Mercedes F1 power units

Why F1 could give the internal combustion engine a stay of execution


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After Liberty Media acquired Formula 1’s commercial rights in 2017 the masterplan was clearly defined: Operate F1 largely as-is until the end of 2020, when prevailing regulations and contracts expire, then overhaul it totally from 2021.

This would involve a new commercial structures, governance protocols and revised technical and sporting regulations. And, in a first for the sport, financial regulations to level the playing field.

As for the power units, it had been previously been agreed to retain the existing architecture – 1.6-litre turbo engines running on 5.75% bio-content fuel, complemented by heat and kinetic energy recovery units – with only minor tweaks. A five-year stability period was agreed across the board.

For once, everything fitted so neatly. It would be the first time this century that all F1’s timelines coincided.

Then came Covid-19 and turned the entire world – and, by implication, F1 – topsy-turvy.

In the ensuing turmoil F1 unanimously agreed to postpone introduction of the technical and sporting regulations by a year to 2022 but stick to the original implementation dates for commercial agreements and governance processes (euphemistically known as the ‘Concorde Agreement’), and introduce the so-called ‘budget cap’ regulations on cue out of necessity.

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Melbourne, 2014
F1’s V6 hybrid turbos are in their seventh season
However, expiration dates for the sporting and technical regulations are still undecided. Will their validity be reduced a year to expire at the same time as the others, will they run for the full five years and thus be out of kilter with the rest, or will all covenants expire at the end of 2026 rather than 2025?

RaceFans put this question to F1 managing director Ross Brawn during an exclusive interview recently. He admitted nothing had as yet been decided, but that the question of F1’s future engine regulations was likely to be the next discussion point.

“The focus now is on the next power train, [but] before you can say what it is you’ve got to decide what the objectives are,” he said. “Where is the relevance, how does this stand in terms of defining the spectrum of the future, what’s the economic climate, how do you encourage investment in a potential new powertrain?

“All that has got to fit in and make Formula 1 as attractive as we can to our engine and power train suppliers. The economic signs have to add up, teams need to be able to afford our engines and they need to be good racing engines.”

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Where does that leave F1’s powertrain regulations? The engine development runway is substantially longer than that required for chassis, particularly if the intention is to attract new suppliers given that F1 is currently at the mercy of Mercedes, Renault and Honda – none of whom have committed beyond 2021 – while Ferrari, too, makes occasional ‘exit’ threats.

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[/CBC]Either way F1 needs to decide soonest, but first it needs to decide its direction of travel. While traditionalists urge for a return to old-iron V8s – or even V10s – the fact is that such engines are long gone, being as relevant to F1’s future as aluminium monocoque chassis or clutch pedals.

Meanwhile electrification is progressing in sport and on the streets, much to the chagrin of petrolheads.

The simple fact is no motor manufacturer can afford to be associated with gas-guzzling, NOx-belching non-hybrid engines, and not enough independent suppliers exist to provide the variety of engines the sport requires. Single engine supplier? That was called GP2 a decade ago. F1’s last independent supplier, Cosworth, withdrew when F1 went hybrid, having been unable to make a compelling business case.

It is evident F1 needs motor manufacturers more than they need F1, and therefore F1 needs to address the motor industry’s future needs. In the present global climate road relevance is paramount; followed closely by two diametrically opposite lows vying for priority: low emissions and low costs.

In order to make a business case for F1, these three issues need to be aligned at the lowest possible denominator, or no board will sign off an F1 feasibility study let alone the full programme, be it for a supercar or shopping runabout brand.

Jenson Button, McLaren, Shanghai, 2015
Honda was enticed back to F1 by hybrid engine rules
Indeed, had F1 not embraced hybridisation in 2014, at least three of four current engine suppliers would likely not be on the grid given their parents’ public commitments to electrification. Even Ferrari now produces a hybrid derivative developing a combined 1,000bhp.

Thus F1’s immediate imperative is to retain the current line-up, followed by attracting at least one supplier to as backstop, particularly if the sport hopes to attract an additional team (or two). Five brands would reduce supply pressures and costs while adding welcome variety to the grid. Forget not that although teams pay $20m for annual two-car engine supplies, engine programmes are heavily subsidised by parent companies.

It is a truism of F1 that change costs money; equally true is that the current engines are the most expensive in the history of the sport, even allowing for inflation. Retaining their architecture reduces design, development and production costs going forward while still making the formula attractive to potential suppliers on the basis that most trails have been blazed and regulations have become largely stable.

