The 2020 F1 engine

Mercedes technical boss Paddy Lowe believes now is the time to start generating ideas for a new engine formula, ready for when the current agreement ends in 2020.

The current V6 hybrid turbo era came into effect in 2014 after numerous years of development. This change even brought a new title to formula ones engine… ‘the power unit’. This engine though has been criticised since its introduction for a coherent lack of noise, where many believe the noise levels of the V8’s brought fair weather fans to the track side.
Paddy is adamant that the same mistakes cannot be made again, and the new regulations offer the chance to do something fresh.

When quizzed about the next engine formula paddy had this to say:

“That’s a good question and it’s a big question. I think it is about time we started to talk about the engine beyond this one.
“And it does raise some very big considerations: how do we define an engine or power unit that is correct for the sport but also relevant to the kind of power units that we will see in the future in road cars? Do we make remain in some way related attached to that technology which is increasingly electrical or do we go our own way? So there are some very very important questions there.”

Paddy also went into detail over the engine noise debate, especially with F1’s current manufacturers and admits the technology must remain relevant to road car technology.

“That debate started really with the issue of the sound of these engines when they arrived in 2014. It’s better now than it was back then but it doesn’t match the sound of the old V8s or the V10s but it still raises an interesting debate.

“I think road cars of the future, at some point not that far off, will be completely silent if they are all electrical so will we want noise, will we associate noise with performance or not? There are some very interesting debates there and I think we need to start that process.”

Ex Mercedes employee Jock Clear also agreed with Paddy, stating that the teams need plenty of time to digest what the regulations may look like.

“It needs to be thought about. I think what we have learned from this cycle and this era of hybrid engines is that the power units now are very, very complicated and it needs a lot of planning and I think we’ll go into those next negotiations with eyes wide open this time.

“I don’t think there’s anybody who didn’t fall into the category of underestimating what might have been involved, and as such, [so] the sooner we start, the sooner we’ll be aware and the sooner we can come to a solution that will be the best for the sport.”

The noise is a big part of the attraction no doubt. Formula one needs to understand if they are an entertainment business, or the pinnacle of technology. Can we have both?

The noise never concerned me until a lady on the banks of turn 3 at Albert park in 2014, voiced her disgust at the silent assassins! The lady was in her 60’s and didn’t care for the technological advances that make my pulses race. Time to bring those fans back.

The chest rattling noise of engines gone by is certainly missed, but the sound of the hybrids bring another element to the fans. Stand on a braking zone and you can hear the drivers working, much like the noise engagement from the blown diffuser era.

It’s hard to imagine the noise ever returning though. A one litre three pot hybrid formula anyone?

19 responses to “The 2020 F1 engine

  1. Jeez, I hope they do a better job of the next set of engine regulations. The current iteration have been an abject disaster for fans of the sport.

    The MB domination ought to be a massive embarrassment for FIA. Their short-sighted, ham-fisted development restrictions screwed all of us over. Those of us who wanted racing got sh!t. Hamilton fans are going to be forever defending the last three titles Lewis will win in the face of calls that “it was the car”.

    Just rubbish.

    Maybe the ultimate backers of the sport – quasi-government purveyors of fossil fuels from the Middle East – have to man up and demand pure hydrocarbon power. Wishful thinking, unfortunately given the manufacturers will never go for it.

    We’re a generation away from mass use of electric vehicles and they suck for racing anyway. I reckon hybrids are a bit of a joke, besides which, WEC have the mortgage on that technology really.

    Hydrogen fuel cells anyone? That BMW i8 sounds pretty good – kinda alien. Turn the tech up to eleven with an eye on the essential theatre of sport and we may have a winner.

    • Hmmm… Just listened to that i8 again and it blows too. I heard it a while back and thought it was OK. But no. Bollocks.

      So, internal combustion, please.

      Naturally aspirated.

      Wake me when you’re ready.

      • Or clockwork?..sorry Roger,i couldn’t resist but you are absolutely right..ICE all the way. It could be an interesting time..gas powered,diesels or even a alcohol mix but I wouldn’t count out a turbo just not the small units we have today. Maybe a multi vain variable with a couple of units (Bugatti had the right idea EB1?)but don’t have a waste gate

  2. As someone who thinks the new engines are a technological marvel, I couldn’t give a XXXX about the noise, it is just wasted energy. What I would like to see is the removal of the fuel restrictor and rev limiter. Leave the fuel tanks at 100 litres and let the driver manage the boost, as in the golden era of turbos in the 80s. Forget DRS. If a driver wants to overtake, turn up the boost, these engines should be good for around 1400 H.P. Oh and if you turn up the boost to much you will not have enough fuel left to finish the race, in other words a driver has total control of his (or her) own destiny. Could even fit a low fuel warning gauge, should be room for one more warning light on the steering wheel!

    • Yeah. Nah.

      I take your point, but my neighbour tells me her Thermomix is a technological marvel. It does sound a bit like a Formula E though. I find them both just as interesting.

      I want all my senses to be assaulted by motor racing and I think it needs to get back to that way again if it is to survive much longer. The casual, mug punter pays for a sport of F1’s scale, not us dedicated fans.

      • That phuckin’ Thermomix… does everything but S your D, as I understand it.

        Agreed re: Engine Noise. Yep, that’s what I call ’em. A bit of naturally aspirated ICE would be nice.

        3000cc of V10 was nice; but I dare not hope.


