“We can’t go back to a Flintstone engine”: The clash of visions over future F1 power units

2021 F1 season

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Red Bull team principal Christian Horner and his opposite number at Mercedes, Toto Wolff, are not short of grounds for disagreement these days.

Besides the controversial clash between their two drivers at last weekend’s British Grand Prix, the long-term future of Formula 1 is another subject which divides the pair.

A working group made up of representatives from current Formula 1 power unit suppliers, as well as Audi and Porsche, met in Austria to discuss how the world’s foremost motorsport should power its cars after 2025.

Mercedes were represented by Daimler CEO Ola Källenius and board member for group research and Mercedes chief operating officer Markus Schäfer – both from the automotive side of the business, rather than their Formula 1 team. However, Horner attended to represent Red Bull Powertrains directly, as a power unit supplier with no road vehicle arm.

“It was a constructive meeting,” said Horner. “It was an interesting meeting because you’ve got several different ideals of the incumbent manufacturers, potential new manufacturers, independent manufacturers that Red Bull effectively will be.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Silverstone, 2021
Red Bull will produce their own power units from 2022
“But I think where everybody was unified was they want something that gets cost under control, is sending the right message, delivering the right emotion. And therefore sound, for example, is extremely important or certainly was for us. And there’s various ways to be able to achieve that.

“To get the costs under control are key objectives that the group collectively will be working on because this is an engine probably not just for the for the next five-year period, it could be the next 10 years. And of course, you’ve got to look at where the automotive sector is going to be in that period and where does Formula 1 want to and need to place itself.”

F1 has always tried to link itself to road car engine development. But the technology beneath the engine cover of an F1 chassis cannot be directly transferred: Even in exceptional cases like the Mercedes AMG Project One hypercar, which claims to get as close as possible to putting a real F1 power unit into a road-legal machine, there will be some adjustments needed to make it exhaust and safety standards compliant.

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But F1’s engine suppliers weren’t always original equipment manufacturers [OEMs]. The series previously attracted independent engineering companies like Cosworth, who have said they will not re-enter F1 while MGU-H is part of the hybrid system, despite developing high-end hybrid and pure electric powertrains for automakers’ road cars.

Horner, representing a supplier whose concerns for justifying spend on their powertrain department will not be based on relevance to road vehicles, said that there was potentially a conflict between automakers and the spectacle of F1. “I think the fundamental question is, where do we want Formula 1 to be?

Mercedes PU106A power unit, 2014
F1’s current engines will be replaced in 2025
“Where does it fall? If you follow the theory of where OEMs are going – electrification – one could say that we could end up in Formula E in eight [or] nine years’ time.

“Now, that isn’t Formula 1. Formula 1, for me, it’s about noise, it’s about entertainment, it’s about the fastest cars in the world. And I think the fact that we’re going this biofuel route and the sustainable fuels, I think that we can [show] that the combustion engine does have a future

“I think there’s no reason to think that why not introduce high-revving engines that sound fantastic, that are doing it in an environmentally friendly manner. I think the biofuel and sustainable fuels enable you to do that.”

Wolff, as part of Mercedes, sees things differently, arguing that electrification of F1’s power units should increase. “We can’t go back to a Flintstone engine,” he said. “And on the other side, going all-electric [in 2025] is too early.

“We should, nevertheless, come up with a power unit that we can be proud of, and being proud of means having still the audio-visual experience for the fans from an internal combustion engine [and] having a hybrid component that is very strong on the electrical side. So we are giving the electrical side at least equal the performance than the ICE, or more.

“In my opinion, [that’s] the transition step to something in 2030 that can be very different, depending on where the car market goes and we see some of the big auto manufacturers commit to the 2030s to be all-electric.”

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OEMs and power unit suppliers are not the only companies with a vested interest in using F1 for technological development, however. Fuel firms like Shell and Petronas are necessary to fill the tanks, if F1 is to keep an internal combustion element to its powertrains and the partnership with Saudi Aramco that F1 announced in 2020 is predicated on the idea of developing sustainable fuels together.

The options, for bio- and synthetic fuels, are very different. ‘Biofuel’ refers to an increased ethanol mix in existing petrol. F1 currently mandates a road-legal blend of ethanol and petrol (in contrast to IndyCar) and as countries move to increase the percentage of ethanol used in road fuel, the series can follow that. However engines designed for petrol cannot run pure ethanol as a fuel and so developing a mix still relies on a supply of some kind of gasoline.

OEMs and fuel suppliers alike are currently investing in e-fuels or synthetic fuels. Porsche has committed to opening an e-fuels plant in Chile to become the first producer of hydrogen-to-petrol fuels. The process is relatively easy to run on a chemical level (hydrogen is combined with carbon dioxide to create synthetic methanol, which can then be refined to a synthetic petrol) but excruciatingly limited by needing hydrogen through electrolysis, powered by renewables, in order to claim carbon neutrality, which is not yet an efficient process.

Although not yet at a production stage for any mass conversion to e-fuels, Wolff argued that F1 could act as a fast-tracking ‘laboratory’ for development. “I think what we need to achieve is to be the fastest laboratory in the world to develop sustainable fuels, whether this is just bio[fuels] or whether it’s synthetic fuels or e-fuels that are available as pump fuels, because that can be a real contribution to the planet, that we develop high-performance fuels that work for us.

“If you listen to our fuel partners, what we need to achieve is not a spaceship fuel but something that the final customer can actually utilise in his own machine. And it’s not only cars that will be on the roads, but it’s also all kind of industrial applications or machines that run on fuel or kerosene that may utilise our development and our science.

“I strongly believe in that. If you look at what we have done for the NHS and with the CPAP and how quickly it went from prototype to actually being deployed on real patients, I think the speed of development and delivery in Formula 1 can make a real difference.”