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So far ahead of their time were the engines when introduced in 2014 – having been delayed a year – that they are only now viewed as being road relevant. Indeed, earlier this month Mercedes-AMG CEO Tobias Moers – who takes up a similar position with Aston Martin later this year – announced that the company will adopt F1’s heat energy recovery technology from exhaust systems (MGU-H) in its road car range.

“In a first step this includes the electrified turbocharger – an example of the transfer of Formula 1 technology to the road, something with which we will take turbocharged combustion engines to a previously unattainable level of agility,” he said.

Mercedes is putting F1 MGU-H technology in its road cars
Imagine if F1 were suddenly to drop that technology…

This example, by no means the only such instance – Audi already fits electric turbochargers, powered by recovery generators, to its premium sports models – clearly makes a case for retaining F1’s engines on road relevance grounds. Thus, two of three boxes are ticked, with only the sustainability question to be addressed going forward.

This where F1 can play a crucial role in the future of the internal combustion engine, which intrinsically depends on ‘greenness’ with regards to clean burning and clean extraction and/or production. It is, of course, no use having the cleanest exhaust pipes on the planet if the process to that point is filthy dirty.

This is where battery electric cars fall well short – by shifting pollution upstream, where a variety of energy sources of varying ‘friendliness’ are used to generate electricity. Add in that mining for battery constituents wreak havoc on eco-systems and EVs are not the silvery-green bullets their makers punt them to be.

The most optimistic estimates indicate a current global electric vehicle park of 15m units; the world currently has about 1.5bn fossil-fuelled vehicles not going anywhere near scrappage soon. Nor could every breakers yard on the planet even accommodate them were they to be suddenly outlawed – indeed why would they take them on as there would be no market for used spares under such circumstances.

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In addition, 300m motorcycles populate our roads – albeit mainly in Asian countries – while 200m ‘other’ internal combustion engines operate across the globe, as stationary engines, lawnmowers etc.

That’s two billion internal combustion on the planet, so 15m versus 2bn, or 0.75%. It would need 100m electric cars sold every year to 2030 to tip the ratio to 50:50 – assuming enough charging points are available, assuming sufficient electricity is available in the first place.

Cyril Abiteboul, Renault, Singapore, 2019
Renault’s Abiteboul wants F1 to consider new fuels
Clearly, then, the solution is for F1 to maintain road relevance by accelerating the development of alternate fuels to enable internal combustion engines to operate on environmentally friendly fuels, be they bio (derived from crops) or synthetic (artificially manufactured using fuel constituents). That would reduce pollution at source and exhaust. Carbon scraping (see below) potentially makes for a triple whammy.

While F1’s 2022 technical regulations call for an (almost) doubling of bio components in fuels by imposing ‘A minimum of 10% of the fuel must comprise advanced sustainable ethanol’ – delayed from 2021 – F1’s long-term plan is to move towards net zero carbon engines by 2030 via power units fuelled 100% by fully advanced, sustainable fuels.

“That might be biofuels, that might be some kind of second-generation (recycled food crop) fuel,” an F1 spokesperson told RaceFans. “None of this will be first-generation, it will be second-generation. By 2030 the fuel that goes into all F1 cars will be 100% advanced, sustainable fuel.” A ten-fold advance in nine years.

Clearly F1 should plan to hit 50% by 2026, leaving five years to close the remaining gap. The solution: largely retain the current engines, up their stellar thermal efficiency even further and assist in the development of suitable ‘green’ fuels. In short, make F1 attractive to motor manufacturers and fuel companies.

This is not as far-fetched as it sounds: during last year’s Monaco FIA press conference Cyril Abiteboul of Renault F1 – his team is partnered by BP – was asked for his vision of F1’s future power units.

“Obviously in 2025 the world will be different, electrification will be a profound trend, so it’s not going away,” the French engineer said. “In my opinion we need to look at the next couple of years to form an opinion regarding MGU-H road relevance, because it’s clearly a component that was introduced for that purpose.

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[/CBC]“One thing that might be interesting is not necessarily the next generation of engine but the next generation of fuel, because we believe Formula 1 is about hybrid technology, not full electric, for a number of reasons.

“There will be new forms of fuel coming up in the next few years, whether bio-fuel, a different composition, or synthetic fuel from non-fossil sources. These could be attractive and require new development. So, probably the way forwards. Less exciting, obviously, than high-revving, normally-aspirated engines, but still probably the way forward if we want to be relevant, not just to car makers, but to society.”

Prescient words, and hence his response is repeated in full. But is Cyril’s vision realistic? We asked Pat Symonds, F1’s technical director, who has been heavily involved in the ‘greening’ of F1 together with the FIA and the Formula 1 Fuel Advisory Panel (FOFAP). Is it doable for F1 to go 100% low-carbon fuel, zero carbon fuel?

