aero components have got to become spec. What it also will do is create more parity between the teams and bring closer and better racing.

        Spec aero and equal cars does not automatically mean better racing.

        1. No, but it would be a clear starting point that it use as a solid foundation to move on from.

        2. Or even cars that compete. Look no further than a team that uses a Merc PU.

    3. While I understand your reasoning, I would hate to see active, performance parts become spec. They may as well make it a completely spec series of they’re going to make the aero spec.

      F1 is not and has never been a pure racing series. A large part of it is a multidisciplinary engineering competition, and this needs to stay. I would be all for simplifying or modifying the aero (enforcing simpler from wings, allowing ground effect) but not spec parts.

      I think, to attract more manufacturer teams, I would allow more testing for a new manufacturer for a couple of years before they join. Maybe something like the following:

      All regulations are set and cannot be changed 2 years before their starting season. In the first season of this 2 year period, they are allowed quite large amounts of CFD, wind tunnel and private track testing. In the second year, the year before they start, they are subject to the same testing restrictions as the current teams but applying to their new car (limited CFD and wind tunnel, testing only at specific events). They can participate in Friday practice with their new car. Then they start the following season. This would all help them to overcome the massive penalty for being a new team.

      I could also support an F1B series if done correctly, which is run on the same races but subject to tighter restrictions, possibly with some limited spec aero, and in their own championship. This would act as a lower barrier to entry for new teams and a proving ground.

      However, I cannot support full spec aero as the future of F1 and would quickly turn off.

      1. IloveEstoril
        6th June 2019, 8:41

        F1B would be a good idea.

        Perhaps it would be best to use F1 engines in Formula 2 races with a spec chassis.

        1. Using spec chassis would defeat the point. It needs to be a feeder for teams (not drivers, they already have feeder series, although it would act as that as well) into F1, a way for them to compete at a similar level but with reduced budgets and gain the experience they need to compete. I would also say they should race for their own championship, but in the F1 races alongside full F1 teams.

          The way I would envisage it is as follows:
          – the regulations are based on F1 but with some additional restrictions. Possibly a small selection of spec parts, but at least simplified aero. Possibly with slightly higher fuel and girl flow limits, possibly able to use more engine components.
          – all engine suppliers must supply F1B teams at reduced cost (or possibly same cost but with more components available).
          – strict budget limits.
          – compete in their own qualifying.
          – line up on the grid behind the full teams (possibly with a 1 row gap).
          – compete in their own drivers and constructors championships, podium etc.
          – top team (or possibly more than 1) eligible for promotion to full F1 at end of season. Possibly have a shoot out with the bottom team(s) from full F1 after the final race of the season for promotion/demotion.

          Something along those lines, anyway.

      2. Testing limitations are the key. The limits were supposed to save money, but it’s not clear they do. Maybe cheaper than completely unlimited testing, but a lot of money goes into simulation instead.

        It would fix a lot of what’s wrong in F1 if they allowed a bit more testing, and it would fix even more if teams doing less well get extra testing time.

        The whole parts sharing idea would be turned upside down too, with the bigger teams having to buy bits from smaller teams instead of the other way around.

  3. These two have found something they agree on

    Dang it, Dieter, this made me laugh out loud. At work.

  4. Sometimes I think F1 worries stuff far too much. The current situation is that the engine of the team dominant in the hybrid era, Mercedes, has known been caught up and maybe superseded by Ferrari, Red Bull are happy with Honda and its own potential, and Renault are right now announcing that they’re confident they’ve made a breakthrough. So that’s 4 engine manufacturers/teams ‘happy’ with their own progress and position in the sport. So, definitely, leave it like that. Investigate new fuels, especially biofuels and other non-fossil fuels, and allow the development to continue. Allow more recovered energy use to boost the power available to drivers even further. That’s what F1 is about. There’s no point in brusque change and there’s no need for more suppliers.

    1. @david-br, I’m afraid the situation is not as rosy as it seems. Mercedes has achieved everything and then some, they are more on the way out of than coming into the sport, Renault (and Honda for that matter) have a historically fickle board that can pull the entire operation at whim regardless of what contracts say or what penalties will be levied on them. And Ferrari have said they will not race among themselves because that’s not winning (unlike some others in some other series)
      It’s not unreasonable to postulate we might even get a run-what-you-got – season where Liberty has to pull PU:s from anybody willing to supply anything fitting to keep their contractual obligations to GP operators. Realistically that’d be the Megachrome used by F2 or maybe some of the WEC suppliers who have any chance of having the capacity to produce enough engines.

