Honda: ‘Unreasonable’ 3-engine rule; Todt: Let’s go Global

As we mentioned in our most recent podcast, the notion of three engines for an entire Formula 1 (F1) season is a tall order and it does make you wonder if teams will simply take a penalty in the first race of the season and add a fourth engine to their inventory.

We said well over a year ago that the 4-engine rule would play havoc with the 2017 season and so it did and not in a good way. Trying to understand grid penalties became ridiculous. With three engines, 2018 could become even more silly if team don’t find more reliability.

Honda’s former F1 man, Yusuke Hasegawa, says the 3-engine rule is not reasonable, telling Autosport:

“It’s very tough,” said Hasegawa.

“It’s not just for us. Renault had difficulties. I don’t think it’s reasonable. From a technical point of view, it’s difficult.

“If we save the engine performance, it’s easy to achieve. If we use 2000rpm lower, of course we can finish, but there’s no point.”

As we’ve discussed, if you are Mercedes or Ferrari and reliability is your friend as well as performance, then this 3-engine rule is an advantage and could automatically remove Honda and Renault-powered cars as serious competitors given their history of reliability issues.

“As a consequence, yes. We have discussed many times.

“With three engines, it means we only have two chances to introduce a new [upgraded] engine.

“We need to introduce a good engine at the start, but if we don’t, we only have two chances to introduce a new engine.”

When you think of it in those terms, you can start to see how silly this concept is if you only have two chances to get the reliability and performance you hope for with your design. This isn’t controlling costs because the engines are already astronomically higher than previous formulas so what you’re left with is a baked-in advantage with little opportunity for other makers to catch up.

Yet, like clockwork, Hasegawa parrots one of, what I call, three trump cards in F1: Cost, Safety, Sustainability.

“At this moment, we need to concentrate on reliability, to get an engine to do seven races,” said Hasegawa. “But we need to improve performance too.”

He added that he understood the reasoning behind the push for longer-life components.

“Reducing cost is important, so I support cost reduction,” Hasegawa said.

If cost was that important, the series would never have changed to the current hybrid. They would have continued on with the V8 they had as those engines were well developed and relatively inexpensive for customer teams to purchase. This isn’t about cost but saying it is sounds good. Fact is, Renault and Mercedes wanted a hybrid to justify their investment in F1 as a road-relevant R&D lab that could translate to their road cars.

That’s not a bad reason, mind you, but it’s not about cost. In fact, I may be wrong but I would argue that the three-engine rule is actually more expensive in the long run given the R&D that went into making a 7-race engine.

Global Engine

Several years ago, FIA president Max Mosley was keen to find a global engine that could be used in multiple racing series and at the time, he was discussing F1 and World Rally. Now, current FIA president Jean Todt has re-heated the conversation and offered the World Endurance Championship (WEC/Le Mans) as a likely bedfellow of F1’s current hybrid engine formula.

“Probably what we should say, which is not easy as well, is could we use this [F1] engine in other categories of motorsport?” he said.

“At the moment each category of motorsport has its own single regulations, so probably we should try to see if we can have some synergies.”

This didn’t fly back in 2009 and while one could argue that the current F1 hybrid engine is more reliable than previous F1 formulas, it may not be bespoke enough for the unique needs of WEC or Rally but Todt feels it could be:

“We have the endurance championship with LMP1,” said Todt.

“We have completely different engines, so would it make sense to anticipate a future for the endurance championship using this synergy – which incidentally is covering the same kind of mileage.”

I’m no engineer but I have to think chassis weight, torque curves and other performance issues would be a massive challenge to convert the F1 engine to WEC. There is also a part of me that is, perhaps wrongly, trying to read into his comments and the timing of these statements.

We know F1 is heading for a massive discussion on the 2021 engine formula regulations and while FOM technical brain, Ross Brawn, is trying to find something less expensive and more enticing for new engine makers to enter the sport, Ferrari has threatened to leave if he does so.

The FIA are the regulatory body and perhaps somewhat caught in the middle of this arm-wrestling match. It seems to me that Todt is trying to define a way to keep the hybrids—achieving two of the three F1 trump cars in the form of sustainable and cost—by suggesting a global engine. A happy medium that keeps Mercedes and Ferrari interested in their current baked-in performance advantage and boardroom-appeasing marketing and R&D investment while offering other engine makers a larger market with a global engine and not just and F1 engine.

Just a hunch but I still think there is room for fireworks here in regards to the 2021 engine regulations. The fact is, if F1 stays with the hybrids, it will be odd to stay with an engine format for two multi-year formula cycles. They will also run the risk of doubling down on a large part of their fan base that isn’t pleased with the hybrid formula.

