Tatiana Calderon, Alfa Romeo, Paul Ricard, 2019

Why do Formula 1 teams still use their old V8 cars so often?

Dieter's Inbox

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Alfa Romeo is running a test this weekend for F2 drivers Tatiana Calderon and Juan Manuel Correa. But instead of driving a recent V6 hybrid turbo car, the pair are running a 2013-specification machine with a V8 engine.

Why do teams still prefer to use the old kit for tests like this and demonstration runs? @DieterRencken explains.

Demonstration runs are designed to ‘wow’ the crowds, whether they be at demos runs such as those staged regularly across the globe by Red Bull, or at one of F1’s official fan festivals. Anybody who has heard one of those screaming 18,500rpm, open-exhausted 2006-2013 V8s running cannot fail to be impressed, even if the cars are driven in semi-anger under controlled conditions on a tight ‘circuit’.

The reason for the choice of power unit is simple: There are plenty of (relatively) cheap powertrains around, plus teams have eight seasons of cars to choose from. Even allowing for museum pieces and sell-offs, most would have access to at least 10 cars from that period. Those which don’t use cars from other teams painted in a suitable livery. While dedicated F1 fans may spot the differences between wings and paint schemes, demonstration runs are a means of attracting new fans, and they are not going to know.

The question, though, is whether these demo runs send out the right message: On the one hand F1 punts its hybrid message, powered by, of necessity, turbo-dampened engines; on the other, the sport markets itself via ancient technologies that are, if anything, massively misleading. Imagine being sufficiently enthralled by V8 engine wails to shell a few hundred quid for a grand prix ticket, then find the real thing is rather quieter.

For years Red Bull boss Christian Horner banged on about how wonderful the V8s were understandable given his team creamed both titles for four years on the bounce with those old iron units. But I note he’s changed his tune since receiving (free) Honda power after five years of paying top dollar for Renaults.

The use of V8 units for unofficial young driver tests is, if anything, more bewildering: The same commercial and logistics reasons apply as above, but surely the objective of F1 seat time is to evaluate a youngster’s potential as F1 driver, and that can surely only be determined by sticking him in a car as current as the regulations permit.

A Formula 1 driver’s job is primarily to master the technology of the day, and thus evaluating a driver through the use of antiquated technology – think 80bhp push-to-pass KERS bolted to a 700bhp V8 – hardly provides an indicator of how well he/she will fare in a current car boosted to 1,000bhp by a turbo and double the hybrid complement. Now factor in tricky brake-by-wire systems, plus a gazillion mode settings.

Teams are allowed to run the V6 cars: Clause 10.2 of the Sporting Regulations allows “Testing of Previous Cars (TPC)”, provided the car was ‘”designed and built to comply with the Formula One Technical Regulations of any of the three calendar years falling immediately prior to the calendar year preceding the Championship”. Teams may therefore use cars complying with the 2015-17 regulations, provided they are “built to the specification of the period.”

Another requirement is that they use “only tyres manufactured specifically for this purpose.”

Testing of Historic Cars (THC) is permitted “using cars which were designed and built in order to comply with Formula One Technical Regulations in force during the years preceding 2015”. So the decision to test Tatiana Calderon and Juan Manuel Correa at Paul Ricard with a 2013-spec (V8) C32 is curious given that the team could legally run a hybrid-specification C33. That would surely provide more relevant benchmarks.

However, such tests would mean prying hybrid-spec engines out of Ferrari. Therefore I believe the decision rests mainly on economic and promotional factors, rather than being runs undertaken primarily for driver evaluation purposes. Given their low FIA superlicence points tallies, both drivers are some way from being ready to step up to F1.

The introduction of new technical regulations for the 2021 F1 season will create further complications. This will see, among other changes, a switch to 18-inch wheels. Will Pirelli be required to continue providing 13-inch rubber for demo runs and unofficial tests? If so, the older cars are going to be even further from the current standard.


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    35 comments on “Why do Formula 1 teams still use their old V8 cars so often?”

    1. “Imagine being sufficiently enthralled by V8 engine wails to shell a few hundred quid for a grand prix ticket, then find the real thing is rather quieter.”

      I dont think anyone in here have to imagine that…

      1. V6 era… The same day I stopped bothering going to live F1 races.

        1. I’ve only been to one live F1 race, the 2017 Belgian Grand Prix.

          I don’t remember finding the sound disappointing.

          I’ve also heard a 2.4 V8 Red Bull at a car festival.
          The noise was rubbish and I can’t work out why everyone claims that it’s part of the appeal

          1. I’m curious as to why you thought it sounded bad?

            1. The V8 engines only have the loudness to go for them. The actual noise itself is very flat and soulless, unlike the V6 turbos, which have a lot of pops and bangs and the whole shebang, a much nore exciting sound to hear, if you will.

          2. The 2018 onwards V6 turbo hybrids sound better than the 2014 originals – louder and more aggressive. I don’t miss the V8s but I do miss the V10s and the whole post original turbo era where we had V8s, V10s and V12s all together. The 1995 Ferrari 3 litre V12 is possibly the most spectacular thing I have ever heard up close. Old man yelling at clouds…

            1. I know what you mean the memories :)

          3. @nvherman I have to admit I was disappointed by the engine sound when I went to last year’s Hungarian Grand Prix. Turns out that the engine-cutting pops, bleeps and angular tonalities are even more obvious – and more unpleasantly jarring to the ear – live than on TV.

            The Porsche Supercup engines sounded more impressive, and that was worrying.

      2. Best F1 memory: Hungaroring 1995… Ferrari V12 that you could hear screaming from the other side of the track above the other cars V10’s… Those were the days.