      1. Agree. I’m worried that only four engine suppliers are involved. It only takes one to leave and possibly two teams with it and the grids will look very empty, very quickly.

        1. All the talk about “new” engine, sorry, Power Unit suppliers, when yes … there is a real potential for one of the current 4 to say .. “Enough”. Then the scrambling will start.
          How close was Honda to pulling out two years ago? Renault / Nissan / Fiat-Chrysler are going through, who knows what. It will only take a financial Wonder-Kid, sitting at the head of the table, mere hours to ask “What are we getting and what is it costing..??” Done.
          How many titles does Mercedes have to win before their board asks “what more is in this for us.?” I figure 6 or 7.

  5. “There is talk of two-stroke cycles or even split cycles, of variable valve phasing/timing and electric valve gear, with additional emphasis on improved heat recovery (MGU-H) units. Not least, electrification systems could be upgraded to operate on up to 600V and over 800W. Serious – but costly – stuff.”

    I could do with an article unpacking this Dieter.

    i can see the jokes about bring back oil burning already and Ferarri’s smoking issue! But surly 2 stroke is too dirty for a ‘green’ sport now and the expense of a new engine that can’t be used in road cars unjustifiable.

    I’m not clear on what the benefits new power volage would bring. Obviously more energy storage is on the cards.

    1. 2 stroke with direct injection is not dirty, it is 2019, please join us in the present.

      1. In what world is burning oil in the engine clean

  6. I’ve said it before, open the engines up. If teams what to build 1.6L V6 turbo hybrids fine but cap them at 1000BHP. Then let people come in as a supplier of engines but as a 2.4L V8 or 3L V10 but both capped at 1000BHP. Yes a turbo hybrid will out accelerate a V8/10 but they won’t de-rate at the end of a mile long straight. The constant restraining of the rules are actually leading to some of these issues.

    1. The PU does not “de-rate” at the end of long straights, the mguh recovers enough electrical power to fully power the mguk and to also charge the battery when at full throttle. They only “de-rate” during qually when they are spinning up the turbo off the battery and are in max power party mode, or when there is a problem with the mguh overheating.

    2. Yes. I think this is a good solution. Cap the power and let teams do what they want. If you can build an electric motor and battery that can last for the whole GP fine (will be great for innovation and road relevant). You could have removable batteries at pitstops or no pitstops. If you want to join on a budget put in a v10. All teams will have the same power so there will be close racing without one team dominating. And it will be fascinating to watch who would come out on top and which power unit would win.

      1. @vjanik Formula E has a monopoly with regards to electric motors, so F1 will not be using electric-only motors for at least another 15/20 years.

    3. Letting teams pick there own configuration is all well & good initially but as has been seen in the past one engine configuration always ends up been better so within a few years everyone always ends up running the same engine format.

      When turbo’s were banned for 1989 you had V8/V10/V12’s but by the mid 90’s it was obvious the V10 was the best all round configuration so everyone went towards that. With the turbo’s you initially had a few different configurations but by 1988 a 1.5ltr V6 was the layout of choice because it was the best compromise between power, reliability & fuel efficiency.

      Same would happen if they opened things up again now. Maybe to start with you would see a few different engine types but within 5 years everyone would be converging on whatever format was proving to be best.

  7. That no engine manufacturer wants to join F1 isn’t a surprise when you look at what happened to the last engine maker who arrived. Honda went with McClueless and wasted millions and 3 years with a team who blamed them for not winning, when the McLaren chassis was rubbish. Currently there are only 3 teams who might go with a new engine (one of them being McLaren!!), the others Williams and Racing Point are already running a great engine and not winning.

    F1 only has 10 teams anyway, so why the need for a new engine?

    1. Yeah because as we all know when Honda was with McLaren they supplied them with the most reliable engine ever build. It was so good they never had one failure at all……. Fact is go look at McLaren’s results in 2017 and you’ll see they actually did have a decent car. Honda was absolutely useless when they returned to f1 and they only started catching up when they started hiring staff from Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault which they refused to do when at McLaren.

      1. I glad to see you spotted that Honda hadn’t made an engine for several years and realise that it takes some time to catch up with other manufacturers. Only a foolish team would expect a completely new engine to be a front runner straight out of the box. McLaren didn’t help matters by insisting their chassis had tight engine packaging, which cause overheating and admitted they’ve had many poorly handling chassis prior to taking the Honda engine. McLaren needed to get over their arrogant attitude and approached things differently, allowing Honda to fix their teething problems, then they might have been more successful in later seasons. Not many engine makers get it right first time, look at Renault.

