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No “equalising” of engines for 2010
No “equalising” of engines for 2010
Posted By: James Allen  |  16 Jan 2010   |  4:09 pm GMT  |  108 comments

There will be no re-tuning of the engines competing in Formula 1 this season, after extensive discussions on ways of equalising engines drew a blank.

The Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault engines will all be as they were in 2009. The V8 engines in use in F1 at the moment are all frozen in specification, with no performance developments allowed. However manufacturers are allowed to request changes in the interests of reliability.

In that process, some changes were made which definitely improved performance, so by the end of 2008 there was quite a difference in performance between the best and worst performing engines.

The FIA ruled that Renault, which had been left behind, would be allowed to retune its engine to bring it up to the level of the others.

This season the same thing happened again. According to analysis we ran on this site in November, the spread of engine power from the best to the worst engines this year was around 2.5%. This means that, if the Mercedes is believed to have had 755hp, the least powerful engine was 18hp down, which is worth just under 3/10ths of a second per lap.

This time the FIA proposed that if the teams were unhappy then they should sort it out themselves, but it could only be on the basis of the best engine being detuned. Mercedes were very unhappy with this and there was some scepticism about the whether the Renault was as down on power as it was being suggested, especially as Red Bull won six races. After extensive discussions got nowhere, the FIA is believed to have ruled that the engines will stay as they are with no re-tuning.

It is worth remembering that “equivalence” isn’t actully required in the rules, just no performance development. So getting exactly equal engines is not something the FIA has to be seen to pursue.

Red Bull were keen on a move to Mercedes power for 2010, but met with resistance from McLaren and Brawn and also from powerful voices within Red Bull itself. So they will remain with Renault. But this is no bad thing; it is worth remembering that they won the last three races of last season, so the engine clearly wasn’t struggling.

And perhaps more important, performance isn’t going to be the holy grail in races this season; fuel efficiency is, due to the new rule outlawing refuelling. The Renault is the most fuel efficient engine in the field, so the Red Bull team can budget for a smaller fuel tank, which improves weight distribution and aerodynamics and they will carry a lighter fuel load at the start of the race. Every 3 kilos of fuel they carry less than their rivals will help them by a tenth of a second per lap. That could be decisive this year.

Adrian Newey said today that McLaren and Brawn blocked RBR from having the Mercedes engines. The team also evaluated Cosworth. But I have a feeling that they will do just fine with the Renault this year.

This story has been written in response to a number of questions posted on the site by readers wanting to know what’s going on with equalising engines. Thanks to them for suggesting it.

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We’re a group of volunteers and starting a brand new scheme in our community. Your website offered us with useful info to paintings on. You’ve done an impressive job and our entire community shall be grateful to you.


off topic but will you be writing a piece on the recent departure of what many see as two of max’s cronies?




I hope Cosworth just blows the doors off the others!


Is nobody wondering just how “Equal” the new Cosworth will be ?

Max was in the middle of some amazing moves to wrestle control of F1 from FOTA and bully his enemies when the question came up of the Cosworth engines. There was the staggeringly blatant moving of the goalposts one day before the deadline when Max announced that only Cosworth engined entrants would be considered…. I wonder if there is yet another sting in the well spanked tail of Mad Max coming in the shape of a “Very equal” Cosworth engine for all his onside teams ?


As far as fuel consumption is concerned I believe that the worst effcient was BMW’s engine last year. Besides BMW financial-driven withdrawal decision, I guess they had known before their announcement that they would not have been competitive for 2010 because of the engines. I have made a bet Mercedes will be ahead of Ferrari by 2010 season end because of the engines.


Off Topic: All the praise Brawn is heeping on Schumacher (in his latest interview he says boldly that Schumacher will be champion this year) must be having a negative affect on Rosberg.

It’s clear to me that neither Brawn or Mercedes see Rosberg as a true top fight driver what say ye ❓ 😕


I bet Rosberg isn’t sleeping too well at the moment, if the old man beats him as expected that’ll be the end of his career as a potential top league driver.



With all this hoo har about refueling and team bosses not liking, why did they all agree for this to happen in the first place. If they are all worried about it being procession, why were these concerns not raised when the idea was first muted?


The whole engine equivalence argument is so complex that it is a non-starter.

There are so many factors that make an engine perform differently – they have removed one, the top revving, but the configuration of the engine, stroke, bore etc, the engine mapping, the nature of the ancillary equipment mean that at every point on the rev range, different engines will produce different power and torque.

Who is to say what is an advantage or disadvantage? Without a different engine formula – one that prescribes the materials and dimensions so that the only competition is the quality of the engine build not the differing design and components, there simply cannot be engine parity.

