Ecclestone hates them but F1 needs its new engines

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Renault energy F1, 2014 F1 engineBernie Ecclestone has more pressing concerns at the moment than Formula One’s new engine regulations.

But had he got his way, F1 wouldn’t be getting its new formula this year.

Having declared himself a strong opponent of the plans in 2011 Ecclestone succeeded in having the switch deferred by a year and the format of the engines altered.

Even so he complained that Ferrari should have used their controversial power of veto on changes to the sport’s technical rules to block moves away from V8s.

Ecclestone’s principle line of attack against the new engines inevitably comes from concern about what they will do to ‘the show’. He is concerned the 1.6-litre V6 turbo engines will lack the deafening roar we associate with Formula One cars.

It’s not an unreasonable concern and it’s one shared by others including many fans of the sport. But we won’t have to wait much longer to find out – the first cars will be on track at Jerez in a few days’ time.

Ayrton Senna, Lotus, Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, 1987There’s no doubt the noise produced by smaller-capacity, lower-revving engines will be different. But 20-odd 15,000rpm engines are still going to sound impressive. And I don’t remember many people complaining the engines were too quiet during F1’s last turbo era, which is often recalled with affection.

That worry aside, we should be glad Ecclestone’s obstructionism failed. There’s much to like about the coming change.

One of the goals of the new engine formula was to make F1 more appealing to car manufacturers. That has already been achieved with Honda’s impending return to the sport next year.

And the potential for crossover between F1 and the World Endurance Championship, where several other manufacturers are competing with a similar engine formula, promises to be a good thing for both sports. The health of the motor racing world beyond Formula One is of no interest to Ecclestone, but it is for many fans.

Periodic revisions to the engine formula have been routine throughout F1 history. Under the frozen V8 formula engines had ceased to be of great significance, which is hardly fitting for what is supposed to be the pinnacle of world motor sport.

“The engines have been sterilised, in a way,” Ross Brawn observed in 2011. “They’re all very similar, they’re all homologated, no-one really talks about the engines any more.”

The ambitious new power units feature revised and more powerful energy recovery systems which will help keep F1 technologically up-to-date and relevant. The change has brought a sense of anticipation and uncertainty about what the new year will bring.

The new engine formula is not a cure-all. In some respects its consequences for the sport could be mixed at best.

It’s doubtful the close competition between engine manufacturers we enjoyed in the V8 will be replicated, at least not immediately, which won’t be to the benefit of the racing. And it is unfortunate that the new engines have increased costs, something Ecclestone has been quick to point out.

But F1’s poor record in controlling costs elsewhere and the grossly uneven way its income is distributed are at least as much a cause of this problem – and for those Ecclestone deserves a share of the blame.

FIA president Jean Todt, a firm believer in the new engine formula, said it demonstrates the sport’s vision for its future.

What is Ecclestone’s competing vision? A de facto specification series using increasingly obsolete engines? Tarted up with gimmicks like DRS-fuelled overtaking and a super bonus double points season finale bonanza beneath a glittering hotel?

It’s good for F1 that he didn’t get his way for once.

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76 comments on Ecclestone hates them but F1 needs its new engines

  1. Timothy Katz (@timothykatz) said on 17th January 2014, 12:28

    What is Ecclestone’s competing vision? A de facto specification series using increasingly obsolete engines? Tarted up with gimmicks like DRS-fuelled overtaking and a super bonus double points season finale bonanza beneath a glittering hotel?

    I had a good chuckle at that. Don’t hold back, Keith. Tell us what you really think!

  2. matt90 (@matt90) said on 17th January 2014, 12:33

    “super-bonus-double-points-season-finale-bonanza”

    Can this please be the only way F1fanatic or any commentators ever refer to that race?

  3. Robbie said on 17th January 2014, 13:11

    Personally I was never concerned about the type of noise these new engines would make. It was never why I watched F1. I’m confident a field of these cars will sound just as impressive, and just different, not inferior. And I think there is ‘beauty’ in the noise they’ll make when they are using one third less fuel, just as I can look past the ‘eyesore’ that some think a field of wind turbines is when you recall that they are producing electricity by free wind, not fossil fuels.

