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Future F1 engines – compromise in the air
Posted By: James Allen  |  22 Jun 2011   |  6:20 pm GMT  |  168 comments

As expected the F1 Commission, which met today, has delayed the introduction of a new engine formula to 2014, rather than 2013.

And compromise seems to have been reached on the layout, with the 1.6 litre turbocharged engines likely to be V6 rather than in-line 4 cylinders, to which Ferrari was vehemently opposed, among others.

This looks like a sensible compromise to me. I was struck by the strength of opposition from fans to the 4 cylinder units at the recent FOTA Fans Forum we hosted in Montreal.

As far as I know, the other elements of the new engine package which the FIA were so keen to see, such as the potent energy regeneration systems known as ERS, have been maintained. The compromise package will now be presented to the FIA’s World Motor Sport Council for approval.

There had been suggestions before the meeting that Bernie Ecclestone may seek to embarrass FIA president Jean Todt over the issue, as happened recently with the U Turn over the Bahrain Grand Prix, by suggesting that the vote by which the 4 cylinder engines had been agreed had not been carried out correctly. But compromise was in the air today and the outcome seems reasonable for the sport.

It is still an exciting challenge for the engineers and will keep F1 at the sharp end of technology, whilst also putting energy regeneration at the heart of the story.

The solution is palatable to Ferrari – whose legendary V6 turbos powered Gilles Villeneuve in the 1980s – and Mercedes as well as Renault, who had threatened to leave the sport if it didn’t move to small turbo engines. Cosworth is a versatile engine builder with experience of engines of all sizes with and without turbos. For them it will come down to a cost analysis of customers and price point versus development costs.

The compromise package is likely to be a hot topic among fans at next week’s UK edition of the FOTA Fans Forum, which is taking place at the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking.

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The rev limit is 15,000 rpm because the originally proposed 12,000rpm caused concern that the cars wouldn’t sound very good out on the circuits.


what is the rev limit for these v6? still 12 k or is it higher?


Rotary would be a better way forward…they scream, they have a lot fewer parts, surely they are cheaper to manufacture and run. I know fuel consumption is an issue on road cars, hardly an issue in F1. Dont see any cons with them in F1 myself.


Had FIA done nothing to stop some teams ran away in the past, the qualy rule of 107% will perhaphs be 125%. It’s natural to level the field a little bit once in a while. From the fan side, it’s easy to lose interest if we know Vettel always seem to have vast reserve in speed even though RBR PR machine always trying to spin the picture in other way.


When we had turbos in the 1980s there was no rule on the number or configuration of cylinders. When we went back to 3.5 litre non-turbos it was said Ferrari built a V12 because they always built V12s Ford came in with a Cosworth V8 because they always built V8s. Renault took a guess and went with a V10, and Honda built all 3 and started with one and switched to the other… So who says the BEST way to get most power out of given amount of fuel is 4 or 6 cylinders ? If something can do it better with a radial 5 cylinder engine let them build it. More small cylinders with high RPM or Few bigger ones with lower RPM. Let them rev to whatever they’ll go to. If you can build an engine which lasts 1000 racing miles AND runs at 25,000 RPM, that should be applauded not legislated out of existance.

I’d go further: let the cars to burn ANY hydrocarbon – alcohols, Petrol, Diesel , Gas – with an equalization formula for C02 emmisions. You can build any engine you like but the fuel capacity is fixed.

Simpler rules and greater innovation, with more to feeding down to road cars

is NOT something manufacturers actually want because of the fear that someone else will come up with something way better than they do. Or am I just a conspiracy theorist.


Can someone please explain to me what the difference is between having a 1.6 straight 4 cylinder turbo engine or a 1.6 V6 turbo. I’m a bit confused as to what the significant difference is in terms of performance



Having more cylinders (for a given overall capacity) means the pistons, valves and other reciprocating parts will each be smaller and lighter, and therefore easier to move faster. So typically the engine with more cylinders will rev higher and make its torque at higher rpm. This is a big advantage for a racing engine because you can take advantage of the higher-rpm torque with lower gearing.


Thanks Iceman, appreciate the explanation, makes sense.



