#F1 Forensics: ICE and Gearbox Durability Investigated

Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor Tourdog

Welcome to F1 forensics, data collection chapter v2.0. McLaren probably wishes I left it the other way…..

I have heard your criticism, and shall duly obey. I have discussed the situation with the higher-ups in The Judges chambers, as well as read your comments.

The consensus seems to be, that we do not know enough about what happens in testing, to be able to use the data effectively in the ICE DATA CHART. So I have removed all testing data from the spreadsheets.

We will therefore assume, from this point on, that all teams are running PU elements, and Gearboxes in testing, that are not part of their official count towards the season.

As I mentioned in a previous comment, this does raise a few questions that I had not considered before. Where does Lotus, for example, get the PU they use for testing? Is the “Testing Power Unit” supplied by Mercedes as part of the total PU package cost? Are Mercedes then entitled to all of Lotus’s testing data? Where are the rules that govern such things?

How Many PU did Mercedes ship to Spain?

  • 8 cars
  • main + spare for each car     =16
  • +4 testing PU
  • +4 spare testing PU              = 24?

Which makes me question this statement by Toto Wolf, regarding why Sergio Perez did not get his new engine in Canada..

We had some problems with the fuel system and could not build eight engines in time,” said Mercedes boss Toto Wolff.

Is it they couldn’t build 8 in time, or they couldn’t build 16 in time?

Why would they need to build 8? Hulkenberg had already been using ICE #2 for 3 races, so wouldn’t it be 7, assuming the testing PU’s were already built? Did Sergio Perez have to sacrifice getting a new PU so that MERC could fill testing needs?

As you can see, we have already raised a series of new questions. This is why it is useful to see the data in such a way. We may not get all of the answers we were seeking, but it allows us to deduce the right questions to ask.

So, I have included a link to a new spreadsheet. This sheet does not include testing data.

It also corrects a few labelling errors.


The ICE data table is specific to the Internal Combustion Engine on each car. As most of you know, there are 6 different elements to the Power Unit:

  • Internal Combustion Engine
  • Turbo Charger
  • Control Electronics
  • Energy Store
  • MGU-K
  • MGU-H

I chose to collect the data specifically on the ICE. While technically I could build data tables for each of the six elements, the ICE seems to be the piece of the puzzle that is giving the teams the most trouble, so I have focused my attention there. If things really get out of hand, I may choose to expand the data, but I am not making any promises, and it would be a lot to sift through.

You will also see that the table is slightly larger. I have included projections as to when the following ICE changes will happen throughout the season. THESE ARE EDUCATED GUESSES, and are open to interpretation. Some of the estimations are based on distance, some on which race is happening, some on gut feeling. It is a lot more difficult to predict when a power unit will be changed, than say …


Yes, I have done the same table for gearboxes. There are, however, more gearbox manufacturer’s than PU. After some research, I have found the following.

  • Mercedes        Builds their own gearbox
  • Force India      According this article, use Mercedes gearboxes
  • Ferrari             Builds their own gearbox
  • Sauber             According to their website, uses Ferrari gearboxes
  • Red Bull           Builds their own gearbox
  • Toro Rosso      According to their website, uses Red Bull Gearboxes
  • McLaren          Builds their own gearbox
  • Williams          According to their website, builds their own gearbox
  • Lotus               According to this article, builds their own gearbox

So for the Gearbox data table, the data is broken into 6 manufacturers.

The FIA rules regarding when Gearboxes are allowed to be changed, are significantly different than the Power Unit and it’s Elements.

ROUGHLY speaking, if you fail to finish a race, you are allowed to “change” your gearbox. If you finish a race, you are NOT allowed to change your gearbox, without incurring a penalty. This rule is in effect for 6 races. So, if you complete 6 races on a single gearbox, you are then allowed to change it without penalty.

What this does for us, is give us a very easy way to predict when a gearbox will be changed, barring, of course, an unforeseen DNF. It works great for predicting when Mercedes will do a change, not so much for Pastor. In fact, even if Pastor finishes every race for the rest of the season, I still project him to do AT LEAST 7 gearbox changes.

Now, what is a gearbox “change”. That is a very good question. Because as of this moment, Pastor has already changed his gearbox 5 times (he ran Canada on his 6th).

Did he run race 1 and 4 on gearbox #1? Did he run race 2 and 7 on gearbox #2? I do not have an answer for you. I can only tell you that in each of the FIA documents released, and I have looked at them all, it says the following EXACTLY:

The following driver will start the (third/second/etc) Event of the 2015 Formula World Championship with a new gearbox:

It then lists the drivers for that event that did a change.