While Wolff and Horner sing from the same hymn sheet on the possibilities offered by synthetic fuels, their attitudes towards the role electrification should play in the future of Formula 1 differs sharply, and poses a philosophical question which will shape the sport’s future.

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Author information

Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a motorsport and automotive journalist with a particular interest in hybrid systems, electrification, batteries and new fuel technologies....

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95 comments on ““We can’t go back to a Flintstone engine”: The clash of visions over future F1 power units”

  1. A true Flintstones engine would put a true premium on driver fitness. And footwear.

    1. Toto’s hair is amazingly black…. like too black. Not a single grey…?

      In the flinstones age he wouldn’t be buying “Just for Men”

    2. petebaldwin (@)
      23rd July 2021, 13:15

      Please don’t let Pirelli design the new boots…..

    3. Jockey Ewing
      23rd July 2021, 21:19

      The return of team Footwork? You go faster if you have a great Hart.

    4. Jockey Ewing
      23rd July 2021, 21:35

      Those Pirellis would be pretty hard, equally functional for every entrant without too much management, and finally not puncture prone at all. Available compounds: granite (C1), quartztite (C2), marble (C3) and for the fastest laps: limestone (C4) and soapstone (C5).

  2. The motoring industry will move in the direction public pressure and government legislation dictates. F1 doesn’t necessarily have to follow but it would be a brave decision to move to far away. If F1 wants to continue to move forward and be the pinnacle of Motor Sport the restrictions on technical innovation must be relaxed. So the manufacturers have a reason to stay.
    None of them have any interest in competing in a competition that does not allow them to develop and showcase their achievements.

    1. @johnrkh however, considering that Liberty Media has the opposite philosophy – that they want to impose equalisation through increasing the number of restrictions on technical development – it would seem that there are two fundamentally opposed schools of thought there.

      1. @anon I’ve been against the development restrictions from day one. I firmly believe that then budget cap is the answer and the teams must work with in that. If liberty continue to strangle the sport of it’s life blood, it’s engineering prowess and technical innovation. They can rightfully be accused of killing the Golden Goose.

        1. @johnrkh what Liberty Media seem to be saying at the moment is that the technical restrictions are required for the cap to function – i.e. that tightening the regulations to restrict the number of areas where development can take place is one of the mechanisms by which the budget cap is enforced.

          Now, some might cynically argue that the two aspects do not need to be linked to each other in that way, but that it is advantageous for Liberty Media to create that link to promote the agenda that they want to.

          Whilst your focus is on the “engineering prowess and technical innovation”, they seem to want to scale that back and to push that towards the background – if you look at the package as a whole, the limits on aerodynamic development, the tighter development restrictions and the pledges to stamp out “unwanted innovations” points towards technical innovations being viewed by them as more of a negative attribute than a positive one.

          From their point of view, they don’t want to promote the sport in that way – they very much seem focussed on creating hype and drama around the drivers, with “engineering prowess and technical innovation” almost seen as more of a problem – given it would create divergence in the performance of the cars and increase the importance of the teams – than a selling point.

    2. Having just experienced the worst flood in my region in recorded history, much worse than floods I’ve experienced in the mid-90s (Which at the time were the worst floods). And seeing the floods in China. I agree there’s more and more public pressure for emission-less engines and governments intervening on the public’s behalf to move that push forward. Obviously if you left it to manufacturers they’d care about their bottom line and bottom line only.

      That said, emission-less can mean many things, and whether it’s a form of electric engine, or a form of traditional engine with synthetic fuels is pretty irrelevant to the public and the governments behind them. The goal is emission-less, and if the industry finds a way to do that with synthetic fuels or with electric is ultimately irrelevant.

      The fact that F1 seems to be moving to the synthetic fuel route is ultimately going to help innovation on that front, while electric engines running on batteries appears to be the current trend, that’s not to say that ten or twenty years from now, that’s the be-all end-all, given how resource-intensive those engines are, and how much energy is needed just to produce the power to fuel them.

      1. I live in the same area, and as long as governments allow floodplanes to be build upon, allow people to turn their gardens into concrete jungles, and allow to keep the biggest tree harvest and nature destruction to happen
        since medieval times, the floods will become worse and worse, because the water has nowhere else to go but into build up area’s.

        Politics and interest groups are still convinced they can stop climate change rather than that they have to manage living with it.

      2. if you replace all personal vehicles in europe + UK to electric… you would get less than 1% reduction in global CO2 emissions..

        1. Suffering Williams Fan
          23rd July 2021, 15:24

          Why only Europe + UK? Why only personal vehicles?

        2. it means that mandating serious disruption in everyday life, mobility of citizens, coopting major companies and depleting other natural ‘nonrenewable’ resources will have that grand effect… luckily we already banned plastic straws… Planet saved!

          1. Suffering Williams Fan
            24th July 2021, 8:29

            That completely ignored my question. The question was why you chose only to consider Europe and the UK, and focus only on personal transportation to mention the effect size on *global* CO2 emissions. Electrification of the automotive sector incorporates more than just personal transport and Europe and the UK are not the only places where electrification is relevant. I’m thinking the magnitude of the effect globally, across all automotive transport would push that number up to look rather more impressive. That the automotive sector is neither the only, nor the main emitter is not a good reason to ignore improvements, every reduction contributes to the goal of lower overall emissions.

        3. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
          23rd July 2021, 17:00

          Less than 1%? hehe where did you get that from? Its actually considerably more.
          I think you should quote your sources.
          Have a read

          Also a geography lesson, the UK might not be in the EU but it is in Europe!

          1. @sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk

            Your first link pretends that there are no emissions due to traffic if the emissions happen in an electric plant, rather than out of the exhaust…

          2. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
            23rd July 2021, 17:36

            Yes Aapje I’ve heard this old argument before. And its a flawed.

