Mercedes don’t want new F1 power unit debate “dragging out” beyond summer

2022 F1 Season

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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff is pushing for details of Formula 1’s new power unit rules to be confirmed soon.

The current V6 hybrid turbo power units, introduced in 2014, have been frozen. Manufacturers will continue using their current designs until their replacements arrive in 2026.

The forthcoming regulations are expected to simplify the design by removing the MGU-H, but also increase the importance of the electrical element of the hybrid power unit via an uprated MGU-K. Fully sustainable fuels will also be introduced.

“We are very keen that the engine regulations are indeed being signed off because we want to just get on with the job,” said Wolff, after the Canadian Grand Prix. “But they also need to be done in the right way and I have sympathy for the FIA to get it right.”

Wolff wants Mercedes’ High-Performance Powertrains division to begin work on its new power unit for 2026 this summer. In addition to F1’s four current manufacturers the proposed Volkswagen Group entries from Porsche and Audi, who have been part of discussions about the regulations, are also preparing to build power units to the new rules.

“I think it’s not easy with all of the incumbents and the new power unit suppliers to really get to a point that we are having detailed regulations that are ready to be signed,” Wolff acknowledged. “But I hope that it’s not dragging out too long.

“I hope we can do this over the summer so we can start the autumn season with engine regulations in place.”

Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto is not concerned the arrival of the new regulations will be held up. “We’ve not received at the moment any information on the fact that the vote will be delayed,” he said. “There is a World Council [meeting] by the end of June and there will be an F1 Commission in Austria. So let’s move step-by-step.”

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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....
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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22 comments on “Mercedes don’t want new F1 power unit debate “dragging out” beyond summer”

  1. I’m most interested in the new fuels, I think F1 can once again be on the forefront of helping the industry move forward by helping create a drop-in fuel that can be used in road cars and other vehicles with combustable engines with heavily reduced emissions. That could be a nice boon for Formula 1 and great for the environment worldwide.

    1. You do know that synthetic fuels already exist and they don’t have a much lower footprint than fossil fuels.

      If F1 is doing this for marketing, then expect nothing. If they are doing it for extreme engineering that only works with an exotic process and is not necessarily better than existing ones, then again don’t expect anything.

      A cynical take but I think F1 will continue to be worse for the environment even with the new regulations as they simply can’t move to cleaner technology.

    2. Fuel replacements are ok for racecars.
      However, to supply all cars, it would take away so much good agriculture surface, it would probably lead to many people starving.
      And in the end you still have a noisy car, low efficiency (+50% of that precious fuel is lost to heat), pollutants (just different ones), etc.
      Don’t get your hopes up.

      1. You can produce synthetic fuels, with what is in essence free geothermal energy in Iceland, Chile and Argentina.

        Rather that mining the entirety of Australia and Africa for precious metals to build batteries (and destroy the living space). You can produce unending streams of synthetic fuel with free energy from water and CO2.

        It is alot more practical to keep using in fuel than try and build electric infrastructure everywhere in the world.

        It’s low hanging fruit, the infrastructure for fuel already exists and will cost trillions of dollars, hours and metals for evs..

        1. SadF1fan, the current production techniques for those types of synthetic fuels are extremely inefficient – you need to expend around five times more energy than you would for a comparable battery electric vehicle – and as most production uses hydrogen obtained from fossil fuels, emissions from those processes are also much more significant.

          As for the cost, the cost of the infrastructure for large scale production of synthetic fuels is vastly more than you think. For one litre of the type of synthetic fuels you are talking about, you need between 82 – 99MJ of energy, 3.7 – 4.5 litres of water and around 2.9 – 3.6kg of carbon dioxide as a feedstock.

          When you start working the scale of the resources required to approach production on an industrial scale, you might start to appreciate that you are vastly underestimating the requirements. The global aviation sector alone was using around 95 billion litres of fuel per year – if your energy requirements were towards the upper end of the scale (around 99MJ), you could just about reach that current global fuel demand if you dedicated the equivalent of the electrical power production of the whole of the European Union (nearly 2,700TWh) to producing just aviation fuel.

          Nobody has proven that it is possible to scale up production to industrial scale either – it has only been trialled at a small scale at a couple of pilot plants. To produce fuel on an industrial scale, you would need facilities that are around 100,000 times larger than anything that has been built to date – scaling up production to that scale is not trivial and will require significant capital expenditure.

          1. A lot of incorrect information in this posting.
            There are a lot of scientific articles about large scale production of synthetic fuels. And indeed a lot of experiments with it.
            The scale of production facilities can be a lot smaller compared with the environmental disasters like current fuel production facilities prove to be.
            Closer to the source and smaller in scale has its advantages.
            Yes, there is work to do. But if the likes as F1 give enough support it will succeed.

          2. @seth-space there is a rather large difference between talking about potentially producing synthetic fuels on a large scale, and actually managing to achieve that.

