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Ecclestone hates them but F1 needs its new engines

CommentPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Bernie 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”

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  1. 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!

    1. Wanted to say the same thing. It’s funny ’cause it’s true.

      1. And a +1 from me too. Totally agree.

    2. Add bananas and green turtle shells, as well as shortcuts and boosters Bernie.

      At first, I wasn’t for an engine regulation change but I’m now used to it. Obviously it’ll be different, but this is just the future of the sport. The way it goes.

      Long life to ‘greener’ engines!

      1. @jeff1s I strongly preferred the red turtle shells, but I’m right there with you.

      2. @jeff1s @beejis60
        Also, add in the blue shell so that Vettel won’t win all the time xP
        And perhaps the golden mushrooms so that Marussia and Caterham may actually have a realistic chance of scoring points xD

        1. @woshidavid95, @beejis60 Welcome to Bernie Kart (Italian accent)

    3. Comment of the day! @keithcollantine

      1. Has @keithcollantine ever had a COTD before? I’d like to nominate him for it!

        1. Hehe! For sure @keithcollantine should be getting CotD for that remark!

    4. @keithcollantine, yeah, people are beginning to notice that the emperor is actually naked.

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

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

    1. Flying Lobster 27
      17th January 2014, 12:43

      Even though the sound of it is something quite atrocious,
      If you say it loud enough you’ll always sound precocious,

    2. People are more than welcome to substitute in “fantastic” or “mega”.

      1. mega-super-bonus-double-points-fantastic-season-finale-bonanza?


        1. Welcome to the…

          Mega Fantastic Super Season Finale Double Points Bonus Bonanza!

    3. I find the word “extravaganza” to be strangely fitting. Bring on the super-bonus-double-points-season-finale-extravaganza! Or… don’t.

  3. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. 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)

      1. Lewisham Milton
        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.

        1. 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. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. “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. 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.

    1. You dont hear many people complaining about Audi’s spaceships in WEC either, although I suppose they’re complimented by other engine notes.

  6. 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. 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.

    1. Hopefully someone will do the right thing and throw him in prison before that happens

      1. Lol…BE enters his cell for the first time and meets his cell-mate…

        BE: Hi my name is Bernie Ecclestone, what’s yours?


        BE: Ben?

        ‘Ben Dover.’

        1. Not out of school I hope, that’s old to the point of embarrassment.

    2. As I wrote, “for once”, i.e. not on every count.

      1. Sorry guys…a little out of sorts…wallet was stolen a few days ago while I’m working a totally different schedule than usual this week…

  8. 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…

    1. @jcost – like many others… The engines will be fine but if they spend 50% of the race cruising around saving fuel, it’s not going to be much of a spectacle!

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

  10. 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.

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

    2. 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. 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!

    1. 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.

      1. @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. 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. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. 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

    3. 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

    4. 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.

    5. +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. 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

    1. There is a pretty detailed regulation for that Vjanik. In the first year there is some scope for it, then more and more bits are fixed to a certain state each year until, if I remember correctly, 2018.

    2. Yes there will be a ‘glide path’ to a freeze on development. Details here.

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

    1. 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.

  16. Ignoring the headline and looking at the web address of this particular article gives you Ecclestone hates F1 needs new engines.

    Ecclestone hates F1. Hidden meaning much? :D

    1. haha.. good observation

  17. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
    17th January 2014, 15:37

    @keithcollantine – Fabulous article there, Keith, I fact I think it is the best article I’ve read of yours. Are you eligible for COTD? I would certainly be putting myself down for it if I were you!

    I completely agree with your assessment, Keith. F1 is unsustainable in many respects, if you consider the financial and commercial cliffs that we are forever told are heading F1’s way, however weirdly, the fact that it is a sport that burns petrol is probably one of the least concerning factors regarding F1’s immediate longevity. And if you consider the thousands of air miles, tonnes of sea freight and all the resources put into creating and maintaining an F1 car, then the net saving by switching to V6s and a limited fuel allowance is trivial. However F1’s need for new engines is much more tokenistic than that.

