Two F1 engines per driver per season proposed

Rosberg retires monza 2015


The endless debate over how Formula One can dig itself out of the current malaise will take its next turn on January 15th. The engine manufacturers have been tasked with devising solutions to the problems of power unit cost to customers together with less significant issues such as noise. If Jean Todt and Bernie Ecclestone are not satisfied with the proposals, they have threatened to introduce a second engine formula into the sport from as early as 2017.

This unilateral action will see Formula One begin another season under the cloud of controversy as Ferrari have indicated they do not believe the mandate given to Ecclestone and Todt by the World Motor Sport Council is legal.

Max Mosley, president of the FIA from 1993-2009, has repeatedly thrown in his two penneth on the subject of cost control and his latest eye catching suggestion is that drivers should be restricted to just two power units per season. This of course should cut the cost of their production in half (from 4 to 2) and hence the annual price paid by customer teams.

“The engine suppliers would immediately say it was impossible and would be a disaster,” says Mosley, and most would agree with his analysis of the response to such a proposal.

Some advocates of this two engine proposal have offered the LMP1 class in the WEC for comparison stating that during the Le Mans 24 hour race, the winning Porsche car on one engine covered just over 5380km – equivalent to 18 grand prix race distances. So why can a Formula One car not do the same kind of distance on a single hybrid power unit?

This comparison is headline grabbing, but as TJ13’s F1 forensics expert Tourdog has plotted for us this year, F1 engine mileage is already around this level. The most kilometres covered by a single ICE in 2015 was 5,586km and delivered by Sergio Pérez. Unsurprisingly, the next two in the list were also the Mercedes engines of Felipe Massa and Nico Rosberg.

At the other end of the spectrum, the least mileage covered by an ICE was by Daniel Ricciardo, who racked up just 58km in practice in Australia before his #1 unit was consigned to the scrap heap.

For all the 2015 seasons power unit stats, click here, to enter the Chancery’s Archive.

The engine manufacturers are believed to be currently discussing reducing the number of power units a season available to each driver to three and the latest rumour is this could be implemented in 2016.

However, the current F1 power unit is composed of a number of other elements and it is questionable whether the current turbo designs could handle an increase of 2-3000 kilometres without failing. That said, as the Chancery Archive above reveals there were Electronic Storage devices and Control Electronics units from the 2015 PU’s, which were run by certain drivers for more almost 10,000km in 2015.

It appears Mosley’s headline grabbing proposal is probably a bridge too far for the current 2016 F1 power units, yet two engines per driver may become the target for the season after this one.

27 responses to “Two F1 engines per driver per season proposed

  1. Add Thursday sessions + race morning warm-up mileage to that Porsche engine (teams generally install the race engine in the car between Wed and Thu qualifying) and its life edges more towards 6000 km.

  2. off the cost issue, but the 2 engines per season suggestion will have a knock on effect of inevitable grid penalties, for failures will surely follow, throwing up further confusion come raceday. sure might give some more interesting racing with faster cars back down the grid, but would be another lottery element outside the drivers control to the WDC. artificially induced overtaking by sticking a Ferrari down in 17th is no substitution for real racing….viva ground effect!!

    • More mechanical grip (with better tyres), ground effect and the aero adjusted to make it easier for cars to follow and overtake. It’s not too difficult to improve the show, you just have to place the emphasis back on the drivers skills.

      I’m sure you could run 3 Power Units over a season if you are careful and don’t push it too hard. Might see a mix of drivers who are careful and those who throw caution to the wind.

        • If you make the cars easier to follow then it puts drivers in a position to overtake, then it comes down to racing skills if the overtake sticks or not. I’m fed up of drivers getting close to a car in front and then having to back off to avoid overheating brakes, tyres and Power Units due to the dirty air of the car in front.

          Power Units are not the main issue here, it’s the over reliance on Aerodynamics to the detriment of the actual racing. Reducing the number of engines in the hopes it will spice up the racing with faster cars starting at the back due to grid penalties would be just as artificial as DRS.

          • I’m not disagreeing with you. The article tho’ is directed towards the PUs, not aero……

  3. There is no reason the current engines couldn’t do a full season with a bit of de-rating. However, you open up another cost centre here – engineering even more complex solution and expensive solutions to keep the engine going at a high power level for longer. It certainly won’t slash the costs in half, just as I don’t suppose the drop from 6 to 4 engines knocked a third off the costs as it isn’t just a case of making fewer engines.

    I’d venture the opinion that the majority of the cost of these engines is the R&D, not manufacturing. I’d actually quite like to see a cost-capped engine with no restrictions on life. Allow the manufacturer to choose whether they go expensive and make engines last half a season or save a bit on R&D and manufacture more engines which are changed more often.

