The tale of the mythical magic F1 motor

unicorn farts


Tuesday November 24th, 2015 will be a big day in F1 history. Tuesday morning, the infamous “F1 our-only-Strategy-is-self-preservation-Group” will meet in the morning, and then the F1 Commission will convene after lunch. According to Autosport, topics to be discussed include: Manor/Marussia changing their name, Lotus changing their name, 2017 tyre and Aero regulations, and of course, the Bernie Todt “Unicorn” engine.

Why unicorn? because this engine does not exist, nor could it in any reliable form before 2017. It’s a myth. Less weight, more power, cheap price, total reliability, parity with existing Power Units. Just typing the words made me laugh out loud. It reminds me of the old corporate adage,

You can have it done fast,

You can have it done cheap

You can have it done right.

Pick two.

As Matt Somers has most eloquently put it, “I’m not buying it“, and the real question is who actually would?

Mercedes has invested hundreds of millions. Williams, and Force India are locked into long term contracts, of course in F1-land the terms “Locked”, “Long term” and “Contracts” have totally different definitions on any given day.

Manor appears to have a deal with Mercedes, and Lotus has either a Mercedes or Renault power unit, but lets leave it at that for now.

Ferrari has also invested hundreds on Millions in this new PU. They have a reliable customer in Sauber, though Monisha and contracts are two more words that make me laugh when used within the same lifetime. HAAS is no doubt locked into a deal with Ferrari that he will not get out of unless they choose to let him.

Mclaren is married to Honda, despite the desperately unhappy state of the relationship.

This leaves just Red Bull as a viable client for the ‘new engine’, and possibly Toro Rosso too. It would be downright reckless not to  run a new engine in more than one chassis. McLaren’s experience in 2015 appears to demonstrate that running just two cars has led to desperation from Honda, chopping and changing components in a desperate search for more data.

Prior to today’s 2 big pow wows,  several viable engine builders have commented as to the feasibility of the Todt/Bernie new power unit project.

Cosworth was extremely blunt. “We have declined the opportunity to loose money”. Ouch.

Ilmore and AER have both responded to the FIA’s “Call for expression of Interest”, and AER has gone so far as to say on Monday they already have an engine that fits the description. Mike Lancaster from AER had this to say today:

“The fact [the FIA] are looking for an engine we actually have is extremely interesting to us. We have spent a good many years developing a specific GDi V6 engine, and it was put together for high levels of modern motorsport, with the emphasis on lower brake-specific fuel consumption. So we’ve produced an engine that fits into exactly what they are looking for, which is a very powerful, modern, fuel-efficient racing engine. Given the power required, the engine we have will easily deliver that, and more if necessary. It would impact the rebuild mileage, but in terms of whether it could do it or not, it would, and it would make a great sound.”

Well how convenient is that? As I stated in the previous article, The new engine specifications appeared to be written fitting a very specific set of criteria… So voila.

All that is remaining is for the new engine regulations to be accepted by the F1 commission today. That said, the FIA have indicated they may unilaterally force them if the teams’ fail to unit behind this proposal – in either event, then the official tendering process would begin.

In a previous TJ13 article, we put a link to the FIA’s official tender page. That linked article has now been removed.

official tender page

If you try to search for “tender”, or “call for expression of interest” in the FIA’s search bar, the links no longer come up, as they did previously.


But there has been no proper tender. No contracts have been signed. This was a one week rush to get something in before today’s big meetings. Yet Bernie and Todt will walk in to the high noon show down today with the ultimate threat in their pocket; something not too dissimilar to the gun analogy Todt himself used in regard to the Ferrari veto.

The big news is that, Bernie and Jean finally agreed on something! Bernie wants to reduce the power of the engine manufacturers to limit their present power. Todt wants the threat of new engines to force a reduction in Mercedes and Ferrari power unit prices to customers.

Of course there is one big benefactor long term should Todt and Bernie get their way. The Red Bull family. They too would like to be independent of the manufacturers. Beholden to no one, and this is their golden ticket.

However, in reality there is a problem not  easily solved. Even if this AER unicorn exists, then there is the matter of parity with the current V6 Hybrid Turbo power units.. The weights will be different. car balance will be different. Tyres will need to be different. Fuel load will be different. The non-hybrid cars will either have to start heavier, or finish lighter than the hybrids. Possibly both, or be allowed a refuel stop, which WILL NOT HAPPEN. The FIA is talking about unlimited fuel flow for the new engine. So what happened to Todt’s drive for efficiency and greener technologies? Red Bull has stated without that the only reason they have chosen to stay in the sport was because of this new engine.

