Changing the F1 engines of today

A lot of folk have asked about what manufacturers can and cannot do to improve their engines for 2015. This has been addressed by the FIA in its efforts to control costs in the course of the life cycle of the new formula, with a series of restrictions over a seven-year period. These are designed to allow development but keep costs down. It was deemed to be too risky to freeze engines from the start as it could have led to one manufacturer, whose initial product was superior, achieving a dominant position from the outset and so it was decided to create a schedule of allowable changes to stop wild spending each year.

To achieve this the regulators came up with the idea of dividing the parts of F1 power units into three categories, ranked 1, 2 and 3. The total ranking for the parts in an F1 power unit is 66. From this total was derived a system of “tokens” that allow for change. If you redesign your pistons, for example, it will cost you two tokens, while the ignition system is worth only one point. Each year, each manufacturer will be allowed to choose what parts of the engine they wish to develop, based on these tokens, with the annual number of the reducing each year. For 2015, therefore, there will be 32 tokens available, which means that almost half of the components in an engine can be changed. Each year the number of tokens will reduce by around nine percent so that by 2018 there will be only 15 changes allowed each year, which will mean only 23 percent of the parts can be developed. Thus, there are increasing financial restrictions but there is still much development possible. As a result, over time the engines should become more closely-matched. New manufacturers can still come in and are not really handicapped because they will inevitably hire staff who know the answers to lots of the pitfalls, so they will not be greatly disadvantaged.

56 thoughts on “Changing the F1 engines of today

  1. Thanks for that.

    It would seem to me that, over time, any normal technical development would result in a reduction in the number of parts being changed. Therefore what is in “the rules” would seem to be what would normally happen without “the rules”. Except perhap a complete re-design.

  2. Now THAT was much more useful than the interminable SkyF1 fluff that we get fed.
    Question – does a new engine entrant in 2015 or 2016 get the reduced number of 2016 tokens to make their follow-up changes each year – or do they get 66 starting after their first year?

  3. Do you think that Renault know how to get more power for 2015 – their present performance is solely due to not making it in time for the freeze? If so, given how RBR are making good gains aerodynamically and in other ways, might Mercedes’ dominance be just a one year thing?

  4. But surely the teams will just spend enormous amounts of money redesigning every single component, doing point cost vs benefit analysis and then only making the best changes, since the design time is the expensive part of this process I fail to see how any cost will be saved. We should at least end up with more similarly performing power units though…

    1. That is what I would think is not only going to happen, but can’t really be done any other way. Try a bunch of things and change what works best..

  5. I presume it is measured by what’s changed rather than delve into the secrets of what’s developed?

    I only ask this because I’ll bet Renault are throwing the kitchen sink at their engine and once they find the best way of spending their tokens, they’ll cash them in.

  6. The current setup does seem to disadvantage later entrants and potential new suppliers as they get decreasing opportunities to fix issues than those in from the start.

    I’m not so sure that new suppliers will be easily able to “buy in” the skills required to enable them to catch up, there is quite a limited talent pool out there ( as Renault have found out) which will no doubt be shackled to their current employer with golden handcuffs.

  7. I do wish the FIA would see to it’s file names!
    The regs files available for download from its website have (actually wrong) names such as:
    “2015 F1 Sporting Regulations – Published on 29.06.2015”
    while the filename of same is “1-2015 SPORTING REGULATIONS 2014-06-29”
    More embarrassingly the tab or header name is “Draft 1999 F1 Sporting Regulations”

    To add to the confusion article 1.2 says:
    1.2
    These Sporting Regulations were published on the date written below in accordance with the provisions of the International Sporting Code.

    [For 2016 this Article will be amended to read β€œ
    These Sporting Regulations were published on 1March2015 and may only be changed after this date with the unanimous agreement of all
    competitors entered in the 2016 Championship, save for changes made by the FIA for safety reasons which may come into effect witho
    ut notice or delay.”]

    So actually the official published date for 2015 regs is not satisfied!
    The 2015 regs need to bear a date in 2014 not 2015 to be valid. the name of the reg is wrong.

    Similarly the 2015 tech regs 2.2 could be supplemented to state their relevance to 2015.

    Still we have many more iterations to go before they start on the final versions.

    The Power Unit changes Joe explained above are detailed in Appendix 4 on page 87/88. of the tech regs. (last two pages)

    No I haven’t read them all, it just annoyed me that the FIA includes a publishing date in the Reg name and a completely different date in the filename. I like logic and that that looks very sloppy and poorly organised. (Its the same every year and really time they sorted themselves out)

    1. Or just put up each file on a page with a abstract and a consistent “pretty” URL, abstract title and date please, a real date. Remember when you could guess a URL if stuck? /…/report_2013. ; /…/report_2014. ?

