Mercedes F1 power units

F1 plans to freeze teams’ power unit designs in 2023

2023 F1 season

Posted on

| Written by and

Formula 1 intends to freeze teams’ power unit designs from the 2023 season, ahead of the introduction of new engine regulations.

RaceFans understands new rules are under discussion which will progressively limit how often power units can be upgraded, leading to a full freeze of the designs in 2023.

Previously, each power unit design had to be homologated for a single season. This requirement will be dropped as some specifications will be used for more than one year.

Power unit manufacturers will be allowed to introduce new specifications of engine, turbo and MGU-H once per year in 2021, 2022 and 2023. The specification will then be frozen for subsequent seasons.

Their MGU-K, energy store and control electronics will be subject to tighter restrictions. Teams may introduce a new design for each of these before the end of 2021, and a further new specification of each for the two-year period covering 2022-23. These will then be frozen.

Teams will also be required to ensure any changes they do make to their power units do not significantly alter how they are installed within a chassis.

The FIA is planning a new engine formula for 2025 to replace the current V6 hybrid turbo power unit regulations which were introduced in 2014. Progressively freezing the current designs will allow power unit manufacturers to make significant savings on their developments costs at a time when budgets are under serious pressure as a result of the pandemic.

Revised regulations detailing the changes have been circulated to the teams and are expected to be approved this week.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2020 F1 season

Browse all 2020 F1 season articles

Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

34 comments on “F1 plans to freeze teams’ power unit designs in 2023”

  1. Really curious to see what new engine formula will be and hoping more engine manufacturers join F1.

  2. If the economic recession strikes hard, I wouldn’t be surprised for a few seasons of single engine provider.

    1. @pironitheprovocateur I think the difference here might be that most of these engine manufacturers have already invested hundreds of millions, if not billions into developing their power units, and there isn’t any overhaul planned for power units for at least 4-5 seasons. And given the development freeze that will be introduced, it would make more sense than ever for the current power unit manufacturers to stay in F1. Costs will be low to develop the power units, plus they will still receive exposure from F1. I believe it is more likely for works teams to leave F1 than their engine departments because you need to develop a new car every single season with a complete overhaul every few years. That’s not the case for power units, as you can basically have the same model year-on-year with some minor changes.

  3. Progressively freezing the current designs will allow power unit manufacturers to make significant savings on their developments costs

    Yeah… Wasn’t it the same for the end of the V8 regulation ? It didn’t prevent Mercedes to outspend everyone else. It will surely mean savings for the current engine formula development, but how could they limit the spendings for the next formula development ? If I remember correctly, budget caps do not apply to engine departments or am I wrong ?

    1. @halleck Mercedes didn’t outspend everybody else. Stop making stuff up.

      1. Mercedes started developing their turbo engines for formula one back in 2010, studying individual cylinder mechanics. Not sure if they outspent other manufacturers, but its likely they spent a bit more for that.

  4. They should freeze it earlier if possible… although they need to make sure –
    1) Ferrari’s engine cheats aren’t frozen in.
    2) Honda and Renault stops taking steps backwards and finally get competitive
    3) That they sort out all the BS that will be thrown at them by Toto, Binotto and Horner

    1. @todfod – heh, the first thing I thought of was “Heh, Renault better get it right quickly!”

      1. @phylyp good one! At the rate they haven’t so far, I wouldn’t be confident they can make it by 2023.

        1. I’m sure Renault will still be allowed their special ‘reliability’ upgrades.

  5. I hope the new engine formula will allow for lighrer and shorter cars. No idea what will be mandated, but if the workings can be packaged into smaller confines and with less weight, I would be happy.

    1. Ditching the awful hybrid system would achieve that, and also come with the bonuses of saving $10’s of millions on F1-specific development costs, eliminating environmental damage caused by lithium battery manufacture and decommissioning, and allowing the engines to sing again.
      The cars could then be lighter, shorter and narrower. With less surface area, the aerodynamics will also be far less effective.

      And the vast, vast majority of F1 viewers will be happier.

      1. The V8 engines that came before this were horrendously expensive, costing teams far more than they were ever supposed to until the FIA artificially fixed the price of those engines below their production cost.

        Rob White and Remi Taffin confirmed that, even with the development freeze that was meant to reduce costs, Renault were still spending €120 million a year and needed a workforce of around 300 (and the engine cost rules meant they were making a €60 million loss on those engines).