So how will this play out? Well there are two scenarios.

  1. Todt and Bernie push their cheap engine through. This will possibly drive Mercedes right out of the sport. It also gives Renault no reason to stay, and could even theoretically drive away Ferrari too. It will help no team except Red Bull, as there are no other teams that are not under contract already. This option is nothing less than rewriting the rules to save one team, Red Bull, at the expense of the sport as a whole. It will also insure that no other manufacturers will risk entering the sport… ever. F1 will alienate itself from every major car company on the planet.
  2. The new engine threat is dropped, and the other manufacturers agree to reduce the cost of the PU to their customers in exchange for an extension of the current engine regs beyond 2020. This would theoretically allow Ferrari and Mercedes to recover their development costs over a longer period, allowing them to reduce the annual cost of a PU supply to a team.

So where will this leave Red Bull? They will either build their own motor from basic components supplied by Renault or leave F1. The clock is still ticking, but no one knows when time as we know it will end.

43 responses to “The tale of the mythical magic F1 motor

  1. Wrong. Still on FIA web-site, and link is here:
    Do you really think that present engine is good for F1?
    My suggestion is back to future:
    – injection into the head,
    – 145 kg of fuel,
    – no ERS K and no ERS H,
    – max. volume 3,000 ccm,
    – max. V12.
    – power =/+ 900 HP

    That is low consumption engine and real ROAD RELEVANT low consumption engine,
    AND this is real F1 engine.
    Anyone can make this for a fraction of today costs and all F1 engine makers have V10 solution for literary tomorow use.

    Cost – can be under 10 mil. per season per team. Take my words for granted, I do know this.

  2. Where does option 2 leave RBR? Using an unbranded Renault ICE + Illien designed head + RBR 2015 Building 9 produced ERS components as TJ13 previously declared
    Or is TJ13 no longer standing by that exclusive?

  3. “They will either build their own motor from basic components supplied by Renault, or leave F1”

    Renault have addressed this already and said it is not going to happen. They are not allowed to do this so case closed with this “rumour” about RBR building their own engines based off the Renault PU. The only way i can see RBR staying in the sport is if Honda supply them engines from 2017 onwards and obviously they use Renault engines next season.

    • if the new engine is scrapped and the manu’s win they will have forced red bull out of F1. they will have one less competitor of any note and the racing will be even worse than it is today. red bull collectively pour more money into F1 than anyone else and to see them forced out will be tragedy. i would be devastated to see them go. not because i like the team but i do like their racing from a competitive POV plus they have four of the most exciting young drivers in F1 today.

      • “Forced out”? They effectively sabotaged their own relationship with their power unit supplier. From the sounds of things they simply didn’t finalise anything with Mercedes (or wouldn’t plan on doing so anyway) about terms of their contract. They turned down Ferrari’s offer. The only one who really flat refused was Honda, but bearing in mind how RBR have reacted to Renault and their lack of performance I don’t see them really enjoying trundling around at the back of the pack.

        The root cause of the problem was them deciding to attempt to sever ties with Renault without any other concrete option. It sounds like earlier in the season they were rushing Renault to provide them with engines that hadn’t been fully tested to Renault’s liking yet, then later in the season they’re refusing to run development engines – again, that’s RBR causing issues there.

        Apart from their general attitude, this is why people are finding it hard to really have sympathy for Red Bull’s “plight”.

        • what’s interesting to me is how many so called ‘fans’ of F1 have sympathy for Renault. Perfectionism isnt an option in F1, it is a demand. Renault have failed so miserably over the last 2 years that its a complete joke and they should be the ones leaving F1. They literally have contributed nothing to F1 in 2 years.

          when i see a fierce competitor like red bull, season on season developing some of the best and most beautiful chassis, bringing up super star after super star to the sport, bringing a race back to the european calendar.. let down by a company that only put 150 employees on the 2014 PU, I dont have to think twice about who I have sympathy for.

          How can you sympathize with renault for putting 150 people on the job mercedes and ferrari put 400 on? Just explain your rational on sympathizing with a loser company like that.

          • @ layercake….well said. most dummies still spout the mantra of ‘offending renault’ as the root cause for the problems. renault are the architects of the entire mess. how about turning up for the first test in ’14 with an engine that they couldn’t even start without the help of red bull!!! renault has trashed renault and are trying to lay it all on red bull. what a joke.

      • The sooner the red bullies are gone the sooner some of F1’S problems are gone, and if they take Bernie off with them the much better F1 racing will be.

