Cosworth, 2010

F1 should consider return of independent engine manufacturers – Seidl

2020 Eifel Grand Prix

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McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl says the sport should consider whether it needs to attract independent engine manufacturers such as Cosworth back to the sport following the departure of Honda.

Cosworth left F1 at the end of 2013 when the new V6 hybrid turbo engine regulations were introduced.

Honda’s decision to withdraw from F1 at the end of next year has provoked a debate over F1’s next change of engine regulations in 2026. Seidl said there are “two possible directions” for the future of F1’s power unit technology, choosing between continued road relevance for automotive makes or a simpler, cheaper development only for racing.

Seidl emphasised that that decision had to be made before any future manufacturers would consider entering the sport.

“The key will be that Formula 1, along with FIA and teams and the engine manufacturers plus potential new manufacturers, work out now a clear plan of, first of all, how the next evolution of the power unit regulations, evolution or revolution, will look. Because I think that’s the key question that needs to be answered first.

“In the end, you have two possible directions. One is obviously to keep trying to have power units in a Formula 1 also in the future which are leading on technology and a platform to develop future road car technology also.

“Or you go in another direction,” he said, “Which means you simply go for power units that are a lot about a lot less complex and also a lot cheaper. Looking forward. I think that’s the key question that needs to be answered first before you then can also go into, let’s say, timeline’s of potential new newcomers coming into Formula 1.”

Potential new manufacturers should be involved in discussions over F1’s 2026 engine rules, Seidl added. “It’s also important for the FIA, to have discussions with the automotive industry or with potential other power unit manufacturers, even private ones, to see what’s the right direction to take on the power unit regulations.”

He said that private manufacturers – including Cosworth, who said the prohibitive cost of developing an MGU-H has kept them out of F1 – could be attracted to the sport with the right regulations and involvement, “There have been some good discussions, also initiatives in order to see how you could actually get costs down and simplify the power units also so in order to be more attractive for even the likes of Ilmor or Cosworth.”

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Formula One’s incoming CEO, ex-Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali, has experience of heading up automotive brands for the Volkswagen group, including leading the introduction of hybrids at Lamborghini. Seidl said that that made him the right person to steer the sport, with the new power unit regulations a priority; “I’m sure that’s something Stefano, together with Ross [Brawn] and Formula 1 will look into.

“Stefano is the right man to do this with all the experience he has, also working for the Volkswagen group. I’m sure that’s quite high up the list at the moment, in terms of priorities.”

Seidl said his own experience in the relatively budget-tight prototype programme showed that it was possible for innovative technologies to still be developed without escalating costs, “[If] you also take my experience from the from the past we have seen in in projects like LMP, for example, it’s definitely possible – with the help of the regulations and with the limitations on the budget side, which were self-imposed on our side at this time – that you can actually still have powertrains with the leading edge technology but for a lot less money. I think that’s something that needs to put on the table again.”

The possibility of bringing forward the introduction of new power units should also be kept open, said Seidl. “For me, the key question that needs to be answered first is what are the next power unit regulations? And from my point of view, this will that they find when it makes sense to introduce them.

“But, of course, if it helps to keep the three current ones on board and if it helps to actually get new manufacturers on board, then obviously we would fully support to put the regulations forward or to introduce them earlier.”

Seidl does not believe Honda’s decision to leave came about because of concerns over the popularity of the sport. “If you look at what happened in the sport in the last years, the platform or Formula 1 is as big or even bigger as it has always been, which is great.”

However he ruled out the possibility of new manufacturers coming into the sport before the new power unit rules are decided. “I think it’s not realistic, to be honest, from my point of view, at the moment, that any new manufacturer will enter Formula 1 in the next year, under these current regulations, because the investment you have to make, plus the time you also need in order to have a competitive package available is just too big and takes too long.”

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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...
Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a freelance journalist who roams the paddocks of Formula E, covering the technical and emotional elements of electric racing. Usually found at...

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35 comments on “F1 should consider return of independent engine manufacturers – Seidl”

  1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
    9th October 2020, 14:17

    This should be a priority for Formula One. It has the potential to improve the sport in so many ways. Certainly to help new and smaller teams.