      Too right about canonical file names. Research papers and theses dissertations, or parts spec sheets all suffer the same. Or make everyone else suffer. Search isn’t up to this, nor is the way we remember things. I keep thinking this has to be a use for touch or pen interface and big high resolution screens: be able to underline and rotate displays of papers to refine search. Adobe in their wisdom fluffed the income preview of PDF files in acrobat pro, which with icon scaling was a real utility, just set the icons to preview as large as you can, and it was so much easier. Microsoft fail to fix this in 8.1 which is inane since they bundle their own viewer.

      1. I wish they had a big bonfire with the regs. They are all too restrictive, both car and driver regs. How about some change to something like the old CanAm, rules?

        1. Who would pay for the track changes needed to keep the resulting rockets out of the crowd when things go bad???

          1. Well you never got many CanAm/Interserie cars or bits in the crowd in the past and the circuits are so sanitized these days the crowd is far enough back to be safe I’d have thought. Also, ever gone to a WRC round or a Drag event? Dragsters are much closer to the crowd but the safety fencing is very good and WRC goes within inches of spectators. Not very often anything bad occurs, although as it still says on the tickets ” motor racing is dangerous “, yes most people with a bit of commonsense realise this and stand in sensible places!

        2. I’d like to see a vast simplification, also. Meanwhile, as rpaco illustrates, apparently they’re on display in a filing cabinet in a toilet in the basement, with a sign on the door saying, “beware of the leopard”.

  8. Joe,

    Is there something in the regulations that would prevent a team from redesigning and testing (at a dynamometer) every single part of the engine and in every possible permutation of new/old parts in order to determine how to maximize the use of their tokes?

    If this is possible, it would seem like not much cost savings would be achieved.

      1. But will we ever know how much they actually spend to improve the engines within the tokens regime?

  9. Joe, slightly off topic but I heard in one off the team principles pressers a comment about helping teams near the back of the grid, similar to GP2(but I didn’t understand this). There is a precedent for this such as DRS or the free tyre choice for teams not is Q3 qual. What’s you’re thoughts on this maybe taken to a higher level, such as no penalty for using more engines/ gearboxes for the lowest 4 teams, or something else.

      1. It was comment Toto Wolff made in Monaco about customer cars running on last years regulations or performance regulations similar to GT Racing (not GP2).
        “Again, you open up a bunch of questions: what is a customer car, do you want to run cars to last year’s regulations, do you want to run them on balance of performance, like in GT racing?”

        Do you think this could be transposed to back of the grid cars?

  10. Why are the engine rules so prescribed and defined? Why did they not just say to the manufacturers the engine size is 1.6, fuel capacity 100 Litres, maximum fuel flow 100 Litres/Hr, and leave the rest to them to decide? You only have to look at LMP1 to see all the different solutions we could have had….

    We all know they have spent just as much developing the current engines as they would have whatever the rules!

      1. To expand on that slightly, with the engine regs so tight there’s only so far off course anyone can go. With more freedom if one team found a big advantage by doing something really differently the rest could have to scrap their current engines and start again, at enormous cost.

        I think that it would be fascinating to go further than you suggest and just limit the fuel capacity and flow rate, but apart from the costs of development the FIA could need different equipment and procedures to scrutineer each PU. Apart from cylinder count and layout, imagine a grid with petrol, diesel, Wankel engines, turbines πŸ™‚ But it will never happen 😦

      2. With selling prices ranging from $24m to $40m a pop, it’s hard to see that money was in short supply in any of this….

      3. This, when the regulations were written, they decided to set the vee angle etc as they is little to gain in that area when focusing on efficiency.

    1. There was a formula student podcast on motorsport magazine’s website about this, and the Mercedes guy said “We’d have gone to a 3 cylinder massively blown engine that was a little bit more efficient, but massively more money to establish the fundamentals”.

      I do agree though, it would have been great to have a bit more variation like in the early 90’s where you had V8’s, V10’s and V12’s, all sounding different and all working differently through a race (the ford V8 using less fuel so quicker overall but with less grunt down the straight, the heavy V12’s having huge power and fuel consuption, and the Renault V10 in the middle).

      1. I have a vague recollection that Ken Tyrell once suggested going to 600cc engines but unlimited boost as (providing you can stop the engine from melting like the old turbo era BMW quali engines) you can still get 7-800 bhp ‘easily’ … but then I believe KT also wanted to be able to put rear tyres on the front at low speed circuits (extra mechanical grip) and fronts all round at high speed circuits (to help with the aerodynamics)!

        1. Can’t speak for the engines, but Tyrrell did try front tyres at the rear at Hockenheim in 96 to reduce drag – nothing inherently wrong with the idea, although the tyres weren’t designed for it and the team weren’t allowed to race with them. I imagine Harvey Postlethwaite or one of the technical team was the one behind the idea, though, rather than Ken.

  11. Thanks Joe for the detail on this really clears up the procedure.I do have a comment though about engine design, this is no longer a black art there is enough history, expertise and technical detail these days that the building of a forced induction engine or normally aspirated engine to the FIA guidelines isn’t rocket science, it’s obviously the interaction of the ancillary equipment to run the whole package which is the problem for some teams.

