Renault boss: ‘Electrification’ is the antidote to ‘complex and heavy’ F1 engine
Posted By: Editor   |  16 Jun 2017   |  12:03 pm GMT  |  96 comments

Renault’s Formula 1 Managing Director Cyril Abiteboul has said that ‘electrification’ is the team’s aim when it comes to future engine development as current power-units are inefficient.

Abiteboul also claimed that hybrid power is the future of all internal combustion engines and F1’s future will continue to be shaped by efforts to lower emissions.

Recently, F1 and non-F1 manufacturers, Formula One Management and the FIA held talks about the direction of the motorsport beyond 2020 as the current V6 hybrid power-unit is seen as too expensive and too convoluted.

“We have made a proposition to keep the current engine, but increase the fuel flow and increase the sound,” said Abiteboul.

“And we have made a second proposal, which will be a simplification of the current engine by removing some of its elements but still keeping electrification and fuel efficiency.

“We do believe in electrification,” continued Abiteboul.

“The world is going towards lower emissions, so Formula 1 cannot turn its back to this evolution; we need electrification.

“All cars will be hybrid in the future – we don’t mean fully electric cars.

“It is all about balancing between combustion engines – as this is where the DNA of Formula 1 is – and electrification.

“Maybe right now we have an engine that is too complex and too heavy – and is not producing enough sound and horsepower. But we are open for any discussions in that direction.”

The FIA has already promised to reduce power-unit supply costs by €1 million this season over 2016 and take a further €3m off the price in 2018 with constraints on part weights, dimensions and materials, and boost pressure helping the cause.

However, Abiteboul claimed that cost isn’t a big factor in F1 as “most of the teams operate on a budget of €100m”, citing the FIA’s engine cost estimate of €12m.

“The engine would make not more than 12 percent [of the budget]. Is that really shocking?

“I am not massively shocked. What we need is stability in the regulations – that would bring costs down and enhance the show.”

Instead, he said that the the lack of balance between teams in F1 is a pressing concern.

“We are car-makers and the engine is the heart of the automotive industry, so we believe that it needs to be the prevailing factor in Formula One,” he said.

“We need to find a better balance than the situation we have now, where the pecking order of the grid is basically the ranking of the engines – which is not healthy for the sport.

“So we need a better balance between the engine as a performance differentiator and the fact that a team with a fantastic chassis can also be hugely successful.

Renault will have a new Head of Aerodynamics, Peter Machin joining the Enstone outfit after the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Machin formerly worked at Red Bull’s aero department and will join an expanded workforce at Renault.

Toro Rosso and Red Bull are also customers of Renault’s engines and while Abiteboul said that small upgrades will come with every race, he has ruled out bringing one significant upgrade to a grand prix in 2017, ruling out any ‘magic bullet’.

“Frankly, the next big upgrade will be next year.

“Then we will have a completely new concept. That will make a difference – but as I said, 2018.

“Last year we created a huge expectation and we came with an upgrade that had a big impact, but we can’t repeat that every year.

“Now it is all about constant improvements which overall will make a difference – but there is no magic bullet.”

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Sorry that something went wrong, repeat again!

Abiteboul talks in circles saying that engines are at the heart of the auto industry and then that engines should be less of a performance differentiator in F1! Well are engines important or not? Should a competition hobble the defining aspect of a competitor?

Stephen Kellett

Here I say one thing:

“However, Abiteboul claimed that cost isn’t a big factor in F1 as “most of the teams operate on a budget of €100m”, citing the FIA’s engine cost estimate of €12m.

The engine would make not more than 12 percent [of the budget]. Is that really shocking?

I am not massively shocked. What we need is stability in the regulations – that would bring costs down and enhance the show.”

And here I say the opposite:

“Instead, he said that the the lack of balance between teams in F1 is a pressing concern.”

Sorry, you can’t have it both ways. Either you think costs are under control, or you don’t. Abiteboul should make his mind up.


I feel like customers can win
the only problem when it comes to matching up against manufacturers is the development budget and the workforce behind the car

manufacturers can put more men, and therefore more man hours, into the project

I reckon force India would be a multi champion team if they had the budget of rbr, they might be the only example of a team that is well managed instead of well funded

Tornillo Amarillo

James, it looks like Kubica would replace Palmer after the summer brake, if you read the news from all of the sides and it is an obvious conclusion, except if Palmer scores points in the next race in Baku.
Is it possible Kubica replace him for the rest of the season ?


