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When some engines are more equal than others..
When some engines are more equal than others..
Posted By: James Allen  |  22 Sep 2009   |  7:26 pm GMT  |  67 comments

I’ve been thinking about another decision reached yesterday by the World Motor Sport Council, namely equalising the engines from the top downwards, rather than from the bottom up, as was done last year.

Very good, now please knock 30hp off

Very good, now please knock 30hp off

According to the FIA, the feeling is that despite the engine freeze, some engines are more powerful than others, thanks to making the most of the very limited things you are allowed to do to engines and fuels. As last year it seems that Mercedes and Ferrari have squeezed an extra bit of performance from their engines, where Toyota and Renault have not.

This was graphically demonstrated at the last two Grands Prix, where the Toyota looked the worst but even the Renault was well short of the Mercedes. I’ve heard estimates of a 20-30hp advantage for Mercedes over Toyota.

The FIA says that “should the teams wish to eliminate this performance differential, they may be allowed to do so by reducing the performance of the more powerful engines. However, no engine upgrades will be allowed.”

Last year the weakest engines were the Renault and the Honda and they were told that they could bring their power levels up to the others, which Renault did. But this year two key factors are different.

First FOTA has well and truly made its mark on F1, through the breakaway threat, and the teams were effectively allowed to come up with their own rules package, following the meeting after Silverstone at which the breakaway and the budget cap were shelved.

So the FIA is tossing this issue back to FOTA and saying that its up to them to sort it out between them. As this issue is a possible fault line between FOTA members, it provides them with a test. The twist is that the best must lower its standards, which is not the F1 way, and it is asking a lot of Mercedes and Ferrari, both of whom are keen to get back to the front of the grid in 2010 with their works teams after an embarrassing season. They owe it to their fans and their sponsors to be competitive next season and voluntarily knocking 20hp – worth 2/10ths of a second at most tracks- makes that challenge greater, especially with the cars being so close on performance. FOTA wants unity and harmony between competitors, but the engine builders will not want to show their performance figures to their rivals, so it’s going to be a thorny one to resolve.

But the other factor which has changed since this time last year is the return of Cosworth, which will power the four new teams (or at least three of them depending on what USF1 decides to do). As the Cosworth is based on a 2006 design, and the FIA originally wanted it to be allowed to run at 20,000 revs, the feeling in the paddock is that the engine will be some way off the power of the best engine.

Every little helps and knocking 20-30hp off the Mercedes will help to reduce the gap to the back of the grid teams.

Cosworth insist that their engine is at least a match for the Renault and Toyota and maybe even the Ferrari, as managing director Tim Routsis told me that computer simulations show that the results of the races in the first half of the season would have been the same if the front runners had been using Cosworths, based on the performance figures they have.

We will see in the New Year, when the new teams hit the track alongside the existing teams. But the FIA will not want the new teams to be well off the pace, so the engine downgrade is very much in their interests too.

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Giday Martin, If you limit the volume of fuel, & the amount of air that can be injested by the engine—-on second thoughts, you wouldn’t have to govern the air because you can only operate within a narrow air/fuel ratio anyway—–then inovative engine builders and tuners would be searching for maximum economy/eficiency! With more lieniency on engine design other than what I suggested above, it would interesting to see what eventuated! But this conversation is pointless untill things change in a couple of year’s time. I’ll throw another cat amongst the pigeons by recomending they use methanol/ethanol instead of petrol!! Oh yeah, bring on Ari Vatinen!!!




Mosley can’t leave too soon.


How come they say Merc & Farrari has more power? Remember McL & Fari use Kers, so if we disregard them Reno & williams (Toyota) would be up there so there would only be two mercs towards the front and other mercs down the field & wot about the other Fari users, theyre not up front! There’s more to iut than just engine power! And in my opinion they should ban Kers so it’s an even playing field. Bring on Ari Vatinen!




Renault had KERS in Monza too. It’s all measured using acoustics


Is this Formula 1, or is it Formula Ford? For the last 50 years that I’ve been following GP racing they seemed to get on ok without this engine b*s ! I reckon they should allow a certain amount of fuel per race, to be supplied at the circuit by 1 supplier, & a certain size air intake to the airbox, & a certain rpm limit, A certain engine capacity, & compression ratio, & number of cylinders, & let them go for it!