            The UK makes more than 40% of its electric from renewables and this figure is rising fast. Also EVs are 90% efficient ICE are only 25% efficient. So no matter how you product the cars and the fuel, emissions are MUCH less with EVs and reducing rapidly. Do your research.

        4. To resolve a problem you have to start somewhere, homes and cars are the obvious starters. It may be that their are bigger “climate changer” contributors but the technological advancements learned from buildings and road vehicles are necessary to convey into air and maritime transportation who are by far the worst. Every good ,or component of it, on this planet at one point is moved by sea shipping (really bad guy). Somewhere in a lab working on racing bio-fuel a discovery is made that can scrub millions of tons of pollutants out of ship engines… Somewhere in a lab working on nano composites someone integrate solar receptor into the carbon fiber skin of a racing car or into the sails of a racing boat…. we just have to start somewhere.

          1. Coventry Climax
            24th July 2021, 15:52

            Which is all the more reason why in F1, technology should be free of, instead of restricted by, conservative american, suffocating rules.
            I’m not a big fan of the budget cap. I’d be much more in favor of sharing F1’s income considerably more equally over all the teams. Given the difficulty F1 has to attract new teams and new engine makers, I’m no fan of the anti-diluting entry fee foor newcomers either.
            But, OK, while the budget cap is here, at least let the teams decide for themselves what it is they spend the available budget on. As it stands now, effort goes into territory that hasn’t been regulated shut yet, which is by definition inefficient.

    3. Most of the major car makers have already commited to going full electric in coming decades. None of them will be upgrading their carbon fuel burning engines in next decade or so.

      1. BMW CEO has announced lately that they have no plans to stop developing their ICE. The demand in continents like Asia, Africa, Australia and South America will be robust for decades to come. Even Daimler with their hardcore environmentalist CEO Ola Källenius said that their Mercedes brand will go full electric at the end of the decades where market conditions allow.
        The wise thing to do for these brands is to introduce a full-electric segment and keep an eye on the ICE market. No one of these manufacturers actually wants to give up their biggest revenue pot for the environment’s sake. When time will come and there is still room to sell ICE powered cars, they will simply say “We’re not ready yet !”.

        1. @tifoso1989 Yes there is a huge reason why the manufacturers will hold on as long as they can to ICE. They can pump them out like sausages and at about the same cost. Their is also the issue with which battery tech to go with, it’s changing so fast no one wants to end up with a Beta max system. But unless the governments can be persuaded to move the deadline for change, it’s a done deal.

          1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
            23rd July 2021, 17:27

            Yes I think the reason that manufacturers have been reluctant to move away from ICE is the cost of change. This has been largely influenced by how quickly battery technology is maturing. But ICE cars will be hard to sell in the near future. Not because of Government regulation, but because of cost.

            The total cost of ownership of an EV’s is already cheaper than an ICE car (purchase + fuel + maintenance + tax etc) and soon the purchase price of EV’s will be less than ICE.

            Many Manufacturers (some a bit late in the day) have realised there is a cost of change, but a higher cost of not changing.

    4. The (near) future of the automotive world is electrification.

      Most major brands are making the switch and many countries have drawn a line on the calendar, following which only electric cars can be sold.

      The idea that F1 will somehow remain a fuel-driven sport is naivety in the extreme.

      I’ve said many times that F1 and Formula E will converge in the near future. It’s inevitable of the sport wants to attract young fans and remain relevant to the outside world.

      As for noise: Just let the teams design their own unique car sound that abides by certain rules in terms of decibels and structure. Cars don’t make loud noises anymore anyway so having loud F1 cars is as fake as having a synthesised sound created by the team.

      We can watch beautiful, clean, ultra-fast cars race each other and know which one is which with our eyes closed. That would be a beautiful thing and something that also ensures F1’s survival.

      1. You don’t kill the spectacle to appease manufacturers because if no one is watching they won’t want to be in F1 anyway. F1 needs to look beyond the charade of road relevancy and focus on making an entertaining product and alternative streams of sponsorship. Even if you halved the budget cap to 62.5m per year, these cars would still be the fastest on the planet. I would enjoy F1 a lot more if the engines were provided by small engine specialist shops than these techno nightmares we have now.

        1. Engines are quickly becoming a thing of the past.

          Battery tech is the future.

          Once recharging can be reduced to a minute or two, Formula E (with ‘refuelling’) will easily be the fastest category.

          In the end, I want to see the fastest, most exciting racing between cars that look great and are driven by the best drivers in the world.

          F1 currently ticks that box but it’s quite feasible that in the next 5+ years that accolade will go to a different series. If that happens there is no point clinging onto an ageing, less relevant Formula 1.

          Liberty and F1 as a whole need to see that and act quickly before it’s too late.

          1. @sonnycrockett I think you are way off the mark with you suggestions of how quickly EV will take over and with your one or two minute recharge timeframe. Can you imagine the amount of electricity it would take to charge a car that is to be as spectacular as you imagine, in one or two minutes? Things are nowhere near that close for EV. If they were, F1 would be considering it much more than they are. Hybrid is the way of the near future. And I think for quite a while yet too.

          2. @robbie

            The Lucid Air can charge at 20 miles per minute. That’s nearly 7 laps at Catalunya.

            Tesla and others are working to push this tech to the limits.

            It won’t be long…

          3. @sonnycrockett Didn’t know about the Mystic Air so I googled it and it’s really exciting. However, also yet another ultra expensive car, with range and charge time subject to conditions and for the quicker charge times you need their 900V DC quick charger, no doubt another expensive option. From my understanding as well, as soon as you need either heating or air conditioning your range drops considerably. Far from the one or two minutes you talk about, but I do agree things are going in the right direction technology wise.