  8. Indycar has only two engine manufacturers so F1 seems pretty good with 4 Manufacturers.

    1. Ronny, and, in many ways, a comparison with series such as IndyCar does highlight a key question – are a lot of people here making a mistake in automatically assuming that there are hoards of manufacturers just waiting to enter any of the major motorsport series right now?

      Look, for example, at IndyCar – the regulations for that series are a lot simpler, and a number of components for those engines are standardised altogether (such as the turbochargers). However, despite the fact that Honda and Chevrolet have been pressuring, and pretty much begging, the organisers of the IndyCar series to find new manufacturers, they have failed – despite a lower barrier to entry, nobody wants to enter. As it happens, just as Porsche was in the frame for F1, so IndyCar has recently been trying to tempt Porsche to join then – which has failed completely.

      The WEC is also facing a similar crisis at the moment over the LMP1 class, where no manufacturers want to enter as a full team – even though the ACO’s intention was for budgets to be around $15-20 million, most manufacturers aren’t interested and there are questions over what will happen to the independents in the series as well. Furthermore, the GTE class, which had been one of the areas of success for the ACO, is now contracting given that BMW and Ford are both pulling out.

      There are not a great deal of motorsport series where you have that much enthusiasm from anybody, independent or OEM alike, for entering en masse. For all the disparagement that Formula E gets from a number of quarters on this site, it’s one of the few series where you have seen strong interest from independents and manufacturers and where the recent trend has been for growth in the number of entrants.

      It’s not just F1 that is facing a squeeze, but motorsport in general that is facing issues with both manufacturer and independent suppliers.

  9. MB (@muralibhats)
    5th June 2019, 13:46

    I dont get how the road relevancy of f1 matters nowadays or in future. There was a time when people were actually interested in the mechanisms of engine and car.. but future gens are all automation and softwares. People get excited in what technology is present at their fingertips than under the hood. No one goes to see a f1 race to find out which car is doing good to buy a car. The percentage of people whom f1 will cater to will shrink IMO.

    1. MB (@muralibhats)
      5th June 2019, 13:50

      Moreover, its not rewarding anymore as teams and engines are more reliable and new entrants cannot just produce race winning engines. Their efforts and money are worthwhile elsewhere

  10. Whatever happened to the idea of a ‘global core engine’ standard to which different categories would add extra components to accommodate their particular specifications? Also, if we are talking 2035…surely hydrogen fuel cell must be part of the discussion. I just wonder how would they sound…although it should not be any worse than battery powered.

  11. Great article.

    For all of the clamour for noisy, dramatic V10s or V12s, there’s no evidence that manufactures will turn up.

    As stated, cost caps on engines mean that even if they’re cheaper, they still likely would be made at a loss. Even so, if people want a more powerful Naturally Aspirated engine than the current near 1,000 bhp turbos would need huge investment. Far from being simpler, the cost of investing in the required materials and engine tech to get over 1,000 bhp without Turbo or hybrid tech would be far higher than people expect.

    This, added to the increasing irrelevance of Naturally Aspirated engines in road cars, even at the high end, only spells a complete lack of actual viability of a return to the past.

    The effects of doing so would also be cosmetic at best. A change to the business model of Formula 1, a return to Free to Air television and getting eyes on the sport from the grassroots upwards is required. The FIA are investing in e-sports, which is the right move, but the barrier to watch the pinnacles of the sport must be removed.

    Do this, and manufactures (And sponsors) will see the paper loss of providing engines for the sport mitigated by people seeing their favourite car makers on the grid.

    We wont see a return to Naturally Aspirated engines in Formula 1. Even lower formula and other racing types are moving towards hybrids such as the WRC and BTCC/DTM. It’s time to let them go, and salute the service of the screaming V12s and V10s to history of the sport.

    1. Well it would certainly help cut costs by returning to a less complex engine and perhaps that not only entices more manufacturers of engines, but more car manufacturers and teams also. Costs are out of control with the current engines.

  12. I’d love to see what would result if manufacturers were given a set of dimensions and a max fuel capacity/flow rate and then left to come up with whatever solution they wanted.

    1. Nobody will turn up.

      Look at WEC.

      They literally tore up the rulebook they were about to create because manufactures wanted a “Hypercar” concept. So they worked with them to create a set of rules to attract them and manufactures STILL didn’t actually want to commit.

      I’m afraid, there’s lots of mythology about getting manufactures into the sport. One of them being “If only the engines were simpler”. Simpler how? Removing components? That just means you’ll either end up with less horsepower, or have to push the elements that are there even harder to recover the difference. Neither will be cheap. Getting over 1,000 bhp for a race engine is never cheap, no matter what way you get there.