        • @ sunny…that is simply a stupid and uninformed comment. to take red bull out of F1 is to cement the status quo with mercedes and ferrari running the entire show for themselves. we have already seen two years of total domination and i for one do not want to see any more. i want to see these teams challenged for race wins not a predetermined result. renault and honda are both train wrecks when it come to producing a competitive engine and the other two are frightened of any challenge from red bull. if that is what you support then fine but it is not what i would call ‘racing’ in a competitive sense.

  4. Great article!

    Have to say though that in regards to option #1 the manufacturers might as well wait and see how competitive AER’s engine will be before they start jumping up and down.

    • absolutely, but the question of how competitive it is has a lot to do with fuel flow, +/- 150kg weight, and the whole host of other undefined FIA “specifications” – Thanks tourdog, this made me smile today!

    • In regards to option #1, to be competitive the alternative motor would be as powerful as the hybrids, if not more so, because it’s likely they’ll carry more weight in fuel at the beginning of every GP.

      Given the reason behind the alternative engines, which is to reduce costs for the teams, the FIA won’t have much choice but ensure the motors are producing very similar power as to the hybrids. That is required to ensure that it is a viable alternative.

  5. 3. the new alternative engines will be pushed through by todt and bernie, but will come with a promise that they are not more powerful then the current era rubbish, and if they are more competitive, restrictions will be put on them.

    Mechachrome today said they can have an engine ready in 6 months and have put their name forward in the tender. they even realized images on the engine!

  6. In the engineering world we say “You can have it right or you can have it now, but you can’t have it right now”.

    So, I’m curious also; where does this leave the Judge’s engine prediction?

  7. It’s an interesting topic. The new engines are an ideal test bed for the sort of technologies we will be seeing more and more of in road cars in the future but I think that whoever drew up the spec didn’t consider the cost of developing not just one but several very complex systems – and making them work in synergy.

    Road cars will have to start extracting more energy from their fuel source so things like regenerative braking, thermal recovery and so on will start to feature more and more. We are already seeing several manufacturers producing very small turbo engines which are replacing what was previously considered the ‘standard’ 1.6 engine in most family cars. Having driven the Ford version in a C-Max hire car recently I have no concerns about how well these engines perform.

    I can well see two small electric motors being fitted to the non-driving wheels and a small battery pack becoming standard. The throttle is already under computer control, it wouldn’t be too hard to devise a system which operates the engine at maximum efficiency and extract any power not needed to drive the wheels as electricity. Top this up with thermal and kinetic recovery and town and city driving could soon become a whole lot less polluting.


    Is it right to bankrupt the small teams to pay for this development?

    F1 could run with a much cheaper – but not massively road relevant – engine and still give the same performance as now. The fans wouldn’t care and the car manufacturers would still pay to develop these technologies as they will be needed whether they are used in motorsport or not.

    Personally, I’d say we stick with the best of the best – but the manufacturers need to find a way to defer the R&D costs.

    Maybe, as I’ve suggested in the past, one option is through FOM money. Anyone can sign up to be an engine supplier. They get $x million from the TV money for the first team they supply plus $y million for any subsequent team. The teams get a sum taken off their TV money to create this ‘engine fund’ but don’t pay for the engines.

    • Road car manufacturers were already doing hybrid before f1, the road car relevance stance is a stupid thing being put forward by the manufacturers. F1 does not need to be road car relevant, the v12, v10,v8 eras were the more successful for f1, and no road car ran 17,000rpm v10 engines. F1 is a long way behind the hybrid road car game and road car relevance, WEC is doing that in spades. F1 needs to go back to its roots of being the fastest and loudest

    • also, I don’t mean to be rude to you Stephen Hughes, but how is f1 engines running up to 12,000rpm running for 1.5 hours in races an ideal test bench for the technologies you think we will se in road cars???? every technology in f1 is already in road cars, and tested more heavily by manufacturers compared to the limited testing f1 is allowed. this is not 1995 , it is 2015, f1 fans need to realise f1 is NOT a testbed for new technology anymore, yes in the 1990s we saw technologies from f1 cars in chassis development make it to road cars, but the the whole road car relevance is a crock of “sh….” right in this moment of time. too many f1 fans fall for the old story of f1 technology making it into road cars… it is a VERY old story not relevant to today at all. watch WEC for one race to see how f1 is not technologically relevant

      • I’d not dispute that WEC is more road-relevant but there is an old adage to the effect there is always something to be learned. F1 pushes the limits and pushes development. KERS and the like will be pushing battery and electric motor development, the turbos will be pushing development in that area. This is why it is an ideal test bed – because F1 always demands more so more will be developed.

