Should engines be equalised? (Poll)

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Mark Webber, Red Bull, Hungaroring, 2010

Red Bull continue to claim they are at a disadvantage because their Renault engine produces less power than the Mercedes or Ferrari V8s.

The championship leaders want F1’s engine development ‘freeze’ restrictions lifting so that engine power can be equalised between the teams.

Should they be allowed to?


Christian Horner of Red Bull has claimed the Renault engines his team use are 20-30bhp down on the likes of Mercedes.

Mark Webber put the case for engine equalisation at the end of the post-race press conference in Hungary:

The reason our car is quite good on these sort of tracks?? we?ve been looking for engine parity for the last few years.

We know we don?t have the most powerful engine. When we go to a track where there are not many straights, the car is good because we?ve had to try incredibly hard to get the car performing in this type of situation, so we would love parity with the engine.

Other teams sometimes want everything, but we need parity on the engine and then it would be a fair game. That?s all we want, again, is similar horsepower to other teams and this is another example, when you go to different venues like here, we see who has a nice car. It?s not a one way street with this stuff you know.
Mark Webber

Red Bull tried to acquire a supply of Mercedes engines this year but McLaren and Brawn (now the Mercedes works team) blocked the deal.


Red Bull’s case for ‘equalising’ engine performance is based solely around how much power their engine produces.

But there are other aspects which determine how good an engine is: physical factors like weight, centre of gravity and size but also how power is delivered and how much fuel it uses.

If engine power is going to be equalised, surely all these factors should be too? In which case, why not switch to a single specification engine?

Renault’s engine is believed to have the best fuel economy, which would allow teams using it to carry less fuel. So perhaps the trade-off for having a power deficit (likely to be less than estimate) is not so bad.

Webber’s comments were probably made with an eye on the next two rounds on the calendar at Spa and Monza, where engine performance is very important.

I say

The engine equalisation argument is a bit of a red herring. The real debate over engines is how they will change under the new rules due to be introduced in 2013.

It’s more important to solve that long-term problem. And that’s where the F1 teams should focus their energies – instead of equalising engines which are only going to be in service for two more years anyway.

You say

Should F1 engines have their power outputs equalised? Cast your vote below and have your say in the comments.

Should F1 engines have their power outputs equalised?

  • Yes (18%)
  • No (77%)
  • No opinion (5%)

Total Voters: 2,919

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Image (C) Red Bull/Getty images

158 comments on “Should engines be equalised? (Poll)”

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  1. To get more representative poll results, you should consider posting your own view in a follow up post. Its testament to the trust place in your expertise, that the polls always strongly follow your views.

    1. I still got accused of “manipulating” the voting when I did that:

      Better to mark my point of view clearly. People are entirely capable of making their own minds up and I’ve found myself in the minority on many occasions.

      1. I think that this is not the kind of poll in which you could manipulate people’s views in the first place. Also, since the polls are only really used for the site and the readers of the site, most people who comment and read are interested enough and knowledgeable enough to make their own opinion.

      2. I don’t think it really matters. I mean, what you do certainly biases the results, but self-selecting polls (rather than polls where you pick a sample at random) are hilariously inaccurate anyway, so it doesn’t really make much difference.

        The only thing that’s naughty is treating the results as being as reliable as scientific opinion polls are.

      3. Keith, you actually raise a bit of a red herring when you mention other factors in how good an engine is: minimum weight is specified, as is center of gravity. These are not modifiable factors. Neither is V angle, cylinder spacing, etc. Personally, I hate this engine formula.

        1. Sorry, I don’t understand your point. They can’t change engine power either, so how is it any different?

          1. Regarding Al’s original point, I am pretty sure most people have made up their mind by the time they have finished reading the headline. I voted no before I even read the article so I wasn’t at all influenced. And I am sure that I am not the only one.

          2. The point is that your article is about lifting “F1’s engine development ‘freeze’ restrictions” but in your “Con” you throw in “physical factors like weight, centre of gravity and size” which are specified in Article 5 of the Technical Regulations. If the “freeze on development” was lifted these specifications would still be in the Tech Regs and would still remain in effect.

          3. Thanks Gonzo, you expressed my point well. C.G., weight, and other fixed engine parameters are specified and are the same for all engines. Since they are the same they are neither pro nor con factors, just as, for example, all the cars are (I hope) at minimum weight so weight is neither a pro nor con for car speed (how that weight is distributed is of course another story).

