#F1 Forensics: Power Unit Longevity

Brought to you by TheJudge13 Contributor Tourdog

Once again I have fallen down the rabbit hole. Much like the teams in our beloved sport, I am all about the data. Data reveals all. Well, not all, but having as much data in one place as possible, makes it much easier for us to know what the hell is really going on.

With all of the talk about tokens, engine upgrades, reliability upgrades, and all of the Renault engine failures, I went looking for information on exactly how far each PU had gone in each car. I couldn’t find it.

What follows is a comprehensive chart of every lap done by every car since Australia. I obtained my lap counts from the FIA’s website. It lists how many laps each car ran in each session. So for each driver, each weekend, there are 6 categories.

  • FP1
  • FP2
  • FP3
  • Quali
  • Race
  • In-out

Most of these are self explanatory. The lap counts for FP sessions come straight from the FIA website. “Race” is how many laps the driver completed in the race, so if they were a lap down, they had a lap removed from the race total.

In-Out is my catch-all for untimed laps.

I added 1 lap for each FP session the car participated in. This is to account for the usual warm up laps that most teams do, that do not get timed because the cars go from pit to pit, not crossing the timing line. I then added 2 laps if they made it to the grid, and another lap if they crossed the finish line. Obviously this would be for the warm up laps, formation lap, and the victory lap, respectively.

A simple multiplication of the lap distance and we easily have total distances for each car, for each weekend.

Summary to Date, The important numbers:

As this is a lot of information to sift through, over the coming days we will be posting articles that summarise specific, easily digestible sections of the data. For the moment, here are some big picture numbers to chew on.


Mercedes has compiled about 41,685 Km worth of engine data.
Ferrari has compiled about 21,140 Km
Renault 20,175 Km
Honda 8,160 Km

Mercedes is averaging 2,779 Km on each of it’s ICE’s
Ferrari is averaging 2,114 Km
Renault 1,260 Km
Honda 1,020 Km

Longest distance covered on any ICE: Sergio Perez 5377.1 Km on ICE #1
Shortest distance covered on any ICE: Fernando Alonso 201.1 Km on ICE #1

Driver with Most ICE’s used: Max Verstappen 5
Driver with Least ICE’s used: Sergio Perez 1
Manufacturer with most ICE’s used: Renault 16
Manufacturer with least ICE’s used: Honda 8 (for 2 cars)
Manufacturer with lowest average # ICE used: Mercedes 1.8 / driver

The issues I am aware of:
Obviously, the teams are not very forthcoming with details about their cars. There are several, OK many, things we do not know, and therefore I had to make certain assumptions. For instance, we do not know which car was used for which testing days, nor do we know if the teams only used 1 chassis/engine over the course of both days, or used a separate car each day.

I have assumed, that all of the teams used both cars at the Spain testing, and that all teams used a different car each day.

I have also assumed that if a primary driver did the testing, he drove his own car. This leaves us with Ferrari and Force India, who ran test drivers on both days. I guessed which driver was driving which chassis, so those numbers might be off by as much as 70km.

The other major thing we do not know from testing, is whether the teams ran one of their Homologated Power Units, or some kind of “spare” unit. It is certainly possible that Mercedes/Ferrari/RB were running an “unaccounted for” PU.

I have assumed that they did not, and used the PU’s that were in the cars after the Barcelona race.

That’s all for now, please take a look over everything at your leisure. If you find any errors, or have any suggestions for improvement, please leave comments below. All positive suggestions will be considered, and probably incorporated.

Click on the image below to download the PDF document.

full ICE data as of June 9 2015 (version3)

And for those of you thinking, “Hmm, it would be cool to see the Gearbox usage in the same way”. Do not fret, I am way ahead of you…

15 responses to “#F1 Forensics: Power Unit Longevity

  1. Why do you assume they used an installed PU for testing? Weren’t they allowed to use a non-race unit? IIRC Nico drove more than several race distances; I find it hard to believe teams would use up a race unit like that.

      • Hippo is probably right, and I can understand why you would question this, I will explain my logic.
        While the Manufacturer teams (Merc, Ferrari, RB/Renault, and Mclaren/Honda) could very well run “unaccounted for” PU for testing, this would present a problem for the customer teams. What PU would Williams, FI, and Lotus be running in testing? Are they reconciled to run with their Race PU, while the Manufacturers are not? if so, why aren’t they complaining about it? wouldn’t we have heard?

