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Ferrari say no worries over engines in China
Ferrari say no worries over engines in China
Posted By: James Allen  |  14 Apr 2010   |  9:56 am GMT  |  58 comments

Ferrari’s engine chief, Luca Marmorini, has said that the Ferrari drivers will use the engines they raced in Bahrain at this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix and they have no worries about their reliability. This comes after three Ferrari engined cars retired in Sepang; Fernando Alonso and both Sauber drivers.

Marmorini said that analysis of the engine which failed in Fernando Alonso’s car during the Malaysian Grand Prix revealed, as expected, that it was likely to have been caused by Alonso’s gear selection problems and was not related to the last minute changes made in Bahrain,

Photo: Darren Heath

“We have carried out an in-depth study into what happened and the two problems are not related to one another,” Marmorini said on “In Sepang, Fernando’s engine suffered a structural failure, of a type we had never seen during the winter.

“We believe there was a role played by the unusual way in which the driver had to use the engine during the race, because of the gear selection problems he experienced right from the start. Additionally, there is no connection with the problem the Sauber team experienced on the engine front at the last race, which we believe was down to an issue with electronic sensors.

“Each car has eight engines it can use per driver over the season and we plan our useage strategy around this. As a precaution, we opted not to use the Bahrain race engines in Australia, but they will be used in China, having concluded that they are fit for purpose, despite what happened at the Sakhir circuit.”

Marmorini’s calming voice comes at an important moment for the team as it heads both championships with a quick car, but some apparent concerns on engine reliability after Malaysia. Ferrari made changes to the pneumatic system on both Alonso and Massa’s engines before the race in Malaysia and changed both driver’s engines hours before the race as a precaution in Bahrain, both tracks with a very high ambient temperature where cooling is critical.

Shanghai will be easier on the engines, “I would describe it as medium load,” said Marmorini. “It features a very long straight, but nothing that causes any particular concern for the power unit and also, the ambient temperature is not usually very high, which makes life easier on the engine front.”

They also ran special gills on the car in Malaysia to help with cooling. “It is impossible to have a clear picture of how this side of the package is working, as there has not been a single race weekend not affected by the weather,” was Marmorini’s take on that.

The rules allow a driver eight engines to be used during the 19 race season, for all the practice sessions, qualifying and races.

The Ferrari drivers have used three engines so far, but can re-use them at various stages for races before moving them on for practice session use. Alonso has one less engine going forward, so will have to be tactical in his use of them and will not want to lose another if he is to make the most of his practice sessions and challenge for the championship.

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Sorry that something went wrong, repeat again!

I’m not a Ferrari fan, but seeing Alonsos engine failed again today I am just hoping they work whatever the problems are out.

I’m a McLaren fan, but I want to see competitive racing this season. Nobody wants to see loads of technical failures get in the way of some great potential battles (apart from some of the more blinkered fans….)


any insight into whether it is a recurrence of one of the multitude of other engine problems? I’d be more concerned if all of them were different if I were Ferrari.


As i type Alonso has had another faliure in first practice in shanghai! LOVELY! more of the same please!


You can’t cheat Karma.

The various reactions to this will be most interesting.

I am not a Bookie, but his odds just lengthened….


How times have changed!

Back in 1990, at the height of the battle between McLaren-Honda and Ferrari, Honda apparently showed up at San Marino with 4 different engine configurations. That is, an unlimited number of engines with 4 separate bore and stroke combinations. They were running 3.5 litre V-10’s at the time. The paddock were amazed. It was a time of unlimited fuel research and development, and unlimited engine research and development. To show up with 4 separate configurations made every single person associated with Formula One ask the same question… “My God! Where is this sport going?”

Well, times have changed, but the knowledge and R & D hasn’t. There’s nothing in the rules which says an engine manufacturer can’t develop “next year’s” engines right now during this season, and that’s doubtless what they’re doing.

If memory serves me correctly, back in 1990 at San Marino, McLaren used every single one of those engine configurations in practice before deciding on which engine to use. Indeed, they were almost two separate teams at the time. Apart from the chassis mounting points, Honda developed the engines offsite and simply told McLaren which engines to use from that point onwards – and Honda ran the egnine management during races, and McLaren ran the suspension and race strategy.

How times have changed.


There is a question going around my mind, probably due to my sheer technical ignorance. Alonso’s engine broke because his clutch failure. He surely knew that by forcing the gears he would end up braking the engine (he is renown for his deep technical knowledge and intelligence). He is also famous for always having the title in mind, and acting strategically accordingly. So, why did he keep pushing instead of parking on the side, thus saving the engine for next race?

My guess (if what I said before makes any sense), is that he is pretty sure about his long term chances, and he wanted to show off his skills.

It would be very unusual for his approach to strategy… on the other side he’s got an ego too.




What do you mean by “wow”? Is that stupid what I said?



Is there any way to number the post so that I can go back to the last post I read. Most of the times I dont have the time to read all of the post in one sitting(work, I know, it sucks:)), and I cant never remember which is the post I read last.