The engine freeze will always be unfair. The only solution is to either de-restrict the engine changes but come up with another system of controlling development – and we saw that was well-neigh impossible.

For the next engine formula, the FIA will need to build in a different means of controlling spend – we want engines to be enthusiastically developed at first – we want engine wars on an new engine formula – but there needs to be a way of stopping extravagant spend. What we don’t want is the death of engine development, which is what we are lumbered with at the moment.


Hey James, great article about the engines. I find it completely stupid about equalising the engines though. What happened to the day of having a powerful engine was a major advantage, like Williams BMW back in 2001. I know that the teams are trying to save money, but having a more powerful engine than the other teams should be part of the sport. It’s all now down to aero, it’s not right in my book.


when you mention powerful voices in redbull were vocal against switching from Renault.

No points for guessing that was Adrian newey. Smaller tank, better packaging. Sounds like classic newey….

Best of luck to them. I hope to see them produce a strong car. I like seeing 3-4 teams up at the front.


I know you asked James but I am pretty sure it would.

The better aero packages have good downforce with less drag, so assume it would affect fuel consumption.


very good idea.

I wonder whether enough development is allowed to carry it out though.

Good idea nonetheless though.


I guess only time will tell, no body here (James included) knows the exact fuel consumption figures for the various engines.

Fuel consumption has as much to do with the drivers style as it does the design of the engine so it’ll be interesting to see how this shapes up over the season 🙂


Will we know the true relative fuel consumption figures after this year?

I assume the weight of the car when full of fuel will be known but do we get to know the true weight of the car minus any fuel?


For sure not only engine fuel consumption will be a factor next year, but drag as well will determine how much fuel is going to be needed for a complete race. Does anyone have any figures on this? What is the span between a low drag car and a high drag car and how much does that affect the fuelconsumption.

Mike from Medellin, Colombia

James, what kind of fuel advtange can be gained by aerdoynamic efficiency?

Could a car’s aero efficiency significantly make up for it having a thirsty engine?

Stephen Kellett JAF1

Thats a tricky one.

Increasing aero efficiency in terms of downforce will most likely increase drag: You are effecively translating incoming (static air you are driving into, consuming energy) into energy forcing the car into the ground – translation: increased grip.

Increasing aero efficiency in terms of lower drag coefficient – interacting less with air you are driving into, consuming less energy – translation: faster car.

Its a balancing act. Improve one, you most likely damage the other. There will be occasions when you can improve both. With F1 cars, that probably is not the case, with you bog standard family saloon it probably is the case.

And at certain speeds, the flow becomes turbulent and all bets are off, you have no idea what you are measuring or why (which is pretty much why F1 cars following F1 cars doesn’t work under a given range for a given speed).

I did fluid flow analysis, turbulent flow, etc, (Shannon, Nyquist etc) during my degree, but that was a long time ago and not used during my career. CFD did not exist back then, but CFD doesn’t change the basic premises of flow theory, just allows you to model them better, until the model gets unstable.

Anyone who does this for a living care to comment? (Hint: You don’t have to be involved in racing cars to have a valid input on this – flow theory for many scenarios will have valid insights on this).

Mike from Medellin, Colombia

Thanks for the reply Steve. Very interesting post.

Stephen Kellett JAF1

I should have written “faster car, or more fuel efficient car”, just as the other translation is “more grip, less fuel efficient”.

Swings and roundabouts. Which one do you prefer? I think I prefer swings…


“Red Bull were keen on a move to Mercedes power for 2010, but met with resistance from McLaren and Brawn and also from powerful voices within Red Bull itself”

James, are you able to shed any light on why voices within Renault would be against using Merc engines? Are those voices motivated purely and simply by the fuel consumption issue or something else at play.

Also, does the fact that engine modifications motivated by efficiency can be made? For example, are Ferrari able to try and improve the fuel consumption of their engines, provided that it does not lead to a direct improvement in output? If so, are such modifications registered? Are they obliged to notify the FIA of such changes?


the FIA would know about any physical developments as the engines have a physical seal on them, fitted by the FIA, and the seal can only be broken in the presence of a member of the FIA.


I am starting to think that the FIA should start taking a different approach the engine regs.

Perhaps instead they should say: you have this much fuel (say 260 litres) for the race, next year you get 10 litres less, 10 litres less the following year and so on over the next 5 or 6 years.

That way at the same time the engine companies are forced to work on fuel efficiency which is good for the car industry as a whole and at the same time can work on improving the power/fuel consumption ratio which is good for the sport.


