Jean Todt: ‘Society won’t accept’ V10 / V12 engines in F1

FIA president Jean Todt has served two terms and he has yet to decide if he will stand for a third as the election is at the end of this year. If I’m honest, I think it would be a good time to explore other candidates.

It’s not that I have a personal axe to grind with Todt or that he hasn’t done the job, it’s that the Formula 1 and motorsport world is changing and perhaps it’s time for the FIA to have a change too?

In the FIA’s Auto magazine, Todt gave his thoughts on the future of F1 and motorsport and to be quite frank, I am concerned about his views and ideological position as well as its impact on the sport I love.

I have a lot of compromise and excuses as to why Todt may feel the way he does given the current march toward alternative energy solutions, climate change, the amount of manufacturer participation in F1, WEC and WRC as well as the political pressures applied that place weight on the bifurcated mission of the FIA—A regulatory body of motorsport and a road safety as well as sustainability through mobility global organization.

I am more concerned that these two responsibilities are becoming more than a simple exercise of edge-blending where they touch each other. In fact, I would argue that they may be jumping the fence and running with reckless abandon through each other’s fields.

When leaders of a certain age are confronted with sweeping changes, such as digital media, it can be a real challenge. If the digital revolution was not around in their youth, then they certainly aren’t digital natives and some of them struggle with their quest to become digital migrants—think Bernie Ecclestone. As a result, they tend to offer equally sweeping concessions rather than anchoring themselves to timeless leadership qualities that can manage the mustard-gas-laced trenches from which they just traversed as well as the digital smart bombs they will now face.

Jean Todt may not be a digital native but I’m not sure if his comments show he has made a successful transition as a digital migrant or if he’s making sweeping concessions that could have serious impact on motorsport.

“I’m convinced that hydrogen will be a technology that will be used in the future,” says Todt. “Maybe in five years the zero car in rallying will be a driverless car. I think motor sport is changing, will keep changing. But we must make sure that we keep the best ingredients together.

“Again, that is one of our responsibilities – to decide not what we will do next year, but what Formula One should be in 2021, in 2030 – what rallying should be, what endurance racing should be.

“The heart of the sport will still be there but it has to take into consideration the evolution of society,” he continues. “When you see all of the emphasis that is put on climate change, on pollution, I feel we have the responsibility to participate. It is true a Formula One race will create less pollution than one plane going from Paris to New York, but we must be an example. And to be an example we cannot allow ourselves to create unnecessary pollution because it’s just the wrong image.”

I’m struggling to see the passion for the purest sense of motorsport—the competition of man and machine against other men in machines. I use the term “man” and “men” generically here so please refrain from the emails demanding equity. I’ll let you use whatever pronoun you prefer here.

I struggle to find the key ingredients that draw the faintest line between the FIA’s mission of sustainability, road relevancy, alternative mobility programs and the mission of simple, well-regulated, entertaining racing. Are the two mutually exclusive? Of course not, at least to the FIA, but that doesn’t mean they should be sharing the same bed and spooning each other every night. I would much rather, if they must share the same bed, they fight for the covers every night and even occasionally go sleep in the spare bedroom or on the couch if I’m honest.

For me, the mission to the world of mobility, sustainability and road safety is a noble charter by anyone’s measure and Jean Todt seems to like that aspect of what he does very much. I applaud his efforts. It’s the oversight of motorsport that I feel is starting to get a bit odd as if it has been placed in the zippered side-pocket of his Mead Trapper Keeper stuffed with his very important papers—showing all his work, mind you—on global life-saving mobility programs and earth-cooling strategies. It’s not that these things aren’t important to him or others, it’s just that I would like him to get his filthy hands off my desert.

Society won’t accept it

As, perhaps, no better example of the reaction to the F1 entertainment conundrum versus galactic series expenditures and manufacturer placation, Todt was asked about the return to louder, normally aspirated V!0 or V12 engines.

“It will not be accepted by society,” says Todt. “Again, we have a responsibility to run an organisation monitored by global society. And global society will not accept that. Indeed, I’m sure if you said, ‘let’s go back to engines from 10 years ago’, many manufacturers would not support such a move. I’m convinced a minimum of three out of four would leave. Also, we know that stability is essential – firstly, to have as much competition as possible, and then to protect the investment. You cannot invest in new technology every year, it is not financially sustainable, and we already complain about the cost of racing, the cost of Formula One – a cost that for me is absurd.

“It’s something we need to fight. So far we have not managed to find the ideal solution and I’m happy to take part of the responsibility on behalf of the governing body. But saying that, it is not easy because you need to find common ground. For me, I always like to achieve some kind of solidarity when you take decisions.”