            It is not that I am anti-EV at all, but I just think that as it relates to F1 and how it wants to determine it’s level of relationship with domestic cars, I don’t see them going the EV way any time soon as most people cannot afford cars well over 100G, and until costs and range and charge time way improve on affordable EV’s, hybrids and their practicality and affordability are going to be around for a long time yet, and that is what F1 has to keep in mind.

          4. @robbie

            The good news is that F1 cars don’t have air con!

            Just make the driver’s helmets out of solar cells and ensure they each tow a wind farm behind them and it’ll definitely work! 😜

          5. Lol or chop the roofs and windshields off EVs, give em halos and helmets, and let em suffer the heat and rain and not drive in the winter;)

      2. Noise could be a fun thing to play with. At the Pike’s Peak, it is now required for electric cars to make noise (for safety reasons) Randy Pobst ran a Tesla making a Star War spaceship sound. I think they should have gone with the sound of a Falcon 9 at take off :)

        1. @Carbonized

          That’s my thinking. Each team could have a signature sound.

          As I say, loud F1 cars are a thing of the past. The current noise levels are fake so why not just embrace it and go for a video game-esque approach.

          A whole new generation would absolutely LOVE it!

          The thing is, if F1 doesn’t realise these things quickly, Formula E will eventually supplant it. That’s evolution for you. Survival of the fittest (and most relevant).

  3. Why aren’t manufacturers just allowed to put their money where their mouth is and have them develop their own concept of what a relevant engine is? I don’t think restricting the engine design through regulation was the right direction to take things. Engine diversity, now!

    1. petebaldwin (@)
      23rd July 2021, 12:58

      I would love that idea if the rules stated every team must make their own engine. If we’re going to have teams reliant on 3rd parties making their engines, then there need to be restrictions in order to allow teams to be competitive.

    2. I have said before, I would love to see this. Allow a maximum energy and power input, and let them make what they wish of it. If they want a pure ICE, fine. If they want a hydrogen fuel cell, fine. If they want pure battery electric, fine. If they want a mix of several technologies, fine. All they are restricted to is the equivalent energy input to 110kg of current F1 fuel (around 1400kWh), and the equivalent instantaneous power input to roughly 100kg/hr (around 1250kW).

      That said, this would likely be the most expensive way to run the sport, and bring about even larger performance differentials.

  4. Use the same fuel that super yachts run on. The woke millionaires that preach about carbon footprints are always cruising around in their yachts. The yachts don’t get from point A to point B on unicorn poo.

    1. No, they run on refined dinosaur poo!

    2. JustSomeone
      24th July 2021, 12:30

      “hydrogen-to-petrol fuels” together with Bitcoin, probably the most useless, wasteful and unnecessary technology ever invented.

      1. Quite so, but seemingly appealing to the gullible, hard to fathom why. There isn’t any actual evidence of the evil gas causing problems. Just a heap of greenwash propaganda, some GIGO computer models, a bunch of politicians who like to keep their subjects scared and a media who want something to talk about that doesn’t involve actually doing some real research.

  5. IfImnotverymuchmistaken
    23rd July 2021, 13:01

    I think it’s highly possible this new engine could be the last generation of fossil fueled F1 engine, and I think that is a good thing, as we can see everywhere around the globe the impact of pollution and climate change.

    But, if we come to an age where some other series car can lap around an F1 track faster than an F1 car, then F1 loses all meaning.
    Will an all electric car be faster than a hybrid F1 car in 10 years?
    I haven’t a clue, but wouldn’t it be funny if in 10 years time, an ancient Kimi in a Formula E blitzes around Spa 5 second per lap faster than Verstappen in a brand new, RB powertrain made, F1 hybrid, which still gets most of it’s power from the ICU?
    I agree that the sound of an F1 car is very important, but not if keeping the sound means losing the speed.
    I love the notion of uncompromised speed, where we have 10 teams trying to make 20 of the fastest cars in the world, and having 20 of the best drivers in the world behind the wheel.
    I know F1 fits that bill in theory only, but it’s still the closest thing to it, and I have a feeling that sticking to the ICU will leave F1 behind, maybe as soon as 10 years from now.

    1. F1 cars could lap Barcelona in 30 seconds if we allowed continual development from the 60s until now. The sport is heavily regulated. Lap times are merely a function of what the governing body makes possible within the Technical Regulations.

      You could make an all electric car tomorrow that’d be faster than a current F1 car, certainly over one lap. You could take a standard 3lt V8 and make a car faster than a current F1 car with carte blanche in car design.

      1. IfImnotverymuchmistaken
        23rd July 2021, 13:30

        I agree about the technical possibilities, but is there, or has there ever been a driver who could navigate through Barcelona, or any F1 track, in that time?
        Is there a human on earth who’s body could withstand the forces necessary for that lap time?
        The cars with that kind of potential would certainly have to be remote controlled, and I don’t have any interest in watching that.
        I was talking about the organic evolution of an F1 car, accompanied off course by evolution of rules and regulations, and I confess I didn’t find it necessary to point that out.

        1. My point is the speeds of the cars is controlled by the FIA not the technology available. We have the technology now to have cars that can lap whatever time you want around a given race circuit.

          No series will ever be allowed to be faster than F1 as well. This relates to your statement “But, if we come to an age where some other series car can lap around an F1 track faster than an F1 car, then F1 loses all meaning.”

          So what you see with regard to comparative speeds between race series, regardless of powertrain, is a function of the regulatory body’s desire at the time and how they construct the regulations.

      2. Jockey Ewing
        23rd July 2021, 15:35

        Mostly agree, but could tyres or the human body bear that pace?
        Imo that would imply multiple pit stops for tyres, and the G loads would be similar to what fighter jet pilots have to bear, and that seems to be a bit too much.