    I’m a big fan of electric road cars, but no so much Formula E. It has a long way to go to become a competitor of Formula One, but admire its technical purity. Hybrids are just a half way house until EVs have become a more mature technology. This makes me think F1 should forego the pretense of road relevance and just go for a straight ICE only racing engine. Simpler, cheaper and louder. For me, that’s the way to go.

    1. Maybe F1 could opt for simple race engines but ditch fossil fuels and use a “green” high energy fuel for internal combustion engines.

      That way it’s old-style engines whilst maintaining green credentials.

      1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
        9th October 2020, 15:31

        With you on that one.

        1. Article 19 of the Technical Regulations. “19.4.4 A minimum of 5.75% (m/m) of the fuel must comprise bio-components.”
          No maximum indicated. So long as you meet all the other regulations for fuel components, oxygenates etc. this indicates that you have a wide range of options for what fuel you produce and where it comes from.
          You can already make it as “Green” as you like.

      2. From a PR/marketing point of view, there is not “green” high energy fuel available to F1.
        The current options are: ethanol from US or Brazil. I dont see F1 embracing a US fuel provider, plus it comes from corn and some will constrast fuel car to feeding people. Brazil ethanol will be – wrongly and almost immediately – deemed as a threat to rainforests (note, most of Brazilian ethanol is not produce in rainforest areas).
        Hidrogen does not seem close to relevance, distribution and efficiency to allow for a F1 fast adoption.
        Sorry, but which other “green” high energy fuel were you thinking of?

      3. …use a “green” high energy fuel for internal combustion engines.

        I’m not sure if hydrogen is considered a “green high energy fuel”, but as I understand it, most of the world’s production of hydrogen is derived from a hydrocarbon source such as methane, requires energy input to complete the chemical reaction, and leaves you with a carbon – oxide residue.

        1. F1 have the resources to secure supplies of either hydrogen or biofuel from an ethically sound source. If they did, it may well encourage industry to produce by sustainable processes.

    2. I’m in agreement with most of what you’ve said. However, if they decide to go straight ICE there’s a risk of losing Mercedes and Renault as participants. Maybe you make up for that with more independents coming in but that’s something F1 would have to weigh.

      1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
        9th October 2020, 15:43

        Mercedes and Renault are only in it for themselves as were Honda. The FIA has prostituted Formula One by pandering to the Manufacturers as a result we are where we are. We could easily have much cheaper engines made by, independent engine builders to a spec or their own design, made under license, or whatever. The cheaper the engines become the more sourcing options there will be.

        I know some will see this as dumbing down F1, but actually there’s nothing dumb about trying to keep the sport healthy.

      2. Why not have an ICE AND a battery, but they are made by different companies and have different regulations.
        Cheap loud ICE, not complicated battery for overdrive.

    3. “Simpler, cheaper and louder.” You can enjoy that now and in the future, it’s IndyCar’s formula.

      1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
        9th October 2020, 15:30

        I do!
        Its great.

        1. @sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk that said, where is the evidence that you’re going to get those independent engine manufacturers flooding to the sport, and is it really going to be all that much cheaper for the teams if you do simplify the current engine format?

          After all, under the apparently simpler V10 and V8 regulations, the independents progressively vanished over the years until there were none left. Cosworth only returned because they already had an engine, the CA2006, that had basically been developed with Ford’s backing (given they were still under Ford ownership when the engine was under development) and the FIA guaranteed they would have just enough orders to make it viable to restart production.

          For all the talk about Cosworth baulking about the cost of developing the MGU-H, in the past they made clear that the biggest problem was that nobody wanted to buy their engines – with no guaranteed sales and no guaranteed revenue, they weren’t going to develop any engine, irrespective of what the engine regulations were. After all, this site itself published an interview with Gallagher during the negotiations over the current engine format where Gallagher was in favour of the current rules – so long as somebody else was footing the bill for development…

          Where is the upfront capital investment meant to be coming from to fund the engine development that you want under that situation? Someone, somewhere, is going to have to stump up the cash to do it, and they are going to want a guaranteed return on investment if they do.

          Who is going to pay for it, therefore? Are the teams going to be expected to make upfront cash payments to fund development – which is what outfits like Cosworth have indicated would be necessary to fund development – which therefore puts the strain onto their budgets? Will the commercial rights holders be expected to pay for it – in which case, will they effectively pass the cost onto the teams by cutting back on their commercial payments?