Is there any allowance in the rules to repair broken engines (assuming such is possible – depends on the failure I suppose)?

Granted there is scope for trickery there but on the other hand to need to repair an engine, the car must have failed to finish so it would be a massive risk to push engines beyond the limit and just fix them when broken as you’d be sacrificing lots of potential points finishes.

Tricky area to get the rules right I suppose – it doesn’t look good if a team has made a mistake and loses out due to failures and penalties but you need to keep the costs down somehow…


Well they can’t actually repair an engine, but if failures continue they can make a request to FIA and FOTA to be allowed to make reliability improvements to the engine. They have to be very specific to what the problems are and what components they want to revise.



Ride Height Question. I’ve read that Red Bull could simply be reducing tyre pressure for qualifying to reduce ride height. Is this bunk? Or do you think it makes sense?

Also Mclaren seem very happy to stop development, do you think they’ve worked it out?


One wonders how Fernando would react to repeated dnfs. As cool as Vittel, eg.? Alonso is cool about the odd mechanical failure, but nobody at Ferrari was willing to entertain the idea of Massa leading for the team ahead of Fernando after 3 races. If the gap to Massa grows because Fernando has problems expect fireworks.


totally agree, i feel he will need a change this race and i reckon masssa is going to get a top 4 finish. he will not like it. and we all know how far alonso can throw his toys..


correct me if i am wrong but didnt fernando have a broken gearbox last race and therefore needs to change it – surely giving him a five place grid drop?


I understand that once the car crosses the finish line, it somehow “begins” the next race procedures. That is why it doesn’t get a penalty before crossing the line.

If it did, the problem would concern the next race.

I’m not sure though.


No, he won’t get a penalty because he didn’t finish the race and that’s kind of a reset for the gearbox.


wow that is a silly rule. it should be the same as engines. if its broke get back 5 places. although on this occasion he has paid the price with the blown engine anyway.


With gearboxes the situation isn’t as straight forward as it is with engines, because while the engine block is closed(no modifications of any sort allowed) the gearbox isn’t.

Because the circuits have different configurations they need different accelerations, top speeds. So they alter the ratios from race to race (they have sets of cogs they can use).

So what the regulations refer to when they say the gearbox must last 4 consecutive races they actually refer to the casing, input and output shafts and some other bits but not the entire system.

thomas in australia

I may be wrong but i believe he gets a “free” change because he did not finish the race. Silly rule in my humble opinion.


Hope Ferrari gets it together in China and beats Red Bull down. I still think the Ferrari is the fastest car in race trim.


hope the engine goes pop again, still dont get the love afair people have with Ferrari


It is the fact that Ferrari is F1!!!


Hmm, Ferrari have been there since the start, but would have been nothing if it wasn’t for the other teams. They have also only been f1 racing a third longer than Mclaren.

thomas in australia

While i’m no fan of Alonso or Ferrari, I really don’t want to see him drop out of the championship race due to dodgy engines. Hopefully they make it to the end without penalties.


I think now the question is that what caused “gear selection problems” as another similar problem means 0 points for the event.


We all assumes that Ferrari competitors will not have any kind of problems to their engines on future races…

let’s see what happens.


Hi James,

How is the engine situation policed? Does each have a serial number or something and all 8 are submitted before the start of the season? I was interested to read how Ferrari arrange their strategy, ie we will use the Bahrain (presumbly engine #1) here because it has less loading than Melbourne. With the other comments above, I think you have an interesting article about engines and engine management which your loyal readers I am sure would enjoy.


I can imagine Ferrari is saying that they don’t have a problem with their engines and engine allocation for the races, but it is surely tight. Certainly considering the fact that it is just the start of the season and the real powerhouse races like Monza and Spa still have to come. For those two races you want to have at least two fresh engines.

So maybe they say they don’t have a problem, but they won’t be happy about it. Logical thinking says to me that they will probably have to do with some less rpm at one stage in the season. At least if they don’t want to have a grid penalty at one stage in the season.


usf1 also said they didn’t have any problem.

They are in trouble with the engines, and they are using an engine for china, that they wouldn’t normaly use. I bet they will not use full revs on it.

I won’t bet on alonso or massa winning the chinese gp, this will be damage limitation.

neil murgatroyd

The quote I saw was – “we don’t have an engine problem IN CHINA”.

They will take cheer from the way Vettel managed to finish the season in 09 by extending the use of their unblown engines. But they are looking at a low power finish to the season, or grid penalties, if they have any more problems.



Please could you clarify something.

Is there still a penalty if a team changes an engine between quali and the race? Didn’t they used to get 1 free change then incur a grid drop, is this still the case?


If the engine is changed on a parc fermé situation (in between race in qualy) it cannot be used for other quals or races during the year.

So Massa and Alonso can only use their 1st engine for practice sessions for the rest of the year.


