Renault win the V8 engine era

The history of engines in F1 is fascinating, though requires an in-depth piece to do it justice. During the first 2 years of Formula 1, the regulations were incredibly simple. Capacity was set at a maximum of 1500 cc for engines with a compressor/supercharger/turbo or at 4500 cc for normally aspirated engines.

There was no weight limit and alcohol based fuels were allowed until 1958.

During 1952 and 1953 the drivers’ championship was run under F2 engine regulations (750 cc plus compression or 2000 cc for normally aspirated engines), but the Formula One regulations remained unchanged, and numerous non-championship Formula One races were held during this period.


1950 Tipo 275 Ferrari engine. 12 cylinders, 300 BHP 7500 RPM

Over time, the regulations drove engine development in a variety of directions however in recent times the objective of the regulators was to reduce the power and ever-increasing speed of F1 cars.

Those new to F1, will hear older fans at times ramble on about the puny modern F1 engines compared to the beasts of yesteryear. In terms of out and out horse power, the most powerful normally aspirated F1 race engine to be built was probably the BMW P83 for the 2003 season.  It was a 3000 cc V10 and had an impressive 19,200 rpm, delivering more than 900 bhp whilst weighing less than 91 kg.

2006 saw the end of the V10 era and the birth of the current V8 F1 engines.

The engines had to be 90° V8 design of 2.4 litres maximum capacity and a minimum weight of 95kg. The idea was to reduce the power output by around 20% from the levels delivered by the previous V10 3 litre engines, though in actuality the cars’ performance appeared to improve fairly quickly.

untitledToyota’s RVX-09 V8 engine gained pole in Bahrain 2009

Cost reduction was now on the agenda. During the years of Ferrari dominance, the budgets of certain F1 teams had been estimated to be spiraling towards $1,000,000,000 a year and engines were being disposed of after 200km of practice and qualifying.

The design of the new V8’s was restricted such that the crankcase and cylinder block must only consist of cast or wrought aluminium alloys. The crankshaft and camshafts had to be made from an iron alloy, the pistons from an aluminium alloy and the valves from alloys of iron, nickel, cobalt or titanium.

The engineers were further restricted as pre-cooling air before it enters the cylinders, injection of any substance other than air and fuel into the cylinders, variable-geometry intake and exhaust systems together with variable valve timing were all forbidden. Each cylinder could have only one fuel injector and and a single plug ignition system – all in the pursuit of simplification and cost reduction.

In 2007 engine design was frozen and were capped to at first to 19,000 rpm and then from 2009 onwards this was reduced to 18,000 rpm and the maximum engines per driver per season was set at 8. Reliability became far more important and by the end of 2009, there was a marked improvement in this area.

Following the design ‘freeze’, the FIA allowed engine manufacturers to request permission to modify their power trains to improve reliability. It is widely believed that certain manufacturers, such as Ferrari and Mercedes, exploited this opportunity to also deliver incremental power output.

untitledFerrari type 056 V8 F1 engine

By the end of 2008 there was a significant performance differential between certain F1 engines so 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.

The same complaint was made in the autumn of 2009 and the FIA was petitioned again to allow ‘engine re-equalisation’. Christian Horner told Austosport in Monza, “The FIA has all the information they can see where the differences are on, I don’t think it is a coincidence that you have three Mercedes-powered teams that dominated six out of the top seven places in qualifying and looked dominant again here in the race today”.

This time the FIA responded by telling the teams to 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 actually down on power as Red Bull ended up with 6 race wins that year.

After extensive discussions ended up without agreement, the FIA ruled that the engines were to stay as they were with no re-tuning. Red Bull and Renault went on to win both titles the following year.

Over the next couple of seasons, Renault became the master of mapping their engines to deliver hot exhaust gases to exactly where and when Newey wanted them to improve the sealing of the diffuser which provided extra down force.