The last time I checked, Formula 1 fans do, collectively, comprise what we call “society”. So the mobocracy won’t accept it? After bankrupting three teams over the exorbitant cost of being road relevant and sustainable with hybrid V6 turbo power units, I find the argument bereft of impact. Each year, car makers produce thousands of cars with internal combustion engines in them and I think there is still some real innovation in that area of mobility. Perhaps more road relevant and sustainable in the near-term than other forms. 

Liberty Media bought F1. Liberty Media hired Ross Brawn. Liberty Media engages digital media and wants to increase the revenue stream of the sport and find more equity for smaller teams as well as retain manufacturer participation. Liberty Media has taken a big bite of a very ornate sandwich and it will be interesting to see how they do. I suspect very well. I also suspect that perhaps it is a time to reconsider the FIA’s role and/or structure to dovetail with F1’s new direction as well as WEC and WRC.

Separating motorsport from mobility

I would advocate a separate division within the FIA that focuses purely on motorsport and racing. Let the other division do its best at saving lives and the climate but let the motorsport division do its best at regulating a sport for “society”…or as we like to call them, fans. Let the F1, WEC and WRC revenue support this new motorsport division and equally, let the mobility division and its member’s dues support it. I sense an income versus expense issue there but I could be completely wrong.

In fact, the FIA just made $70m from the sale of F1 and that should be earmarked for this new motorsport division of the FIA. That should get us through a few years of regulatory oversight don’t you think? As it is, with the mobility division sticking its hand in the F1 windfall profit pocket, how many “drive safely and sustainably” posters can you print for $70m and put up in airports in Jakarta and Haiti?

This new motorsport division of the FIA I am championing should focus on the future of the sport and certainly consider all factors including relevant engines. Want a manufacturer-friendly new power unit? Then create a group of engineers from each car maker and have them offer proof-of-concept systems to be evaluated by the FIA. Let Ross Brawn have a peek at that sucker too.

I feel as if Jean Todt would be a terrific FIA president for global action regarding road safety and sustainable mobility while a new division could help keep the two worlds complimentary but not overtly oppressive of the other. Sometimes society just wants an entertaining motorsport series to watch because it relishes the escape from constant, oppressive news, ideologies, strife, struggle and planet-doom talk.

Sometimes we are fine with good enough and maybe in the end, we just want to be amazed and gaze at the marvel that is man and machine racing other men in machines. Sometimes we wake up and aren’t compelled to save the world rather be entertained by one, small element in the world. Maybe “society” would do well to know that not every element of life comes replete with a sword, shield and helm of morality in which to cure the world’s ills. Maybe some elements in life come with a simple, compelling command…Watch this! You’re not going to believe this move/car/driver/team! This…is F1.

Hat Tip: FIA

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments


Bring back the H16

Salvu Borg

last time I saw one was at the science museum in Kensington, I was wondering at the top floor, saw a door open and went in, there was about a dozen engines laying around on the floor, BRM H16, BENTLY BR I OR BR 2 AERO ROTARY among the lot, to me it looked more like a temporary store, this was quite some time ago.


Wasn’t the H16 a massively complex, and expensive power unit that broke its manufacturer and drove them out of F1?


True, but the sound when it ran was special.

That is one thing this generation of power units has over the previous V8s, it is possible to distinguish the manufacturer from the sound they make. It may not be has high pitched or as loud, but at least they do sound different.


I’m sure the H16 would sound fantastic live, the Youtube clips I’ve looked at aren’t that impressive, or distinct. How much is the similarly in sound down to the prescribed p.u format, capacities and configuration? If everyone has a V6 turbo, with a prescribed bore diameter and 4 valves per cylinder, aren’t they all going to sound very similar? If it were possible to allow a more open approach, so the manufacturers could decide on the number of cylinders, cylinder layout, bore and stroke, number of valves, number of turbos, size and type of the energy recovery, store and release,… Read more »


If you can listen to some races from 1989 there were very distinct differences between the different manufacturers. Only the V8s were difficult to distinguish. However after a few years everybody converged onto a V10 format, and once the rev limit was imposed they all sounded similar. In 2015 while the Mercedes and Ferrari sounded similar, the Renault and Honda were much different. Last year Renault was sounding closer to the leading two manufacturers, but Honda was still very different. I have yet to hear this season’s cars, but with so restrictive a set of regulations it seems logical that… Read more »


Oops, I looked up the wrong date, and have just spent a very enjoyable hour watching 1987 season highlights. 30 years ago but a fair few similarities – very wide cars with very wide tyres, turbocharged small capacity p.u’s, the high costs of these turbo p.u’s leading to a rule change, drivers managing fuel consumption and tyres to get the best overall race time / position, pay drivers in good cars (Nakajima in the Lotus) And lots of differences too; 26 car grids!, reliability was horrendous, only about a 50% chance of finishing a race, so maybe 13 finishers, Active… Read more »