    In essence, F1 is a sport that doesn’t worry too much about the use of resource, unless it is money, in its quest for performance. That emphatic focus on performance is a concept so far removed from contemporary motoring and the modern motoring industry that, and I know this a grotesquely over used term, but F1 was struggling to maintain relevance. Ultimately, at Australia next year, nothing will have changed. Each team will try to use every scrap of fuel available to them, and the cars will still be travelling at 180 mph and making a lot of noise. But the fact that F1 has made a step, if ultimately a small one, towards using less in the way of natural resources, then F1 will only benefit both commercially and financially.

    Also, we all need a form change. OK, it is not going to be like 2009, there will be no Brawn GP01 that is 7/10ths quicker than anything else on its first testing laps after spending 2008 as a back-marker, and we can pretty confidently say that the champion will be either Vettel, Hamilton, Rosberg, Alonso or Raikkonen, but the old era of F1 was growing stale. Trust me, that is not just because I’m an Alonso fan in this era of Vettel dominance, in fact in many ways it was an complete joy to see man and machine so utterly at one, but it is historically a game-changer when the FIA decides to throw a technical double six, and it is also historically rather thrilling too. Some are expecting mass unreliability. Some are expecting engines that sound like food mixers. Some are expecting Sunday afternoon economy drives. And some of the more confident are expecting Mercedes domination. Me? I just can’t wait…

  18. F1 Never knowingly missing an opportunity to Diss DRS. Change the record dude. #gotabetteridea?

    1. Lewisham Milton
      17th January 2014, 20:42

      You’re not on Twitter now pal.

      1. I gotta better idea. Mechanical grip through good tires, and 50% reduction in aero downforce. Close racing, drivers confident in their grip level when behind another car, equals driver vs driver interaction, not get out of jail free cards from a gadget.

        1. I don’t love drs. But I don’t love cars that are 2 seconds a lap quicker getting stuck in dirty air. One thing we do know about in F 1′ once you let the genie out the bottle it’s very difficult to put it back…see traction control, blown exhausts etc….i agree though, fat tyres and skinny wings..

      2. Cotd! Thanks for that. Btw. Mot your pal…

  19. Can’t wait for the new engines. I love the sound of the non turbos, but for me that died somewhat with the V8 engine freeze. My preference was the V8-12 setup that we had in the 90s. Failing that, anything that is new I am all for, end the engine freeze, let the geniuses do what they do best, performance and noise will come.

    People go on about development cost, they lost me on that the moment they forced the epic cost of the new engine development and on goings. Unfortunately they will progressively freeze parts of the new engines development, I hope the new Honda engine kicks ****, so to force a relaxation, I know it would only be temporary. I never understood the freeze, in that it discourages new entrants, so odd. While people whinge, F1 is used to teams developing something new and being quicker than everyone else, the other teams catch up if you allow them, that includes the engine.

    Imagine 2013, Red Bull has the best chassis and wins with Vettel at the tracks requiring downforce while another team with a better engine, possibly a Ferrari or Mercedes engine wins at the power circuits. Exactly what we saw in the past.

    I watch videos of Jackie Stewart winning a GP by 4 minutes in a race of 10 or 12 cars and wonder why people can whine the way they do. I can only think it’s a generational problem, I watched races from the 80s onwards and after a teenage child of someone I know complained about how boring F1 was this year, in astonishment I referred him to 2004 as an example of a boring year. I watched every race just hoping MS would have a mechanical failure. He looked the year up on Wiki and was amazed.

    Anyone complaining about F1 being boring…do you only care about the winner? Behind Vettel it’s going off all over the place, yet the final result is all that counts? Really? Not having an investment in the result, I wonder why those people tune in.

  20. I prefer to be cautiously optimistic, just because I agree that I can sense that the engines are a step in the right direction but are fighting against other problems which persist thanks to Uncle Bernie.

    While people look fondly on the Turbo Era, and so do I even if I was too young to appreciate it at the time, that had much wider, meaner cars that had insane qualifying specs and tires that could probably stand up to the punishment of power monsters right on the edge that had to be limited to a thousand or so horses. Somehow, with the other regs in place I don’t see drivers or engineers really capable of taking advantage of the turbos or the roided-up ERS, not unless the cars evolve further down the line of what looks like the new turbo era.

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