The Red Bull car design has profited from this for 3 seasons being able to run their cars with a higher ‘rake’ than the rest – in effect making the whole car a wing delivering efficient down force with an efficient drag co-efficient.

Interestingly, it has come to light today that since the ‘engine freeze’ in 2007, only 5% of the Renault engine components are as per that design – and it is likely similar substantive changes have been made to the Ferrari and Mercedes engines too.

There is a similar planned ‘freeze’ for the new V6 Turbo’s by the FIA.

So we are at the end of another engine era in F1. The V8’s will race for one more time in Brazil this weekend and then be pensioned off as coffee tables for the rich and famous.

Following their clean sweep of the podium in Austin, Remi Tafin of Renault Sport said, “Renault has now won the V8 era. That’s the 51st win for the RS27 and the 59th for the [Renault] V8 – a record we can be proud of and hope to extend as the season draws to a close next week in Interlagos.”

Despite their regular complaints about Ferrari and Mercedes, it is the French engine manufacturer who came top of the V8 engine manufacturers. 59 wins from 146 races – so far.


untitledRenault V6 Turbo 2014 F1 engine

27 responses to “Renault win the V8 engine era

  1. Hate to counter your research TJ, but the most powerful engines ever used in F1 date back to the turbo era in the 80’s.
    It’s reputed that the BMW was putting out 1,450 bhp in the Benetton B186 in qualifying and racing with a mere 1,200bhp.
    The Renault, Honda and Ferrari engines were not far behind either.

    • It should have read normally aspirated race engine …. now corrected…

      ..there’s some urban legend over 1980’s turbo’s BHP – not sure anyone has proper verifiable figures…

      ….during the days of my BHP is bigger than yours… a reliable engine manufacturer designer told me he felt anyone claiming much more than 900 BHP for a race engine (which actually had a chance of doing more than 10 laps) may be Italian … and trying to impress girls….. 😉

      • The 1.400 bhp BMW’s were only used in qualifying. That was back in a time when engines got swapped between qualy and race. According to a guy from Abt, who back in the day worked for BMW, the numbers are quite real. The race engines were closer to 1.000BHP rather than 1.200 though, but it was enough for the powers that be to ban the turbos.

      • I have also seen it written that back then engineers didn’t have the necessary equipment to accurately measure anything over 1,000 bhp.

        • And rumor has it that Honda built an oval piston 1500 cc turbo that registered 1500 hp on the dyno. Oval pistons were banned before it raced. Frankly, the current engine regs are boring. I don’t purchase any technical F1 books nowadays as the tech has vanished. Why not allow some innovation? Why have a minimum engine weight? Specify the block material and let them have at it. Why not have variable valve timing and intake trumpets? Limit the fuel flow (which the have done) and leave the design open. This has become a boring formula.

          • Agreed that VVT is proven to help with fuel economy and better power output. If getting the most out of a given quantity fuel is what the FIA are truly trying to promote, VVT is a no brainer. I for one would love to see just how much power the designers could get out of the package.

          • I agree… F1 has always been declared No.1 because of it’s ultimate, cutting-edge technology… Now ordinary road cars can have stuff that is banned in F1…
            And what is wrong with elliptical pistons…? Or any other shape…? The pistons don’t have to rotate and are probably only circular because a hundred years ago the circle was easier to machine, and to seal… This no longer applies, with modern machinery… (Wankel proved that fifty years ago…!) so let’s get back to cutting edge innovation… why don’t we…

  2. So the claims by Renault they were down on power was just a clever way of trying to get a jump on the rest then. It also doesn’t surprise me that not many of the parts are the same spec as when the engines were launched, for any of the manufacturers. As was mentioned yesterday, if the FIA don’t puck it up then it’s legal till they do! LOL only in F1.

    If I went house breaking I’m still a criminal even if I don’t get caught.

    Does this mean that just because you’re not caught cheating you’re not a cheat????

