FIA’s Todt says F1 went ‘too far’ with hybrid power unit

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FIA president Jean Todt has admitted that Formula 1’s move to a hybrid system that includes an MGU-H was taking the regulations a “bit too far”. Specifically, he was talking about the MGU-H and not the MGU-K or what we fans used to call KERS.

Recently the FIA and F1’s technical boss, Ross Brawn, offered an outline for proposed 2021 regulation changes and initially they were met with strong words by Ferrari who threatened to leave the series if f1 went backwards or became a spec series. Now Todt is saying the series needs to go a bit backwards.

After another meeting, Ferrari softened their tone and said that the proposed changes may be a workable solution but there was still a lot of work to do and eluded to costs and spec parts etc.

Regardless, Jean Todt clarified the new position on the 2021 recommended changes as well as the MGU-H saying:

“We wanted to take as much as we learned from the existing regulations and to try to make things more simple,” said Todt.

“It’s a beautiful piece of art, of technology, but I hear well that it’s maybe not what the fans are expecting.

“It’s not something that is absolutely needed to have a good championship.

“So I think it’s important that we can learn out of it, and propose something which is supposed to be more simple.

“For me motorsport, and I have been saying that every time, is on one side a show, but it is not enough.

“It has to be also a laboratory. A laboratory for the manufacturers, a laboratory for the teams, and a laboratory which can then be profitable on road cars as much as we can. And it is what is happening.

“Saying that, if you think that it has been maybe a bit too far, you must be prepared to go a bit backwards.

“At the end of the day I’m sure that over the years the engine will be even more efficient without MGU-H.”

I was very outspoken against the MGU-H, as well as other constructs in F1, when it was announced. Around the time that the regulation changes were announced for 2014, I happened to have lunch with the heads of state of Ferrari at the Cavallino restaurant in Maranello Italy. I heard firsthand what they thought about the MGU-H and the challenges it would bring to F1.

There were many fans against the hybrid and the recurring refrain would be lamenting the dog-eared phrase about F1 being road relevant for manufacturers. Let’s be fair here, Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault, Honda and even technical groups such as Williams engineering and McLaren applied technologies stand to gain from advancing the technology of the power unit. It truly is an amazing piece of kit by all measures.

While it is amazing, I argued all those years ago that it might not be the right technology for F1 regardless if Mercedes or Renault threatened to leave or not. To be fair to Todt, his hands were a bit tied as the small teams were struggling and he needed the big teams to stay.

The problem, for me, was that the FIA showed too much deference to Mercedes and Renault and Ferrari reluctantly went along. Now Ferrari are heavily invested and on the same page as Mercedes and Renault of course. They see the benefit of the technology as well as anyone else.

Regardless, the hybrid was forced on the series and on fans. I understood the continuance of KERS but definitely did not understand the MGU-H and the massive reduction in sound as a consequence. The Ferrari guys told me that was going to happen during our lunch, boy were they right.

Todt says they are making good progress on the new 2021 regulation set:

“We are progressing quite well on the engine,” he said.

“We are close to respecting the deadline we have to publish the engine regulations for 2021, and I hope that it may create some interest for some new manufacturers.

“There is interest, but between interest and commitment there’s a big difference.”

The issue at hand is a reversal on the MGU-H which was a bridge too far as it were and there are many F1 fans who dislike the hybrid and a move toward electric engines. They feel it is politically motivated. Other fans love the move toward the hybrid and feel it is not on inevitable but that it is the responsible thing to do as well.

KERS? I understand, MGU-H? Not really road relevant yet or in a nascent stage. If you think about it, I have been critical of the MGU-H, DRS, HD tires and the massive reliance on aero…all things the sport’s technical director is trying to now move away from in some large or small fashion.

It doesn’t make me any sort of Delphic Oracle by any stretch of the imagination but it does highlight how an entire series can move via group think or agenda even when the consumers of their product are not in favor of the direction chosen. They said the majority were in favor but if that were true and I was the sound of one hand clapping, why tack and reverse course? Why would Jean Todt say they need to take a step “backward”? The issue, however, is more complicated than Jean wanting to be sustainable and I understand that.