            In which you will find Weight and CoG indeed must be of a certain level as Gonzo said,

            The rules say the engines must be a least x weight with x high CoG, Unless you can prove that all the engines conform to this minimum, His point stands…

            Size isn’t mentioned, He is correct there,
            A smaller engine would be very highly desirable. (Newey would love it).

          5. True, Mike, but the Cosworth V10 was lighter than the current minimum weight, 95kg, and the C.G. is specified to be at the geometric center of the engine ± 50mm. The cylinder spacing, V angle, and bore are also specified, pretty much fixing size. The engines are VERY similar. These are not values that can be deviated from. My point stands.

      4. Younger Hamilton
        10th August 2010, 19:22

        Hey Keith do you think you can do me a big favour,can you write an article of why Red Bull are so Fast.

        1. In two words:

          Adrian Newey

    2. I think it is only proper that we all get a proper perspective of an issue before we make informed decisions.
      We should have a reason for voting, yes or no.

      This is not a game of click and see the result.

    3. Theres more to horsepower then peak power in terms of tune/built, the renault engine may have more torque lower down which helps the renaults in the corners, etc.

      personally im against the equalisation of engines, i love watching races where some teams are stronger others weaker… Also on tracks with a mixture of both long straights and tight corners, mixes up the teams strategies and makes it more interesting to watch.

      1. It also makes it more special when a driver further down the order pulls out a really special weekend.

      2. @flatbeat,

        I agree with you. What is the point of having manufacturers if the engines have to be equal? To be honest I think the freeze should only be for 2 seasons at a time as F1 is as much about the tech as the racing. If they want to be green then they need to let the manufacturers design more efficient engines which is impossible while they are frozen. Also the freeze is pretty much a facade anyway as we all know that the engines have been modified under the guise of increasing reliability.

        Either relax the regs for engines and cars or do away with team designs and just have a single car and engine design and kill off F1 in the process.

        I do think though that if an equalisation is to occur then all parameters should be equalised not just power (i think it would be stupid but it would be the only fair outcome).

  2. My take on this is simple. Mr Horner doesn’t want equalization, Mr Horner wants the freeze lifted.

    Its entirely untrue Renault engines are worse. They may have less HP, but what we’ve seen over and over again thanks to the RBR’s is that HP is not everything this season.

    What they loose in sheer, raw horsepower, they more then make up for it in smaller (and thus lighter) tanks, helping in the early stages of the race. Just look how quick Renault’s are at the first few laps, till the felxible wing times easily matching the pace of the front runners.

    Answer to question “should they be equalised” is obvious for me – no, of course not! I’m all up for lifting the freeze though.

    1. I’m of a similar opinion, i’m against the engine freeze. But if they must be frozen they should be equal on power…

      1. If you’re going to freeze them they surely have to be frozen on everything – power, weight/size, fuel consumption, etc.

        You just know that even if they were all re-equalized on power then one of the teams would find another aspect they were down on and then complain about that.

        I think it’s just much simpler to let them develop it and redress the balance if they can.

        1. I think the current system is not bad at all. The engines are all optimised in various different ways – the mercedes has a little more power, but it the Renault has the best consumption not only does that mean less fuel and weight over race pace, it also means a smaller tank, which means they can package the weight lower and smaller; another large advantage.

          1. Exactly, i think most fans would rather like to see bigger differences between the engines to have a effect.

            The mercedes is seen to be most powerfull with a good fuel economy. Ferrari is close to that, maybe a bit better now, but slightly lesser fuel economy and is known for problems with heat. The Renault is light, fuel efficient and seems to give good traction out of curves as well as good heat management. Cosworth is cheaper, but it’s fuel management and power output will probably be a bit worse, even though Williams have stated it offers better thrust than the Toyota engine did.

            With as little difference as there is, why change anything (OK, Cosworth will still have some potential to get closer to the rest as it’s less developed).

            Now just let the engine suppliers focus on what to do from 2012 onwards.

    2. “What they loose in sheer, raw horsepower, they more then make up for it in smaller (and thus lighter) tanks, helping in the early stages of the race. ”

      So why, many would argue Mclaren and Ferrari as quick as Red Bull in the race, or at less closer on full tanks?