Yes! Very happy with this. The V6’s should still sound good.


F1 was conceived by car manufacturers for the purpose of demonstrating their technologies so it has to reflect the road cars of today. I think that the V6 turbo is they way to go in the short term, perhaps reducing the maximum fuel tank size by 5 litres per year but F1 should be looking towards something more radical for the future.

Burning hydrocarbons to power cars is not viable now, let alone in another ten years, maybe F1 should think about switching to hydrogen fuel cells soon. I think it would accelerate the development of the technology.


I was behind the engine that was originally suggested, however I think that this is a much better idea and it appears that Ferrari have thinking about this for a while:

Could you imagine a road going Ferrari or Mercedes using a flat four small turbo? No.

Could you imagine Ferrari, Renault, Mercedes and particularly Cosworth selling an F1 derived V6 turbo? Yes.

Am I literally beside myself with excitement at the thought of this? Yes.

Now imagine Caterham 7 (or an Elise if you still want to give money to Group Lotus after there ungentlemanly conduct) road cars using a 1.6 V6 Turbo F1 derived engine in a British sports car.

Where do I sign?


Will a rev-limit still be imposed on these new engines?


I still think Diesel is the way forward, but I might be in a minority here. I’m thinking 2 litre V6 twin turbo.

I like the idea of putting choice back to the teams, like an earlier poster suggested have a target CC (or power limit) and let the teams / engine manufacturers decide how to get there. Give them the choice on fuel too.


I would like to see F1 using diesel or pure bio fuels.


I think you might be in the minority!


Yes, James, I think I am. But I much prefer to drive the 2.5 litre I4 Turbo Diesel I have in the UK rather than the 4.0 litre V6 Petrol I have out here in Qatar (both 4x4s). DERV’s are just so much more driveable! And, if they are so worried about making things ‘real world’ relevant, rather than it just being a marketing gimmick, then surely pointing all that engine genius at diesel engines is the way forward. More reliable, more economic, becoming more popular (in the ‘West’). There’s more to come out of those than there is out of Petrol engines, which have hit their developmental peak (more-or-less and especially so considering there’s an engine freeze in F1).

At the moment, the Le Mans endurance series is far more ‘real world’ at the moment, it seems.

PS.: Loving the new site, but I’ve yet to try it on a mobile. The old site was pretty rubbish at detecting a mobile browser and switching layout accordingly.


At first i liked the new site, but after having come to it since a couple of time i think the colors around the different are too much.

It seems to busy with all the colors.

Before, it was easier to simply jump to the left column for your latest blog, or jump to the right for the tweets link.

Now, i’m all over the place trying to search for things.

I also have to click on another link to open your lates blog, whereas before, i was able to simply scoll down.

Bring back the old blog, bloke!!! 🙂


A smaller engine can be packaged more tightly. That will make Adrian Newey and the other design engineers very happy. In the future, no doubt, a number of hybrid modules will be added.

Do the rules specifically require 4 stroke + petrol? No gas turbines on the horizon?


Dear James,

I am completely amazed by the FIA stance in this matter… They want small turbo and ERS systems… but for me the question is following – is F1 here for the F1 or fans? I would rather say that F1 is giving golden eggs not only to Bernie but also to FIA and all of this thanks to the interest fron fans. There have been a lot of surveys and as far as I know fans are strongly against turbo engines and would like to keep the big current engines…

I have been in motorsport for more than a decade and one of the worst feeling experience were diesels at Le Mans… such amazing prototypes and they have no sound!!! can’t imagine watching race with grid of just those cars… sound is one of the main sense of the motorsport especially as with the new circuits the spectators are quite far from the track and sense of speed is therefore little bit reduced. Monaco is the slowest of the year but sometimes stands are just few metres from the cars and the feeling of speed is incredible.

so the point is, when the FIA finaly forget about that they want and instead will do what fans want? you can have the greenest F1 but without fans interest it would be dead category…



I am from India and am yet to go to an F1 race. Planning for Indian GP. Hence, I wont be able to comment on the sound.

Could you please let me know which engine spec comes close to the existing 2.4L in terms of pure sound?