The best regs the FIA could introduce is no regs at all, instead simply give each team a season’s fuel allowance (to be reduced year on year by say 5% to force the designers hand into making their cars more relevant to the real world)) and let the teams use it as they see fit.

This at a stroke would bring innovative designs, differences between teams and make, in the end, all engines more fuel efficient. 8)


Hear hear though far too reasonable a suggestion for anyone at the FIA to listen 🙂


Great, apart from the fact, that the manufacturers are not allowed to work on the engines..

Better idea, give the manufacturers back the freedom to develop, but give them a 200litre limit for the race, as we had at the end of the Turbo era.


Yes that is what I said!

“I am starting to think that the FIA should start taking a different approach to the engine regs. Perhaps instead…..”

Apologies for not explicitly making it clear.



I am personally glad that the awareness of fuel economy is in F1 as this will have a direct relation to road car solutions. It falls in line with the durability of engines & cost cutting initiatives.

I also believe that drivers will be an important factor in fuel usage, some drivers will be heavier on the gas and others might be more economic, similar to tyre use. They will also be able to change the engine map according to race circumstances.

I remember reading or hearing somewhere that Senna was always heavier on fuel than the other drivers becos he “blipped” the throttle mid corner.

Surely drivers like Schumi & Hamilton who are early on the throttle must be heavier on gas?

Another important factor is the relationship that teams have with their fuel suppliers like Mercedes Petronas, Mobil McLaren


I don’t think it will have any relation to road cars. They already get better mileage. The biggest single factor is driver performance, including how much extra weight they carry around as golf clubs, groceries, and whatnot. And theres not much a mfg can do about that.


early on the throttle means faster on the following straight. this is the first you learn on racing and ALL drivers are always trying to be as early and as hard as possible on the throttle.


James, considering Mercedes got ahead of the competition by exploiting the “changes allowed for reliability improvement” loophole, are there rumors that Ferrari and Renault will use the same loophole to catch up?


Maybe this is just a newb question, but it turns out that one of the teams has an uncompetitive thirsty engine, will the FIA allow the manufacturer to tune it so that it can be in contention?

This is why banning testing was silly. We’d have the answers to these questions.

Opposite Lock (Ken)

One of my biggest concerns regarding the refueling ban is that the racing will become economy runs. Drivers will have to slow down to conserve fuel and the races will be even more processional than ever. I’ve seen it in NASCAR and Indycar and it becomes extremely boring. Bernie is correct that the same will happen in F1. At least that’s my prediction…


Keep in mind that while some cars may need to slow to get better mileage (maybe expecting a safety car that never eventuated) – others will have chosen to put in a bit more fuel and be catching them running flat out.


I agree that sprint races are the best kind of racing.

Notwithstanding, I feel that 1984-1993 was perhaps the greatest era in F1 history.


If anyone is worried about that they should try to get hold of Autosport from 7th Jan, and read Mark Hughes article…

Very good.

Basically he thinks that the rules will mandate 2 sotps for tyres..

Obviously the ideal would be to stop at 1/3 and 2/3 distance.

However, since the cars will now be FASTER after their stops, rather than with refuelling SLOWER, you will see a following car trying to stop before their quarry, rather than after.

This could make for some interesting races… IF the tyres are marginal on performance for the stint, since you could have some cars going very slowly at the end of the racem due to having made 2 early stops to make some places..

What do you think James?


well … a dramatic haul of the points system could give them a run for their money.

Maybe the winner should take it all?

Also, the teams should be encouraged to take advantage of alternative energy recovery systems. Power should not only rely on fuel.


A valid point. There has been widespread concern about this among team bosses


At least they didn´t come up with the solution of detuning the best engines.

Ferrari might have a problem with fuel economy judging by last year and also with reability.

Strategys should be interesting at least on the first races.


Does somebody know if the current engine regs means that no ‘changes’ can be made to the engine at all (reliability or otherwise)?

For instance, the Ferrari engine is said to consume more fuel.. are Ferrari able to have remedied that over the winter?


My understanding is that Cosworth has brought their engine into line with the current regs, dropped RPM down accordingly, and as a result has probably solved whatever fuel efficiency problems they had with the older engine. If I remember correctly the last time Cosworth ran they had a pretty strong engine at higher revs than the others, with good reliability. I don’t think Williams dropped them because they didn’t like the engine, they just didn’t like having to pay for them. I think Cosworth will be OK this year and the teams running them can worry about other factors.


Here’s a thought. Cosworth.

Surely given their ability to do anything they want to their engine there is a chance they could have leap frogged all the other engine builders.

They’re a highly competative company and I can see no reason why their engine should not be the most powerful/fuel efficent combination on the grid given they could do anthing they liked……

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