Salvu Borg

as I said over here some time ago, a turbocharged engine can never sound as good as a NA engine, because the turbocharger turbine housing will always act as some sort of silencer, they do sound temporary better when the waste gates are open. but still all four of them can be distinguished by their different noise. the most marked difference being/is that of the Honda. first considerations when talking about the present power units different sounds is they all do a lot of (cylinder cutting off) but each might have his different preferred way of doing that, secondly is… Read more »


I’ve heard the speculation about the ‘big bang firing order’, and know that in bike racing that was done because they found the tyre slipped less with less frequent but harder torque pulses, and apparently that radically changed the handling of the bike. I wonder how that translates to F1 cars and tyres, there is so much rubber on the road its hard to imagine they’d have the same slip issues. I guess if they’re ‘only’ reving to 10,500rpm, the fork and blade connecting rods can work effectively, but they looked like a bad idea on 1920’s Harley Davidsons, and… Read more »

Salvu Borg

“Re the sound when it ran was special” MIE, apart from the unusual configuration there was nothing special about the BRM H16 and certainly not the sound, re the sound, what was special (if not the best ever, but certainly one of the three best ever) was that of the BRM 1.5l supercharged V16, the other two being the Matra V12 and the FERRARI V12. I know because I was fortunate in seeing and so hearing them all three in person. the only difference between them was both the H16 and V16 were F1 flops while the other two V12’S… Read more »


Hi Dave, check out the newest comments on this thread. Do you think F1 produces technical innovation and ‘showcases’ new technologies?


The technology that motorsport has best demonstrated is rapid prototyping. The example that sticks in my mind is Williams in the 1988 British GP when they converted Mansell’s car from active to passive suspension between Friday and Saturday qualifying. This required parts to be designed, manufactured, delivered to the circuit and fitted in under twenty hours.
These cars are prototypes and in constant development. To have the reliability that we see now is very impressive given the very short time from concept to race.


Hi Dave, you’re right that the rapid prototyping in the prototype motorsport series such as F1 and MotoGP is impressive, but the innovation is also extraordinary – to take your example, the fact that F1 had developed computer controlled hydraulic active suspension in the 1980’s and 1990’s when the computing technology was so young and crude, and the hydraulic valving and controls were so challenging to manufacturer is (for me) a fantastic example of competitive motorsport driving brilliant innovation. And creating technology that is now commonplace in road vehicles. Not full active, sadly, but many vehicles now have adaptive suspension… Read more »


However, Lotus had a development active system running on an Esprit before they put it their F1 car. The advantages for a lightweight sports car in improved ride quality is what they were after.


From what I remember, Lotus saw the technology as revolutionising vehicle dynamics entirely, they had active suspension buses that they claimed handled like mini’s. And they used F1 as the ‘showcase’ for the technology as well as a competitive R&D environment.
And active suspension then enabled Ground Effects, a virtuous spiral of innovation.
Just as the hybrid p.u’s enable self starting cars! That could catch on ;-)

jiji the cat

When he came to the helm I thought todt would be great. Instead he’s been lack lustre.
He 100% has forgotten the fans of Motorsport.
If alternate hydrogen/ electric etc are really his adgenda then he would allow development in formula e. The tech is there to make those cars much much faster but it’s not allowed as it is a spec formula for the power trains. Open that formula up and allow it to be a true alternative power source formula and allow the other championships to flurrish

D-man Tracey

BULLSHIT! Manufacturers leave , fans come back. So out of touch with the public. Prius owners don’t dictate formula 1, the fans do and they all love fire breathing monsters! If this is the position of the so called “leaders”, just give up and go to formula E.


I’d upvote you 10x if I could.

The Captain

I for one have been longing for a FIA that helps promote motorsports and helps consult the tracks on getting new people involved in motorsport via lower tier and club racing. One of my biggest beefs with F1 over the years is how many tracks F1 leaves in desolate ruble after only a shirt time. Yes a lot of that falls on the track owners, but I would like to see the FIA help out here and look at the motorsports picture below the top tier and help build interest.

Paul KieferJr

Sustainability/road relevance and racing for the pure fun/sport/whatever are two separate things, and never should the two meet. Sport is sport. If Todt wants sustainability/whatever, he can go do that elsewhere (Formula E, for example) and let others who enjoy sport run the show.