          Furthermore, is there really going to be a torrent of independent engine manufacturers suddenly surging into the sport, given it’s not exactly as if we’re overwhelmed with independent engine manufacturers in other series that ostensibly have cheaper and simpler engine regulations.

          You bring up the example of IndyCar and it’s simpler engine format, but there are no independent engine manufacturers there – the last semi-independent engine was the 2012 Judd engine that was commissioned by Lotus, but that was co-designed with a manufacturer and was so hopelessly uncompetitive that they had to quit at the end of the 2012 season as nobody would use them even if Lotus offered to pay them.

          1. There are dozens of independent engine builders providing racing engines of all capacities and output.

            From big block 900HP Fords and Chevrolet’s to screaming four and six cylinders engines from Honda and Nissan.

            Research crate motors and it is possible to get 1000HP for around US$40K a pop.

            One example from an engine manufacturer you may never of hear from.

            https://www.musclecarsandtrucks.com/nelson-racing-engines-unveils-1000-horsepower-crate-motor/

            Problem for F1 is the eurocentric outlook that cannot see past the Atlantic and Indian oceans.

            Engines are out there, the willingness to look outside of Eurpoe for supply…not so much.

          2. Gerrit, to some extent, you are actually providing support for the argument that I am making.

            In the examples you are linking to there, you are linking to an engine tuner that is taking an engine that Chevrolet produced and then tweaking that design. That independent company hasn’t had to shoulder any of the development costs of that base engine – they’ve dumped all the cost of developing those base engines onto Chevrolet, which is picking up the bill for the major research and development work, and just modifying an existing design from there.

            Similarly, your other examples are not really “independent engine builders”, but independent engine tuners that are taking somebody else’s engines and then modifying them – in all those cases, you’re really just passing the cost of developing the base engine onto a major manufacturer, be that Nissan, Honda, Chevrolet or the others whose engines they are tuning up.

            How many of those engine tuners could then go on to design and manufacture, from scratch, a completely independent engine (not just buying somebody else’s design and then tuning it from there)?

            Furthermore, weren’t you one of those complaining in the past about F1 power units being too heavy, and are now linking to an engine that’s nearly 300kg in weight?

      2. I don’t know why F1 and IndyCar don’t go with the same engine – they don’t need to be too proud about being different for the sake of it. This could provide more manufacturers for both series. Honda HPD seem commited and happy to produce an engine for IndyCar. and with Illmor producing the Chevrolet engine they could produce it in F1 for multiple teams who could rebadge it. It could also make it viable for Cosworth to come back into the sport.

        1. VW/Audi must have a giant pile of cheap diesels sitting in crates somewhere …
          In this regard, F1 faces the same problem that all entities on the planet share (even those that choose to ignore it) and should be a shining example of technology cleverly applied to that problem by the best and brightest.

        2. Mark in Florida
          11th October 2020, 1:36

          Technically you could have an independent manufacturers come into the sport. If they developed the ICE to spec then a manufacturer could supply a standard MGUK to hook up to it. The problem would be how well the particular team integrates the parts. But such teams still couldn’t win on a regular basis because their ability to integrate would not be as good as a manufacturer. They also would have a slower development curve when trying to get all of the power out of the setup. Deployment and regen would be harder to find tune like a manufacturer can. Engines can kill a sport if you’re not proactive enough. Recall the death of the CAN-AM series. Basically no restrictions on horsepower or aero. Porsche came in with their 917/30KL. Turbo Panzer. They proceeded to crush the competition with a 1500 horsepower engine. F1 has to get a grip on what their engine strategy is going to be and how will it help the viability of the series going into the future. Bowing down to the big team’s is not always the answer. A manufacturer can always leave when it suites them and then where are you as an organization?

        3. @mattj those manufacturers in IndyCar have been saying that producing those engines is actually a loss making exercise. The regulations means those engines are deliberately priced significantly under the cost of actually designing and producing those engines – it relies on Honda North America and Chevrolet being prepared to write off their financial losses against their advertising budgets.