      The current engines have had their R&D, the costs are sunk. Changing will cost more than sticking and evolving the concept and changing may well end up losing, rather than gaining manufacture support.

      1. Well said @stopitrawr; recently we had that article (hm, was it in Dutch motorsport that I read that?) about a Porsche engine guy saying they had it the engine all ready to go but then F1 didn’t go for new engines; now, he may believe that’s how it went, but, as this article shows, that timeline isn’t quite consistent with what happened. There wasn’t enough commitment from the top to let FIA frustrate the active manufacturers.

        1. One could argue that the manufactures in fact don’t do any good to F1. Usually they are here only for marketing purposes, they are not really committed to the sport on the long run, only to their shareholders. Also, since F1 adhered to the road relevance mantra imposed by manufacturers + pay wall, + things started to go down. I wonder what good they do to F1? Now it’s impossible to decide any regulation, because they don’t cater for manufacturers interests. Also , they injected so many money into their teams that this created a monster. Maybe it’s naive but I think F1 would be much better without manufacturers, but with real teams.

      2. @stopitrawr — totally nailed it! That said, I’d also love the kind of a loosen regulation.

  13. Only thing going for f1 at the moment is that it is still the fastest formula in lap time. It is a terribly uncompetitive sport. It is ridiculous actually when watching as a tv viewer how bad the racing is compared to other high level racing series. Basically the finishing order is fastest car to slowest car, and the driver has very little say on disrupting that order.

    1. F1oSaurus (@)
      6th June 2019, 20:48

      There is no other high level seaies even remotely on the same level as F1.

      You could go for the closest step down with F2 and IndyCar, but for instance IndyCar is only made “exciting” by lumping a horde of incompetent drivers which trigger safety car periods. It’s basically a string of something like 10 to 30 sprint races ech over a few laps. With drivers being randomly caught out or favored tremendously on strategy due to all those safety cars. That’s not “racing”! It’s more like a car variant of “musical chairs” where in the end a random car is in front to win the race.

  14. RocketTankski
    5th June 2019, 15:38

    V-8, phase four heads, twin overhead cams, 600 horsepower through the wheels..

  15. RACEFANS: The recent articles about tires, teams and engines have been excellent. I promise to provide monetary support very shortly. (need my pants!) :Q

  16. Return to a normally aspirated, 12-cylinder engine mated to a manual gearbox. I do miss the siren song of a v-12 on full chat.

    1. Don’t forget to include wire wheels, cross-ply tyres and drum brakes. And carburettors.

      1. And leather helmets and fancy scarfs

        1. @jimmi-cynic – you’ve been keeping a bit of a low profile recently. All well?

  17. I’m disappointed that Liberty haven’t really achieved anything apart from a rebrand and removing grid girls, it’s almost as if Bernie leaving has made no difference at all. 5 more years of Mercedes domination will kill this entertainment product.

    1. I don’t think it would take 5 more years. For people like me, another year of the Mercedes and Hamilton show and I may just migrate to Indycar.

    2. @emu55 totally agree about Liberty. I’m not positive 5 more years of Mercedes dominance is gonna kill the entertainment, but I’m sure the fan base will change drastically.

      1. @emu55 They are going as contractually fast as they can. And even if those contracts didn’t exist they were never going to make more knee-jerk decisions ala BE. They want as much as possible everyone on the same page working towards a much better product and a healthy long term future. They’ve barely gotten started, mostly by contract and by desire, so there is everything to play for yet. What Liberty has achieved so far is to spell out the overall plan, and the teams seem for the most part quite on board with the majority of it for when this can all be enacted post-2020 contracts.

  18. People are usually quick to blame the turbo hybrids for the lack of interest from manufacturer’s, However it’s not as if there was any more interest when F1 had the simpler/cheaper V8’s.

    And the likes of Cosworth weren’t exactly able to produce a decent engine either, There V8 was uncompetitive & unreliable to the point nobody really wanted to use it. Cosworth has a rich history but it’s often ignored that there success in F1 always came while producing the factory Ford engine with full backing from Ford. They have never had success in F1 as a truly independent engine builder like they are now.

    1. There were 6 OEM suppliers of V8s – BMW, Ferrari, Honda, Mercedes, Renault and Toyota – plus Cosworth.

      1. I was seriously disappointed in the V8 era that no manufacturer tried to commercialize the F1 V8 concept and put a (dumbed down of course) unit in a road car. I was looking forward to a 2.4 V8 BMW 3 series (estate of course).
        Best explanation I came across was from Flavio B, that the 2.4 was stupidly expensive to build because of the internals and geometry. He also went to say that the V10s were cheaper to build and run. Since he sort of ran Mecachrome at the time, maybe he knew a thing or two.