I am saddened by all these changes to F1. To me, F1 should be the ultimate in motor racing, but it seems they are moving backwards.

I propose a name change from F1 to F1.5



Don’t you mean F.5?…:)


“I am saddened by all these changes to F1. To me, F1 should be the ultimate in motor racing, but it seems they are moving backwards.”

The same argument was advanced, word for word, when F1 went from 1.5l turbos to 3.5l normal aspiration. Slower, don’t sound as good, we like grenade qualifying engines, etc, etc. When 1.5l turbos raced in the same races as 3.5l (3.0l?) normally aspirated engines, they had to have a special prize (the “Jim Clark Cup”) to give to the losing teams with normally aspirated engines as a consolation. F1 cars were at their most powerful when Gerhard Berger had a Benetton-BMW with over 1000bhp for qualifying. Can you remember what the configuration of that engine was? Oh yes. That’s right.


I like the move to V6s because it will differentiate F1 from lesser series like F2,F3, GP3 and F.Renault. Though GP2 may still continue as V8s, and World Series by Renault is going from road car based V6s to a racecar only 3.3l V8.

The only other change I’d make is a small capacity change from 1.6l to 1.5l – because for most of F1’s history when there was a supercharger option it was 1.5l.


Why the insistence on turbo? We all know that turbochargers used in motorsports is not the same we have on road cars. These costs tens of thousands per piece and have limited lifespan in their working environment. –> $$$$$$$$$$

Why cant they simply limit the engine capacity to a output level desired and use KERS to provide the boost? Leave the number of cylinders open to encourage diversity. … and perhaps, remove rev limits altogether! Continue to ban exotic material in them, thats all


Does anybody have any idea if this makes it more or less likely that a major new manufacturer joins the sport?

I’d say the engine wars (1994 – 6) brought some real excitement with cars running V8s, V10s and V12s all winning races so I’d imagine more open engine rules would work well for f1. Its certainly more road relevant than the aero obsession the sport has been stuck in since engines were frozen.

I agree with a previous suggestion that had the capacity limited to 1.6L with complete freedom on configuration. That way Renault could do its I4, Ferrari and Mercedes a V6/8 and prospective manufacturers could bring their own unique configurations. Imagine BMW bringing in a I6, Audi an I5 and Porsche a H6. That would be perfect!


I think this compromise is probably the best the true fans of F1 are going to get. The sickening thing is this “green” facade. The devotees of F1 are likely not particularly “green” minded and those that are know the logistics of F1 far outweigh this farcical crap about engines, blown diffusers, and engine mapping.

I guess limiting the cost of competition has gone out the window with the development cost of a new engine.


If they want to keep f1 relevant to road cars and going green then they should keep the no refueling rule in place and allow the teams to develop these new v6 engines however they want whenever they want with a horsepower cap. This way the manufactures will continue to develop engine technologies that allow them to burn less fuel and build the cars with smaller fuel cells and less weight making it a worthwhile competitive advantage.


James here is a practical question that just occured to me… if they delay the new engine formula till 2014 and the current agreement and engine freeze expire at the end of 2012, what is there to stop people like Ferrari and merc from bringing some factory special rocketship engine for 2013? It’s not like the current units are completely maxed out. Can the FIA enforce a stopgap for 2013 wssbtially keeping everything as it was?


They would agree as part of the plan that the V8 freeze continues into 2013


If the racing is good and it still feels like F1 then I will still watch regardless of the engine size.


A 1.6 V6 limited to 12,000 rpm – sounds like MotoGP and F1 are getting closer and closer.

Wonder how long it is until we see a Ducati powered F1 car!


People on this board are killing me.

V4 engines were never in the mix – I4 engines were!!!

How can F1/FIA value these peoples opinion when they show that they’re ignorant of the topic at hand?

On an engineering level, which I understand most people won’t know, V4 engines are a failure. They were seen in motorcycles and some cars long ago, but they’ve faded – fallen to the wheyside. Why? They don’t last long due to engine harmonics. V4 engines are dead as dead can be, and hopefully Flat4 engines won’t be far behind.

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