        Yup, I’m getting old.

    2. The cars are still enough of a step up to challenge the drivers and evaluate their skill.

    3. For that last bit:
      Doesn’t AVON is the tyre manufacturer catering to historic cars?
      Also I guess Pirelli will make tires for any spec if they get profit out of it.

    4. I believe that, provided the team did not crash too much that year, they all must have enough spare parts from previous generations.

      And what better opportunity to use It than letting rookies drive It. If you are testing two at the same time to see who’s taking GIO’s seat (not the case with Corrêa and Calderon I guess) all you need is comparing the delta between the two drivers.

      Or If it’s just a pay-per-ride rental agreement test package, 2013 year model must have a much cheaper daily rate than last years model…

      Loved the 18.000 RPM sound, by the way. But It does not bother me that It has been replaced by 130.000 RPM turbine whining, a muffled pré ignition noise and a robotic eletric motors at corner exits.

    5. Also with current width tyres the showcars must corner the fastest. Best way to test speed is to drive the quickest cars you can get your hands on.

      1. If they wanna corner fast they should try some of the Honda powered Mclarens.

        1. @rethla I see what you did there.

    6. So it’s simply about cost. What’s all the fuss about?

      1. Summer break is about manufacturing fuss

    7. Mercedes is the team that’s most prominently been using the hybrid V6-powered cars for demo runs and other non-race weekend runs. Last year they solely used the W07, while at present, they’re using W08, which, of course, is the most-recent car they can use without any mileage-restrictions. Ferrari have also been using, at least, the SF15-T, and Renault have recently started to use the R.S.17, so, in short, teams who use their own/in-house built PUs seem to be more willing to use the hybrid era-cars than teams who use PUs provided by another manufacturer.

      1. @jerejj
        In other words those who could get test data out of it ;)

    8. The V10’s sounded even better. Awesome harmonies that don’t quite exist in V8 or V12 engines.

      1. Agreed…Although the V12s will always have a special place ringing in my ears. The torqueless V8s, however, will never be remembered fondly by me.

        1. @jimmi-cynic
          In what way where the v8s torqueless compared to the V10s and V12s?

          1. Well, losing out on quite a lot of displacement doesn’t help.

            I remember when F1 cars had 3.5 V10s and V12s. Then the 3.0 V10s weren’t too bad.

            But the 2.4 V8? Sorry, but 18,000 rpm to develop less power confirms their lack of torque

          2. The v8s had a lot less torque because fewer cyliders and smaller displacement. One of the things schumacher commented after driving the v8s was the lack of torque. A 3liter v10 has enough torque on lower gears (and a lot more power) so you don’t need to be in the right gear all the time every time but in the v8 you are always missing out if are not in the sweet spot.

            I don’t think there was anything fundmentally wrong with the v8s. Fia wanted to make the cars slower because v10s were getting so quick. Smaller displacement v8 that was cheaper but not much lighter was the answer. Having the cars rev up to 20k was awesome. Small displacement meant more revs = more power.

            1. @socksolid
              So we are talking a smaller powerband and not less torque then. Im all for high revs and narrow powerbands in race engines, it makes the engines super responsive and at the same time hard to drive.

            2. It also makes it hard to shortshift your way around low grip situations which is an added bonus.

            3. I meant wide powerband yes. I don’t think narrow powerband really makes the engines more difficult to drive. Just harder to drive fast because the car bogs down if the rpms are too low. When the engine bogs down you just go slower which in itself is not difficult. Just slow. Turbo delay makes the engines harder to drive in both ways. Get on power too late and the engine takes too long to pick up and too early and the boost comes too early and unsettles the car. Sadly the turbo lag is completely eliminated the in hybrids with electronics. But even in v10 while it had some torque outside the light weight of the car made it feel faster. 140kg less compared to modern car with same hp peak number and the v10 gets that number every time the driver wants it whereas in hybrid the peak is available only for 33 seconds per lap if the previous lap is spent harvesting the energy…

            4. @socksolid, why do you keep repeating the claim of “the peak is available only for 33 seconds per lap if the previous lap is spent harvesting the energy…”, when that claim is based on an incorrect interpretation of the regulations?

              You keep relying on that single article from Racecar Engineering from six years ago, which was written up based on the draft regulation package. Maybe you might want to read the articles from F1Technical that have dissected that claim and have proven that it is actually wrong, as the unlimited transfer of energy between the MGU-K and MGU-H means that supposed “33 second” rule does not actually exist? Or are you going to start slandering them as well because they are producing articles which don’t fit your prejudices?

    9. Maybe because you don’t need 30 guys and 4 hours just to start it

      1. This is the real reason they used those engines just a group of 4 guys are enough.

    10. So the decision to test Tatiana Calderon and Juan Manuel Correa at Paul Ricard with a 2013-spec (V8) C32 is curious given that the team could legally run a hybrid-specification C33.

      But the C33 was rubbish! Personally I’d rather the C31.

      I guess part of the car choice would depend on who is paying and how much. If I was paying, I would probably want to drive a V8 over a V6, even if it was no longer relevant. Especially if I was never realistically gonna get a paid drive in a V6!

    11. Daniel Neukirch
      25th August 2019, 2:15

      “Sticking HIM in a car”…???

    12. Can’t believe FIA uses THC acronym to describe Testing of Historic Cars!

    13. Cameron Heath
      26th August 2019, 1:43

      Why…cause they miss the days when yiu needed ear protection at a racetrack.
      For those who think the V8s were soulless compared to a turbo that whooshs and pops ,which is all just “look at me” hysteronics …you people need of A get a real car and B…Testosterone .

    14. “those old iron units”?

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