I’d be surprised if he could physically

Sirotkin is another candidate


I realise that I’m in a club of one, but I don’t agree with the idea that engines should be louder. Form follows function, loudness comes from wasted energy and whatever an F1 car sounds like will regarded as cool because it’s F1 .I attended a formula student event and there were some incredibly cool star wars like noises coming from some of the electric cars. Or we could use a fake sound box make them roar and crackle or sound like a choo choo train.


When Audi stopped racing at LeMans their newest car was completed and ready to go.
So there was a lot of interest throughout the world to buy these cars from Audi. Even Penske wanted to race with them. But in the end nobody bought them cause the hybrid and ERS were to complicated for anybody but the Audi specialist to understand and maintaine. Even Renault them selfs after 4 yeard still don’t have a competitve reliable system in F1.
So i’m completly baffled when he is saying “Electrification is the antidote to complex and heavy engines”


I do not understand electrification with these hugely polluting batteries. They are polluting to mine, assemble and discard. Solar capacity these days, some can be diverted to solar fuel creation, like hydrogen. The Honda home hydrogen station is a great example of this. I think I’d like to see the preservation of ICEs for sound and exhilaration. I do not believe F1 cannot make a hydrogen storage tank for racing. It would change this stupid trend of electrification and pollution. Electric cars do not pollute at the car level, but the pollution is being made at the powerplant nonetheless. I cannot believe how misguided the car industry is.


Best thing for the Renault boss is to have real life Scalextric racetrack with all the cars in individual grooves with the drivers using joysticks to control the electrical input. Then have giant hand popping them back on the grooves if they come off the track.
Renault magic or does he prefer “TCR” (Total Control Racing) 😨.


He’s talking in circles just like marketing ppl always do.
The engine is the “heart” and should be the “prevalent factor” but if the pecking order is determined by the aforementioned prevailing factor then it’s bad?
Well then just have everyone use the same engine – maybe Honda’s Indy offering.
Then there’d be plenty left over to fund further useless work on road-relevant 200 mph aero.


As I have said before, F1 has snagged itself between two worlds. The WCC model as we have it developed when any independent team could buy a Coventry-Climax or a Cosworth and go racing. Every British team F1 team that’s ever competed in the Championship (except BRM and Vanwall) fits that description. But since the first turbo era (ironically enough initiated by Renault), F1 has wedded itself to the whims and marketing imperatives of the manufacturers.

Hybrid tech is in F1 primarily for marketing purposes, and the cost and complications are obscene. And, as others have pointed out, batteries, from production to end of utility, have grave environmental impacts. But, even granting the premise that battery and electric R&D are enhanced through motorsport, doesn’t Formula E unambiguously serve that purpose? F1 need not be in the same space.
Note too that the name of the game in F1 is NOT battery capacity/ joules/ watts etc.: Without exception, the term you hear is “combustion efficiency.” In other words, the hardest work (as Honda and Renault have found to their- and McLaren, RBR, and STR’s – chagrin) goes into the ICE: That’s the growth area, the R&D payoff. So stay on that.

Note that F1 isn’t alone in artificial environmentalism: FIA regulations mandate both catalytic converters and mufflers for F3 engines. And these are not production car engines as in F3 of old, but pure racing engines with specifications as tightly defined as in F1.

Unless the FIA harmonizes F1 and WEC regs, F1’s present direction is pointless. A more rational approach would have the WEC the province of hybrids, FE focused on electric motor and battery development, and F1 leading the way on efficient combustion.

Who knows? They could even adopt catalysts and mufflers a la F3.


Hi James,
I had another version of electrification: Kubica will replace Palmer for 2018.


F1 is caught in the middle of technology change. Can’t go back, can’t go forward.


F1 is caught in the middle of a PU complexity mess, that shouldn’t be distracted as old engines VS new hybrids arguments.

Simplify these stupid PUs, keep the Tomorrow’s World, green marketing fluff, give teams a chance to close the gaps, don’t kill off customer engine competition and let’s go wheel to wheel racing.