  3. You mention in your ‘Con’ section that, if we equalise power output, we should equalise all other aspects of the engine. I voted yes because I don’t see the point in freezing engine development if they aren’t equal in some intrinsic way – otherwise it’s unfair. Much better to give a basic spec, like power output, and then the teams can find the best way of achieveing that for their cars (a compromise on centre of gravity, power distribution etc)

  4. I think RB just want more power for themselves. If they had Mercedes engine, no equalisation would be needed according to them ;)

    And I agree that Keith should put his views in the follow up post If he wants a reliable poll. His views strongly influence the results.

    1. But you get a clue of Keith’s opinion from the article and the way the arguments pro/con are formulated, no point in hiding.
      And I think the influence from Keith by clearly stating his view is not that big, as most of us are pretty sure weather to have even more of a standard engine or hope for looser rules to have differences between the engines.

  5. If something is frozen, it needs to be equal.

    Imagine if the entire design of the car was frozen from the first race of the season. Then whoever has the best package at the start has the best package for the whole year and by far the best chance of winning the championships. Every race, all the other teams would start with a disadvantage they have no way of reducing.

  6. Why did Red Bull choose Renault as their engine supplyer for the year if their goning t complain about the engine

    1. They wanted to swap to Mercedes engines but Brawn and McLaren blocked the deal, as mentioned in Keith’s post.

    2. Because that was the best one that would have them.

  7. I’m surprised that Red Bull would consider giving up their aerodynamic advantage just for a few more horsepower, or are they looking to next season when all their wings etc are liable to be banned?
    If Bernie and Jean want to attract more teams and different manufacturers into the sport, they will have to allow for different engines and different power levels, otherwise as you say, it might as well be a single spec series (presumably with the Renault engine?)!
    Bernie should really be looking to Le Mans and Sportscar racing and entice new engine suppliers who can provide economical, clean and powerful engines which can relate back to the cars we drive, but still be different enough to be F1.

  8. The freeze to me, seems, unnecessary, and it doesn’t really make sense.
    If they won’t a freeze, I think having spec engines would be the way to go, that’s frozen, and fair.

    But… I really don’t like that idea, Why can’t they allow development, but regulate the financial expenses involved?

  9. The real problem is they “froze” the engines but they didn’t actually freeze them and all the teams made changes to the bits they were allowed to change and some of the teams probably made changes to the bits they weren’t allowed to, made them more unreliable, and then were allowed to make more changes under unreliability grounds.

    So the whole thing didn’t really help. Slowed down the pace of development and spread in performance, perhaps, but also limiting the ways of catching back up and expanded the grey areas, where some teams pushed the boundaries harder than others did.

    But to be honest I think the engine freeze should never have come in. I understand why, given the costs involved, but I see no point in everyone having something different that performs the same. You might as well just give everyone a spec engine in that case.

    I think it’s at least good that we can talk about little variations in the engines – the Renault being more driveable and fuel efficient but down on ultimate power, for example.

    But ultimately it’s clear we’re in a “holding pattern” until they actually decide what the new engines will be and what the plan is long term.

    1. Even if all the teams had the same engine (Of which I am against) they have different suppliers of fuel and lubricants etc that would squeeze more power and fuel efficiency out of their engines. So you would never get parity.

      1. I think if it went as far as a ‘spec’ engine, then that supplier would come only wanting their tame fuel and oil suppliers as well, otherwise they couldn’t guarantee the efficiency/power to the teams, and so be in breech of the contract…..

        1. The trouble is that oil & fuel companies are partners of the teams..

    2. What Robt Mckay describes is what F1 has been since the day F1 cars first turned a wheel way back in the fifties.

      The whole of F1 is high-tech pressure pot where brilliant engineers work every minute of their lives trying to get around whatever current regulations are running at any given moment. They will always use whatever means they can to beat the opposition.

      There will never be a time ( I sincerely hope) when one team hasn’t stolen a development march on all the other teams.
      Last year it was Honda/Brawn, this year, Red Bull. Next year….who the hell knows ?

      But this is exactly what makes F1 the pinnacle of all motor sport. The urge to beat the opposition by doing things nobody thought of before. When F1 ceases to do exactly what it does best, I shall no longer be interested.

      Long may it go on doing exactly what it does now.

  10. No. A couple of years back Ferrari were widely regarded to have the best engine, yet recently Mercedes seem to have usurped them. I believe there is some room for development in the engine freeze – if other manufacturers can find it then Renault should be able to as well. Besides, wasn’t the freeze for Renault lifted a while ago to give them a chance to equalise engine power?