Darth Rust

I don’t see “great racing,” whatever that is, as being part of the trade space with “road relevancy,” (also, whatever that is). WRC and WEC are much more closely bound to road cars due to the nature of their series since the cars ultimately originates in a production model. Not to say that there’s no room for innovation, but WRC/WEC will be descriptive of industry trends, not prescriptive, by their nature. F1 on the other hand should be the bleeding edge, a weapons lab for industry experimentation, and pageantry of technical might. Road relevancy can be assigned to those effort… Read more »


Hi Darth, I agree with a large part of your post, but not that the FIA has gone down a technological rabbit hole. I think the application of the ‘capricious constraints’ (great phrase btw) in order to try to create ‘great racing’ is more the problem.
Take the capricious constraints away, cut the budgets, and let the engineers innovate!
Will it be great racing? Maybe not, but we all look back on the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s as times when F1 was vibrant and exciting, and those were periods of sustained technical innovation, and occasionally great racing occurred.

Salvu Borg

Re the “capricious constraints” these so called (here) capricious constraints agreed upon by all concerned were a must for the FIA to control the power output of the new formula, if it wasn’t for said control/s these new power units would by now be hitting nearer 2000 hp.


I’m not sure I see the problem with that, because the engineers could also apply four wheel drive, active suspension, ground effects, cvt gearboxes, active aero, a.b.s, traction control, etc etc to manage those outrageous outputs ;-)

Salvu Borg

and by having all that technology allowed most of the grid will be of the so called garagisti than I suppose!


On reflection, I’d say the total fuel limit is a judicious constraint, as would be an overall resource cap, but I do think banning the list of technology I’ve listed, and many more, is ‘capricious’ regulation which is aimed at creating ‘great racing’ by forcing conformity.
Allowing innovative technology could bring whole different organisations into F1, Lotus were working with Moog for the electronics and valves for their active suspension, Williams with DAF on the CVT gearbox, so perhaps innovative garigista’s who can manage technology projects would be the successful F1 teams.


Hi Salvu, check out the newest comments on this thread. Do you think Motorsport produces technical innovation and ‘showcases’ new technologies?


“Road relevance” = 4 tires and a driver. Period, fini.

There is nothing else road relevant about an F1 racecar. Or many other racecars for that matter.


Fuel, lubricants, mechanical and electronic fuel injection, disc brakes, composite materials, turbochargers, hybrid systems, paddle shifts, anti lock braking, electronic engine management systems, carbon fibre disc brakes, cast and forged alloy wheels, aerodynamics, etc, etc


Seems like you’re confusing “transportation relevant” with F1. Because aside from the wheels and brakes, those characteristics are also shared by boats and airplanes.


Just examples of technologies developed in motor sport and adopted to improve road cars. Motor sports have been research and development for the automotive industry since their beginning.


“A bit of research would show you how many of those technologies were innovated, perfected and showcased by F1”

I’ve done the research. The claim is false, and is wildly exaggerated by its promoters. It’s good corporate PR and marketing though.


Well that’s me told. Had it wrong all these years, what a fool I’ve been. Thanks for putting me right Geeyore. Road relevance – fuels and lubricants Road relevance – Thomas Weber, board member of Daimler and head of R&D at Mercedes, says that F1’s current engines are delivering exactly what his company needs to justify its investment. “We are doing everything possible to maintain [our position] in the F1 championship, but equally when it comes to the road car business is it about what can we do to bring the ideas from F1 as fast as possible to… Read more »


It looks like all you’ve done in your catalog is to highlight that F1 borrows tech from other engineering disciplines and incorporates it into racecars. That’s awesome, but it’s not really innovation.

F1 innovated aero? I kinda thought that was airplanes.


Hi eeyore, welcome back.
Are you sure you’re not confusing ‘invention’ – creating something new and unique, with ‘innovation’ – which is applying things in new ways or to different situations?

BTW Colin Chapman was a Civil/Structural Engineer, not an aeronautical engineer. But he did apply aeronautical concepts in new and innovative ways.


If you’re looking for an example of elitist, snobbish, self-delusional behavior, it’s pretty hard to top this.

If you’re looking for an example of invincible ignorance, it’s pretty hard to top this.

Somehow this reminds me of the attitudes and decision making of those WW1 generals, who, from the comfort of their chateaus miles away from the action, sent wave after pointless wave of men to their deaths. Isolated from the action, they never could grasp the patently delusional nature of their decisions.


This is perfect.


Am I sensing a bit of hostility here Todd? I don’t fully understand the relationship between the FIA and F1, but I tend to agree with the view that, if F1 represents the ‘pinnacle of automotive technology’, with what we know about the impacts of burning fossil fuels on the climate and sustainability of the planet, big petrol engines are not the best that automotive technology can offer. I’d rather see F1 showing the world, and motorsports fans, the kinds of technology that can help to resolve the bigger issues we’re facing, in an exciting and competitive environment. There are… Read more »