“Right at the moment it’s not,” he began. “If you said, ‘Could we do it tomorrow?’ the answer is [also] ‘no’ because there are several types of sustainable fuels. The alcohol-based sort of fuels which you definitely could make enough of to fuel Formula 1 right now [are feasible] but the engines would need modification to run at 100% level, or run properly at a 100% level.

“We gave an undertaking to engine manufacturers that prior to 2025 we won’t make major modifications to engines,” he clarifies, providing regulatory rather than technical reasons for his negative response.

“The second type of fuel is a ‘drop-in’ fuel, where you synthesise a fuel that is essentially like a sort of iso-octane, like conventional gasoline. It’s called a drop-in fuel because you put it in an engine with no modifications. It’s essentially the same as what came out of the ground.” But that is currently expensive.

However, Symonds believes ‘carbon capture’ could provide the solution: “You can arguably in certain areas ‘clean up’ CO2. Overall, what you’re trying to do on a global scale is not introduce more CO2 into the system. So the CO2 that’s in the system, which has come from burning fuels, take the carbon out, strip the oxygen, and you’ve re-used that carbon. So you’re not adding to the net CO2 of the planet.

“We don’t need to reduce – we need to maintain.”

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Various high-performance car manufacturers, including Bentley, Porsche and McLaren, are investigating the use of synthetic fuels.

Pat Symonds, Singapore, 2019
F1 could use ‘carbon capture’ technology, says Symonds
“The technology around synthetic fuels is still being developed, but if you consider it can be produced using solar energy, easily transported and pumped [into cars] as we know today, there are potential benefits in terms of emissions and practicality,” McLaren COO Jens Ludman told Autocar.

“Today’s engines would need only small modifications, and I would like to see this technology get more airtime.”

Porsche CEO Oliver Blume believes synthetic fuels will prolong the acceptance of internal combustion engines – important to the brand given its iconic flat-six engine. “We’re already running tests with historic cars like the 911 and 993,” he told enthusiast magazine Total 911, admitting they would be expensive unless produced via “linked energy sources like solar energy.”

However, he foresees, “The first step for synthetic fuels being in motorsport because the [initial] cost isn’t so important as for normal customers.”

Clearly F1 has a role to play in the development of bio and/or synthetic fuels that have immediate road relevance for two billion internal combustion engines currently operating across the world. On that basis F1 does not need a new engine formula in 2025 – it simply needs a new fuel formula come 2025.


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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...

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  • 107 comments on “Why F1 could give the internal combustion engine a stay of execution”

    1. Very good article.

      1. Nick Talbot
        2nd July 2020, 5:20

        F1 doesn’t need manufacturers for glamour, engines or the money (privateers dominated for the sport’s first 50 years). As long as F1 cars are the fastest race cars on earth, it’s F1. The speed is almost completely down to aero, suspension and brakes. Extremely powerful engines are far and away the easiest part. There are tiny machine shops across the world that can produce reliable 1,000 HP V8s and V10s for 98% less money than the current power units.

        For cutting edge tech marketing bs, simply discuss everything besides the engines. The truth is people want great racing, looks and noise. We can lose the 50,000 fans (or fat less) in the entire world who actually watch F1 because of engineering details they’re not privy. We’ll win millions more who will appreciate the spectacle.

        Get rid of the ridiculous power unit requirements and the manufacturers and (with budget caps of $50m) F1 cars will still be the fastest, most expensive cars on the planet…and F1 will be cheap enough for the grid to flourish.

        1. Its not about F1 folks! its about saving the combustion engine for the future in a fashion that is clean and safe to the environment. The point being made is that we need to provide and example of efficiency and sustainability for the every day road car that still has kick ass power. Electric cars are not clean! Nor can we just garbage the billions of existing cars, its a true circular economy approach to existing vehicles in the world. F1 can lead the way. Energy recovery exhausts are brilliant. ICE are indeed sustainable if built correctly or the fuels being used….and remember fossil fuels are only ~ 50 million years old and exist on the earths upper crust…. petroleum base fuels come from the earths depth initially as methane and its hydrates, and coming to the surface as oil, it is continually regenerating the supply and will extend way beyond 500 million years… petroleum fuels are not fossil! The petroleum scare is just that for manufacturers to increase prices. Its a fallacy.