          The main reason why HPD and Chevrolet have been putting pressure on the organisers to find a third engine manufacturer is so they can dump some of their engine supply contracts onto that party to reduce the size of the loss that they are making – and the loss making aspect of those engines is also why they are struggling to find a third engine manufacturer.

          That now starts creating a possible issue with regards to expanding the engine supplies to F1. If you’re asking those manufacturers to supply those engines at the same price to F1, then given that they make a loss on the sale of every single engine, expanding their engine supplies would leave them even worse off financially.

          You say that “It could also make it viable for Cosworth to come back into the sport.”, but it wouldn’t if they had to supply those engines at IndyCar’s lease prices – which is rather underlined by the fact that Cosworth is not currently producing engines for IndyCar now, even though they would have a larger potential customer base given there are more teams in IndyCar, and those teams run more cars too.

          If, on the other hand, engine prices are raised to cover the costs, then IndyCar teams are likely to start protesting rather loudly about cost inflation, which is a rather sensitive topic in that series given it’s lower income. Differential pricing between the two series, meanwhile, comes with its own set of political problems – after all, if you’re in F1, wouldn’t you kick up a fuss if you were being made to pay, say, two or three times more for the exact same engine that ends up in an IndyCar?

          Mark in Florida, with regards to your Can-Am comparison, many would point out that the series was already struggling before Porsche turned up.

          McLaren had already been dominating Can-Am from 1967 to 1971 – bear in mind that Porsche’s 917/30K didn’t turn up until 1972 – to the point that the series was getting the nickname of the “Bruce and Denny show” because Bruce McLaren and Denny Hulme kept finishing first and second pretty much all the time.

          McLaren might have been an independent company, but that didn’t stop them from creating a similar level of dominance to what Porsche later achieved. The engines were more of a symptom of a regulation set that resulted in impressive cars, but made it easy for domination to be achieved.

          1. Mark in Florida
            11th October 2020, 13:47

            Hey Anon, I agree with what you’re saying my point being that when regulations are exploited to a limit that others in the sport can’t reach they will lose interest and move on. McLaren did win 6 championships i believe. But when Porsche came into the series it finally killed it for the rest and the majority of teams moved on. Awesome to think though that these Group Seven class cars were faster than the F1 cars. The 917/30k did 240 mph at Talladega on the straights.

    4. Bisket Boy.

      Dead on. Electric is the future for all 4 wheel motor cars including F1. Bio fuels are next. Then possibly Hydrogen fuel cells. Which is still in research. it will happen. Exhaust will be H2O. F1 will be with us for a long time, in one form or another. An Formula E car will beat an F1 car as the technology advances. But, your remark about outside manufacturers is absolutely correct. I bet Red Bull has considered Cosworth, they have a hybrid 10 cylinder Power Unit. They also work for Mercedes, Tesla, Mclaren, they made the engine for Murray’s new car, and many others so they are in F1 on the fringe.
      Very expensive. Will the Energy Tycoons be willing to invest in Cosworth as Red Bull’s manufacturer. great comment mate. Bill Eib Philadelphia, PA USA.

  2. Jose Lopes da Silva
    9th October 2020, 14:35

    Obviously, McLaren is the first one to make the call. We won’t hear anything similar from Ferrari or Mercedes.

  3. nobody is stopping independants from coming in… Its whether they want to invest in the development of these engines.
    the current engines are a perfect storm of complexities however…. overly regulated, max 3 for the year, ultra complex architecture, no refueling..

  4. No manufacturer will dare to spend it’s marketing budget on pure ICE.
    Only way forward is to have a standardized hybrid that can be developed independently by participants.

    1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
      9th October 2020, 15:51

      Who care’s. As you’ll see from my earlier post above. I’m no fan of the manufacturers. There are lots of other ways to get good new ICE engines running on green combustible fuels, made by independent engine builders, perhaps by commission, or by franchise, or even good old market competition. More lateral thinking is required by the FIA.

      1. @Sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk surely good old market competition is what is supposed to drive the OEMs to the sport…

        1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
          9th October 2020, 21:45

          No. The engine technology was designed to attract Manufacturers. Surely if the cost puts off Manufacturers what hope anyone else would get involved?

  5. Brawn has already hinted that the next engine regs should be aimed at heading the sport back to more of a plug and play format like F1 had been all along until the hybrid era. He hinted at removing one of the MGUs. That is what I can see happening.