        The other option is that the manufacturers are giving their customers a “free” PU to use for testing. I also highly doubt this is happening, but I could very well be wrong.

        If you can confirm to me, in writing, that the teams used an un-homologated PU for testing, I will be glad to update the data.

        I’m just trying to be consistent.
        And I am not trying to “protect” myself, I am happy to change any part of the data to more accurately reflect what we know for sure.

        • I could imagine that the testing PU’s come free or at least at a heavy discount in exchange for the customer teams relinquishing all collected data to the engine manufacturer.

          • This would make a lot of sense (which makes me hesitate that anyone involved in F1 would then be part of it. /s)

            I believe one of the benefits of seeing the data like this, is it allows us to deduce the right questions to ask, not necessarily give us the answers we are looking for.

            Maybe someone with access can propose these questions to the teams/FIA?

            I am just a lowly american computer owner, distantly removed from the fast-paced, high dollar action in the UK…

          • “The other option is that the manufacturers are giving their customers a “free” PU to use for testing. I also highly doubt this is happening, but I could very well be wrong.”

            Afaik it is not free in the sense “like beer”. The same way the race PUs are not paid per unit, which makes Sauber’s argument that they are using an old engine because it’s cheaper even more absurd. It seems that teams buy engines “for one year”. If an engine breaks, the engine manufacturer must provide replacement. The incentive is then to make reliable motors so that you’d ship the least amount and minimise costs. As a team the gain is that if an engine is unreliable, they won’t get penalised in the sense that now they need to pay for an extra motor.
            If the above isn’t too much off the mark, I think most agree that Mercedes must have invested a whole lot more than the others in developement of the new V6s; with only one PU used before Canda, Mercedes must be recovering some of their costs. Even in 2014 they haven’t used all the ES they could have, only 4 in stead of 5 and that has to be a pretty expensive part. In a way it’s a balancing act: spend a huge amount at first or leak money trying to catch up, which would end up spending more?

        • @Tourdog

          “While the Manufacturer teams (Merc, Ferrari, RB/Renault, and Mclaren/Honda) could very well run “unaccounted for” PU for testing”

          I don’t know, but I don’t think this is so. Recall earlier in the year Spice Boy Horner was vividly pushing for a 5th engine allowance that could be used in practice, because there was so little running on Friday and “for the good of the sport” it was imperative to have increased engine allowance. At first it was unanimously agreed among teams to get a 5th PU for Friday practice, and later the plan was announced as dead in the water (not least when Sauber started complaining that the proposal wasn’t clearly defined, and that they didn’t want teams to abuse such an ill-defined proposal and end up getting an additional PU for the races).

          I take this to mean that teams are strictly limited to 4 PUs for all live sessions of the year, FP, Quali and Race. Whether any changes have really occurred since, I don’t know, but we would have heard it I have no doubt. So no unaccounted PUs for testing in FP…

          Where is Matt when you need him? 🙂 Though it occurs to me now that the above talks about engines used in testing

        • I agree with Hippo – the units used on test days are not counted – they don’t even have to be homologated units – they can use development parts (or possibly even elastic bands).

          I would remove the test day data from your analysis.

  2. “I have also assumed that if a primary driver did the testing, he drove his own car.”

    Although useful in this context, this is a dangerous assumption to make. In years past there were very publicized reports of Red Bull drivers exchanging chassis during the year, like Webber getting Vettel chassis after 3-4 races, etc. But I guess this wouldn’t affect PUs…

  3. @tourdog

    Not being pernickity, but I’m missing something. The article switches between using the terms PU and ICE. The pdf is headed ICE. These are two separate concepts. Loosely the ICE being the fuel burning bit, and the PU the whole thing including MGU-H and energy store etc. Could you make it clear which data is presented.

    • Yes Iain, I can always count on you to be critical.
      But you happen to be right.
      While building the table I was labeling things that made it easier for me to remember what they they are.
      I meant to go back and update them, and forgot.
      Those changes will be made in the update.

        • Data is based on the ICE (Internal Combustion Engine)

          I know there is more to the PU than just the ICE. I could technically make up a chart like this for each element on the PU
          Turbo Charger
          Control Electronics
          Energy Store

          I chose to focus this data on the ICE, because that part of the PU seems to be giving the teams the most trouble.

  4. “and if you are a McLaren-Honda supporter you are advised to get a box of tissues.”

    And if you are a Renault supporter, two boxes. Honda at least have the excuse of being in their first year with the engine.

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