How about just fixing the amount of fuel the cars can use and then fixing the price of customer engines over a season.

The airbox exists to achieve what is known as volumetric efficiency, it is not about getting higher pressure air into the cylinders as some motorbikes do.


I can’t get my head around the drive to equalise performance. Finding performance is the DNA of F1.

Yes, some cost-saving ideas are worthy, engine/g’box longevity is a decent concept, but this latest twist is nothing to do with cost cutting.


If all the engines have to produce the same power it begs the question why not all use the same one. Nonsense!


So next year when the teams have to carry a whole race’s fuel a more powerful engine will either be more efficient or carry a more noticeable weight penalty. I’ve no idea what the actual weights are, but for simple numbers, if 20HP more power means using 20KG more fuel over a race of 3 stops that’s 5KG per stint a 2.5KG average. If you put all 20KG in at the start that’s 10Kg over a race.

So *IF* Mercedes have just get more fuel through the engine the weight penalty will compensate. On the other hand their engine is more efficient, then coming down to the same output as the others will give their teams a weight advantage.


OK so how will it be done, exactly? I assume restrictors, etc will not be specified – so what will happen, will Mercedes just re-programm their Bhp/torque output curves a little? Don’t they already have the ability to change between engine mapping programs, like everyone else?

Mind you, with no refuelling next year, this might give them better fuel consumption, which should count for something…


I thought the Concord Agreement ensured that Mosley would have no effect on matters which don’t concernt the FIA.

The battle for control continues.


Looks like FIA has gotten back to its old ways. This is as laughable as the suggestion that Michael Schumacher during his steam rolling years needed to carry a ballast weight just so that he is on equal terms with the other teams.

FIA is hell bent on making F1 a F1.5 or a F1.99

Opposite Lock (Ken)

the best computer simulations in the world, the best dyno tests possible always fall hugely short of in car qualifying and race conditions. Cosworth is going to be hopelessly behind the other engines.

James, will the Cosworth engine be frozen with no additional development allowed once it runs next year?


It will operate to the same rules as the others

A different James

All this just proves that virtually every idea Max Mosley inflicted (yes, inflicted) on F-1 has been less than worthless. Every time an “unfreeze” (thaw?) is approved, it only reinforces the fact that this idea is pure stupidity.

Go away, Max, please!


I don’t get it. Stuff like this is throttling F1, the supposed pinnacle of motorsport.

Now they want Mercedes to un-engineer / detune their better engine, because cars running with it are getting too far ahead, all the time, and winning races. It’s obtuse. I watch F1; I want to see a demonstration of Power, Grunt, Formidable Engineering Skills clashing, not scalextrics.

F1 is becoming so, well, formulated.


so what next? Penalising the fastest drivers do that the slower ones have a chance to catch up?


As a non-engineer, I don’t see how you can go backwards on the performance of the top engines; but, my ignorance aside, F1 is and should be a meritocracy. Any engine equivalency iniative has to be about bringing the lesser units up to scratch.

If one is to go down the conspiracy route, this could be a problem for Cosworth, who may not be able to afford rapid development of a three-year old engine. I am assuming their engine will have to be included in any discussions about equalisation.

What next? Bricks bolted to the front of aerodynamically superior chassis? Faster drivers forced to take mild sedatives before racing? We all want close on-track action but if it is to be falsified by regulations that effectively punish success, then second cars may as well be allowed to strategically crash or, all the motor racing gods forbid, touring car style success ballast should be added for the audacity of winning.


I smelled a rat as soon as I saw this FIA release; dumbing down the very best engines is one thing but what happens if there is a significant performance gap between the likes of Renault / Toyota and the new, old kid on the block Cosworth?

The boys at Cossie can be doing whatever simulations they want; when it all boils down they have an 8 year old engine spruced up by 2nd tier engineers (all their best guys left years ago) and there WILL be a performance gap, probably a significant one.

The FIA (Max) realising this, does not want reflected egg on his face so the dumb-down plan gives him the leverage to bring the best back down to the worst.

Not sure if FOTA can veto this but unless we want to end up with open-wheel NASCAR’s something will need to happen.


So Merc and maybe Ferrari will have to detune their engines. How will they police that. Surely they would not be allowed to use that to their advantage in a way that they become more fuel efficient having to run on race distance fuel next year?