    As for the point that the electronics can already last longer… Well, as I believe kids say or used to say, duh! Far less is going on there that would be likely to fail. The vibration might losen a few solder joints but there is little that will fail in the same way that an ICE or turbo would fail. There is also far less cost involved and any reliability issues are outside the control of the teams anyway as they buy these off the shelf from McLaren Electronics.

    • Completely agreed. Imagine I have to deign a motor for 5 races – it will be designed and validated to hold for 5 races, maybe a bit more with derating (Nico ICE-style); if it needs to last 10 races materials won’t be the same, it would need to be a bit overengineered and the validation cost will pretty much double. Will this reflect in PU price? Most certainly, but it will not double, so teams might get a price reduction.
      However, imagine a crash at Melbourne where the PU cooked itself or was otherwise damaged. 19 races then on the same PU? Dream on, F1 doesn’t build Fiesta’s. This is why the following statement is nothing but FUD:
      “this of course should cut the cost of their production in half (from 4 to 2) and hence the annual price paid by customer teams.”

  4. Halving the number of engines won’t simply half the cost though. There is a lot of R&D work that goes into the engines, that has to be factored into the cost.

  5. Doesn’t actually address any of the concerns being thrown around at the moment though. A higher mileage requirement per power unit would lead to the following:
    1. Drivers spending even less time on the limit for fear of engine failure
    2. Desire to keep performance the same, leading to concessions made in the type of materials the PU can be made from, putting price back up in raw material cost and redesigns needed.

  6. Also note that the logic of half the engines is half the costs is deeply flawed. PU costs are dominated by development costs which will not go down (in fact an increased reliability requirement will increase development costs). Hence it is unlikely that less engine per season will actually reduce the costs for the costumers significantly.

  7. Isn’t it also so, that the most successful engine supplier also has the best reliability?! It would only lead to even more dominance by merc. Renault and Honda would have even more difficulties catching up if they now has to focus even more on reliability than power.
    And as said before it’s the R&D that costs. R&D would be even higher if the engine has to last longer and the materials even more expensive.

  8. This is a truly idiotic proposal. What we need is the engines that are pushed to the limit. I want to see a quarter of cars ending the race in engine fire, including leading cars like in some races in 1996, rather than a processional show that was Abu Dhabi 2010 and nearly every race after that. What we need to keep racing interesting is unlimited and unrestrained engine development during the season with no limit on engines used.

  9. An undeniable truth in F1: Any rule created to save manufacturers and teams money will do exactly the opposite.

  10. It would also depend on the penalties for using more than 2 engines. ‘Throwing’ a race weekend or two to get extra engines wouldn’t hurt if you then only need to run the engine half the time and can push it harder.

    You can’t help but think though that they are just tinkering around the edges, trying to come up with some silver bullet that will make all the difference.

    Not going to happen.

    In the past you got variability because technology was developing. Engines regularly broke because things were being pushed to a limit that no-one was exactly sure of. These days there is so much more knowledge it is easier to maximise performance while minimising risk of failure. Making teams run 2 engines a season will make things no more exciting than allowing unlimited engines and not a whole lot cheaper.

    There are two choices really. Have really basic engines that are relatively easy and cheap to develop, meaning even small independents could get involved, or stick with the technical innovation and put a cost cap on. The latter means you will only ever have 3 or 4 engine suppliers but ensure all teams have access to a supply.

    But, to spice up the show it needs much more in-depth change which is also going to cost money. Things like aero changes so the cars are less sensitive. Getting rid of all the little tricks that stabilise and optimise the cars. But again, you are ending up with a technically backwards product to get entertainment.

    So, what is F1?


    Or a technical demonstration?

    It can’t be both but that is what it is trying to be at the moment. It either has to ban all the gizmos and forget about being road relevant and technically advanced, but offering good racing entertainment, or forge ahead with the technical innovation at the expense of action on the track, hoping the fans will appreciate what lies underneath.

  11. As I see it F1 needs to decide what it wants to be. If entertainment is the goal then they need to write some kind of power unit parity into the rules so engines stops being a major differentiator akin to a series like the BTCC. This would massively reduce engine costs but drive some manufacturers away leaving the pure racers such as McLaren & Williams etc… to battle in a close and competitive series . Alternatively F1 should be for innovators. Loosen the PU regs, scrap cost capping and let the engine builders run riot; but write into the regs that they have to supply x number of teams a start of the season homologated unit at a fixed price. The trouble is that Bernie and his pals want to cover both bases which appear to be impossible.