        So I’m on the side of a much more lenient and less prescriptive set of tech rules, which change a bit more often, and the only real restriction should be an all inclusive cost cap. An all inclusive cost cap would be real world relevant, fair, and challenging.
        Meanwhile if the engine, fuel, oil and other sponsor related third party developments are excluded from the cost cap, then these sponsors can invest into the teams as much as they want, even disproportional amounts to the capped cost.
        This way the restrictions would be far form the race track, further than the likes of DRS and many other gimmicks. They would have effect, but it would have less effect on the on track sight. This would allow engineering competition as well. But this is not going to happen soon, as currently the factories have a lot of influence on F1, and yet they do not want to be solely engine and parts suppliers. They want a steady and reliable return of investment instead.
        This is why we see so much managerial and corporate talks around F1, because they have already invested too much.
        Imo Toto Wolff’s Flintstones, and “old petrolheads” references are not sounding as young and futureproof as he would like. But it is a bit too much of an insult. But this is what this world looks like today. And of course other team leaders have similar public statements as well.

        I’d use the “face melting” computing power to develop the fusion reactor, preferably a smaller or even a portable one, or at least one which can be built at many places of the world. That would open a lot of possibilities because that would mean even more computing power, as it is very power hungry. Algorithms which were considered to be AI-like, have been pretty advanced decades before, the problem was the lack of hardware and computing power. They could use the computing power for example to research advanced crash structures, to downsize the cars while maintaining similar or better safety. And of course for many developments which can be useful for the population of the Earth. One of the best uses of AI is to generate ideas which are atypical, so that they would be too rarely considered. But is not a genuine idea often atypical? Then automate the pre-filtering of the huge amunt of generated ideas, and then hand the viable seeming ones over for human experts for verification. For example poker bots with a good AI can develop their own lines what drives a human opponent crazy, but it excels in much more deeper and unsolved games, it have already beaten chess and go world champions.

        But instead of this, the computing power is often used to do things like hacking, thefts, super fine grained gerrymandering, and sad things like that.

    2. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
      23rd July 2021, 17:48

      There have been other motorsports series in the past that were faster than F1 and it didn’t devalue F1 at the time and it wouldn’t now.

      F1 is the Manufacturers and Drivers World Championship. That we be true irrespective of the speed of the cars.

  6. As I always say, Hybrid was wrong. F1 need to be an ICE purists and ditch all pseudo electric power and battery that making the cars so fat. Either you be the best on ICE or became Formula E wanna be.

    And where from the ethanol would be? Sugarcane plantation that already destroyed millions hectares of tropical forests? Or something new like algae that would be destroyed coastal life when the production scaled up?

    I prefer the hydrogen-to-petrol fuels option. Up until now the most efficient hydrogen production is fuel by natural gas. It’s still be powered by fossil fuel, but at least hydrogen is still considered as ‘green’ and it has ‘natural’ label on it.

    1. IfImnotverymuchmistaken
      23rd July 2021, 13:36

      I agree the best course for motorsport seems so be hydrogen, but I was under the impression that the best results come from hydrogen cell fueled electric motors?
      I don’t know how many of F1 engine manufacturers even started looking into development of H powered propulsion units.
      I think the question of cost will get in the way of H-fuel, at least for now.

      1. Every carmanufacturer has had a functioning hydrogen fuelcell prototype since the 90s or 00s.

        1. John Toad (@)
          24th July 2021, 4:55

          The problem is always going to be the infrastructure needed to support the fuel supply.
          Petrol and diesel already have the necessary infrastructure built, electric charging stations are becoming more common but it still takes longer to fill a battery than a fuel tank, hydrogen refuelling points are almost non-existent and would need billions spent before it could become a viable alternative.
          On other point that is overlooked is tax revenues. The UK government rakes in billions of pounds each year in fuel duty. There is already talk about electric vehicles having to pay an annual tax, in the order of four figures, to make up for the shortfall in government revenues.

    2. I strongly suspect that, if this approach is taken, F1 will fade into obscurity over the next couple of decades at most. In many western nations, no new ICE-powered road cars will be being sold then, and some other formula will have brought in better, more advanced technology which will have knocked F1 off its “pinnacle”.

      1. Who is giving another series pinnacle status over F1? The FIA dictate what is regarded as the pinnacle so they won’t allow anything to usurp F1.

    3. The problem is F1 is seen as a ‘pinnacle of technology’ sport, and the current trend towards more electrification in road vehicles means that F1 would be behind the tech curve in that respect if it kept ICE-only. I say this as a fan of pure ICE F1, by the way.

    4. petebaldwin (@)
      23rd July 2021, 16:40

      F1 urgently needs to decide what it wants to be. Does it want to be the most entertaining motorsports series or does it want to be the pinnacle of technology. It doesn’t appear that trying to be both is a valid option….

    5. As I always say, Hybrid was wrong. F1 need to be an ICE purists and ditch all pseudo electric power and battery that making the cars so fat.

      I’d argue simple ICE and Hybrid are both pure, as all the energy comes (directly or indirectly) from the fuel.
      And it’s incorrect to call a Hybrid Engine ‘fat’ as you should include the fuel. A hybrid car is only heavier (on average during a race) when you exclude the fuel.

      But as suggested above, leave it up to the teams what to do: ICE with big fuel load, or Hybrid with almost half the fuel load.
      Or maybe even open up refuelling.

    6. Agreed. I have been saying the same thing for years.

    7. F1 is the premier open wheel racing series. I don’t see that means it has to have this or that sort of power plant, what it must have is something capable of delivering “premier” racing performance. I believe an F1 car should be capable of completing the race without being refuelled or having to replace a battery or such like.

  7. Teams in F1 don’t have to be run by car manufacturers.
    Technology in F1 doesn’t need to be road relevant.
    The FIA and F1 really have to ask themselves whether they want to remain a marketing extension of the car industry or wants to be an independent sport (again).