If “new” means the same thing to the FIA as it does to me, Pastor has used 6 different gearboxes to date. Define “new” how ever you like, for the sake of the data however, each time the FIA says “new gearbox” the chart reflects it as:

  • Number of previously used gearboxes +1

So, again, I will leave everyone with a large amount of data to soak in.

We have refined our plans, now that there is somewhat of a consensus, and I have finished the gearbox data.

I plan to try and break the data down by manufacturer, present some summaries, and perhaps some thought provoking questions.

For now, I have updated the previously presented totals, and included some info on the gearboxes. Since I already have the data, I have kept the original numbers that included the testing data. In the future these will not be calculated.

I hope you enjoy.



Mercedes has compiled about            41,685 / 38,245 Km worth of engine data.
Ferrari has compiled about                21,140 / 19,204  Km
Renault                                                20,175 / 18,169 Km
Honda                                                  8,160 / 7,383     Km

Mercedes is averaging                        2,779   2,549     Km on each of it’s ICE’s
Ferrari is averaging                             2,114   1,920     Km
Renault                                                1,260   1,135     Km
Honda                                                  1,020   922        Km

Longest distance covered on any ICE:   Sergio Perez          5377.1 4,939 Km on ICE #1
Shortest distance covered on any ICE:   Fernando Alonso  201.1 Km(unchanged)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

Best average on a single ICE (all 8 cars):              Mercedes       3,903Km on ICE#1
Worst average on a single ICE (both cars):           McLaren        514 Km on ICE #1



As of the start of the Austria race, every driver will be on at LEAST his second Gearbox. (Bottas just finished 6 races on his First, and will be the last driver to install a new one in Austria)


All 4 Mercedes Gearboxes, on the 4 cars equipped with them, made it 6 races and changed before Canada without Penalty

Mercedes average for Gearbox #1 across all 4 cars:                            4,245 Km
All 4 cars are currently using their 2nd Gearbox
Mercedes total gearboxes used this year:                                           8
Average distance per gearbox, all cars, all races                                 2,479 Km
Projected number of gearboxes to be used this year (4 cars):           16



Ferrari changed Kimi’s gearbox before Race 2, and Ericson’s before Race 3. Both Vettel and Nasr made it 6 races on their first gearbox, and changed to their second before Canada.

Ferrari Average for Gearbox #1 across all 4 cars:                               2,555 Km
All 4 cars are currently using their 2nd Gearbox
Ferrari total gearboxes used this year:                                              8
Average distance per gearbox, all cars, all races                               2400 Km
Projected number of gearboxes to be used this year (4 cars):         16


Red Bull changed Kvyat and Verstappen’s gearboxes before Race 2.
Then changed both of their gearboxes again, before Race 4 .
Carlos Sainz got gearbox #2 before Race 5
Verstappen got his 4th Gearbox before Canada.

Red Bull Average for Gearbox #1 across all 4 cars:                            1912 Km
Driver current gearbox: RIC-2, KVY-3, VER-4, SAI-2
Red Bull total gearboxes used this year:                                            11
Average distance per gearbox, all cars, all races                                1679 Km
Projected number of gearboxes to be used this year (4 cars):          19


Alonso installed gearbox #2 before Race 2
Alonso installed gearbox #3 before Race 3
Alonso installed gearbox #4 before Canada
Button installed gearbox #2 before Race 5, and is still currently using it.

McLaren Average for Gearbox #1 both cars:                                      1146 Km
McLaren total Gearboxes used this year:                                           6
Average distance per gearbox, all cars, all races                                1230 Km
Projected number of gearboxes to be used this year (2 cars):          10


Both drivers made it 6 races on their first gearbox. Massa changed to Gearbox #2 before Canada. Bottas will change to Gearbox #2 in Austria, as he did not run in Australia due to a back injury.

Williams Average for Gearbox #1 both cars:                                      4618 Km
Williams total Gearboxes used this year:                                           3
Average distance per gearbox, all cars, all races                               3297 Km
Projected number of gearboxes to be used this year (2 cars):         7


Pastor has changed gearboxes so many times I am not going to bother listing them here, and I have already mentioned my issues with his Gearbox data. Ill just give you the rough numbers, and let you study the data for yourself.

Lotus Average for Gearbox #1 both cars:                                           201 Km
Lotus total Gearboxes used this year:                                                9
Average distance per gearbox, all cars, all races                                946 Km
Projected number of gearboxes to be used this year (2 cars):          13

Pastor (with 206 Km gearbox #1), and Alonso (technically Magnussen with 201 Km gearbox #1), are in a dead heat for shortest distance covered by a gearbox.


In summary, Valteri Bottas is the big winner, and holds the record, with 4969 Km covered on his 1st gearbox.

Full gearbox chart with projections

That seems to be quite enough for now. More to come. As always, I value your feedback so please comment away.