    And I remain concerned when I hear the likes of BE depending on the extra veto power of one team, Ferrari of course, but I am encouraged that even that extra weight does not guarantee them or BE everything, including WDCs and WCCs year after year. It certainly fascinates me that potential new entrants like Haas for example would even consider the series when it is skewed towards one team at least on the board if not always on the track.

    • Steven (@steevkay) said on 17th January 2014, 18:15

      I’m not concerned about the noise, either. F1 has had small engines and low RPMs before.

      I’m quite excited about engines that actually have power in low revs, as opposed to the V8s which have very little power in low RPMs and then get a big 500hp delivery in that last 8000 revs or so. Drivers will really have to watch the power delivery out of corners with all that extra power. I’m also curious to see how all the drivers adapt to the new engines.

      I haven’t been really excited about F1 in what feels like a long time, so I’m optimistic about the upcoming season.

    • antonyob (@antonyob) said on 17th January 2014, 18:57

      Try going to a race dude. The v12s at full scream made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Grown men wept when they past (sic)

      • Lewisham Milton said on 17th January 2014, 20:35

        The V10s sounded like a trip to the dentist, and the V8s a watered-down imitation of that.
        I’d welcome a lower, richer sound – and hopefully engines that sound distinct from each other.

        • Richard said on 17th January 2014, 21:03

          Like you I welcome the lower richer sound. But don’t for one minute pretend that the 2013 engines all sounded the same. The Ferrari had a very distinct off throttle whine (almost as if there was a turbo hiding in there somewhere) and the unique throttle maps on the Renault when on low throttle was also not remotely like the other engines in this rev range.

          Back to your original point, I’m particularly looking forward to the onboard and on throttle sounds of the new engines, I believe they will sound alien but angry at the same time. I don’t care what anyone says, there is no way a machine shoving out 800+ hp (likely only in Quali) is going to sound anything but awesome even if a little quiter than last year.

  4. joetoml1n (@joetoml1n) said on 17th January 2014, 13:20

    I’m glad Bernie didn’t get his way.. In my mind, he is a part of what is wrong with Formula 1 at the moment.. He’s lost touch with most fans of the sport. In the past, he has done wonders. He transformed Formula 1 into what it is now, the biggest yearly sport in the world. But I can’t help feel it’s time for him to step aside. He’s bringing almost universally panned ideas as an answer to a question we weren’t necessarily asking, and coming close to bringing the sport into disrepute.. He should step aside, and leave with his head held somewhat high. The sad truth of the matter is, I’m not sure there’s someone good enough to follow, that can further evolve F1 for the better, like Bernie did for many years beginning in the 70s.

    • Robbie said on 17th January 2014, 13:37

      I’m a bit confused with your statement. I can fully agree with you until your last sentence. F1 has evolved under BE’s watch into something many fans are unimpressed with, so I would have concluded with a sentence suggesting that there are likely some really good people that will understand fully what needs to be done, and are just as capable, only with more integrity, in enacting positive change rather than more gimmicks and more double points races. Some wealthy, successful racer-types, who can see well past their already full wallets into a long-term vision that involves enthralling the viewing audience with a series that doesn’t insult our intelligence for the sake of their own personal wealth, because they want to love the sport again like we all hope for.

      • joetoml1n (@joetoml1n) said on 17th January 2014, 14:05

        “some really good people that will understand fully what needs to be done” I agree with that, there absolutely are people who could do the job.. Let me clarify myself; the point I was making was that I couldn’t put my finger on any one particular person that I feel could do that job, who is also more importantly, in a position to do so currently or in the near future.

  5. Wallbreaker (@wallbreaker) said on 17th January 2014, 13:22

    And I don’t remember many people complaining the engines were too quiet during F1′s last turbo era, which is often recalled with affection.

    Thank you Keith, I’ve been thinking that for a long time already.

  6. Paul (@frankjaeger) said on 17th January 2014, 13:22

    I not particularly fussed by the engine noise, I’m more interested in race craft and maneuverability of the vehicle. I cannot wait to see how the new designs turn out come Jerez

  7. Robbie said on 17th January 2014, 13:24

    Just wanted to add though…as much as I enjoyed this commentary, the fact is the last sentence is incorrect, unfortunately. BE may have not yet gotten a de facto spec series with obsolete engines, but he still has his way with DRS and double points under a glitzy hotel. And he’ll likely continue to push for the last 3 races especially if the one final race ends up not having the effect he’s hoping for this year.