    • Oooh… CV you’re poking the ‘fat hippo’ 😉 in F1 cheating, bribery and corruption are all a normative part of the culture.

      Why do you think Mansoor Ijaz is welcomed into the paddock?

      • He’s just pretending, I would be well surprised if that deal finds its legs again. I may be wrong but I think it’s all talk and Lopez is just playing along in the hope others will think the team is also a good investment and want in on it too, meaning he doesn’t need our slightly untrustworthy friend to invest anymore.
        If it does happen though do you think they will change the team name to Lotus/Al-Qaeda/Renault and have suicide bombers as drivers? Would certainly speed up getting new drivers on the grid….. The moment they finish out of the points the engineer will give them a special setting and….. BOOM! next please! Sadly though, I some how I doubt they will be fielding any female drivers.

    • isn’t trespassing only a civil offence….so if the loophole is left open (read Germany 2012) then you can’t really be punished as a criminal

  3. Was hoping for some engine stats from the era… Wins, podiums, poles, plus reliability stats and so on…

    • Hi CTP… I like these stats. as well but… unless such records already exist it can takes hours and hours and hours to compile them. I’ve spent the past month trawling through Wiki, with at least another month’s work to go… Believe me, it can be _really_ time-consuming…
      And there’s always the possibility the info you’re using isn’t quite accurate… One Wiki page has a driver winning three races in a year and, in the following paragraph, it was two… Checking this takes even more time…
      Ah well, I like brick walls as well… 😉

      • If you Wikipedia ‘formula one engines’ (has be one not 1) it has a full table of which manufacture has won what race in what year. also which type of engine even down to Toro Rosso and Catheram using the V10’s for an extra year. I use the wiki app on android.

      • Best I can find, I thought it had more on it, its just manufacture, number of wins and then 1st win and most recent win as of Abu Dhabi this year.

        1 Ferrari 222 1951 British Grand Prix 2013 Spanish Grand Prix
        2 Ford 176 1967 Dutch Grand Prix 2003 Brazilian Grand Prix
        3 Renault 163 1979 French Grand Prix 2013 US Grand Prix
        4 Mercedes-Benz 99 1954 French Grand Prix 2013 Hungarian Grand Prix
        5 Honda 72 1965 Mexican Grand Prix 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix
        6 Coventry Climax 40 1958 Argentine Grand Prix 1965 German Grand Prix
        7 TAG 25 1984 Brazilian Grand Prix 1987 Portuguese Grand Prix
        8 BMW 20 1982 Canadian Grand Prix 2008 Canadian Grand Prix
        9 BRM 18 1959 Dutch Grand Prix 1972 Monaco Grand Prix
        10 Alfa Romeo 12 1950 British Grand Prix 1978 Italian Grand Prix
        11 Maserati 11 1953 Italian Grand Prix 1967 South African Grand Prix
        11 Offenhauser 11 1950 Indianapolis 500* 1960 Indianapolis 500*
        13 Vanwall 9 1957 British Grand Prix 1958 Morocco Grand Prix
        14 Repco 8 1966 French Grand Prix 1967 Canadian Grand Prix
        15 Mugen Honda 4 1996 Monaco Grand Prix 1999 Italian Grand Prix
        16 Matra 3 1977 Swedish Grand Prix 1981 Canadian Grand Prix
        17 Porsche 1 1962 French Grand Prix 1962 French Grand Prix
        17 Weslake 1 1967 Belgian Grand Prix 1967 Belgian Grand Prix

  4. Dear TJ

    ” The Red Bull car design….. able to run their cars with a higher ‘rake’ than the rest – in effect making the whole car a wing …. ”

    And all other cars apart from RB are NOT in effect a wing ?

    Inverted even ….

    I think it’s more likely that the greater rake increases the venture effect which increases downforce.


  5. Pingback: F1 V8 Engine Era 2006 – 2013 | Grid Racing Blog·

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