8 responses to “#F1 Forensics: ICE and Gearbox Durability Investigated

    • Hey Schum

      The option to post the lx file is definitely there, and has been discussed.
      I would be happy to post it if there is a real appetite amongst the readers.
      Since it is still kind of new and being refined, I have hesitated to post it.

      I think perhaps once I get through the manufacturer summaries, I will post the whole file for everyone to play with.

      Thanks for the support.

  1. Fantastic article and data, as far as gearbox goes, you should know that both change gears and dog rings can be changed without penalty if they show signs of wear. Great stuff, keep it coming.

    • Thanks Matt.
      That means a bunch coming from you.
      regarding gearboxes:
      I am aware, and after sifting through all of the FIA documents you have posted, things become less and less clear.
      As you know, there are often technical updates over the course of a weekend, describing that teams had replaced It seems that a team can basically replace any or all of it on “reliability” grounds, short of the actual case itself.
      As we know, Mercedes seems to have even gotten around this by having a case inside of a case.
      The truth is we don’t really know sh*t, but now we are just one little step closer than we were before.

    • @mattpt55

      I thought that I would let you fire the bullet on that one. To add, other parts are also changeable without penalty. e.g.Canada – Massa’s wastegate had a “10pence fixing” failure, that stopped it working during quali. Fixed for the race, but no penalty. For an ordinary car that would be classified as a breakdown, call AAA. So data above doesn’t really give a true picture. Of course we are also missing information on FP 1 & 2 “repairs”. Then we have the reuse of PU’s, in P1 & 2. where they appear to be able to be swapped at will, later in the season.
      28.6 For the purposes of this Article only, an Event will be deemed to comprise P3, the qualifying practice session and the race.
      What we really need is a time/date/distance chart showing where any failure of any part happens. MTTF and MTBF are the usual metrics for reliability comparisons. Of course that’s not going to happen without more openness from the teams. This would also possibly show if other PU elements had caused the ICE failure, similar to a Renault control failure that caused a grenade moment, last year. I do disagree that the ICE is the big problem, your race weekend trawl through the tech notices, indicates otherwise.

      Warning, this post may have salt content in NYC 😉

      • LOL I’ll have to go back and look but I seem to recall at the end of last season, Certain components of the PU were popping back up, so even though it was the 6th or 7th one, it could be deduced that it was previously used as no penalty attached to it. I think that it has always been the case that old ICE could be re-used. What one can’t do is swap it out after the Event Begins, which I believe is FP3.

  2. I know it is impossible to allow for but surely one of the reasons that some drivers have many gearbox changes is simply because you can change without penalty if you don’t finish a race. It is almost a no-brainer to change whether you need to or not simply because it reduces the risk of failure.

    I’d be interested to know the actual number of gearbox failures as well as number of replaced gearboxes as that would tell us more.

  3. Thank you Tourdog for compiling and collating all this data!… and thank you for the questions regarding FIA rules for key PU parts.

    One thought/question: all the data is slightly skewed (not negatively but essentially) due to race-ending crashes, which equal laps and distance, etc. lost. Most of the race-ending shunts are not PU part related. Yet they count against (or for, glass half full) teams overall usage averages. Additionally, some non-PU-related crashes result in causing failures to portions of the PU. My thought is, if a car doesn’t make it to the end of a race due to driver error or due to the failure of parts not related to the PU but cause primary PU parts to be changed, is there an easy way to note this? Thinking about it as I type this, would it serve for accuracy if race-ending incidents that do not result in changing essential PU elements are added to an “overall” or “extra-total” usage stat?My thought behind the second question is, the race is done and the km. cannot be recouped in any way yet were effectively run if we are to look at, did the race result in any alterations to the PU that effect total element change. So, there would be a parenthetical stat line that shows no PU-related changes for the car for the entire distance of the race. Perhaps even notations (and with them a parent directory where notations are spelled out) where there are starkly fewer laps completed, e.g with McHonda, due to PU- rated failures. Without returning to the spreadsheet, say Button, P1 at, in “fill in the GP, 1 lap. However, completing only one lap in P1 was due to ICE failure. This would be denoted as, “1 (ICE)”.

    These thoughts and questions are in no way a critique of your already intensive work in deriving a cohesive spreadsheet!

    I am only interested in using statistics to accurately elucidate a story attempting to be told. Stats are too often used with bias – unintentional or intentional – to elucidate the story the author wants us to know rather than elucidate the story as it is. I’ve said more times than I know that in any Statistics 101 class any professor worth their salt will, one day one, inform the class that the easiest way to tell a lie is to use statistics to appear to legitimize a story being told.

    Again Tourdog, thank you for your work!

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