        As for supposedly saving “millions on F1-specific development costs”, considering the design requirements for those engines, you ended up with considerable amount of development going into them that were “F1 specific development costs” – in many ways, most of those older higher revving engines were really sub-optimal designs (the bore/stroke ratio, for example, is quite inefficient and only really adopted because of the necessity to rev to a high level to produce a reasonable amount of power).

      2. Rob White and Remi Taffin confirmed that, even with the development freeze that was meant to reduce costs, Renault were still spending €120 million a year and needed a workforce of around 300 (and the engine cost rules meant they were making a €60 million loss on those engines).

        That’s because Renault kept developing their V8 engine till the last race in the V8 era since the FIA allowed manufacturers to update their engines to improve reliability. In 2008, there was a significant power deficit between the Renault and the Ferrari/Mercedes engines. On that basis, Renault were allowed to re-tune their engine in order to catch up with their rivals.

        The power deficit remained throughout the 2009 season and in Monza the teams were in discussion with the FIA about leveling the playing field and Christian Horner was complaining as usual. The FIA were in favor of the idea, however they made it clear that it must be achieved by de-tuning the best engine and not allowing updates for the worst engine.

        Over the next seasons, Renault continued to update their engine for reliability purposes and pioneered the use of clever engine mapping to feed hot exhaust gases to the diffuser which served as a baseline to Newey’s radical high rake design philosophy.

        So there wasn’t a complete freeze imposed on engine development and despite complaining a lot about Ferrari and Mercedes, Renault ended up having the most sophisticated engine at the end of the V8 era.

      3. Yeah, get VW involved and bring in the diesels before we all die from lithium poisoning.

      4. kevin citron
        26th May 2020, 17:34

        underappreciated facts


    2. @eurobrun The reason the cars are so long is mainly down to aero as it allows them to have a larger floor area at the back of the car & around the gearbox. This area will likely be even more crucial with the 2022 regulations.

      The cars could then be lighter, shorter and narrower.

      Lighter maybe but shorter/narrower no. They made the cars wider (Back to pre 1998 widths) to have a wider floor area which will allow them to have better/more efficient ground effects when those regs come into effect in 2022.

      Making the cars narrower would just keep the emphasis on aero just as it did in 1998 which was one of the things a lot of drivers at that time warned & complained about.

      1. Its not just aero, a lot of it is safety. Such as the drivers legs and pedals no longer being allowed in the nose cone, there’s an extra metre. The rear crash structure, fuel tanks that need to hold a full race worths. As the cars have become longer the more surface area the aero teams have to work with.

        1. Feet behind the rear axle is from the early nineties iirc. We still have a mandated weight balance between front/rear, stretching the cars out longer. Saving weight by making cars shorter? The teams don’t want that, they want to keep the underfloor gains. Ziggo is showing year reviews these days and those nineties cars looked so much better than the current crop.

  6. *facepalm*

    What a bunch of cretins

  7. Sush Meerkat
    25th May 2020, 15:33

    Looks like it’s bad news for my team Renault

  8. It’s just not really F1 anymore is it.

    F1 is about performance, Innovation, Technical excellence & pushing the boundaries.

    The previous awful V8 era was awful in that regard as everything was very samey with no development or pushing of anything been done, Hence why most of the manufacturer’s hated them. I actually maintain that the V8 era from 2006-2013 was the most boring in the sports history from a technical/development standpoint & that is kinda what F1 is meant to be about above all else, It’s certainly what puts it above evrything else.

    If you don’t have that you just have Indycar+, A budget series that lacks everything that makes F1 what it is.

    1. It hasn’t really been F1 for quite awhile. They are just nickel and diming it to death. A few new restrictions like this every year for the past 25 years has left us with these weird abortions where they are spending millions on aero on the front wing and a few other designated spots and nothing on the rest. I keep waiting for F1 to do something so awful that I can finally quit watching, but they don’t. It’s a death by a thousand cuts. I really want to quit, but it’s worse than heroin as an addiction.
      You’re right the V8’s were the worst time period.

    2. Gavin Campbell
      26th May 2020, 8:45

      So the whole blown diffuser thing? Flexi-wings etc. There was loads of clever development.

      Also with a naturally aspirated V8 engine you can tinker with it a bit but there are unlikely to be anything clever or innovative done. The V6 Turbo hybrids have had huge amounts of clever developments and thermal effeicency never seen before.