    They just need to get on with racing. I’m all for lifting the freeze completely, but perhaps that would be better when the new engine regs come in 2013.

  11. why equalise engines doesnt make sense, if red bull are asking this then maybe other teams should ask for equal aero & downforce. Its part of being a different team

    1. The difference is the other teams can develop their aero to increase their downforce, Renault can’t develop their engine to increase power as engine development is frozen.

    2. I agree, Red Bull have a massive advantage in their chassis. This is because they did a better job in pre-season development and design. Equally, Mercedes did a better job than Renault in engine development. That’s what F1 is supposed to be all about.

      If Mr Horner is so keen on equality, maybe he should give everyone a RB6 chassis to use? That’d be fair.

      1. But the engine power development was done ages ago, and it can’t be modified so, IMO its unfair that the engine suppliers that didn’t have the opportunities to lift their engines as much as Mercedes or Ferrari in 2007 have to pay the consecuences forever.

        1. I didn’t find it unfair. Mercedes and Ferrari exploited the loophole in the regulations regarding engine design changes for reliability, and exploiting loopholes has always been a big part of Formula 1. Renault, Toyota and BMW snoozed, and in terms of engine power, Renault have lost.

    3. That’s a horrible slippery slope argument, and the 3 pages of comments so far are filled with different versions of the same argument.

      Seriously, people need to get over their respective RBR, Ferrari and McLaren-phobia. Supporting a team is starting to look like a political ideology.

      1. Does not compute. Why does one have to have something against Red Bull to be against their proposed next equalization of the Renault engine, after Renault already had a go at it?

        I can see that it helps to be for Red Bull to be in favor of it, yes, but what would it serve? Honest competition?

        Red Bull already have a downforce monster, they made the trade-off with the extra drag that produces leaving them down on top speed themselves. Renault themselves do not have a problem with their engine, after all.

        So far Red Bulls choices gave them the car on the grid that got round almost all tracks the fastest. I don’t resent them for that, I think it is good work by the team. They clearly made the right development choices there, others have to catch up. But they are now, again, asking to have that downside to their winning choice eliminated – why would anyone else want to oblige?

        And what purpose would it serve? To make them truly invincible, apart from engine failures due to the tinkering? What is in it for the FIA, for the FOTA, for the general F1 fans? Engine freeze was a practical matter, not an attempt at creating a spec engine. Everyone gets to work with what they have got – they can try to request permission for changes, as Ferrari has managed to obtain, sure why not, but if other teams decline to give that permission, no one should force them to, for some imaginary single engine spec, which does not exist. Red Bull should learn to live with their package as others have been forced to.

        1. Brilliantly put bosyber !

  12. I think you shouldn’t lose sight of why the engine development was “frozen” in the first place.

    To save money…

    The devolpment of a new engine used to be a very big part of the budgets. Even though manifaturers forked up the bill for the worksteams, the teams without a worksdeal were left with the option to buy the (usually) worse customer engines. Now offcourse we have that as well, but with mostly equal specs, and for far less money now that the engine is not under constant devolopment. And this also means that manufatorers like mercedes and renault and ferrari can actually supply more than on or two teams.

    The other reason for the freeze was to not let the available horsepowers run rampant like in the turbodays.

    But as you rightly say, horsepower does not alone make a good engine, other factors come into play as well.

    Now F1 is a technical sport, and I for one whish to see cutting edge engine technology. But I also understand the costsaving aspect.

    The key i think is to find a balance. When the new rules come into place perhaps they should restrict only certain aspect of devolpment. For instance, set a maximum horsepower, maximum displacement, but let them work out themselves how many cilinder/weight/economy etc

    1. Thats the absurd thing. No matter what you do the teams will not save money! If they save 30 million on engine development, they will spend it on suspension or aero or driver wages. They spend what they can raise, and any cost saving rule simply redistributes the spend.

      1. …what?

        All the teams have mentioned they have saved money, and cut costs dramatically since even just 2 years ago.

  13. I think F1 is confused as to what it really is and what it should be.
    Is it about the driver, is it about the team? Is it about the engine, is it about the aero, or the tyres? Should it be able to innovate in ALL areas? How should budgets be handled to make things fair? Should designers have free reign or should we constrain them? (and I don’t mean for safety)

    I think its incredible that within the FIA regulations the cars are as close as they are. F1 is doing well, but its walking a tightrope.

    I don’t know the answers to the questions above. Its about all those things, and if it lost any one, it’d lose a chunk of fans. I think we all know the dilemmas and I just hope the FIA can continue to tread carefully forward.