  12. I think a far more entertaining proposal would be to slash the customer engine costs for a season in half, say from £20 million down to £10 million, and use that figure to work out the cost per engine to supply a new engine for each race, in this example (assuming it’s a 20 race season) that would be £500,000 per engine – more than enough to produce a block and bits capable of lasting a race weekend.
    And, before the manufacturers whine about the difficulties involved, let me remind you that Mercedes, Fiat, Renault, and Honda all have vast experience in manufacturing low-cost, reliable, high-performance engines – certainly for less than half a million quid!
    The research department would have to be scaled back, due to both the decreased budget and the need to enlarge the manufacturing dept, which they’d have to bolster to cope with the 5-fold increase in demand for both the engine blocks and for associated ancillaries.
    And these new engines would (by virtue of the increase in volume produced, being less highly engineered than the current crop, & only having to last for 500km/1 race weekend) naturally be inferior to the current formula, and provide a lot of scope for a customer team to extract best performance from them.
    The increased production, from around 16 per year for both Mercedes and Ferrari at present (4 teams supplied x 4 engines per team) up to 80 per year, would leave scope for the engine to evolve somewhat naturally (as the high volume/quick turnaround would lead to more refinement in the processes involved), and would lead to more unpredictability in the races due to them having had less money spent on development, use of inferior (more affordable) materials in their construction, and more faults slipping through the net (with less time available to be spent on optimising and analysing each engine).
    [ Or, to put it another way, more engines blowing-up! ]
    The forge has already been tooled-up for production of the engine block, it’s simply more efficient to ramp up production, paying for the extra block-casting, bench-testing, and assembly staff from what would previously have been spent on R&D and exotic materials.
    All of which would be more easily auditable -more money spent on actual ‘things’ (and the people making them) than on nebulous entities (hidden within a parent company’s R&D department) – which would make it easier to prevent costs from spiraling out of control.
    The two manufacturers supplying 4 teams would have a maximum of £40 million to spend, with a concession to the manufacturers supplying 3, 2, or 1 team/s in the form of a slight, and scaled, increase in their engine budget (so as to compensate for the inefficiencies of a reduced production run, and for the lack of extra data available to the manufacturers who are supplying more teams and, therefore, have more numbers to crunch).
    To wit, for manufacturers supplying 3, 2, or 1 team/s, rather than the expected £30/£20/£10 million they would be allowed a spend of £32.5/£25.0/£17.5 million, to come from their own budget – and not to be passed on to their customers, providing them with an extra £2.5/£5.0/£7.5 million to keep some kind of parity with the guys with the biggest budgets.
    It may not sound much, but even £2.5 million could pay for an extra 25-50 ‘brains’ to deploy within the engine department.
    All of which would be good for the sport, especially in helping to entice new engineering talent in this direction (and maybe the odd engine manufacturer or two), controlling the cost of fielding a viable F1 team, making the racing less predictable, making things less confusing with regards to penalties, making a ‘locked-in’ advantage (of the kind currently being enjoyed by Mercedes)less likely, and steering the smaller teams back towards being a proving ground for new talent rather than all having to employ vastly inferior drivers whose main ‘talent’ is the ability to conjure up huge bags of (other people’s) cash.
    Oh, and hack back those downforce providing front and rear wings, and numerous other suggestions, all of which will have to wait for another day, you’ll be pleased to know!

  13. It would be better to have a fixed price engine contract than a fixed number of engines. Either way, it screws up the incentives for manufacturers vs customer.

    What about standardising some components (eg block, pistons, maybe more) and letting everybody be responsible for their own engine design and build.

    Shift resources from aero to engines. Limit or prevent aero modifications. One design for all races and only permit the movable bits to be moved.

    The powers that be are only making more of a mockery of the sport and dampening useful innovation with more silly rules.

  14. What about a ‘double tombola’ system? All teams put a fixed amount in the engine pot for a season, all suppliers paid the same. Universal control electronics, universal mounting points for engines. All engines to fit within given dimensions. Each race weekend teams simply pick their 1) crated engine and 2) fuel supplier out of a hat. You could even make an extra half hour TV show out of that process for added revenue. Bernie, I expect royalties for my idea.

  15. Dear old Max is just aiding and abetting the push for a ‘FIA’ engine, the actual costs involved in the powerunits is not so much the physical cost of producing them but the R&D needed to improve them. Max’s proposal would only increase costs as more and more precision would be needed to stop them grenading themselves as the teams push performance over longevity. Whilst the current PU’s could probably be teased into doing a season on just 2 units do we want to see that? Do we want to hear drivers and engineers talking about saving an engine? I’d actually prefer the allocation be increased from 4 to 6 units, that way the tolerances are lessened and hopefully more performance could be unleashed…

    If they want to reign in costs, homologate the powerunits for Mercedes and Ferrari at the start of 2018 and allow Renault and Honda another 15 tokens to spend during 2018 to ‘catch up’. The whole business plan that all of the PU manufacturers have (with the exception of Honda) was built around recovering their expenditure over the course of the token system (until 2020) with minimum losses associated against their ‘works’ teams performances.

  16. While they’re at it, they might as well give them one set of tyres to last the entire season…

  17. If the purpose of the new regulations is to make the technology more relevant to road cars, can you imagine having to change your engine every 5k or 6k kms?

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