Thankfully Todt understands that many F1 fans are not happy with the hybrid direction but I also think he has to reconcile the expense and impact it has had on the sport from a negative view as well as a positive view. He is a very sharp cookie and I would suggest that he has measured the pro and cons and now we know the answer. Overwhelmingly negative

If you were really a conspiracy theorist, you may even argue the move to a simpler engine with KERS is to lure in more small teams and be less beholden to the big manufacturers but that’s just silly talk, isn’t it?

Hat Tip: Autosport

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Carrizojim

I still think they aren’t going the right direction, as most of us fans do. We all miss the different types of engines running together, but I’m not sure they can do that without a BOP. I hate that more than DRS and HD tires put together. My idea is simple. Almost every manufacturer on the planet makes a 2.0L turbo. Make it stock block based, since they want to be road relevant, after that let them run with it. Forget the hybrid crap. They might be all inline 4s, but I would sure like to see it. It doesn’t… Read more »

sunny stivala

“At the time they were still discussing 4 cylinder turbo ICE hybrid”. NC, they couldn’t talk about anything else at that time because the 4 cylinder turbo hybrid (and specifically 1.5l in-line) configuration was what was pushed onto them at the time. a note here: The 1.5L in-line 4 cylinder turbo hybrid was the advice at the time of Volkswagen to the back then powers that be. it was on the insistence of FERRARI that a 1.6l V6 configuration (minimum) came about. Also if you dont mind, The MGU-H has nothing to do with “a reduction in sound” It is… Read more »

Alianora La Canta

Ferrari is with hybrid and electric technology because states have made it clear that pure petrol engines won’t be allowed in cities beyond a certain point (2025 in some cases)… …and the move has been coming for some time. The adoption of the techniology by any given series is not important here. Hybrid for F1 remains a mistake, as it has become apparent that manufacturers have learned more from other series that stuck with one half of the equation or the other, rather than an expensive compromise. Jean is talking about a step backwards because he still thinks MGU-H is… Read more »

sunny stivala

The electrification of the ICE is its only future, without electrification the ICE is as good as dead. The MGU-H is part of the ICE electrification, removing the MGU-H is removing part of the ICE electrification. The MGU-H is just one part of a host of parts that Liberty intend to either remove or standardize which has been latched upon by many that were never in favor of the hybrid PU. Contrary to many believe removing the MGU-H from the PU will in no way lead to independent engine manufacturers entering F1.

subcritical71

Well, this is good news. It shows a few things for me. My opinion is the MGU-H adds very little to F1 while taking much more away (some would call this the DNA or ethos of the sport). It’s like a push to pass (indycar), fan boost (FE) or DRS, but you can use it at any time. If you want to watch an electric vehicle race there is already a series for that. I love electric vehicles, I see that as the future. But my mind is changing slowly when I see the destruction that is necessary to mine… Read more »

jakobusvdl

Hey SubC, quite a few different themes in there, here’s some of my thoughts. I’d disagree with your comment that the Mgu-H adds little to F1, it’s the brilliantly clever bit that facilitates the massive power, and near 50% thermal efficency of these current p.u’s. At the moment its the least ‘road relevant’ part of the power unit, its a pity its development in F1 will be curtailed. I’ve slways thought the DNA of F1 was to push the bounds of technical possibility, deleting the Mgu-H is yet another step back from that. I share your concern about the environmental… Read more »

Nigel

I would say that the teams have x amount of fuel (what they currently have), decrease the amount by y% each year. End of story.(in terms of engine)
You would (at least to start with) have multiple solutions, various combinations of cylinders, hybrid etc..
How interesting would that make the racing…

Ed Llorca

And as the conversation has found a new boogeyman in the MGU-H the real problem gets ignored. We want cars that can follow closely and run offline. We don’t care if any particular part we can’t see is on the car or not.

sunny stivala

As I said, the MGU-H is the one particular item of the present power unit latched onto by those that never stomached the introduction of the 2014 power unit, this item is just one of a plethora that Liberty technical boss wants either removed or standardized.