  12. Wow, that is complex.

    Reducing the changes over time means radical ideas that turn out to be wrong start getting very expensive when you both run out of points to trade and then pushing another area means you need to trade points for the new as well as going “back” on the old.

    If anything I think this increases the design burden.

    Been too distracted by usual F1 politics to notice the rules have been holidaying in the funny farm…

    1. That should encourage the engine manufacturers to do more testing of their engines before the season starts. When news came out about Ferrari testing their F1 engine in a La Ferrari, I wondered why the other manufacturers hadn’t been doing the same thing all along, either with road cars, modified “historic” F1 cars, or one-off test mules. And I’ve now got the image of an F1-powered Lotus/Caterham 7 in my head πŸ˜€

  13. Just to be clear (without wading through the regs myself, thanks Joe!) when you say “engine” do you mean what they are now calling the Power Unit? So the teams could (if the tokens allow) change the whole ICE? For example if they wanted to change the layout of the turbocharger….

  14. If new battery technology and charging systems come on line , will that be free to use or is that tokens as well ?

  15. I would think that re-design for “safety and reliability” are separate from these design tokens. If so, then (my own personal theory; likely way off base, but figured I’d share anyway) I wonder if the teams/engine suppliers will argue that the new standing restarts win 2015 will increase the strains on the power units (or parts thereof) and they’ll need to develop components due to “reliability issues” and therefore be able to change more components than the token system would allow.

    If this is the case, then the agreement of the standing restarts make sense from a team strategy point of view.

  16. In my opinion what the FIA needs to do is this ;

    3 Liter – Normally aspirated – Any cylinder configuration [ you want a 3 liter I4 .. fine … you’re mad enough to build a 3 liter W16 … go for it ] – Dropping KER’s , any semblance of ‘ Hybrid ‘ , Turbos etc . The cost does not justify the end result and is whats causing much of the financial difficulties on the grid – No more ‘ grid penalties ‘ for ruined engines – Development allowed during and off season – Tuning allowed till just before race day final formation .. period – Keep the engine rules stable for no less than the next five years .

    Add in a whole lot of restrictions on the aerodynamics along with increased mechanical grip , an increased minimum weight and no restrictions on tire usage [ just the number of tires available per race ] …. then watch the genuine Innovation & Sport finally return to F1 … becoming a much better spectacle in the process .

    By the way Joe . Whats your take on todays announcement of the FIA’s banning the FRIC suspension systems mid year ? IMO .. yet another desperate attempt on behalf of the FIA to fix a simple problem with very complex and expensive solutions

    1. Nice idea but it would not save a cent. The big teams need to win, they would spend just as much on the ultimate 3l as they do on the current power systems.
      If your job is to win you will always push to spend more to get the biggest car advantage.
      If money is short you will always be on the back foot.
      The only way to cut spending is to limit it in the rules.

        1. Always.

          I can’t think any solution will work other than distributing income more fairly. Talk of running three cars is nasty. It’s saying to the smaller teams who survive they’ll have to find even more money if they want to run a third car, and third cars will either eat up the money or make the results across the flag look bad for slower teams anyhow. That’s a lot of pressure coming form the top teams on who is doing a good job of chasing them.

  17. Joe,

    What’s the deal with Honda & in season testing prior to their 2015 McLaren partnership ? They’re not a current runner so I guess they could run their engine freely in anything other than a 3 year old F1 car?

  18. Thanks, Joe… good info on a well-intentioned-but-goofy rule (they’ll spend gazillions changing everything, and then spend their tokens to officially change only that which works best).

    BTW, given your objection to customer cars, do you see the same problem resulting from the development of junior teams (TR, and soon Haas allegedly)? AFAIK, there’s nothing to stop them from evolving into 4-car teams but with 2 different tubs… with said tubs being the least car-like component of all…

    1. p.s. If people here instantly can see the loophole in the rule, why can’t the rule-makers? Or is it intended to be just window dressing?

  19. Thanks for this excellent explanation Joe. One thing I’m not so sure about though is why it seems to be generally assumed that the ability to make changes should lead to a levelling out of performance.

    If there was a definable optimum design that everybody knew about and could home in on, then maybe. But what if there isn’t a known optimum? What if Merc are ahead because their engineers did a better job, and what if the ability to make changes gives them just as much opportunity to improve performance as it gives the others?

    Even if the others can copy what Merc did in 2014, Merc already have the experience of operating with those techniques and may be able to move on to another level for 2015 and maintain their current advantage. Or maybe not. But I think only time will tell, and a levelling out isn’t by any means inevitable.

  20. Interesting to see that Red Bull have increased their involvement with the Honda MotoGP team. Could this lead to Honda engines in the Red Bull F1 cars some time soon?

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