Hat Tip: Autosport and Autosport

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Tom Firth

Lets hope it isn’t 1992-1993 all over again…


I was just getting into F1 during this time, what happened?


After reading that Jalopnik article, it sounds to me the correct solution would be to have F1 begin using the WEC engine Formula? Or do you think the same would still happen?

Shocks & Awe

Sure let’s bring all the problems the F1 has with big manufacturers that constantly want to quash any real competition and introduce that into other series. Sounds great, Jean, you socialist so-and-so.

Nothing against socialism, but it just doesn’t seem like the right answer for competitive motorsports.


It doesn’t sound like Todt is a socialist from this article


Any chance there is a copy of this article thats not behind a paywall? Could you post the title of the article?

Edit: found the title “Motorsport’s ultimate diplomat Jean Todt fights to win”


Never-mind if this would be good for F1 or not, I couldn’t imagine having to reign in multiple series to use the same spec. But from a technical point of view I’m thinking the weight differences/operating regime of the different categories could be balanced out by adjusting the size and output of the hybrid motor/battery systems. Electric motors have relatively high and instantaneous torque which is basically constant throughout its RPM range. This is how a $100K EV car is able to beat the best supercars up to a ~1/4 mile distance. Adjust the torque settings for the series and… Read more »


Part of me is starting to think that F1, FIA and WEC are starting to get their narratives aligned on this. Looking at LMP1 regulations, it seems there is some commonalities with F1. I like sof their ideas that would let teams develop the car how they see best (ie. hybrid capacity vs. Fuel energy allowed. This would allow teams to size their hybrid system like they wish, with fuel energy allowed being lowered when hybrid capacity is increased). It also appears that the LMP1 engine manufacturers are already basing their LMP1 engines off of GP3 and F2 engines. On… Read more »


The problem that seems to be worrying some people about reliability penalties as a result of the three engine rule is something that teams themselves voted for.


“Global” engine? Wouldn’t that sound like going for a “spec” series?


The concept is more of a ‘global specification’, so not a single design that everyone has to use, more a common spec that a range of suppliers could comply with. The aim would be to enable suppliers spread the cost of developing power units by having more buyers across multiple series. So hopefully the reverse of a spec series, although it could wind up that way if one p.u is more powerful and/or cost-effective than all the rest. As happened with the mighty Cosworth DFV engine that was used by many teams, in many racing series in the 60’s, 70’s… Read more »


I’m still trying to wrap my head around this… what would a global specification be versus what I can’t get out of my mind as being a spec specification? Would it just be something like x liter engine, x fuel energy, x hybrid energy… go at it? Versus. x Liter engine, x ES, x MGU-H, x Pistons, x exhaust….


Hi SubC, I remember reading about the GRE ‘Global Racing Engine’ concept a while ago, but haven’t been able to find a link to anything that provides details of the concept when looking this morning. There are lots of references to GRE, Global Racing Engine, and even FIA Global Race engine, but not a link to the details of it. So going from dim memory, and the threads of the mentions of the GRE references I did find, it seems that a layout (inline 4), bore and stroke, number of valves per cylinder, materials, turbo-charging, direct fuel injection, and probably… Read more »


A bit more information on the background to the GRE concept. From an abstract for a paper on the Society of Automotive Engineers website, “In the last years motorsport is facing a technical revolution concerning the engine technology in every category, from touring car championships up to the F1. The strategy of the car manufacturers to bring motorsport engine technology closer to mass production one (e.g. turbo-charging, downsizing and direct injection) allows both to reduce development costs and to create a better image and technology transfer by linking motorsport activities to the daily business.Under these requirements the so-called Global… Read more »


I like the idea but I see a few hurdles along the way.

How do you get so many regulatory bodies to agree. If we are talking just the FIA then this is a much simpler exercise as it seems quite a few FIA sanctioned series (excluding F1) are already trending in that direction.

How to do you keep up with technological changes. We already see in F1 that 6 years agreements are wrought with unknowns that are affecting the racing just 3 years in. There needs to be a mechanism for swift change when necessary.