  8. JCost (@jcost) said on 17th January 2014, 14:03

    I like the concept behind the new power units, like Bernie I’m afraid to lose the sound, but I think it’s the way to go. I was used to be more skeptical but reading the regs and opinions I’m completely on the side of those who wanted to retire the V8 for ERS/Turbo charged V6.

    My main concern is not related to the engine itself but the 100 kilos rule…

  9. MazdaChris (@mazdachris) said on 17th January 2014, 14:17

    I’ve always felt the V8s sounded horrible anyway. I’ll be glad to see the back of the things.

  10. andae23 (@andae23) said on 17th January 2014, 14:20

    I think the change to V6 turbos is a fantastic thing for the sport. In Formula 1 it will shake things up a bit (which it desperately needed after the engine freeze) and the effect it will have on driving style is one of the things I’m really looking forward to this year.

    But this is a great thing for motor racing in general: it is relevant, it will attract more engine suppliers and WEC could really benefit from this as well. The engine changes tell us that F1 still has a vision of being the pinnacle of motor racing.

    • Magnificent Geoffrey (@magnificent-geoffrey) said on 17th January 2014, 15:28

      @andae23 I agree. I’ve been looking forward to this new era of F1 ever since it was announced.

    • mantresx (@mantresx) said on 17th January 2014, 16:40

      Yes I also think this change was necessary, the V12, V10, and V8 are all part of the past, they’ve given us some fantastic racing through the years and no one can take that away.

      But is time for a new era to begin, this is a very dynamic sport whether it’s the drivers, the tracks, or the technical regulations, nothing remains unchanged in F1.

  11. petebaldwin (@petebaldwin) said on 17th January 2014, 14:22

    The noise mainly only really makes a difference if you go to a race live (they all sound fairly similar on the TV) and as Bernie has priced me way out of the market for that, I’m not too bothered what they sound like. What I want is great racing on the best tracks in the world. Sadly, we’ve got DRS racing at places like Abu Dhabi but there we go….

    Did we ever get anywhere with the Abu Dhabi boycott? I’m not watching the race live – I’ll torrent it afterwards as it doesn’t count towards their viewing figures and therefore, doesn’t count towards their targets with sponsors etc. I’d love the double points Abu Dhabi finale to pull half the audience of the other races!

    • matt90 (@matt90) said on 17th January 2014, 15:07

      If you live in the UK, viewing figures are only taken from a small sample of the population who have a special box which records their viewing habits. If you don’t possess that box then not watching has literally no impact on viewing figures.

      • Roald (@roald) said on 18th January 2014, 6:22

        @matt90 Same in the Netherlands. That’s why it’s complete nonsense when you hear about a certain show having 3 million viewers when there’s only a thousand
        of those boxes to base the numbers on.

  12. Girts (@girts) said on 17th January 2014, 14:33

    Great article, the new engines are definitely a step in the right direction.

    I believe that increased costs are the only significant disadvantage of the new engines. However, F1 still doesn’t seem to have a plan to resolve the money problems and you cannot postpone all technological innovations forever because of that.

    The same goes for close competition. I would love to see 10 different teams win the first ten races of 2014 but the “homologated” and “very similar” engines didn’t exactly ensure an exciting season last year and you also cannot turn F1 into a spec series or let it turn into the Historic F1 Championship just because you’re afraid of one team domination.

    I don’t really care about the sound, it’s still going to be impressive and some day F1 will have to find an alternative to petrol engines, be it electric power or something else, which might sound completely different. We simply need to face the reality.

  13. Matt_D said on 17th January 2014, 14:43

    Here you go with the “R” word again. When was F1 ever ‘relevant?’ When was F1 ever concerned with its ‘relevancy?’ What form of extreme/prototype/non-production-based motor racing ever improved its financial position by investing in ‘relevancy?’