Simplify so teams can come close to competing and others can think about joining.

Simplify in stages if need be starting now for 2018.


A hybrid locomotive (diesel driven electric generator) has proven itself years ago. A hybrid automobile is merely a political device developed for non-functional purposes.


Hybrid PUs may be the manufacturers preferred future but the fact that they say it’s for lower emissions instead of manufacturing “totally green technology” says it all. It’s a massive smoke-screen to keep us from the real truth of the matter.
If the outcome of manufacturing sustainable power units was to be as “clean and green” as possible, we would be keeping well away from electrics and batteries.
Here’s why …
The procurement and manufacturing processes of the base metals and materials, as well as the “disposability” of the batteries and electrical equipment once they are used and no longer viable, will be one of the most destructive things the planet has ever seen or had to deal with. They are as bad or worse than depleted uranium to dispose of … and they take as long to break down and disappear.
Emissions kill the air we breath and that is something we need to address … but … batteries and electrical components kill the terrestrial side of our planet, which to me is just as bad if not worse than emissions controls.
From the mining process which decimates the local environment, to the extremely inefficient and terribly wasteful ore refining process, to the manufacturing process and finally, the extremely toxic disposal and or recycling processes … these are by far more harmful to our planet than emissions from burning fossil fuels.
People like Adrian Newey and other very clever people at the coal face of F1, but not at the mercy of big manufacturers, are scoffing at the current push for hybrid road vehicles because of this exact problem!
Tainted or poisoned subterranean and surface water supplies and totally unusable soils means less food and water. These are already 2 of the most pressing problems the world is facing, healthy food and water supplies!
If we don’t have enough food and water to feed the population in a hundred years or so, we won’t need to breathe, regardless of the air quality!!!


Spot on.


awesome comments Happy Jack. most people don’t realize that for the most part, the move-to-green is a marketing, political exercise. my neighbor recently bought a hybrid car and exclaimed to me “and the best part…almost no pollution”. the carbon-footprint of these cars at the point of manufacture is mostly horrifying for all the reasons you put so well. thanks!


Drop turbo and up revs. Sound solved. Simpler and frankly let lemans fuel road car development.


Am I the only one who hates the v6 ? There is nothing to admire about an insanely complex hybrid turbo. Give me a v12 v10 v8 anyday. F1 has gone backwards.


It’s crazy because despite all that complexity, it’s still just an ICE with some electric power. Not much better than just an ICE.


How can anyone take this man seriously?! How is even still in his job? “Next year we will …”?!? Too bad about THIS year!

Renault is becoming a laughing stock because of Cyril’s inability to deliver on his promises. They may not have reached Honda-like levels, but they are trying.

And now Cyril knows what F1 should do in the future? As I recall it, Renault pushed for the current engine formula – has Cyril forgotten that, or does he hope that we have?

Is anyone (other than RB) prepared to bet money on how close Renault get to Merc performance in 2018?


The more I think about it the more I understand why Freddy Vasseur had to quit just to keep his sanity. AbitofBull promised Red Bull that they would be able to compete at the front with the Renault engine, the guy is a LIAR.


Cyril’s comments echo those of the manufacturers in 2011/12 and we ended up with the current formula. So his solution to the nonsense power plants we have at the moment is to take us further down the same path. Cyril’s ideas will just lead to all electric cars with sound piped out of speakers. Sick of road relevance destroying the entertainment and it’s why I haven’t attended a GP since 2013.


It was said that diesel was the answer, Audi did Le Mans with it and made a point.

Now hybrid has been tried on the roads and in motorsport with, I would argue, mixed success.

Are batteries the way forward? The green credentials card always gets played but the life cycle of the product needs considering, from production to decommissioning.

That’s why Land Rover Defenders and Aston Martins are amongst the greenest cars as they are still going year after year.


In 2012 a company called Air Fuel Synthesis in Stockton-on-Tees produced five litres of petrol from a small refinery that manufactures gasoline from carbon dioxide and water vapour – that’s right, they are literally making petrol from thin air. And since the carbon dioxide is being extracted from the atmosphere, when you burn the fuel you’re just putting it back in again. Therefore your fuel is carbon neutral.