    If history has proven anything, too much of a reliance on car manufacturers can be ending to the sport. Since the car manufacturers have absolutely no loyalty to the racing series and will happily drop everything and leave the series in a split second. It’s happened to DTM, WRC, indy, cart, and countless of other racing series.

    F1 has already sacrificed most of its identity, it should be very careful not throw it all away.

    1. Exactly, following the car makers and “road relevancy” is a dead end. Fans are not going to come out en masse to see silent race cars.

      1. John Toad (@)
        24th July 2021, 4:59

        Bernie always said that being reliant on manufacturers would be a big mistake as they would come and go from F1 for reasons that had nothing to do with the sport and over which F1 would have no control.

  8. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
    23rd July 2021, 13:44

    If you want noise the devices that extract energy from the exhaust need to be removed.

  9. Many countries have pledged to ban the sale of new ICE cars in the next decade or so, and an outright ban on their use is surely only a matter of time after that. One can assume that petrol-powered motorsport will be also be prohibited at that time, if not earlier. That day in particular, I fear, is drawing nearer and nearer. Let’s face it, although it’s contribution to global emissions is a mere drop in the ocean, F1 is just burning thousands of litres of fuel for our entertainment.

    Climate change is no longer a mythical thing that maybe will impact our later lives. It’s absolutely happening right now, and more and more of us are witnessing its consequences first-hand. F1 absolutely cannot afford to be seen to be dragging it’s heels on this matter, and I doubt it will convince many people of its environmental credentials by clinging on to ICEs just because they are noisy and fun, on the basis that just maybe it can help come up with a viable alternative to electric vehicles.

    I’m no fan of electric vehicles, but it’s the way the world is going. For me, it’s inevitable that F1 will have to go down this route, and I’d much prefer to see F1 proactively going down this route, rather than having to be forced down it.

    1. A ban on petrol based motorsport within a decade would end the entire industry. Motorsport isn’t 1 sport. It’s hundreds, if not thousands of separate entities racing a multitude of different spec cars with a big chunk of them essentially being historic series. You think the MR2 Cup can go electric?

      Go vegan and drink in 2-stroke. Will be better for the environment than having to manufacturer from scratch an entire fleet of bespoke race vehicles.

      1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
        23rd July 2021, 17:14

        It would probably cost about £10-12k to convert an MR2 to electric with a 100 mile range. Don’t know why you would, but yes the MR2 Cup could go electric.

      2. Firstly, don’t even a number of “spec series” periodically upgrade their cars to newer models that have been launched by those manufacturers? To pick a few examples, GT racing series, all the way down to GT4 and GT5, rely on road vehicles being homologated for use in those series, and Formula Ford series have seen periodic changes that have introduced new engines and new chassis over the years.

        Furthermore, how many of those series really do never change their cars at all, and how many of the participants within those series never change their cars at all? I am not sure if I really buy that argument, as there will be a lot of series where, every year, probably see at least some of the competitors within that series changing their cars for various different reasons (upgrading to a better vehicle, an enforced change from accumulated wear and tear and so on).

        Rather than having instantaneous changes, quite a few series probably see an incremental change in the cars being used – and, likewise, I would imagine that means the potential environmental impact of replacing those cars is maybe less immediately noticeable because, rather than one large change, it is more of a lower scale churn that is spread out over many years.

        1. The series you talk about represent a fraction of the people that race. I am talking about the thousands upon thousands of people who are racing Cupras, MX5s, Caterhams, Novas, C1s, 750s, Vees, historics etc… the ‘backbone’ of the sport that is not part of the homologation cycle (very few are. Probably represents 1-5% of the sport).

          A lot of these competitors are budget competitors with a very healthy second hand market that keeps the sport alive as the cars get rotated around the scene. Below that is a big infrastructure of engines builder and that kind of thing.

          This talk of great electrification of motorsport is a bit pie in the sky. It would collapse the sport. It’s a lot further off than people realise.

  10. What ever engine formula we have. It must dramatically cheaper than what we have currently. It as basically bankrupt smaller teams and prevent new engine providers come to sport.

    I want grid of 30 cars. So we have more entertainment and new young hot shot get chance to drive in f1.

    I do think this is a do or die moment in f1 history. The finance could collapse the sport.

    1. With the $200m buy-in, I would say Liberty are happy to secure the future of the 10 teams we have. Everyone financially benefits from 20 cars with regard to broadcast income and prize money distribution. I would not expect a new team any time soon.

      1. Years past if team was good enough to race they raced. Now they have to pay to join the party. A closed shop sport just how American owners like it. But as fan I hate it

  11. I don’t know why the FIA/Liberty can’t set some high level requirements and then let the engine makers come up with something within those parameters. Eventually one engine will be deemed the best and everyone else will try to copy and improve the design. That to me is the “DNA” of F1 and I don’t see why it wouldn’t work in this case.

    1. The main reason: Cost.

      Let’s say 5 engine manufacturers develop 5 different concepts. By the end of the first season, one will have emerged as the superior option. Even if one other is a close enough second to warrant continued development, that means 3 manufacturers will have wasted all their sunk costs in developing those engines, and will have to start from scratch, spending similar amounts of money all over again to develop an engine similar to the superior option. Those 3 will also be a season behind on the development of those concepts, as Honda was when they entered.

      This is without considering the effect that the probable large performance differential will have on the sport.

      1. Perhaps there needs to be an engine development cost cap as well as a team cost cap?

        1. @Rascasse

          That will then just ensure that teams can’t catch up.

      2. But is that really any different than simply coming up with a new engine format and regulations? Each manufacturer will go off and attempt to build their own engine to the regs as they aren’t likely to work together on it. One will do a better job than the others, and then there will be a race to catch up and surpass the team with the best engine. By stating high level requirements and letting the manufacturers choose their own path, they can develop an engine that best suits their future plans.

