Le Grand Retour
Paul Ricard 2018
French Grand Prix
Your F1 engine questions answered: Why define the number of cylinders?
Posted By: James Allen  |  23 Jun 2011   |  10:11 am GMT  |  137 comments

Following on from yesterday’s story about the F1 teams and governing body compromising on the future engine regulations by deciding to adopt V6 turbo engines rather than in line 4 cylinder turbos, we got a good question from long time reader Jose Arellano,

“Why not limit the total amount of C.C and let them do whatever number of cylinders they want?”

This is a great question to which I didn’t know the answer so we put it to Cosworth’s F1 General Manager Mark Gallagher, an old friend of the JA on F1 site and here is his response.

Mark Gallagher writes:
“The answer is predominantly to do with achieving technical equivalency to ensure that no one technical solution gains a massive competitive edge, and this is closely aligned with the need for financial prudence.

“If you limit the CC and leave freedom on cylinders, it would be possible for a manufacturer to have a different engine based on development cost and architecture and this inevitably leads to a spending war. If one went for a V8, someone would go for a V10, and if that worked better then someone else might go on to a V12… the dollars start to disappear down the drain.

“And if you homologated the engines for 3 years, the one with the worst configuration would be screwed (technical term…) for the entire period, and the one with the most money/best configuration would dominate. If you didn’t homologate for 3 years with a freeze, you would have annual development and possibly different numbers of cylinder-engines from teams from one season to the next.

“By having tightly controlled rules governing capacity, fuel allowance, number of cylinders etc you generate a framework for financial control and ensure that engines are not a source of competitive advantage i.e. what we have now works. Competitive edge comes from the Constructor (chassis constructor) and Driver’s championship titles. There is no World Championship for Engines. Sadly.

“Finally, by having common engine size/architecture, teams are not penalised if they swap engine supplier. A Renault will fit in the back of a Team Lotus car, or a Cosworth in the back of an RBR, without huge changes in weight distribution, redesign of car, wheelbase, gearbox interface etc. Again it’s all dollars.”

Thanks to Jose for the question and to Mark for taking the time to answer.

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Mark Gallagher had given a good answers on f1 engine questions……………..




I don’t like the Wacky Races idea of simply bolting a Nuclear-powered engine on your car just to ensure a first place win. How about a future ‘engine’ which Star-Trek-like teleports you around the track at the speed of light to ensure a win?




If the rule-makers are genuine in their aim of making F1 go green, this admittedly rather off the wall idea might work and might even get some interest from other manufacturers.

How about simply specifying that the cars must use a maximum of, say, 150 litres of pump fuel with no refueling and leave it at that.

If Renault want to use a tiny turbo four or Ferrari a screaming multi-cylinder lump let them get on with it as long as they can make it run fast enough for long enough on the fuel limit.

This is not as silly as it might seem, because in future years the fuel consumption could be ‘encouraged’ by lowering the fuel limit.

Further down the green road, the fuel limit could by translated into kilowatts or joules or some such, encouraging the use of more radical green solutions by enterprising manufacturers.

This would open up the possibility of manufacturers using electric power or even fuel cells or whatever else they can come up with. This would certainly bring a bit of variety to the sport!

Before shouting about the cost aspect, consider that manufacturers would be able to dip into their R&D budgets as well as marketing funds so might just be willing to consider it.


Doesn’t the Resource Restriction Agreement negate the comments by Mark Gallagher?

If there is a fixed budget for each team, let them spend it how they want. Success would be about the optimum compromise between engines, aero, driver etc and the more variables the better.

Otherwise why not take the same argument about drivers, ie they must all be 160cm tall, weigh 70kg and be paid the same . . .


agree with zxzxz…

so much money is being poured into aero which is the death of car control, drifting etc everything that made F1 so compelling before the aero junk on the cars…

they should ban aero and give free reign to engineers for development of engines, suspension etc…F1 is about being at the forefront of technology, not an eco. run…the proposal to limit the c.c. is great + a hybrid option like kers should be mandatory…let F1 be at the forefront once again and come up with creative ideas


If ever there was an example of how Twitter allows you to get closer to the sport you love, I actually had a conversation on DM over twitter with Mark on the day this was all announced.