    • Agreed. I’ve always thought the fuel flow limit was a bit of a copout. The big manufacturers playing it safe to avoid embarrassing failures and tactical mistakes(like running out of fuel). It would be far more exciting if they took the flow limit away! And the rev limit.

      I’d rather them ditch electric and go back to pure ICE of course but but that’s not looking overly likely….

  3. Noise for me is important. I do not see the much fun of going to a Formula E race with no noise. Noise has changed in almost all king of racing with the exception of NASCAR. Le Mans with Diesel engine and the tractor sound of the new Ford GT are not the same but still there is noise. I would love F1 to go back to V-10 or V-8 engines and Le Mans to the 427 Ford, Porsche 917 or Ferrari 512 noise, but times are changing and we have to adapt to a new world.

  4. I, for one, think they should not be focusing on the noise of the engines. There seems to be an inordinate about of consternation about how good the “good ol’ days” were. I think that this recollection is viewed with rose colored lenses (to various degrees.)
    They need to decide who they are playing to and why. I know this sounds simple, but people often loose sight of this fact in business and otherwise.
    Case in point, I have trouble believing that there are a majority of people who regularly attend races, that will honestly say they preferred the old high revving v8/v10 engines over the newer, quieter v6 turbos. I mean, sure, the first time I experienced a group of formula 1 cars driving in anger on a circuit, it was overwhelming. The speed, the power, the stopping ability, the G’s they pulled around corners, and the ear splitting noise were all part of it. After the first five minutes tho, I could have done without the mind numbing scream of the v8’s and relatively low revving (constricted) v10 in the toro rosso. As much as I remember the sound being so loud, I also remember having to wear ear defenders (and all the hassle that that brings), the headache I left more than one session with, and, most importantly, the fact that I couldn’t discuss with my pops how much faster Kimi was in sector 1 compared to Alonzo on fresh tyres. Frankily, I couldn’t hear myself think half the time.
    I think it’s time we move on from such trivialities. Put a good product on track, and on tv screens, and trust and put faith in that product, and people will watch.

    • It doesn’t sound like you are A real Auto racing Fan , when A loud car will give you A
      Headache, why do people like you even go to an Auto race maybe someone
      Like you should gone to see A play or something like that won’t hurt you precious
      Ears .

      • Lol. Riiiight dude… I don’t care about the future of motor racing as a “thing” or a sport. Cuz, ya know, it’s common for the casual fan to discuss the merits of arguments about noice relative to spectators’ enjoyment of an event.
        First of all, I don’t care how big of a fan you are, if you have been to a formula 1 race during the v8 era, you will probably end up with a headache and and will have hearing damage after a race if you do not wear ear defenders. If you find that pleasureable, great… but if you are, in fan of motor racing, surely, you enjoy discussing strategy, predicting strategy by reading the race and watching the timing splits and upcoming traffic, and prespective gain in lap time by pitting and slapping on a new set of a different compound tyres or trying to make it to the end on one stop. And what fun is that is you can’t proclaim it to the buddy you went to the race with?
        I mean yeah, it’s impressive to see and hear a formula 1 car drive around a track at full volume for 5 minutes. After that it’s just annoying. And if you do like that, go to a top fuel drag race.

  5. Took my 3 year old to some outlaw midget racing last Friday. Small dirt track with screaming 4 cylinders. I’m not gonna lie but sounds isn’t everything. It was just on the limit of pain. I plugged my ears at moments and I could hear the on off throttling better which added to the racing.

    So maybe opening the fuel flow restrictions would allow more on throttle off throttle, on electric off electric noises. Basically feel the whole audio spectrum not just non stop screaming.

  6. No doubt it’s time to address the engine issue. The problem is having all manufacturers agreeing upon one standard for the future. Taking the example of the present marketplace, the next F1 engine should be a large capacity, high-pressure forced induction inline-4 cylinder with a supportive form of KERS but again, it will require the 4 manufacturers presently involved in the sport to accept. And it could, possibly, attract another manufacturer into F1 but I can hear the wail of protest coming out of Marenello of an actual 4-banger with the FERRARI name on the valve cover.

    • As a history lesson:
      1952 Ferrari 500
      1954 Ferrari 625
      1954 Ferrari 553
      and several sports cars such as the 750 Monza

  7. i think f1 was more interesting when there were fewer regulations and more innovation. turbo and nonturbo in same race, 6 wheelers, ground effects, active suspension, etc, etc. overregulation assumes the regulators know more than the engineers and positively stymies real engineering-led innovative progress.

  8. They should use turbocharged, high revving 1.5L inline 5 cylinder engines. That way, we get the v10 sound and lots of power but satisfy the f1 supremos who want small, fuel efficient engines. Problem solved.

    • Also, there should not be fuel flow restrictions. Blouis79’s point about f1 being more interesting with fewer regulations and more innovations is very valid, maybe deregulation in all areas is the way to go. Cylinder count unrestricted, displacement and turbo pressure regulated; less regulations, more freedom in all areas might make the sport more interesting.

  9. As A formula 1 fan for over 20 years , all I can say is I agree with Bernie
    LETS put the V/10 engines back in the car’s and be done with it .

    For those of you out there that don’t agree with fans like me just look
    At the Auto Manufacturers are ANY of them producing A V/6 turbo
    Hybrid ( that’s right NONE are ) so why are these STUPID HYBRID engines
    Even in Formula One .

    As for the manufacturer’s there are still plenty of V/8 s and V/10s like
    Audi and BMW even Mercedes , so think about that all of you Hybrid Freaks .

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