    2. Open formulas like that usually result in disaster with widely differing performance. LMP1 has alway gone from feast to famine and back again due to not set PU.

  12. I’m struggling to see from this article where Horner and Wolff disagree.

    1. I’m not sure it is stated outright, but I think the strong implication is: Horner/RB want a simpler, high-revving nat-asp without the hybrid components (“I think there’s no reason to think that why not introduce high-revving engines that sound fantastic”), whereas Toto/Merc want to keep and increase the hybrid components (“having still the audio-visual experience for the fans from an internal combustion engine [and] having a hybrid component that is very strong on the electrical side. So we are giving the electrical side at least equal the performance than the ICE, or more”). Horner wants all of the environmental improvements to come from using biofuel/synthetic fuels, whereas Toto wants a decent chunk to come from more hybrid contribution as a stepping stone to fully electric.

      Now, it is possible to combine both approaches from only what was said: Have a high-revving, loud, nat-asp ICE coupled with very strong hybrid components bringing equal power. However, from context and implication (and historical comments from both) I doubt that’s what either are angling for.

      1. @drmouse I think we’re quite on the same page here and I was being a bit facetious in that I wonder if Hazel is trying to play off the recent disagreements between CH and TW throughout the season over TD type stuff, and then of course the contentious Silverstone race.

        I don’t think I have heard Horner claim to not want a hybrid component attached to an ICE. If anything I find from what is said in the article CH and TW are much closer to agreeing if not fully agreeing on the future PU as well as the coming discussions necessary as they pertain to F1’s direction, OEM’s direction, and input from potential new entrants. But if you are saying from what you have heard them say neither of them is angling for what you are suggesting with your ‘both approaches’ paragraph I’d be interested in seeing that.

        To be clear from my side I am always cautious to try to understand what someone means when they say all-electric such as TW is saying about manufacturers going ‘all electric’ by the 2030’s. To my understanding that means no domestic cars powered by an ICE only. To me all-electric can mean a fleet of cars that are a combination of EV and hybrid vehicles. I don’t think full-EV fleets are going to be upon us as soon as the 2030’s by all accounts in reality. I do know some manufacturers and even countries are making it sound like that is their plan, but I don’t think it is reality.

        To me I am convinced CH and TW are on nearly exactly the same page in terms of an ICE/hybrid package that will be less complicated and expensive, that will sound like an F1 car should sound, and that will run on synthetic or e-fuels, just as you are suggesting in you last paragraph. Just not sure if a turbo attached, to you is still nat-asp, but I certainly do still see a turbo involved. I just thought they were all angling towards dropping one of the MGUs, I forget which, which would reduce cost and complexity and bring back some scream. Sure, TW is saying here that he can see them heading to where the ICE and the electric component of the pu contribute equally, and I don’t think CH is against that, but I can certainly see where TW would say that with perhaps the direction Mercedes domestically is heading, whereas CH is not involved in the domestic side of things in the same way TW has to represent Mercedes in the discussions too.

        1. @robbie Horner has made multiple calls in recent years for high revving normally aspirated engines.

          In January 2017, he stated that he wanted Liberty Media to introduce “a high revving normally aspirated V10”, and actively complained about the current engines not making enough noise for his liking – he then continued to lobby for “high revving normally aspirated V10s or V12s” in a second interview in August 2017, and again in October 2018. You can also find that Horner said the same thing again in February 2018 and May 2019, to list two more example.

          To list a much more recent example, back on the 19th July – in other words, just four days ago – Horner complained about the wider drive for electrification, stated that the sport should “correct the mistakes it has made” and then reiterated his calls for high revving normally aspirated engines.

          1. anon I’d prefer to see direct quotes from CH from the 2017, 18, and 19 months you cite, but they are irrelevant because here we are now with Honda leaving but RBR retaining their technology and building a Powertrain Unit. I prefer to go by the most recent quotes, from the most recent meetings, and I have googled further for those, and while there are articles from within the last week that imply CH wants high-revving engines that sound great, and TW doesn’t, I don’t see where TW is actually saying they need to be low revving and quiet, and indeed in the quotes from him above he talks of the audio-visual (not sure what the visual would be) experience for the fans.

            Nothing I have seen tells me CH doesn’t want less expensive pu’s that will be an ICE and hybrid combo, relevant to both F1 and OEM’s future, as well as potential new makers coming in, and likely running on synthetic fuels. I’m going to take from CH’s quotes above about it being a constructive meeting with several ideas coming from several angles, but until I hear more I do not believe that anyone is at huge loggerheads over this and diametrically opposed. I have little doubt they will have their meetings and come to their compromises, and perhaps no one group will get everything entirely their way. But let’s not make it sound like CH wants the good ole V8 back but powered on synthetic fuel.

            To be clear, are you sure CH hasn’t just ‘complained’ about the wider drive for full EV from the domestic manufacturer side, but actually expects the way forward is hybrid for quite some time yet? And by “correct the mistakes it has made” does he not mean those that we all heard about all along from all directions, that being the complexity and the cost of the current pus? And by ‘high-revving’ what does he mean vs what TW has in mind? Is TW actually therefore saying he wants ‘low-revving’ engines? Quiet ones?

            As I say, I suspect CH and TW are really not that far off, and it’s early days in the discussions anyway, is not just up to them, and when all is said and done they will agree on the next formula for 2025 or 2026 and all will be fine. I wonder if authors of articles are trying to portray a wider gulf between CH and TW than exists in reality. By all accounts most likely something akin to a small displacement ICE which to me will have to be high-revving, possibly on synthetic fuel, a turbo, one energy recovery system, less complex, less expensive than what they have now. Less heavy would be great too. They’ve talked about all wheel drive too. Perhaps some energy recovery from the front end too, or (I’m speculating) electric motors powering the front wheels, and/or more batteries on board to suit TW’s thinking of having a more equal share of the power coming from ICE and electric? So much for the weight savings, lol?