        You won’t get a part moving directly from an F1 car to a road car, but lessons will be learned still.

        As keeps getting pointed out, the new engines are massively more thermally efficient than the old ones. Lessons will be learned again that can be translated to road cars. The engines also need to last longer while still developing a lot of power. Machining techniques will have been and are being developed which will help road car engines become more reliable, lighter and cheaper.

        I do agree though that there is less and less technology transfer and that is partly due to the need to keep F1 a sport and not have the cars driven by computer.

        Where I do – sort of – agree is that this stops the sport being pure. Even that is tricky though, making F1 cars just for sport and not at the pinnacle of technology makes them less relevant and the motor manufacturers would have less reason to get involved. You’d still get some developments filtering through but nothing like as much as we see now.

      • The technology is very relevant, but that doesn’t mean it is directly transferable. The workings and structure of the systems, the fuels, lubricants, storage and motor designs will all advance in F1 and “de-tuned” (for lack of a better word) versions or versions based on what they learn in F1, will show up in road production.

        • when audi were questioned as to why they weren’t in F1 because of the ‘trickle down’ hybrid technology they simply said ‘we don’t need it. we get everything we need from WEC / LMP1 and have done for years. they provide the technology and the endurance needed.’ the F1 example is BS.

          • I see, so it applies to Audi in racing but not to Mercedes, Renault, Ferrari or Honda?

          • @kenji

            …and when Audi were questioned about the figures they published, resulting from the mandatory emissions testing required for all diesel-engined cars – did they concede that such information was compromised, due to a covert concerted effort to produce dishonest yet flattering figures, misleading the public?

            I would think most readers are savvy enough to understand the way large companies with dedicated PR departments, will carefully craft all public statements to increase favourable public perception of the company, as the primary objective.

            When Renault were asked why they were prepared to assist with financing that allowed them to transfer ownership of their F1 team to Genii Capital, as quickly as possible after the Singapore crash scandal hit the news – did they answer honestly, stating that dishonest and disreputable senior team members acted independently – risking lives and the reputations of all associated?

            Or did Renault carefully word answers along the lines of F1 Team ownership no longer suited the future objectives of the company, nor the best interests of the shareholders, industrial partners or the French people – who collectively own and control the company?

            In respect of your original point, would you really expect Audi to answer “well current involvement in F1 is untested for all VAG brands, but irrespective of that the boss dislikes key senior FOM personnel, which makes any change in the situation unlikely until at least one party leaves their position. Furthermore we are unlikely to commit the substantial amount of money needed to participate there, until we have worked out the true cost of an expensive large-scale deception we don’t even know exists right now!”.

    • The small teams money problems is created by Bernie’s secret arrangements with individual teams regarding F1 money distribution to teams, in fact Totd said that money paid to teams (distribution of money to teams) is the main problem of the PU costs to thing is for sure, the sooner Bernie is gone, the sooner F1 problems will go.

    • “Having driven the Ford version in a C-Max hire car recently I have no concerns about how well these engines perform.” I think tht the performance of the small efficient turbo engines is not a problem. I’m more concerned that being more highly stressed these engines may wear out faster and thus find it harder to pass emissions tests when out of warranty and due to the cost of parts become uneconomic to repair compared to older less stressed non-turbo units. Just a feeling. I would like cars to last 15 years before being scrapped but some cars are now scrapped quite young due to repair costs.

      • True, time will have to tell on that one. I’d hope with the better tolerances available these days it shouldn’t be such an issue. I remember being surprised my 1.0 Yaris had as much power as the 1.4 Tipo it replaced and the engine on that was still running as sweet as ever when I scrapped it at 14 years old.

        This is hopefully one of the things that F1 progress will keep improving – tolerances can become tighter, materials (and testing thereof) will improve and road engines will benefit down the line.

        As an aside, I recall reading a few years back that in Japan cars were often scrapped at only 3-5 years old as their emissions regulations were so tight that they only lasted that long before being uneconomical to repair to pass. This was also to do with car recycling – if all countries did that then it would be massively inefficient.

        Maybe we will end up with cars in the future being a ‘box’ where the power train can easily be dropped in and replaced as necessary? A bit like trains of old where they were re-engined to keep them going for years and years.