            So far, the largest scale plant that is in operation is the Vulcanol facility in Iceland, which produces methanol – which would require further processing to make it a usable fuel for the automotive sector – at the rate of 4,000 tonnes per year.

            The Norwegians are supposed to be building a facility that would produce 8,000 tonnes per year of e-fuels – however, that project has already fallen two years behind schedule and is not opening until 2024 at the earliest. Furthermore, that facility is only targeting the Norwegian domestic aviation sector, not the wider transport sector.

            The Vulcanol facility in Iceland and the Sunfire facility in Norway are, however, the exceptions, rather than the rule – most facilities to date have production rates that are significantly lower, and none of those are commercial operations (they are all still proof of concept).

            I guess you like the idea of e-fuels as a magic panacea, but realistic long term projections from bodies such as the European Union or the Royal Society do not see e-fuels as a credible mass solution for the transport sector. Even in the 2050s, they’re still expected to be a fairly niche market and realistically only likely to be used in a few transport markets – aviation and shipping – as costs are still expected to be too high and production capacity too low to make it viable for use on a wider scale.

            The idea that F1 will “make a difference” to an existing and pretty well known production process doesn’t make much sense. The Fischer–Tropsch process, which is what most e-fuel facilities are based around, is nearly a century old now, and fossil fuel based methods for producing synthetic fuels have existed for a long time, but have usually only been used as a method of last resort – for example, Sasol in South Africa used coal as a feedstock, mainly due to multiple nations imposing export bans on crude oil and distillates during the apartheid era.

        2. OK, maybe we have to get clear what these “new fuels” exactly are.
          My first impression was that it was some kind of bio-fuel, hence my remark on agriculture needs.
          From this article it seems it some sort of ‘enriched’ hydrogen:

          Synthetic e-fuels are manufactured using an industrial process that captures CO2 from the atmosphere and combines it with low-carbon hydrogen to make fuel. The hydrogen is obtained from sustainable electricity sources such as wind, solar and nuclear power.

          A few remarks on that:
          – what is low-carbon hydrogen? It seems it is defined in an EU directive which states: “Low-carbon hydrogen is defined as “hydrogen, the energy content of which is derived from non-renewable sources, which meets a greenhouse gas emission reduction threshold of 70%”.” So that directly conflicts the rest of hte sentence: non-renewable vs sustainable. Typical marketing speak!
          – in 2020, 95% of hydrogen came from fossil fuels. Prognosis is that by 2030 this will still be +90%. With all the energy transition losses involved with hydrogen, it’s better to just run on fossil fuels.
          – as anon mentioned before me, I highly doubt the geothermal energy from those countries will be sufficient to make enough alternative fuels for all cars.
          – Seeing how much influence E10 fuel has on cars vs E5 fuel, I highly doubt such an enriched hydrogen would be a “drop in replacement” for most cars. I think gas tank, fuel lines, engine head and software will need to be adapted to run optimal.

          In the end moving F1 to alternative fuels is just a drop in the ocean. Let them first reduce the pollution from moving the circus around the world every (other) week.
          Just a rough estimate: I remember a figure being posted a few years ago that the Mercedes consumed around 30l/100km in the race. Let’s say 40l.
          Typical race distance is around 350km. With practice sessions included, let’s say 1.000km for the whole weekend. That is 400l per car per weekend.
          That’s 9.600 liters per weekend for all cars, so 220.800 liters for the whole season.
          One Boeing 747 consumes 150.000 liters for a 10-hour flight. From this article, I read that they might use 7 747 airplanes.
          So for one weekend on the other side of the world, the planes to transport the material consume already several times what the cars consume for the whole year! So… yeah. Drop in the ocean.

          It is alot more practical to keep using in fuel than try and build electric infrastructure everywhere in the world.
          It’s low hanging fruit, the infrastructure for fuel already exists and will cost trillions of dollars, hours and metals for evs..

          The infrastructure that already exists…. only there is no infrastructure for these new fuel types.
          However, there is already an infrastructure for electricity. Is it large enough when everybody wants to charge their EV at the same time? No, absolutely not. But not everybody needs to charge their EV at the same time. Some will be able to charge at work and will not (or cannot) charge at home. Others can charge during the day at home, other during the night at home. Some will use quick chargers.
          EV’s can break our grid, but they can also save it.

          Let’s keep these special types of fuel for places where current fuel cannot be replaced easily: airplanes and heavy industry for example. Road cars are fine as EV.
          F1? They can do whatever they want with their cars, doesn’t matter much in the grand scheme of things. They better replace their airplanes and trucks.

          1. Chris, it doesn’t really matter how much or how little the F1 carbon footprint is in that if they stopped racing tomorrow it still wouldn’t a dent in our global carbon emissions. What matters is that if F1 can show the most advanced cars in the world race fine on low-carbon alternatives, that will persuade millions of drivers that perhaps they don’t need a carbon-belching 4×4 for the school run.