      Also in the early years of the V6’s it switched it to more of an engine formula as you saw with Williams doing so well and McLaren Honda failing so badly.

      The engine freeze for a year or two is to allow the engine manufacturers to switch development to the new formula and not double their spend. The V8 freeze and restrictions lasted far too long.

      1. Blown diffusers are a decades old idea – Ducarouge invented it back in 1982, and quite a lot of cars used blown diffusers until the early 2000’s (when Ferrari led the trend for periscope exhausts, which didn’t produce the same peak downforce, but we’re superior as they produced a more consistent level of downforce).

  9. I think large manufacturers will scale back considerably in the future leaving it to the boutique sports car brands and specialist engine tuners. I posted a fascinating article on the FB page about synthetic fuels in F1 and how it would allow F1 to ditch hybrids and go back to ICE but with no environmental issues. That leaves space for the independent engine tuners and builders. Combine this with manufacturers using hydrogen and electric and you have some interesting prospects. It will just take awhile to get there. You may see F1 go the way of Hart, Megatron, Supertec, Cosworth and Gibson in the short term to carry them over. Only Ferrari would stay I am thinking.

    1. Mark, I presume you are aware that, when you say F1 could “go the way of Hart, Megatron, Supertec, Cosworth and Gibson in the short term to carry them over”, most of those companies haven’t existed for decades? Hart was dissolved back in 2002 when TWR, which had bought the company, went bankrupt, whilst Megatron disappeared in 1989 and Supertec went bankrupt in 2001.

      Even Cosworth is a rather different beast these days, with their business now more oriented towards being a supplier of electronic management systems for OEM companies and touting their expertise with hybrid technology.

      Quite a few of those traditional engine tuners haven’t survived to today because there is a far more limited market for them now. Series such as Formula 4 use road car production engines, which cuts out the need for independent manufacturers by using cheaper mass produced engines – similarly, in the US the equivalent series, such as the Indy Lights series or Pro 2000 (formerly Pro Mazda) series also use production derived engines for that purpose.

      Elsewhere, other series that have ostensibly ‘simple’ engine regulations aren’t attracting those independent manufacturers either – there are no independents in IndyCar, nor in the Superformula series either. The main areas where those independents exist are in gaps where major manufacturers are basically not allowed in – Mechachrome having the monopoly rights for Formula 2 and Formula 3 engines or Gibson having a monopoly for LMP2 engines.

  10. The FIA is planning a new engine formula for 2025 to replace the current V6 hybrid turbo power unit regulations which were introduced in 2014. Progressively freezing the current designs will allow power unit manufacturers to make significant savings on their developments costs at a time when budgets are under serious pressure as a result of the pandemic.

    My initial reaction was “No, not again”, but if the power unit manufacturers want this, then I’m happy with it.

    1. @drycrust, No doubt they are expecting battery development to be ready for F1 in 2025.

      1. @hohum Now that you mention it, I still think teams should be allowed to trade off fuel capacity with battery weight, so they reduce the volume of the fuel tank and increase the capacity of the battery system.

  11. Sensible to limit development on an engine which is going to be replaced soon.

    As for the replacement engine formula, I think a simple power cap is all that is required. Everything else is carte blanche.

    If everyone has the same power, you won’t have a baked in disadvantage for engine manufacturers that don’t have the budget. The innovation comes from usability, packaging/weight, reliability and fuel consumption. The excitement comes from variety. Let the teams pick a design which is also relevant to their road cars. I want to hear a thunderous Mercedes V8 alongside whatever Ferrari decide to do.

    1. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if every team ended up using turbocharged V6 engines anyway if an engine formula that allowed freedom in terms of design was instituted. The closest we’ve come to this in the (relatively) modern era was 1987-88, and the dominant engine in both years was a 1.5 turbo V6 (others were running everything from 1.5 turbo I4s to NA V8s). It’s a design that is compact and efficient, and I don’t think that many manufacturers would give up these attributes for some romantic connection to their road cars, because first and foremost they want to win.

  12. Haven’t we learned anything from 2014, tokens and what happens if someone gets it right? We’ve wasted 2014-16 with this. It makes it harder for a new manufacturer to enter with engines, because you can’t update them. You have the grid penalty system as deterant for introducing to many engines.

Comments are closed.