Toto Wolff, Mercedes, Silverstone, 2020

F1 must avoid repeating the “mistake” it made with cost of hybrid engines – Wolff

2020 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff says Formula 1 must avoid the “mistake” it made with the current engine rules when deciding the formula which will replace it.

Wolff said the high cost of developing the V6 hybrid turbo engines was not fully foreseen when the rules were framed a decade ago, ahead of their introduction in 2014.

“We don’t want to do the mistake that we did 10 or 11 years ago when we said ‘let’s call in the engineers to come up with a concept’ and we have a fantastic, very efficient power unit that is very complex and where the cost of development is still very high.”

Formula 1 plans to introduce new engine regulations in 2026, though this could brought forward by a year in conjunction with an earlier freeze on engine development. “We have a position that we always supported the 2022 engine freeze and bringing forward the 2026 regulations into 2025,” said Wolff.

However he is keen to see F1 engine development costs fall. “We need to reduce the costs for the OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] that are engaged in the sport and that is the highest priority,” said Wolff. “And moving from there into the technical decisions, what can we do in order to have a relevant power unit considering how fast technology is moving out there on road cars.”

Wolff says F1 should follow trends in the road car market towards more sustainable transport, while keeping a lid on costs.

“It is very clear that batteries are getting ever more efficient and that energy reconversion is happening,” he said.

“I think more sustainable fuels, whether this is synthetic fuels or something else can be very interesting but need to be looked at with our fuel and oil partners, of course, because we don’t want to have an escalating fuel and oil war, as interesting as it would be for all of us to push boundaries. So it’s about the right compromise.”

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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...

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14 comments on “F1 must avoid repeating the “mistake” it made with cost of hybrid engines – Wolff”

  1. Power cap and loose rules and be done with it.

    Writing very specific rules to mandate specific technologies is a great way to make the wrong choice.

    Let the teams and engine suppliers work out what the best technology is… through competition.

    In terms of making engines cheaper, the power cap means that is is relatively straightforward for manufacturers to develop an engine that can win races without the ridiculous development costs. Improvements in efficiency, packaging and reliability become the battleground.

    1. Could not agree more, although it should be hard to contain spending on engine and fuel development due to budget overlapping with other developments going on street engines.
      That’s the right formula for me: fixed budget, fixed fuel amount per race (not fuel flow rate), wheelbase and dimensions limits (just for good looks). And set the engineers’ demons free.
      If someone wants to use a airplane turbine coupled with batteries, why not? Six wheels, why not? Imagine if Renault wasn’t allowed to use turbo in 1979…
      And let the pilots make whatever money they deserve. Their are the ones out there.

      1. Couldn’t agree more. I have been saying this for years. F1 is about innovation, leading the charge of technology not trying to stay relevant to road car technology. F1 is all backwards currently and it needs a reset. Get rid of artificial overtaking aids, remove front and rear wings, and open it up. Limit fossil fuel to a certain amount, but open up alternative fuels. You want to use hydrogen? Go for it. You want to use electric? No problem. You want to use petrol? 100kg. Want to use diesel? 50kg. Want to use a plasma warp core? Go for it.

  2. Yup, lets get Porsche far cheaper and far less complicated hybrid engine has the new basis. So we can get a competition, rather than a technical demonstration.

    Oh wait, Toto and Mercedes don’t want to give away their competitive advantage.

    Maybe it’s better that Toto Wolff leaves the sport, so that the sport can move on.

  3. synthetic fuels or something else can be very interesting but need to be looked at with our fuel and oil partners

    The most sensible respond to unrealistic dream. In no way that F1 could dictated world fuel market. Innovation would came from a tight F1 competitions but telling the producers that they should make synthetic fuel without real market outside of the sport is as weird as it sound.

    1. Would only sort of have an impact if FIA made a plan for it to be mandatory for all motorsport under their umbrella, most likely, and even then, have to agree @ruliemaulana it’s just not something they can demand just like that.

    2. E10 (which F1 is introducing) has been available at the consumer pump in many major countries for decades already.
      Other racing series have been running E85 for decades too. Fully sustainable ethanol produced from excess waste product, blended with 15% fossil-based fuel.

      F1 is the one lagging behind here. A long way behind – simply because without tobacco sponsors, oil companies are all that is left to fund F1.

    3. We are talking about rules that will come into play 5 or 6 years from now but synthetic and bio fuels are already being developed for road use. I don’t think there will be any need to “force” fuel companies into innovating only for F1, they will already be on it for the bigger market long term. Most of them probably have been for a while already. That is why F1 should go for it, because it is going to be a big part of the future anyway. Liquid fuels are so vastly more energy dense than any battery technology will be for a very, very long time, if ever. That is why in the long term I think hybrid technology, not pure electric, will be the norm that the vehicle industry are going to be interested in.
      The problem with fossil fuels is that we, in short, take something from the ground, process it and then put it into the atmosphere by using it. With bio and synthetic fuels we can take something from the atmosphere, prosses it and then release it back into the atmosphere. It is recycling on a larger scale that have the potential to be absolutely net zero emissions – both in future vehicles, but also in billions of already existing ones.

  4. Yeah well how’s that going to happen by having multiple teams fully developing engines that works with Hydrogen cells as is the current plan?

    Sounds like the paddock still has a lot of discussions to go over what F1 will look like in 10 years time.

    1. Hydrogen fuel in F1 is a non-starter for a number of reasons. Go here for a decent discussion:

      1. Don’t know the link but it doesn’t matter. If hydrogen is a non starter then they wouldn’t have been announcing development in that direction earlier in the week which is my point. F1 doesn’t seem to know where it’s headed…

        1. The problem with hydrogen as a fuel is that it’s volumetric energy density is 1/5th that of petrol; it takes five times the volume of liquid hydrogen to equal the energy of combustion of gasoline. This means that, for equal energy outputs an F1 car would have to carry five times the volume of fuel. Further, liquid hydrogen is a cryogenic and the ‘tank’ also needs to be a pressure vessel. This will just not fly in an F1 car.

          Sure, the hydrogen will weigh less than a equivalent energy of gasoline, but so what? The volume, for a combustion hydrogen engine to equal the current formula, would be about 50 gallons, 190 liters. If this were supplying a fuel cell, which is about 60% efficient in converting potential chemical energy to electrical, the volume would be even greater. There are also issues with the fuel cell re rate ability to generate electricity; unless there are major advances in fuel cell technology the size and weight of a fuel cell to provide electricity to equal 900 h.p. the cell membrane and associated hardware would be very large and heavy.

          And let’s not even think about the need to have the system pressurized as the hydrogen liquid is turned to gas….. or the temperature of liquid hydrogen. Pressurized hydrogen gas is even worse…..

          Ain’t gonna happen in F1. For stationary systems, sure, but for a race car, no.

  5. F1 was never green and never should have tried to build green powerplants. They never fixed the aero issue, and they are worried about this? I almost feel pity for em for being the smartest people in the world, yet conducting themselves like the 3 stooges.

    1. For F1 it’s not about being green, it’s about attracting big money from large corporations. Whatever world trend those markets are following, F1 will follow purely for the cash. Being green per say is irrelevant except currently that happens to be something all markets have to look into, whether they make cars, drinks, or communication services.

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