  2. Would be great if they could (re)introduce an engine formula, rather than an engine specification
    Manufacturers might actually be interested to build what they (individually) think is the best way to make a car go fast. You know – engineering, relevance, competition, marketing, and all that….

    1. Yes, I agree. It seems strange to me that the specs dictate a V6, for example. I often wonder why. There was a time when the rules had a size limit, and if you wanted a straight 4 or a V8, or even an esoteric five cylinder design, that was all okay. I remember many years ago how some designs had better torque, others better top speed or reliability, and F1 was about engineering innovation. The current rules seem to be designed to create a spec series with calling it a spec series.

    2. Wouldn’t that be grate – actually making use of the work Formula and making it relevant.

      My understanding is that they brought about all the restrictive rules and specification was to keep costs down to stop teams from just spending their way to a championship – that in its own right has been a bit of a joke given how expensive the PU’s are now. However now there’s successfully been a transition to having a formal cost cap, surely rules and regulations can be relaxed to allow for innovation.

      And yes I know that the cost of PU development doesn’t fall inside the cap, but that could be fairly easily changed.

      1. Even though the engine spec is spec-series-level tight – the more testing they do, the more refinement they build into the product. Look at how much the engines have evolved since 2014. The rules didn’t change throughout that time (not significantly, anyway).
        Just think – for every race engine you see, 100 others have been destroyed on the dyno…. And this process hasn’t stopped – there are always gains to be made, in the name of ‘reliability’ of course…

        I fully agree that engines should be within a cost cap of their own. Something modest that could fit comfortably inside the team budget, so that it would be a viable proposition for teams to build their own, independent of the stranglehold that manufacturers have over F1 now.
        I know it won’t happen, but still – this just another example of what F1 is about these days. Not at all what it used to be about…

  3. It’s 2022, and the new regulations are due for 2026. That’s 3.5 years, more than enough time.
    For the 2014 they had 2.5 years as the WMSC rubber stamped it in 2011. And that was with the complex MGU’s, 2026 regulations are going to be a cake walk for development in comparison.

    1. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
      27th June 2022, 11:38

      If the only specification for the battery (energy store) is its output then this is the one area where huge strides could be made in terms of density. In general if you want more power you need a heavier battery. This is where an advantage could be significant.

    2. @skipgamer whilst the regulations might have been formally approved in 2011, the negotiations over those new engine regulations started much earlier than that and the rules were basically already in place by mid to late 2010 – the 2011 announcement was just a formality.

      It’s also worth remembering that Renault’s technical report to the FIA, which formed the basis of the current regulations, was submitted back in 2007 – so, although the formal announcement might have been in 2011, there were several years of discussions in the run up to that announcement.

      1. @anon Nothing started as early as 2007, even more so since the V6 concept wasn’t even the original intention, but a four-cylinder one for 2013. More like 2009-2010.

        1. @jerejj back in 2007, Renault was already undertaking computational modelling and prototyping a single cylinder test bench model as proof of concept of the idea for a turbocharged engine and for a system to recover energy from the exhaust stream.

          We know this because Adam Cooper has previously published extracts from those letters, which showed how Renault was putting forward the argument that the sport should encourage the development of hybrid power units, as well as already discussing back then the potential opposition from FOM due to the fact that the new power units would sound quieter due to the dampening effect of the energy recovery systems.

          Yes, you can argue that it was for a four cylinder concept, rather than a V6, although Renault’s technical paper was into the technical feasibility of the broader concept, with the number of cylinders for the engine being something of a secondary concern. You can also argue that perhaps the intensity of those talks increased in later years, but that is different to saying that there was nothing happening before that.

          The idea of recovering energy from the exhaust stream was already being discussed back in the 2000s, and was being pushed by a number of different manufacturers who were involved in the sport at the time as a potential future development option for F1. For example, back in 2005, BMW were working on a number of different concept designs for ways of recovering energy from the exhaust stream of a car, including one option for thermal electric generators using waste heat energy from the exhaust, to directly generate current, with examples of their work being put on public display in Nov 2005.

          In 2006, BMW was therefore suggesting that the sport should look to incorporate methods for recovering energy from the exhaust gases of the engines in the next engine formula – now, whilst you might state that BMW’s concepts back then are different to what was implemented, the point is that there was already lobbying by manufacturers involved in the sport at the time to move towards a hybrid power unit that incorporated some form of energy recovery from the exhaust, and that Renault’s research back in 2007 was part of the initial research to assess the viability of what eventually became the current engine regulations.

  4. Toto wants his personel to start spying during their holiday in France or Italy this summer already ;-) jk

  5. The more you read what Dodo says to the press and the racing journalists you start to realise what a total 5 UK A5 5 he is and you can’t help disliking him even more!!!😳! That’s what my mate says and I’m starting to agree with him!😳😭

  6. Why don’t we have up and down votes for people’s comments here anymore?🤔😳🤣

    1. Because the down-vote button has worn out

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