    Motor racing has nothing to do with relevancy, it’s about escapism, especially in venues as extreme as F1 (or NHRA, or LMP). F1 isn’t about social conscience, it’s about speed, about danger, about glamour, and about its fans sharing in those experiences vicariously. Insisting that F1 should be ‘relevant’ is as daft as insisting that the cinema must be. One doesn’t go to cinema to be reminded of one’s humdrum existence, one goes to cinema for escapism. For entertainment. To forget about life for a while. Otherwise films all should be about one’s wife writing overdraft cheques, or one’s teen-aged son being caught smoking weed during gym class, or about your hair falling out, your waistline expanding, and your eyesight weakening.

    Was the 6-wheeled Tyrrell relevant? Or the Brabham sucker car? Or a Ferrari with — heaven forbid — a V-10 engine? No, but they were extremist. They were entertaining. They were escapist. And that’s what puts butts in the bleachers. Not relevancy.

    Truth be told, this has nothing to do with ‘relevancy.’ That’s just a euphemism being employed to camouflage the fact of what really is happening. Formula 1 is selling its birthright to The New Green Religion in the naïve hope that it will buy the sport some temporary reprieve from their rebuke. But the truth is the fans driving to the circuit to view the races burn a thousand times more petrol than will be used in the conduct of the race. And one cargo jet hauling a single team’s gear to any fly-away race has a larger carbon footprint than the whole of F1 for am entire season. If you think the Greenies ever will be satisfied with 6 mpg, you’ve got another think coming. And a harsh encounter with reality.

    The hybrid V-6 turbo is a €21 million albatross a cash-strapped sport can ill-afford. But F1 volunteering to become the political pawn the tree-huggers is suicidal.

    • matt90 (@matt90) said on 17th January 2014, 15:11

      Motor racing has nothing to do with relevancy

      That quote is very incorrect, and your example of Le Mans is about the worst you could have used. I do agree that F1 itself has far less need to to be relevant than other series though.

    • subbf1 (@subbu) said on 17th January 2014, 16:29

      Leaving aside the issue of ‘relevance’ , why do you think V6 Turbo with ERS won’t be extreme enough ? Do you think senior figures in F1 have been worrying about the reliability of the new powetrains on a lark. And if you think Turbo engines can’t be extreme , i suggest you google BMW M12/13 turbo

    • The DSG in your Golf has been invented by Ferrari to make their F1 cars faster back in 1989

      My Honda 600RR has an F1 derived dual stage fuel injection, developed by the Honda F1-crew to give their engines more torque in lower RPM’s

    • For Sure (@forsure) said on 18th January 2014, 9:10

      Cash-strapped? Have you seen the numbers being thrown about during the Gribkowsky trial? If the teams are strapped for cash now it’s only because FOM messed things up very badly for them.

      Btw, the only reason 21 million USD for an engine contract seems excessive is because last year’s engines were six year-old designs that were developed during an era of excess. Honda, Toyota and BMW were pumping hundreds of millions into the sport back then and I don’t think the V8s were much cheaper to develop back in 2006-2007.

      The turbos will get cheaper as parts are frozen and designs depreciate in value over time.

    • pxcmerc (@pcxmerc) said on 19th January 2014, 2:09

      +1

      just check out survival of spaceship earth, and count the number of minutes devoted to “population control” cause thats what going green is all about. Straight from their mouths.

      What was best for F1 is to allow innovation, not force a spec series, if people want to see different people win, just introduce a weight penalty system like SuperGT does, its efficient and provides a decent spectacle.

      Along side that note, it is true, F1 is about escapism, because in reality, the same people almost always win and the same people are a great divide beyond what most people are, and that perhaps, is a little to real for F1, maybe? in these days, as F1 is quite the mass appeal.

  14. vjanik said on 17th January 2014, 14:46

    Does anyone know what will be the restrictions on engine development in 2014 (if any). Will engine manufacturers be able to develop the engines or just be allowed fixes to reliability? Is there a plan for a future freeze? I never saw this explained. Maybe i missed some articles. Thanks

  15. BasCB (@bascb) said on 17th January 2014, 15:08

    A clear opinion here @keithcollantine. One I happen to agree with.

    • HoHum (@hohum) said on 18th January 2014, 21:13

      Yeah, me too, the formula would not have been my 1st. choice but the engines need to be part of the competition and they also need to provide the manufacturer with some return other than publilicty for the cost of development. Any change is better than stagnation.

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