    1. Put it into F1 speek it’s all about the package!

  14. I think that I would prefer to hear about engine dev and maybe new “green” or efficiencies/tech and see real gains in this area vs that of aero. I thought that was one thing that did seperate F1 from other series. Otherwise cut costs and go to single spec and play the areo bits.

  15. I think there should be a few more options in the poll. For instance should engine restrictions be completely lifted or fully equalised against all parameters like you suggest. My thoughts are that it shouldn’t be restricted at all. After all it’s on the interest of f1 to promote highly developed and efficient engines.

  16. Keith, I suggest you do you homework a bit better, the engine size, minimum weight, and centre of gravity are already regulated as per article 5.3 and 5.4 of the technical regulation, and have been for years.

    Regarding the fuel economy factor, there is no secret, more power requires more fuel, so if the Renault engine max power goes up, so will its consumption. Likewise, teams with more powerful engines can reduce their power if they want to carry less fuel. The difference is, Mercedes-powered teams can reduce their power and consumption, Renault-powered ones don’t have the choice to increase it.

    1. Lol, was just going to point out article 5.4 but you beat me to it!

      1. wow, article 5.4…
        Most people working in the sport would not know about it.

    2. You beat me to it, RFB. The other issue of course is what Martin Brundle on BBC refers to as the ‘drivability’ of the engine, i.e. the shape of the torque and power curves (especially the former), which is another area in which the Renault engine is widely seen as being better.

    3. The difference is, Mercedes-powered teams can reduce their power and consumption, Renault-powered ones don’t have the choice to increase it.

      Um, they can. They can just put in more fuel and run a richer fuel setting. Yes, that will increase weight, but Mercedes teams would lose power for the sake of weight. It’s swings and roundabouts.

  17. Just a thought. How about letting those big teams who want to, spend as much as they want on their engines. Then also having a rule that allows any other team to “purchase” anyone else’s engine at a fixed price agreed before the season began.

    The engine would need a standard “interface” to the rest of the car which might place boundaries on weight, power and engine management. But if these units could be uncoupled from the car design in some way this would seem an ideal solution.

    Perhaps the engine design can be carried out the previous season and then details published to give the car designers time to integrate them before the new season begins.

  18. Engine equalisation may as well be single engine formula and where do you draw the line? It could all become GP1 if they aren’t careful.

    Horner would cry if everybody wanted Adrian Newey bodywork, the engine should be as much about ingenuity as the aero and I can’t wait for decent un-impaired KERS to make it’s debut in 2013 (even if it will be powered by engines that wouldn’t look out of place in a Fiesta).

  19. I know its been said before but Renault don’t seem to be complaining about their engine. Correct me if I’m wrong…

    1. They have even topped the top speed charts at certain circuits.

    2. Why on earth would they complain about their engine? Thats bad marketing.

      1. Fair point. In that case I’d want Red Bull to shut up. But its not my problem.

  20. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No.

    The fact that there is a freeze on development is an affront as it is. And besides, Renault have already been given an opportunity catch up so they shouldn’t be given another.

    1. If it was Mclaren who had the slower engine, you would be voting yes.

      Sad but true.

      1. Sorry Jack, but that is not true. Like most F1F readers I divorce my personal alliances from my posts.

        And besides, I’m an HRT fan.

      2. Ha, I love the way that anybody who disagrees with Red Bull or Ferrari is automatically a mclaren fanboy on this site!

        Sad but (apparently) true…

        1. I know. I guess assuming that everyone who doesn’t agree with you supports one of the other current big 3 teams is easier than having a constructive debate…

    2. Agree with GeeMac here. This half way house between a one make engine formula and a proper development race between engines is an affront to the concept of motor racing.

      Formula 1 is supposed to be the pinnacle of motor racing, but rules like this have my preference leaning more and more to LeMans cars. LeMans is now the true development category, F1 is just a side-show by comparison. If I could watch LeMans on regular TV (I’m in Australia and don’t have digital) I’d be following it with more enthusiasm than I am F1.

    3. Yes, Renault were already allowed to increase their power in-line with that of the other engines so why should they be allowed to do it again? And as mentioned, the Renault engine has other benefits, namely fuel consumption but I believe that it had good cooling which means less space needed for cooling radiators etc. I’m sure this is why RBR run Renault (as picked by Newey) and STR run Ferrari.

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