      2. Nick Talbot
        2nd July 2020, 5:27

        Corrections: privy to*; far less*

        BTW, why does everyone forget that the far more profitable NASCAR series has zero road relevance and manufacturers and sponsors flock to be part of it. It’s for the reflected glory and the fans who support the brands because they love this or that team (or the car maker to begin with). And, how were V10s and V12s ever relevant to Renault, Honda, Peugeot, etc.? They weren’t.

      3. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
        2nd July 2020, 7:58

        Its a shame this article was spoiled by this utterly ridiculous remark:

        This is where battery electric cars fall well short – by shifting pollution upstream, where a variety of energy sources of varying ‘friendliness’ are used to generate electricity. Add in that mining for battery constituents wreak havoc on eco-systems and EVs are not the silvery-green bullets their makers punt them to be.

        Electric cars do not shift pollution upstream. This is a widely circulated fallacy that is just not true. EV’s are about 90% efficent. ICE are about 25%. This means they have the potential to reduce upstream pollution by 65%!

        Also in the UK last year only 43% of electrical production was from fossil fuel and this is coming down. Its predicted to be 25% by the year 2025. So this makes the switch to electric cars all the more worthwhile.

        Also modern batteries are getting greener and more efficient at a significant rate. There has been a ten fold increase in battery power density in the last ten years, watch out for Tesla’s million mile battery. More to come with super fast charging, ultra capacitors and the like.

        As for the dirty element of the battery they are reducing, but much, much, much more cobalt is used in oil refining that in EV batteries!!! Go and look it up.

        The switch to EV’s and the phasing out of ICE cars is just a matter of time. However I’d be happy to see F1 use the old V10’s or V8’s. The amount of fossil fuel will be tiny an the grand scale and they are great racing engines.

        Long live F1.

        1. I’d just stopped and extracted that same hyperbolic rubbish from the article.
          On top of your points, cobalt is being thinned out of the formulation of batteries faster than journos can find pictures of kids with sacks over their shoulders.
          The players have a little time…when Ferrari and McLaren et al. ICE or hybrid options are outperformed in sales, performance and endurance by a Roadster, Rimac or their own BEV product then they’ll seamlessly change horses. Liberty needs to be aware of this timeline because it’s closer to 5 years than 10.

        2. @sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk as you note, when you look at the overall net balance, a battery electric vehicle, even with the typical mixture of electricity generating sources in large parts of the world, result in an overall reduction in pollution when compared to the alternatives, ranging from the current fossil fuelled cars through to hydrogen or synthetic fuels, the latter two being significantly more wasteful in terms of resources required.

          If you look at the Royal Society and their assessment (a PDF can be found here ), then they reckon that a battery vehicle is about 69% efficient overall per unit of electrical power, versus 26% for a hydrogen fuel cell and just 13% for a diesel engine running on synthetic fuels.

          Furthermore, what is often forgotten about hydrogen fuel cell cars is that they don’t run purely on a fuel cell alone. Pretty much every single type of fuel cell car still needs an onboard battery in order to provide power to get the fuel cell started and, often, to get the car moving initially, because most fuel cells take at least a short period of time to bring them up to operating condition.

          It is not to say that there are not issues with battery electric vehicles, because no system is completely perfect – it’s more to say that, with our current level of technology, it currently looks like a better alternative than quite a few of the other methods which are being proposed.

        3. Marc L Jackson
          3rd July 2020, 10:17

          Formula One IC engines thermal efficiency is 50% using MiLD mild intensified lean dilution combustion regime. They run at or above Lambda 1.45 to 2.8, not the usual 0.8 for turbo spark ignition, these engines use TJI Turbulent Jet Ignition which can ignite a lean or dilute charge.

        4. Im crossing fingers on fuels that won’t pollute. Even if we end up racing Diesel engines with corn oil. I am a racer myself, not pro but real, not a street-racer is what I mean by real.
          If combustion engines do disappear sometime in the future, they will drag motorsports with it. The only people who can watch an electric-power field of race cars going at it are us who actually race. No noise no thrill. The people who will continue to watch and support motorsports without combustion engines are the old school ones who fell in love with racing when race cars were race cars. But that generation will go away, and there will absolutely no new fans at all, you can be certain of that 1000%.
          Electric Motor Sports? Id rather do playstation or iRacing. Or there are people willing to watch a music-less nascar race? Can you even imagine that? How about sprint cars? Shifter Karts? Even F1 today sucks big time, no engine music and no parity. It is not F1 anymore, its just fast Formula. Alonso’s drive of his championship winning car at Jas Marina was an eye opener. I much rather watch that car lapping alone that the sorry butt racing they do now. Also, DRF is ruining racing as well, wft is that? Need for Speed nitrous like? Ridiculous.
          This is from a racers stand point. I don’t know the business part, or structure crap, I know racing and I love it, as long as there is a symphony that gives you goose pimples.
          A proper race car should have no aids. Like a race kart. A proper race car should never have ABS. DRF is completely unacceptable. Automatic transmissions are definitely not in a proper race car. Unless you only watch racing instead of.. racing. And most of all, a race car should be heard from at least a quarter of a mile off the race venue. Otherwise.. you have an actual F1, that can be driven by a 13 years old kid, or a 90 years old grandmother. (note I said driven, not to be competitive)