An absolutely top guy. I wont divulge what we talked about but he did mention the aero dependancy. They think they have a superb engine.

He did mention that he was hoping Adrian newey had a bout of patriotism and put the British (Cosworth) engine in the back of his cars. 🙂


death to aero.

complete waste of development money and effort.

the technical draw of f1 is in shambles.


James, I have seen some supporters of the I4 turbo claiming that the V6 with the same fuel flow limits will be around 50hp less powerful.

Will there be a power difference between the I4 and the V6, and how much would it be?

Any chance of the full engine specs being revealed?


If they want more “road relevance” – ghastly term – then just outlaw wind tunnels and loose the hounds of engine design.

Engines are far more relevant than 200mph aero tweaks.


Variety is the spice of life.

Now can I have my F1 back please?


@ Brace: (Insert standing ovation here). Well said, sir!


If they want to cut costs shouldn’t they heavily standerdise the aero?


Maybe this has been asked already, and if so sorry for the repeat.. But why doesn’t the FIA just make a fuel consumption requirement and let the manufacturers meet that with a V8 engine formula? What I mean is, the FIA should set a maximum amount of fuel for the race. For example 25gallons for a 250miles race which would work out to 10mpg. So the teams would have to get their fuel economy good enough to be able to complete the race competitively on 25gallons.

I think it would be much more beneficial to the car industry if they’re able to develop technology that allows high performance v8 engines to obtain 12mpg, or even 8mpg for that matter, instead of trying to force them down to 1.6l v6 engines. The FIA should set yearly targets increasing the fuel economy requirements ultimately reaching a set goal on a certain date.

With the combination of KERS, development in fluids, and other innovations, the manufacturers will be able to come up with technology that will directly apply to the car industry. If they can do all this and still have the engine mapping that allows the use a blown diffuser, then that’s true innovation that F1 should be promoting.


Remember the days when during the race you could expect and engine or two to blow up? That was fun…costly…but fun.


But now we get glorified lap top batteries refusing to hold a charge or getting too warm.



“ensure that engines are not a source of competitive advantage”

^ because that’d be…..erm….. MOTOR RACING?


Personally I don’t want an ‘engine war’, I visualise F1 primarily as a DRIVER/Team sport, and I don’t like the Wacky Races idea of simply bolting a Nuclear-powered engine on your car just to ensure a first place win. How about a future ‘engine’ which Star-Trek-like teleports you around the track at the speed of light to ensure a win?

I like the little tweaks by clever engineers to avoid the all-identical A1-racing type model, but those tweaks being done within the FIA-defined confines: it’s fine with me as it is.


Dave if you want an only-the-driver-makes-any-difference series then a spec series like IndyCars is what you want.

But even they are getting some diversity next season, so I think you’re outa luck.


Not necessarily, engines aren’t a performance differentiator at the moment, for example. THere’s not much to choose between them.


That’s what I meant – that the MOTORS in MOTOR racing cars SHOULD be a/the differentiator.

It’s very, very sad that Cosworth of all people want to make motors like this.


James, the banner doesn’t download – I just get a blanck space where yesterday appeared a photo of you-know-who’s red car.

Is there a problem on the site or you are re-designing it?

Or is it some kind of an anti Ferrari conspiracy, as some commenters could suggest should it affect other team?


Hi Galapago,

i can see the banner of a red car making a right turn. The red car have a big rear wing sposored by a Spanish Bank, and the driver seems to be from oviedo, if i’m not mistaking the helmets.

Perhaps your computer as finally understand that the red car isn’t worthy of so much spotlight 🙂


Hahaha, your fine irony is very much appreciated, sir. 😀

Funnily enough, it looks like the issue has something to do with the internet browser that I use. When using Chrome, no banner appears – so my computer is less “Red Car oriented” as you could say. But when using Explorer here’s the banner back!



I’m using chrome too and i can see it, perhaps something within the cache of the browser, or maybe some settings you changed.

Try to clear the cache and reopen the page, if it doesn’t work, maybe restore settings and try again.


I wish that F1 would lock down aero development and allow the teams to spend money on producing torque.

I say a set amount of chemical energy per race taking into account the energy required to produce whichever chemical you choose (bio-fuel, diesel, gasoline, coal, etc…) with strict emission controls. Come up with the formula and let the teams go at it.