  13. I don’t know that’s why i ask, but methanol or hydrogen produces big amount of Co2 emotions?

    1. Typo: emitions

      1. Try emissions.

  14. I always considered the current engines to be a marketing failure …. MGU-H is one of the coolest technologies but never gets talked about …. not only can they spin up the turbo for anti-lag but they can extract energy from it as well?

    F1 is supposed to be the fast MOST HIGH TECH category and current engines fit in so well with that … hoping they don’t go back to flintstone engine (-8

    1. Show don’t tell is the key phrase. If you have to tell any audience how ‘cool’ the tech is you’ve probably already failed. That’s always been the problem with these hybrids.

      ‘Flintstone engines’ were emotive. I don’t see why people think eliciting emotion out of an audience via auditory sense is somehow archaic… it’s fundamental to our human nature. If eliciting emotion out of your audience is Flintstone, then I want my yabba-yabba-doo times back please.

      It’s funny because music neuroscience is a very new cutting edge science. How sound elicits emotions. Denial of this in exchange for engines that don’t produce the same song of the old engines in itself is old fashioned thinking.

  15. Horner is correct. ICU’s can be absolutely be done in a sustainable manner.

    Contrary to popular belief, batteries are in no way pollution free. Politics and a transfer of power are what’s behind the EV. Wolff is all about it because he and his bank account will prosper.

  16. Shaun Campbell
    23rd July 2021, 18:58

    Hybrid V12… Please everyone a little

  17. Where does it fall? If you follow the theory of where OEMs are going – electrification – one could say that we could end up in Formula E in eight [or] nine years’ time. Now, that isn’t Formula 1. Formula 1, for me, it’s about noise, it’s about entertainment, it’s about the fastest cars in the world.

    This is the question, what is F1, and what does F1 want to be? If it wants to be the fastest possible cars, then that might not be the ICE for much longer.

    When you do lose the fastest, what is Horner left with really? The noisiest and the most entertaining… Red Bull were the loudest to complain about the removal of grid girls so we already know where their priorities lie there.

    Wanting to fast track synthetic fuels is fascinating also. It’s a noble goal, but is it realistic? And who will be funding it exactly? Building CPAP machines for the NHS makes sense because the teams already invested in manufacturing. But how many teams have chemical labs full of research scientists going to waste…

    This next decade will be fascinating.

    1. The lap times are dictated by the FIA and the technical regulations not the type power unit. Modern F1 cars are not representative of what technology actually allows for. They are representative of 50+ years of technical restriction. You could dig up a car from 2004, throw on some slicks make a couple of aero tweaks and it’d be down the road from the cars we have now.

      So the engines aren’t what restrict the performance, it’s the Technical Regulations. The entire sport is manufactured so that F1 will always be the pinnacle.. The FIA simply won’t allow anything else to be.

  18. Red Bull are in a very strong position, post-Honda, where powertrain design and development are concerned. It will be a very interesting battle indeed. Could guru Andy Cowell be tempted back to F1 and which project would he choose?

  19. RedBull’s entire business is predicated on ‘the show’. The invest in hosting events and selling tickets so they are probably more sensitive to what works and what doesn’t than Mercedes. Just look at Straight Rhythm. At one stages it was a platform for the Alto electric bike, but in 2019 RedBull sacked all that off and went full retro-2-stroke and it was a massive success. In fact the 2-stroke revival is very real in the dirtbike scene.

    The issue Toto has here, is he has all but admitted that the prefers the old stuff. I am not sure it’s healthy long-term to be dragging people down a path en masse they aren’t really enthused about. Seeing Lewis react to Alonso’s V10 run last year spoke volumes.

    In terms of cutting edge tech. F1 is a weird hybrid of cutting edge tech with severe regressive rule set that heavily limits design freedom. On a very basic level the banning of TC, ABS and active suspension is indicative of that. but beyond that the engines and aero platforms are prescribed largely by the regulator now. The teams use high tech to exploit a low-tech platform.

    it’s not an easy solution. I also don’t like this notion, and it tends to come from older people, that to attract ‘young fans’ you must go electric. The average age of a Tesla owner is >50 so I am not sure whether that argument really holds water. This kind of thinking is making a rod for your own back because this hypothetical ‘young person’ who is usually framed as some eco-warrer won’t lack your use of carbon, won’t like your use of tyres, won’t like the digging up of land to build circuits (I should know I am almost one of them).

  20. How about gettomg rid of the MGU-H, and make the cars AWD with electric/KERS on the front and just ICE driving the rear (no direct battery boost, although electrically allowed to spin up the turbo).

    This would be much simpler (and cheaper) to implement than the current power trains, even given the extra motors on the front wheels.

  21. Genuine question here as I am far from an engine technology expert. It’s not an aspect that excites me.

    How road relevant are the current F1 engines or will they be? It’s the root of the main question, what does F1 want to be?

    It’s at a major crossroads with the pace of electrification in the vehicles the public drive.

  22. Sergey Martyn
    26th July 2021, 15:20

    Current F1 restrictions don’t allow manufacturers to invent some breakthrough technologies but force them to squeeze out pimples on the dead horse.
    Who knows what really future tech could be born in the minds of engineers if they weren’t straitjacketed by the unnecessary restrictions?
    As for those stupid budget caps and tokens – teams spend too much money on every small fin which directs airflow around sidepods etc. while some major breakthroughs could be used both in racing and in the road cars.
    They take a knee before the races for some issues that exist in a galaxy far, far away from F1, but they should shudder in sobs on all fours lamenting the technologies buried by F1 GULAG.

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