Hi SubC,
Very good points, if history is anything to go by, things would have to get to a crisis point before anything as radical as the GRE would be adopted.
As far as keeping up with technology goes, potentially that could be easier than the current way the specs are set, if the development costs are spread over more series and more units, progressive changes to the spec might be able to be implemented on a frequent basis. IeNNT


Part 1 – Honda win ‘stating the obvious award – 2018’. Honda are a bit late to the party, once again. The announcement that the teams had failed to unanimously support the FIA initiative to change the power unit element allowances for 2018 came more than a month ago. It’s too late for them to be whinging about it. Since the FIA and Liberty Media were so keen to keep all four p.u suppliers in F1 (witness the work they put into facilitating the Renault to McLaren, and Honda to Toro Rosso swap), you’d think Honda and Renault coud have… Read more »


The only concern stated in public (as far as I know) by Honda’s former chief Arai (as stated in above article). Reliability as related to cost cutting measure for benefit of PU customers, is imposition of penalty free usage of three engines per season, which amounts to reduction in opportunities to introduce new engines. That bothered him. Honda have only just now reached making a season with four engines, and this will be again uphill battle for them. BTW, Ferrari, according to some Italian reports, is not totally making it without issues either. Mercedes, if we believe rumors, were in… Read more »


Seven race PU negatives: – More difficult to engineer and build. – Power potential sacrificed as parts are beefed up for longevity. – Lower percentage of run time at peak power settings. – Not possible to make incremental developments. By starting a new PU in every race all those negatives are eliminated. Honda is likely to have failures and take some grid penalties anyway. Can STR/Honda make up for the grid penalties by having more power than otherwise? Honda could develop at will. Engine can run at full power at all times. Its not as if STR is expected to… Read more »


Who is prepared to spend another 500+MM for a new development with unpredictable results, possibly repeating impact of 2014 all over? Automobile companies aren’t idiots, and they run in-depth analyses as their “due diligence” process. Change, as proposed, may satisfy some loud noises on sidelines, and people like Horner, but not everyone is keen on that. I do suspect that RBR in reality is not as much concerned about welfare of Tier 2 teams, as removing MB off the pedestal by secondary means, changing rules of the game, whilst dreaming about dominance in a new aero-era, having capable engineer on… Read more »


Part 2 – Global Race Engine. Thd concept wasn’t adopted in 2009 for F1 and WEC, but it has been adopted in WRC, WTCC and into Rally Cross series. For WRC and Rally Cross its been very successful with more teams, and manufacturers coming into those championships, building their own power units to the GRE spec. So it may have merit, and could offer a way to accommodate reducing costs and allowing manufacturers to differentiate their engineering. As far as moving away from hybrids is concerned, I don’t think that is going to happen if F1 is to have any… Read more »


It is not a secret that some people, usual suspects quoted were BE, MM and certain FiA president, came to wealth with return of automobile companies to GP racing (renamed as F1). One has to presume that new commercial rights holder knows where cash-cow is parked, and will not chase Ferrari and MB away as current optics suggest they are doing. Filling up grid with Cosworth made engines and morphing F1 into CART-2 like series could very well spell end to F1 “DNA”. I am sincerely hoping that Brawn is more intelligent than that awful narrative he is peddling right… Read more »


I don’t see how any of the present F1 manufacturer interests can be sustained with either having to revert back to a conventional engine or turn the present PU into a standardized PU.


The original world engine was a VW/VAG idea pushed out to Max Mosely when he was looking for armaments in his power struggle fight against the teams, Mosely’s vision of the world engine was that it would be capable of powering FIA categories including F1, world rally and F2, “it would work in turbocharged form for F1 and then all the way down to NA form for lesser categories and also in turbocharged and NA form for world rally championship”. Mosely also back then wanted the design of the engine to belong to the FIA.What the present commercial rights holders… Read more »


Cheers Sunny,
Do you think if the GRE concept were adopted, it would amount to a ‘spec p.u’?
My guess is, it would depend on how the spec was written, and how much flexibility it allowed the manufacturers to customise elements of the p.u.


JAKO, In my opinion a “world engine” or a “GRE” (general race engine” is a 100% specification engine, even if manufactured by individual engine manufacturers. The rules as stipulated at present re the present engine/PU are already, already demand at least 50% specification engine/PU.
Also in my opinion, it is technically easier to adapt a forced induction engine such as the present PU to various levels of tune for different categories/groups/classes of racing then a NA engine.


Global specification engine, World engine, GRE (Global racing engine), the dear independent engine manufacturers, budget cap, the dear small teams, and of course the dear F1 fans. All of this is being pushed out as a result of the power struggle war the present commercial rights owners are undertaking in preparation for 2021 when the present concord expires. This is the exact same power struggle war the previous commercial rights owners undertook with the exact same things being pushed out, with both aiming and being driven by the need to milk F1 as best they could. Last time it happened… Read more »