    2. Hybrid was wrong. F1 need to be an ICE purists and ditch all pseudo electric power and battery that making the cars so fat. Either you be the best on ICE or became Formula E wanna be.

      And please don’t be a hybrid on the fuel too. Sugarcane and palm oil plantation already destroyed millions hectares of tropical forests annually already. Fossil fuel didn’t create that kind of environmental disaster.

      1. They are talking second-gen fuels which are not food chain constituents. Also algae

        1. Nanotechnology on algae is great for cosmetic products. But when the aim is to be a mass production, as it should be economically, it will create another environment disaster. Mainly in aquatic ecosystems.

          ‘Fossil’ fuel was demonized unfairly.

          1. ColdFly (@)
            1st July 2020, 14:25

            ‘Fossil’ fuel was demonized unfairly.

            It’s not the fossil fuel which is the problem, but burning it and releasing CO2 in a short period of time which was collected and stored over millions of years.

            To me the ideal fuel would be based on carbon capture transformed by solar/wind energy, all the other carbon fuels are likely environmental disasters.

            1. @coldfly asides from the problem of the release of CO2, fossil fuels have a considerable number of additional environmental problems – I’m guessing that ruliemaulana doesn’t know anybody involved in remediating contaminated land and is therefore ignorant of quite how much damage has been caused from the side products of fossil fuels.

              Coal, for example, has left behind a horrendous legacy that people will be cleaning up for centuries. In places such as the UK, it used to be the case that, in the Victorian era, most production of gas came from coal – unfortunately, the production process also left behind large quantities of coal tar, which contains a wide range of highly toxic compounds.

              Perhaps predictably, the attitude of the time was simply to pour that material into the nearest convenient hole in the ground to make it disappear. Even now, about 150 years down the line, it is not unknown in some former industrial cities to find that the groundwater is still contaminated with coal tar because of that dumping.

              Pollution of groundwater is an endemic problem, both in areas where coal mining was undertaken and from areas where the fly ash from burning coal has been dumped. In the UK, coal workings generate over 120 billion litres of contaminated water that needs to be treated to prevent the contamination of groundwater or surface bodies of water – again, that work will have to continue for centuries.

              There are also the problems of disposing of the ash produced from coal burning as well – hundreds of millions of tonnes of ash are having to be landfilled or dumped into surface dumps across the world.

              Oil, too leaves behind considerable problems as well – just look at, for example, the tailings dams and the sulphur stockpiles that Syncrude are leaving behind in Canada from their tar sands extraction works. Meanwhile, other aspects, such as leaded petrol, have left indelible marks on the planet – the phasing out of leaded petrol in the 1970s is now thought to have had health benefits worth trillions today, giving a perspective on quite how damaging fossil fuels can be.

            2. @coldfly doesn’t need to be carbon based (hydrogen). In both cases it would greatly benefit to have F1 pour some money into research with added ROI compared to research without F1. Both F1 and new fuel industries would benefit from it.

              I believe like many others that we need to move away from fossil fuels, but I don’t think electric or bio fuels are the way to go. Doesn’t scale well and has own issue (mining for one and deforestation for the other, alga culture might be an improvement).

              I am very surprised that we always talk about the same suspects and tend to forget CNG or hydrogen. On the long term they are probably a better alternative to electric. CNG can also switch from fossil production to bio. Then the issue would be to limit deforestation but we are getting to some interesting culture models that would help. Hydrogen is currently limited by production cost, but it’s it really a brake for F1?
              Ideally we would use hydrogen, produce water, collect it, separate the hydrogen again using solar energy… Doesn’t get cleaner.

            3. ColdFly (@)
              2nd July 2020, 9:14

              Thanks @jeanrien, I agree with many parts of your comment.
              CNG would only work for me if it’s produced from current waste products. I don’t believe in biofuels which directly or indirectly lead to deforestation and/or occuping fertile land.
              And indeed F1 should be the test case for new truly clean fuels, even if these are not economically viable yet. My ideal combustion fuel would be a synthetic fuel based on carbon capture and solar/wind produced hydrogen. Even if it were to cost up to €10 or even €100 per kg it would fit well with F1.