    Imho, they aren’t going back to straight ICE, they just can’t, and so that means hybrid, but at the same time a big problem in the hybrid chapter has been that it is painfully obvious one must be a works factory team in order to marry a pu and a chassis together successfully, such is the complexity of it all. There were only two works factory teams when the hybrid era was introduced, and so far only one has been able to nail the regs. That has to change and will with the next pu choice. They simply cannot continue shutting out all customer teams from having any chance at podiums such as has been the case since 2014. The new pus must be more plug and play for the customers. In this current chapter there simply is no doing what has been successful countless times in the past…taking somebody else’s good engine and putting it in your good chassis and winning titles that way.

  6. F1 should not be overly enamoured with the road car manufacturers participating in the series. Other than Ferrari, they come and go as they please. Pandering to their demands will just lead F1 to being held to ransom. When independent racing teams were winning numerous titles with the Ford DFV, the prestige of F1 wasn’t diminished at all just because it wasn’t won by road car manufacturers. There was no shortage of fans attracted to the independent racing teams. So I say just let F1 be all about racing, with an ample grid of the fastest cars racing on the best circuits and driven by the best drivers. Forget about using F1 to advance road car technology. The biggest performance differentiator in F1 is aerodynamics. The teams spend incredible amounts of money on that, but whatever learned there has no road relevance to the cars sold to the public. I believe even supercar manufacturers have little use for the knowledge gained in making super intricate F1 wings, barge boards and floors. So let’s go back to a Ford DFV powerplant model, but of course using current ICE technology.

  7. Perhaps McLaren could join forces with Red Bull to tempt in a new supplier.

  8. …who said the prohibitive cost of developing an MGU-H has kept them out of F1

    I find the idea of an MGU-H quite fascinating because that is one of the keys that make the current engine format also one of the most fuel efficient engine types around. Sadly, it is also expensive and difficult to get it working well. I think the rules should be changed to make it easier for manufacturers to make the very high compression engine used in F1. For example the current rule is an engine is only allowed to have one fuel injector per cylinder, but maybe it would be easier and cheaper if an engine manufacturers were allowed to use two fuel injectors per cylinder.
    Also why can’t a team be allowed to trade off fuel load for battery weight? For example, say a team wanted to trade off 5 kg of fuel load (so a 100 kg maximum fuel load) for an extra 5 kg of battery capacity?
    I don’t think it is Formula One’s responsibility to be making one of the most fuel efficient engines currently available, so I can quite understand if F1 moves away from this very expensive format. However, the world as a whole will have lost a technological marvel if F1 does move away from this very fuel efficient format.

  9. Personally, I don’t care about the powerplants bolted to the back of the cars.
    They created an incredibly efficient formula that , if unleashed, unrestricted, could bring us the much more than the vaunted 1000 HP from a 1.6 liter V6. Let me repeat that,1000 HP from 1.6 liters !
    The fact that the previous regime didn’t do anything but groan and moan about the loss of noise killed the “road development” angle for good.
    The series exists for itself as a competitive entertainment entity. What propels the cars around the tracks will have no impact on my enjoyment of the racing spectacle

  10. Performance based specifications. Max power limit, fuel consumption limits etc.

    The current prescriptive regulations make it difficult for manufacturers to engage in a way that is cost-effective and provides more than a name on a valve-cover. You can barely tell Honda is involved in the sport currently, apart from the occasional name-drops, and maybe a few Japanese faces hanging around the Red Bull garage. There’s little return for their sizeable investment.

    The new rules need to give manufacturers the ability to get something of value from the sport. One thing that could achieve that is letting them get creative with their engine specifications. Let them design engines that resemble their road car engines. You might attract someone like Subaru if they could put together a boxer turbo 4-cylinder with that characteristic rumble. Porsche might want a similar thing with a 3.5L 6-cylinder that screams. Mercedes may want to go for a bigger capacity V8 that roars. They can each show off their unique attributes and create a plausible link to their road cars.

    Performance based specs would make it cost effective, as there won’t be an arms race for that extra little bit of power, and there are cheap fixes for performance deficits (e.g. throw extra capacity or revs at the problem).

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