Off the topic james. I hear that mercedes are building a new car to be ready for spain. Any truth in that


Not sure about what you mean by “new car”. They will no doubt have upgrades but the tub is homologated so that can’t be altered.

mohamed south africa

they calling it a b-spec car

neil murgatroyd

As I see it the issue for Ferrari is: Teams have 8 engines for the 19 races, which means that some engines have to do 3 races (so they are all capable of it). They choose the engines with the lightest load, or that have held up their power output best, to be the 3 race ones.

Alonso has lost 2 engines, 1 dead (-2), 1 not allowed to be in race / quali (-3), so he’s lost ‘5 races’ worth of engines, out of a total of 24 (3*8)-> 19. That leaves him with no spare engine/race capacity. Admittedly he can use the Bahrain engine for his practices to reduce his race engine duty cycle, but he now has very little room for error before they have to drastically turn down engine power, or take a race penalty at the end of the year. A bad crash or an engine problem, and he’s in trouble.

He must look at Mercedes with some jealousy, they had 1 engine do 3 race WINS last year.



I get the “1 dead”. That’s a historic engine and isn’t going to run further.

Can you expand on the “one not allowed in race/quali” bit? I don’t quite get that. Is that what happens when he changed the engine early on?




art 28.4 E from the sporting regulations

“If an engine is changed in accordance with Article 34.1 the engine which was replaced may not be used during any future qualifying session or race with the exception of the last Event of the Championship.”


it is all about changes made in “parc ferme” which is considered between the moment the car leaves the pits during the first qualifying session until the start of the race.

I don’t think anybody will wait with an engine used only in the first GP until the last GP, to used it again… but theoretically, based on the regulations, they can do it…

If they replace the engine after the last quali of the season, means they already have another engine to use, which is great as long as there are only 8 engines / car for 19 races… So they go to Abu Dhabi with 2 engines, one of them never used during the season…. and after the quali, for some reasons they decide to replace it… I’ll say “great reliability”… 18 races with 7 engines is a dream come true….

otherwise don’t look for a perfect and clear rule…. This is Bernie’s world…. 😉

neil murgatroyd

Yes I read that. Does that mean the Bahrain quali engine can be used for the last race (I don’t understand why this would be true), or that if 1 is replaced in the last quali of the year, it’s too late to use it again (in which case it’s a pointless clause)

neil murgatroyd

It says in the rules if you change an engine during quali/race, you cannot then use that engine in any future quali & race, only fridays. So the engines they took out before the Bahrain race never did a race (-3 race/engine duty cycles out of the 24), but can be used for FP1 and FP2.

The 1 dead comment, I am saying that the Malaysia engine was new, but blew up, and its only done 1 race, it cannot now go on to do the other 2 races expected of it, therefore -2 races from the total of 24.

Ref my earlier comment, after a race FIA seal blanking plates are put over the exhaust ports on an engine, but they have a 10mm hatch so the team can inspect the cylinder.


Thanks. Your first paragraph cleared up what I was looking for.


neil murgatroyd

Ooops, I’m now not sure Alonso’s Malaysia engine was new. There’s a good analysis of his actual engine use kilometres here on this link

moderators may delete the link though, you could google for “Ferrari admits engine problems “


He is just Hamilton fan. That was all the point of his post.


Would they let us know if they beleived there were problems indeed?


You wouldn’t get a whole press-release or conference about that case, no, but someone is bound to ask questions.

If they had concluded there were problems, then the best answer you’d get is probably “We’re not happy, and we’re still investigating…”


They probably wouldn’t let us know, but they probably would only use the Bahrain engines for practice sessions if they thought there was a problem with them.


I carefully read this article and it seems to me that should Alonso loose another engine, his title chances will drop dramatically.

Is that assumption correct ?

Surely some nail biting time for Rerrari and their fans:)


Well it wouldn’t make it easier

Mike from Medellin, Colombia

James, given that the engines are sealed how to the teams analyze engine wear?

Is it through electronic data or are tey able to physically inspect some parts? What exactly is sealed – cylinder heads, main block?

Have always wondered about this.


I suspect oil analysis is the primary tool used to determine engine wear.

The presence of certain metals in a sample of oil which is removed from an engine will tell a lot about which

parts on the engine are wearing. It is also probable that the

engines employ pressure and temperature transducers which would be useful in extrapolating wear trends, via

comparison with past performance data.

Additionally, it’s possible a technique such as “signature

analysis” is used. In this technique a sound recording of engines in various states of repair is compared against a

recording of an engine in an unknown state, with a computer doing the work of comparing the sounds,

and then reporting what state the engine is in. This technique is used in the aircraft industry.

neil murgatroyd

they are allowed to put a scope through the spark plug hole


Good question, will find out


I think they analyse the used engine oil for metal which give them an indication of warn parts.


A mate of mine does lubes for Sauber. Engine wear is assessed by analysing the lubes when they drain the engine.


I have no idea what exactly is sealed though. Or even what “sealed” means in this context.


I thought there was a development freeze on all the engines? if so, why are ferrari experiencing all these problems on the same engine that was used last year and caused very few problems??


There are new radiators and ancillaries every years there are also things that can be done outside the block and the head and a lot of work has gone on with fuel and lubes etc.

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