            4. That’s why I was thinking about vertical hydroponic farming. I guess that is what we should tend to in any case to limit land usage. The environmental impact should be pretty low.
              Takes some energy for lighting and water but much less than traditional farming (and no requirement for pesticide, trucks, …), better control of production to match the actual needs.

              Agree on the last part, and the cost will eventually come down with development. Solutions already exist.

          2. Marc L Jackson
            3rd July 2020, 10:24

            Production of hydrocarbon fuels only needs a source of process heat carbon and hydrogen atoms, that will be a far superior fuel to the multi component fossil fuels as these are inferior to a pure clean fuel.
            Hybrid powertrains give you the best of both worlds, they allow you to mix the capabilities of both and with the engines using MiLD combustion operating ultra lean, well above lambda 1.45 and up to 2.8, these engines can operate with higher compression ratios otherwise unattainable with non Hybrid engines, you get to chose where the power demand the driver wants comes from.

            Catch up, get with the times there are features that you do not want to loose in the current engine specification, we really want to increase the computation capability of the ECU’s so we can run simplified physics models in the ECU in real time.

        2. It is still grown on agricultural land in a world where a billion people are starving.

          Biofuel is in that respect even more elitist than burning oil.

          1. Perhaps ‘some’ biofuels are manufactured from specially grown crops, but it really isn’t necessary.
            There are plenty of energy sources that do not come at the cost of food production.

          2. @SadF1fan

            There is more than enough food to feed everyone. The main reasons why people have insufficient food or are missing nutrients, is poverty and war.

          3. thepostalserviceisbroke (@thepostalserviceisbroke)
            1st July 2020, 21:26

            Ask any economist worth his salt, and they’ll tell you world does not have a production problem. We have a distribution problem. There is far and away enough crops grown to feed everyone on Earth.

          4. Heartfully agree

          5. Marc L Jackson
            3rd July 2020, 11:19

            Biofuel can be the 1,000 year solution,it is propaganda to say “even more elitist than burning oil” this does not stand up to scrutiny, is is propaganda by the fossil fuels industry. Try looking up “Keeping the energy debater clean; how do we solve the planets energy needs” by Prof Derek Abbott, University of Adelaide, Australia.

      2. No, you are right, Fossil fuel did not create that kind of environmental disaster. It created an even worse one!

        1. Are you suggesting that F1 should disbanded or changed it to full EV?

          1. Neither. Just pointing out that Fossil Fuels are responsible for the major human disaster we see today. However I can not see that F1 staying petrol powered is going to have any real impact. It will likely go fully electric at some point as it is a better technology, but it will do so when the battery tech allows it to do so and I have no issues with that.

            1. F1 occasionally touts road relevance – even in the adjacent pages of this site with VAG/Mercedes releasing MGU products (Jean Todt must be delirious). The F1 environment would push the performance/efficiency envelope of electric drivetrains faster than anyone else could (FE so far hasn’t allowed any real competitive development). From that point of view, ideally they get there before cost/benefit makes it moot.

      3. F1 need to be an ICE purists


        ICEs, especially pure ICEs are effectively dead technology. If it stays as an “ICE purist”, it’s likely to be dead and gone in a couple of decades at best.

        1. pure ICEs are effectively dead technology

          I actually agree with this. But I don’t want a fat V2 engine with 200kwh battery for F1. That’s why I think F1 should be back to its glorious loud non-hybrid era.

          Give us have some great years to remember before its apparent demise.

          1. ColdFly (@)
            2nd July 2020, 7:11

            If you’re so sentimental, why not bring the front engined cars back?

            Or maybe there should be 2 F1 series: F1historics for people who want noise and other relics, and F1pure based on technical advances in both chassis and PU.

    3. Great idea bio fuels and they are definitely a way of increasing the longevity of ICE. But Liberty must let go of the restrictions on development. Get rid of the electrical element, run straight ICE units of around 2.5-3 liters. Let the engineers do their thing unrestricted, the budget cap properly enforced will keep a level playing field. F1 is a competition of not just drivers but of manufacturers designing and building the best car.

      1. ColdFly (@)
        1st July 2020, 14:31

        Let the engineers do their thing unrestricted

        If you let them do that, then they will come up with some kind of hybrid power unit!
        It might have a smaller (lighter) battery, but the increased fuel efficiency will more than offset the extra weight.