  8. I have a good idea!
    They could let team’s, build the car they want, build the motor they want, they could all meet at a track, and we’ll call it racing!
    If someone has an advantage, we could call them , winner!
    Who is the idiot, that decided, that turning F1 into the most expensive spec class was a good idea?
    Rules cost money. They only separate the haves, from the have nots.
    I think we need a new racing series.
    It could be called, ” The no foolish rules” series.

    • Look at how Red Bull are reacting to not winning a race for one year.

      Let anyone run anything and one team will gain a massive advantage. The rest would have to spend to catch up and a lot would leave.

      No rules would be as expensive than these rules if not more so.

      The trick is finding rules that encourage manufacturer investment in the sport while keeping the costs low and the racing good.

    • good luck with your new series then! as of F1, there always have been ones fighting for titles and ones at the back, no matter who has what money or what the engine formula is or who supplies it

      • well, whatever way i’ve got THAT icon is beyond me. all i can say the icon is pretty accurate and from what i can conclude is that IE are tracking ip’s at large(the same way as others do these days). No complains here to this site as i’m Crawlfish(NOT CANCER) by hor(r)o(r)scope anyway. But still intersting as i act here as anonimous kardaan

  9. I’ll go for option 2.

    And to answer the question on Red Bull.

    They will team up with Aston Martin. Aston Martin will not team up with Force India. Their ‘top dog’ is in jail. That’s like Blofeld in an Aston Martin in the next Bond movie.

    Torro Rosso will get their Ferrari deal.

    Susie Wolff left Williams because her husband has set his mind on a new project. Called Aston Martin. I guess he has sold his 5% share of Williams to put his money on a new player. Remember Toto is an investor.

    And if i were the Ceo of that new player i would want the best. And not Force India.

    Toto Wolff once said: ‘Red Bull is a very hip brand. Is there in any way we can make that work so that Mercedes benefits from an association with Red Bull on the road car side with joint platforms so we can afford to dilute our success in Formula 1?’

    Remember that Red Bull is set for racing next year. Why else would Tag Heuer announce to leave Mclaren, after 30 years, for Red Bull? To leave the sport with them? Or could it be that Mercedes did a ‘Hugo Boss’ on Mclaren once again? Funny note. There’s a link with Tag Heuer, Aston Martin and James Bond.

    Where does this leave Williams you might ask. Why not with Renault? They have a good history. And don’t forget that Renault and Mercedes are linked business wise.

    It kind of reminds me of how Audi put Bentley back on the map during the 24 heures du Mans.

    • Have to agree with most of your points. Especially Williams. It’s a bit emberrasing for williams to be using a Merc PU now that we know Merc will refuse to sell to any team that can beat them.

      If Williams is even 5% serious about a WCC (recently it appears they dont care about WCC) then they need a works PU and Renault/Lotus is not a done deal – and even if it is Renault have a history of supplying teams that can beat them.

      The only question is, who would want to work with Renault – a company responsible for the biggest failure in modern F1 history.

      • Nobody except the red bullies will want to work with Renault in 2016. even so they said they will not.

      • That’s why i pointed out the Mercedes Renault business link. Wonder why Renault refused the new Illmor updates? Maybe because Mercedes owns the old Illmor? Like Toto said it’s all about ‘diluting our succes in Formula 1’.

        • You need to draw a distinction between ‘Ilmor’ (Illien and Morgan) and Mario Illien, consultant – formerly the Illien part of Ilmor.

          • Today, Illien is not Ilmor. His tie to that company ceased a long time ago, so the new Ilmor updates don’t exist. 🙂

  10. All this because :
    The arrogance of Red Bull who has spit in the face of everyone when they dominated and now that time is over they behave like children on the school yard.
    Bernie who think that he could go back in time to the Cosworth era. Age is starting to have an effect on him.
    Todt who has been the great absent from tbe F1 scene, busy to collect medals and titles, and now tries to get in the front row.

  11. –McLaren’s experience in 2015 appears to demonstrate that running just two cars has led to desperation from Honda, chopping and changing components in a desperate search for more data.

    I have formed the impression their desperation arose more because they designed their turbo to be as small and to have as low a rotational inertia as possible, a critical mistake arising from a fundamental misunderstanding that in the era of MGU-H it’s actually an advantage to have *high* turbo inertia (because you can then store more recovered energy in it!). But when they eventually realised this, they just didn’t have enough tokens to then redesign the turbo. Hence the subsequent desperate scrabbling around for any other possible way of making their performance less embarrassing. Whether that would have been easier with two teams might be another question, but I don’t think it’s the single team state that was the cause of the desperation.

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