With the capability to produce a ton of petrol per day, F1 should buy this company and use it to supply fuel to all the F1 teams. Then you could run a V8, V10, V12, naturally aspirated, simply, loud as you liked, thus satisfying all the purists, whilst remaining carbon neutral and satisfying all the environmentalists.

As far as I can see, the only flaw in this is that the manufacturers couldn’t use F1 to market the hybrid agenda – which might be necessary for the mass market.


F1 needs to stop with the hybrid BS. It aint gonna save a single flowers life. Some professor once calculated that the 16 biggest ships in the world produce more CO2 then all the cars in the world. You really think those 20 F1 cars doing 20 races a year hurt the environment? Please .. Also batteries are anything but environment friendly if you look at it from a cradle to grave perspective. Just slap a big NA or turbocharged gas guzzler in these cars and hold up your middle finger to the treehuggers while doing your laps.


Have you looked at the way it works? The process is hugely inefficient, in no way green at all unless you had a lot of free, sustainable energy to throw away. Environmentalists would see through the flawed maths of that situation. I’m sure any sensible F1 team wouldn’t want to associate themselves with it either.

Cedric Baumgartner

To me the current engines don’t just need to be louder, it’s the way they sound that is the problem. The sound has no WOW factor to it.
Instead they’re low sounding frequencees makes them sound like they’ve been turned down.
Listen to the v12 and even v8 engines, they’re not just loud, they sing!
Personally my favourite sounding car is the Ferrari 412 T2, I have goose bumps every time I listen to the sound of the engine.

Bring back the Wow, the magic factor not just louder engines


The old screaming banshee Cedric! So beautiful and yet so inherently evil. Was it 95 or 94 when Berger put this beast on pole at Hockenheim? RIP Hockenheim.

Schumacher also (after a test drive) stated that he still would have won the 95 championship driving this Ferrari!


Exactly. Motorbikes are loud. And very very annoying.


No surprise in this considering Renault’s involvement in Formula E it wins alot in that so anyway to get F1 rules in its favour its going to of course want


I wonder if mclaren have had conversations with cosworth.
I’m sure they could make a competitive engine.
I do think cosworth have been overlooked purely because they don’t come with skip loads of money. Mclaren cosworth has a nice sound to it. 1993 all over again.


Speaking of Cosworth and perhaps I am caught up in a moment of nostalgia watching some of the Ferrari clips below…Johnny Herbert at Silverstone on a damp track almost 20yrs ago now still sticks in my mind. Apparently not the fastest lap of the day but doesn’t he make this car dance?


The current iteration of F1 has confused the masses resulting in a large loss of understanding and interest. We need a period – even if only 5 years – of simplification. Return to excitement – an older fashioned F1. The chassis are now fast. Knock off all those little winglets, multi-plane front wings, vortex generators. Throw out DRS. Keep the current V6 platform, but use gear-driven superchargers instead of turbochargers. That will make a loud, sexy and exotic noise. Dumb down the electrics to a KERS hybrid technology that is simpler, cheaper, more reliable and more closely related to current road car technology. Make tire choice free, but give the teams an equal allotment of qualifying tires. Give all teams a minimum prize fund so the last place team can survive. Give the number “1” to the Driver’s Championship winner to keep the fans engaged with the drivers who are the public face of the sport. I guess I got carried away. 🙂


I like the “throw out DRS” part best, but also agree overall.


Maybe now that Carlos Ghosn, the crazy cost cutting boss, is gone Renault can get a bigger budget to deliver the goods.

F1 should adopt the WEC formula: internal combustion engine at the back {rear axle} and electric motor at the front axle.
The electric part never breaks
Also electric power traction only at the pitlane..
Also should adopt electro magnetic brakes and the {train} flywheel mass.


I do agree that the FIA should have written the engine regs with a view to harmonising them across F1 and WEC. Same ICE but different energy recovery system specs may make it possible for a WEC manufacturer to offer an F1 engine, expanding the engine choice. Red Bull could by the base unit and then add their own KERS etc at a reasonable cost and stop their whinging.
But I don’t think you could package up the WEC 4WD concept in an F1 chassis, certainly not without adding more weight, which is already a problem.

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