      2. @dieterrencken, over the long term, though, we saw that diminish to four OEM’s and Cosworth, and the latter only really staying on because Marussia couldn’t afford anything better, not because they actually wanted to use the CA2010 series engine.

        PeterG is right that, in the years that came after the loss of BMW and Toyota, those regulations for the V8 engines were not attracting new entrants – OEMs didn’t want to enter, nor did any new independent entrants. There might be calls to return to that formula, but I struggle to see what has changed since then that would result in any more interest than we had in the past.

        @rekibsn, to be blunt, in some respects BMW’s road car engines were more advanced than the engines they were building in F1. They were interesting in terms of material science, but the overall concept was not really that sophisticated and, in some respects, not that great overall.

      3. @dieterrencken

        Cough.. Ilmoor (with German cash)
        and iirc Cosworth produced the highest revving V8 before the limit came in.

  19. The Green lobby has got even formula one die hards thinking past the sale to a life of electric cars and queues stretching for miles to ‘fill up’. I remember the 70’s and petrol shortages, unless battery tech gets orders of magnitude better, we are going back there.

    There appears to be a case to answer on particulates and NOx, easily solved by hybrid technology and battery power in high density traffic, but hey isn’t that what F1 is investing in?

    The CO2 thing is not a problem, everything that has happened since it started to rise in the industrial age has been good. If you don’t believe this, then go away and research this question ‘what is the ideal amount of CO2 and why’? When you have that answer come back and tell us about it.

    1. @frasier

      lol we need less cars full stop. Even if they run on cow farts.
      We’ve been over sold them. It seems the younger generation arn’t falling for it.

  20. Which sane OEM would throw gazillions at power units that do not, by design, provide competitive advantages? That surely is the name of the OEM game?

    Manufacturers do not always enter f1 to gain a competitive edge throwing billions on engine design. More level playing field is also attractive to manufacturers. Formula e is pretty cheap but it also pretty much guarantees that everybody has a chance to win. There is no engine advantage in formula e like there is in f1 yet there are already 6 manufacturer teams in formula e.

    Meanwhile f1 has all the worst aspect of motorsports engine. High costs, high complexity, long development time from backmarker to mid field, stagnant rules with competitors who have 6+ year head start, big variance in engine performance and almost total reliance on needing to make both the car and the engine to be competitive (be a mercedes or a ferrari). The issue is exactly the opposite as you say. In f1 the engine is too important and too expensive for any sane manufacturer to come in.

  21. There is no need for new engine manufactures.

  22. This is a genuinely good read; great job Mr Rencken!

  23. Mercedes wern’t a new engine manufacturer, nor do they have any relation to the vintage Mercedes outfit. They simply threw cash at British company Ilmoor to put their sticker on the cam covers, followed by buying a large stake when the owner was killed in a plane crash.
    When the next recession kicks-in and Mercedes reduce their funding, the British company will probably be re-branded as it will likely be uncompetitive. A lot obviously depends on Renault and Ferrari’s finances as we see more mergers taking palce in the motor industry. Honda have pulled out in a heart beat before.
    We’ve already reached ‘peak motor car’. Smaller two-wheeled personal transport sees massive growth.

    1. F1oSaurus (@)
      6th June 2019, 21:03

      Ilmor was working with Renault since 2015 and is currently working with Honda.

  24. John Newhouse
    6th June 2019, 10:28

    Would a simple ‘solution’ not be to switch the engine formula to a spec that is already out there?

    I appreciate that’s a massive over-simplification of the issue, but look at it another way. The current process appears to require a number of rival (and self-interested) parties trying to agree via committee a format that’s designed to be future proof and stay relevant for roughly the better part of a decade. How is that result of that work ever going to benefit the sport? It’s a staggering amount of arrogance on behalf of those involved to think it ever could.

    Technology moves on at an incredible rate, and yet F1 wants to sign itself up to a decade down a blind alley.

    For a sport that sells itself as being the fastest sport on earth, the politicking and bureaucracy surrounding engine formula and Concorde agreements is painfully, painfully slow. I mean we’re sat here in 2019, just as we were in 2018 (and even before that) awaiting 2021, or 2025, before we might see an end to the current malaise.

  25. “which all four manufacturers have (now) mastered.” Time for the FIA to make changes to the regulations. :/

  26. Formula 1?
    It should be called MERCEDES HAMILTON show

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