      2. The only issue is that BioFuels have their own sets of issues…

        In the short term there is no alternative to petrol for race cars although a biofuel blend may help a little. Ultimately they will go electric as it is a better technology in the long run. The battery issues will be sorted out (They are already fine for road cars) and then there will be no point in using petrol engines for F1.

        1. @Lee1 Many in the vehicle manufacturing industry consider electric a temporary fix.

          1. No they do not. Mazda do as they have poured billions into making the best ICE engines possible (Although still only a fraction more efficient than the competition) and so are reluctant to admit that it was wasted money. Toyota have been pouring money into Hydrogen so are again reluctant to admit defeat despite not selling many Hydrogen cars…

            Everyone else admits it is the future. VW, BMW, Mercedes, GM, JLR, Nissan, Volvo, Ford (Although reluctantly only just joined the party) etc etc.

            Electric is the most efficient and the best all round technology. Once the batteries are really quick to charge then the argument for petrol will be gone for commercial and private vehicles.

    4. There is work being done at the Czech Academy of Sciences on ICE unit enhanced with hydrogen infusion that allows the engine to run on extremely lean petrol content. The aim is to produce an unit that would comfortably meet all the ever increasing emission limits introduced by EU. Just saying…

      1. Hydrogen is currently only economically viable ie. available when it’s produced from fossil fuels.

    5. Interesting article, but I don’t agree with this:

      It is evident F1 needs motor manufacturers more than they need F1

      Neither needs the other, currently it’s mutually beneficial and that’s fine, but if F1 simplified their engines and Mercedes, Renault, and Honda left, it would be a small loss. There are other independent manufacturers who would love to make F1 engines, and even if we were left with only Ferrari, so what? As long as the cars are exciting and the racing is good, F1 will continue to attract viewers and generate profit

      1. Exactly.
        Manufacturers come to F1 not just to spend their advertising budgets on engineering endeavours, but to gain market awareness through advertising and media exposure.
        The more people see a car brand in F1, the more units they likely will sell.

        Cosworth would be happy to return. I’d bet there’d be some interest from China and Korea if the engines were simple and cheap enough, too.
        As Jamie B says – if there’s money to be made rather than lost, manufacturers will come.

      2. tony mansell
        1st July 2020, 15:42

        Well they need manufacturers in that if they went, they would need someone to plug the whole, but f1 would survive, there’s always someone willing to do a Stroll or a Haas to greater or lesser degrees. It would no longer be ‘the technological forefront’ but that’s overplayed anyway. The DFV Cosworth was competitive from the 60s to the 80s. Yes they were looking for better tech in that era but always within the constraints of having little money. The arms race that Mercedes is winning by a street is tiresome, the tech is fascinating but ultimately on a Sunday afternoon it means nothing. Spending 400 mill a season can still be wasted but personally, I cant wait to see them go and all this architecture with it, ICE with biofuels makes sense, more than this era ever has.

    6. If F1 does go electric, they will still be able to keep the F1 name, right? And as long as they are the most advanced and fastest race cars on the planet, then they are still F1, right? FE is not F1. It would be the tiddler class if F1 stepped up to electric. Which, as it appears, is going to happen sooner or later.

      1. Yep, F1 would still be F1. FE is great but it is not the same as the rules are different, just like WTC is not F1… F1 with electric motors would still be the highest level motor sport.

      2. As I understand it, the FIA have an agreement with Formula E that it will be the only (I guess that really means “premier”) fully electric racing series. F1 is the premier open wheel racing series. If Formula 1 went fully electric then it would have to merge with FE so FE retains its “only” (or “premier”) status. It would also make sense that it merges with Formula E since the FIA wouldn’t need two premier fully electric powered open wheel racing series. Maybe F1 would keep its name, but it wouldn’t be F1 as we understand it. I suspect the FIA would expect the new racing series to have some sort of hybrid name like “Formula One-E”. I wouldn’t be surprised to see F1E being more “spec series” than “formula series” (and don’t be surprised to see the inclusion of “technology” like fan-boost).

        1. @drycrust I did think this as well and it was pointed out to me that liberty also owns FE, under a different umbrella yes, but would have no problems if they wanted F1 to go electric. They would give dispensation to themselves to have 2 electric series if they wanted to go that route or combine them. They have options.

    7. In the end the f1 engine is about two things. There is the engine manufacturer dilemma. What power plant option they go with it needs to sound good enough marketing wise so it can be sold to the board of directors at these big car corporations. So they keep pouring money into their f1 marketing campaigns via engine programs. As much as I hate to admit it I do doubt in the end if f1 could survive at current level with individual smaller companies making the engines. It is an uncomfortable risk financially. Whether f1 should survive at current level (what whatever that level is) is another question. There is a strong urge to being costs down so is the multi billion computer-electric drivetrain really the best solution?