If engine outputs are equalised the teams may as well all use the same engine from the same manufacturer, manufacturing different engines with the same output would be pointlessly expensive. The logical extension of this idea is a very expensive version of Formula Ford, which I’m not knocking but it’s not F1. The attraction of the highest formula used to be the multifaceted nature of competition, driver, chassis, engine, tyres and even fuel if I remember rightly. Much of that has gone in the name of cost or safety so the F1 of today is an emasculated version of its previous incarnation. If engine outputs are equalised what would be the attraction of the sport to car manufacturers, we may as well race lawnmowers – with suitably restricted air intakes of course, heaven forbid that we should actually explore their true potential.


Surely it would be easier, and no doubt more acceptable to manufacturers, to mandate a spec chassis and then allow manufacturers to contribute innovation through brakes, cooling, transmissions, ECUs and actual engines.

There’s little point to the sport in restricting engine development if you then have a situation where some engines are more powerful and therefore have an advantage through a season, not allowing other engine manufacturers to catch up.


Now if my Physics is right then power output of a power plant doesn’t depend solely on horse power. It depends on rotational speed as well as on torque along with horse power. Rotation speed can be ruled out as it is defined by FIA. But do you think mercedes powered cars are having any advantage in terms of torque on other cars? If not, how much of difference does it make in terms of ultimate power gain with greater horse power?



Your physics is a bit out. Power is a derived quantity – it doesn’t exist and hence cannot be measured directly (this is probably surprising to you).

The combustion of the fuel generates pressure on the piston, which is a force. The crankshaft turns this into a rotation force, i.e. torque. To calculate the power from the torque value you just need the angular velocity in radians per second.

Being in Australia I work in metric, so I’ll use it as an example. If we assume that an F1 engine produces a maximum torque of 300 Nm then to calculate the power you multiply 300 by the rpm, divide by 60 to convert to seconds rather than minutes and then multiply by 2 x Pi to get radians. Therefore if maximum torque is at 16000 rpm then the power at 16000 rpm is 502 kW (674 hp). To get 750 hp at 18000 rpm the engine needs to produce 297 Nm at 18000 rpm.

Power is important in terms of overcoming aerodynamic drag. To double a car’s top speed you’d need eight times the power. The benefit of KERS, if only used for top speed (which it isn’t) would give a 3.5 per cent increase in top speed.

So to get back to your question about the advantage the Mercedes-Benz engine has, to have more power it must produce more torque at the point of maximum power. The torque across the working range of the engine is what determines the acceleration for a fixed weight, gearing, aerodynamic drag and tyre rolling resistance.

According to Autocourse a couple of years ago, a key problem with the Renault compared to the best engines was that it lacked lower-rpm torque. The maximum power was okay so the top speed was reasonable, but the acceleration was always behind.

Power gets quoted because people think they understand it when, in most cases, largely they don’t. A Sydney newspaper like calling torque ‘pulling power’.

A final thing on engines: for a fixed engine capacity, long stroke designs do not help the production of torque, despite what is commonly stated in magazines by journalists. The piston area and the stroke multiply together to give the engine capacity and these cancel each other out in the production of torque. Long-stroke designs inhibit power as the internal friction limits the maximum rpm. Therefore the engines with long strokes are often tuned to produce more torque.

Hope this helps your understanding of engines.




“…should the teams wish to eliminate this performance differential, they may be allowed to do so by reducing the performance of the more powerful engines.”

LOL. Really, that’s the best the FIA–the regulatory body of F1–can come up with?

What engine manufacturer in their right mind will reduce the performance of their engine?

Is there a penalty for not reducing performance?

This just strikes me as ridiculous.


I’m with Silverstoned, my brain is beginning to hurt.


That’s not F1. That’s not even racing.

Hobbling the faster cars so the slower ones can keep up? That sounds like a feel-good kindergarten class, not motor racing.

I’m sorry, in any race there has to be losers.


Why not a limited engine budget per year, for each manufacturer to spend on whatever parts they think best? Some will go for power, some for fuel efficiency, etc. There has to be a difference, all cars look the same and have the same power. I’m all for close racing but personally I prefer close racing between different cars.


Because the manufactures can hide their development in their car companies. Who is to say how much that technology is worth if, say, Toyota CO. sells that advancement to ToyotaF1.

Mike from Medellin, Colombia

This is ridiculous. Why not also ask teams who have better aerodynamics to take away downforce?

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