Mandate standard mounting points and set prices for customer teams.

Combine the limited chemical energy with unlimited KERS (no charge at the start though) and I will be a re-invigorated fan.

I am tired of watching the aero-development race, especially when there are so many restrictions on what they are allowed to to aerodynamically.

The one thing about the current engine regulations that I actually like is the limited number of engines per year, we are seeing fantastic reliability with almost no decrease in power.


I think what I’ve said repeatedly here before, and he confirms it: F1 design is NOT about that ‘pinnacle’ stuff.

They don’t design to *win, they are all about NOT LOSING.

This permeates all of F1. Notice that every time someone comes up with something innovative (think F-duct, Mass Damper, etc) they ban it??

They are chicken, *afraid to lose.

And just to be clear about it: this is scorn.


With respect to the configuration of engines for a given capacity, you actually get only a narrow range of optimal solutions. This happened with the V10 where the cylinder size was the optimal for that capacity and other configurations were abandoned. So if the capacity is set so that a 6 cylinder configuration is optimal, then there is no chance that a four or a 12 cylinder alternative will ever appear.

It seems to me that the new engine agreement is pragmatic in this sense because it acknowledges that convergence toward an optimal solution is inevitable, so setting this parameter is a logical way to constrain costs.

The new power units are going to be interesting and complex things with plenty of scope for good ideas and differentiation between engine makers, who will learn a lot from their development. They will sound just great…

Thanks James for making this such an interesting place to discuss these topics and for using your connections to help us understand what is happening in the sport.


Sunday fuel limit and engine budget limit.

Then let’em race.


“…you generate a framework for financial control and ensure that engines are not a source of competitive advantage…”

Could someone, please, suggest very tiny, single plane wings for the cars and move the aero budget towards engines? I’d much rather have engines as the differentiating factor than some wee fin under the car…

I stand by my idea of fuel restrictions and all else power-related is game.


Bravo sir, i applaud that.

Dont you think its a little hypocritical for the rule makers to suggest that the last thing they want is a power war in f1, when in fact what we are seeing at the minute is an all mighty aero war. Also Surely freeing up the engine regulations would go hand in hand with the spending cuts, so the manufactures are free to build what ever they want, within a budget.

Currently f1 has an army of arguably the brightest minds on the planet all working tirelessly to build separate interpretations of the same little wing that is invisible to 99.9 percent of the human race.


I love how they threw in “A Cosworth in a RBR car”



That happened in 2005, didn’t it? The RBR1 had a Cosworth V10.


“If one went for a V8, someone would go for a V10, and if that worked better then someone else might go on to a V12… the dollars start to disappear down the drain.”

….or one mike make a rotary 🙂


Wouldnt that be cool?? It would be fascinating to see what F1 engineers could do with a Henkel rotary engine. I wonder if its every been discussed in these meetings, and if so what is said..ie pros/cons etc.


Would it be possible then to adopt a Claiming rule similar to what they do in Moto GP from next year and what is happening in Moto 2 right now. This is where by one team can buy other teams technology if you think its giving an advantage over yours, then you also have the rights to it. Using this system was another way to discourage large amounts of spending because naturally you are not going to spend a lot if someone has the chance to purchase it later in the season. This also still allows freedom to develop, just an idea…

With the way the rules are going everyone is scared of costs spiralling out of control and so we are just restricted to one engine type, standard parts etc. Formula 1 is all about advancement and innovation but with so many restrictions for me this is not the right direction. Because if we keep using this thinking as rationalised in the article above in 10 years time we will have almost a standard F1 chassis for all teams.


I don’t mind some restrictions for cost management but I’d like to see KERS limitations removed completely. This year the field would be more even if the teams with working KERS could exploit it more. This would definitely interest manufacturers with road car interests.

Would it be possible to make all the restrictions strictly budgetary, as suggested by jpinx above, instead of specifying configuration? Or would safety become an issue then?

Christopher Snowdon

When will McLaren, or any other team, attempt their own engines like Ferrari.

BTW, Ferrari is the reason we will never see just one engine supplier, unless it is Ferrari!!!

James, site looks top notch!!!



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