      The independent engines themselves would be fine. Quick, loud, fast, powerful, light, light, light. The issue is the money and prestige that comes and goes with big car manufacturers. F1 lives and dies by its image of cutting edge tech and as long as it can sell that image it can ask for 7-8 figure numbers and call it a good deal. Or 10 figures if we talk about engines. The last two zeros in f1 budgets are car manufacturer and car manufacturer. No non-car manufacturer can afford to spend even 100 million on f1 engines, let alone billions. The car manufacturer engines can be whatever as long as their pr department think it is an idea that sells.

      Then there is the weight/downforce/competition triple issue. The power solution and its weight makes a direct correlation with downforce. The heavier the engine the more downforce you need to offset the weight penalty. More downforce means more dirty air which means drs stays. More downforce means harder job for pirelli to make tires that can cope with high loads. And more downforce means worse competition because the top teams can always get more advantage out of high downforce tech regulations than low. This is the overtaking and competition issue. Hybridization and electrification goes against this and make the cars extremely heavy which means there is a need for high downforce levels. And makes it more difficult to make the field more competitive.

      Whatever the eventual new engine is I don’t think f1 has any good options. All the options are based purely on aligning f1 with car manufacturer marketing programs.

      1. Electric drive trains have the potential to be a lot cheaper than Petrol ones, especially in high performance cars. The main issue they have to get around in F1 is the heat. Even in the hyper efficient F1 engines over 50% of all the fuel burned is turned into unwanted heat that needs to be handled. Electric motors do not suffer from the same sort of heat issue as less than 10% of the energy is turned into unwanted heat and this can be improved on too. Also Electric motors last a long time so would probably not need replacing for the whole championship (Or even multiple championships) as opposed to having to be replaced every so many races.

        As for the weight. Downforce is not directly related to increased weight. In fact increased weight means the car naturally produces more mechanical grip. Also battery weight is coming down all the time and by the time F1 goes electric we will likely have new tech like Lithium Air batteries etc that weigh significantly less than current ones. The other advantage is that the cars will be more predictable as the weight does not change during the race, plus the weight can be distributed much better and be lower down (This is why electric road cars handle far better than comparative petrol ones).

        1. Electric motors are more efficient than combustion engines but in electric drivetrains all the components need cooling. The batteries, the controls. Electricity also has the coal and oil issue. When there is a sudden peak it is coal and to some extend biomass burners that start up as they can react quicker to changes in energy grid. How clean is that? Also the rare earth metals you need in permanent magnet motors have some serious environmental issues when it comes to mining and processing.

          More weight = slower lap time. It is that simple. Adding weight does not increase grip. Tires have load sensitivity which means up to a point they gain grip more and after a point they gain grip less. The heavier the car the less payback you get. Not to mention more weight also increases the amount of grip you need in the first place. Adding load on the tires in the form of downforce adds grip and the downside of additional drag is in comparison smaller. Lithium air like all battery technologies are mostly a dream at this point. F1 needs a massive jump in battery tech to even consider full electric.

          1. No, it is not coal fired power plants that are fired up – coal power plants need to operate pretty much continuously to be profitable, and are too slow to respond to peaks in demand. Furthermore, the International Energy Agency has noted global coal use is actually going into decline right now, as coal is now becoming less economical to use.

          2. They need cooling but far far less than ICE drive trains. Also with regard to coal. It is a dead tech in the west and will only be temporary everywhere else. Plus even if powered exclusively by coal generated power an electric car is still cleaner than petrol!

            Rare earth metals are not necessarily rare… They are also not necessarily harmful to extract. Plus there are now non rare earth magnet motors available and some of the manufacturers are already using them.

            Tyres are not a concern. as they will be made for the specific needs of the cars.

        2. Marc L Jackson
          3rd July 2020, 11:29

          It is the power electronics that is the main issue, we’re now at 2,300 volts in the latest semiconductors they are very expensive to produce, the current F1 power electronics is still very expensive. With the fundamental energy and power densities of Li-Ion not really improving in the last decade, only real improvement is the reduction of packaging overhead and safety. The reactions are limited to the essentially 2 Dimensional interfaces between the current carriers, electrodes and electrolyte. Heat associated with thermal expansion is also an issue. Until we can use another material like Tin on the anode etc, where it has even greater expansion issues.

      2. As usual everything you posted is false

        V8kers + fuel weigh more than v6T PU + fuel.

        On the start grid the 2014 cars with a PU weighed less than the 2013 cars