Still say F1 could have kept the V8

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Once again, I find myself asking, “wouldn’t it have been a real road-relevant and challenging technical regulation back in 2013 to tell teams they would now take these homologated V8 engines and run them on much less fuel as a fuel flow rate restriction would be in place and they would also supplement with KERS?”.

I reckon one of the most immediate technology innovation blocks would have been to reduce, dramatically, the use of fossil fuel through better engine design and components and while Formula E and other road car industry engineers beaver away on better electric systems, F1 would be making an immediate impact for internal combustion engine (ICE) technology that would be immediately available to road car hybrid models as well as turbo and normally aspirated engines.

I said this back then and many considered me not very forward-thinking or Neanderthal in my denial that pure electric cars are the future. Fair enough, we’ll see if that happens but producing good, relatively affordable privateer-inclusive racing is Formula 1’s DNA and I reckoned they could still be entertainment and sport while doing something with immediate effect for road cars if that was the carrot to entice manufacturers.

Reading the wonderful Mark Hughes over at Motor Sport Magazine (get well very soon Nigel Roebuck), I was once again reminded that I may not be the oafish idiot many consider me to be:

the big efficiency gains are clearly being made in combustion, given that the conversion efficiency of the recovered energy through the ERS-h and ERS-k has increased only from 85% up to 95% in those two years, according to Mercedes.

In large part, the improved combustion has been coming from advances in the science of fuel chemistry, even within the EU road car fuel octane limit that is defined in the F1 regs. Slowing down and better controlling the spread of the combustion flame and delaying the onset of detonation (or knock) has brought big gains.

Now, the article is about the ignition technology that Ferrari are using and it’s a great read so go over and take a look here. I just happened to stop on the fact of much of the power unit’s gains are though the ICE portion and not the ERS or KERS and if I read another story about how the V8’s had reached the limit of their innovation and development, I may experience heartburn.

It’s true, they had reached their limits, as I have said many times before, and the series wasn’t moving forward with those engines due to the homologation and frozen nature of the regulations. That’s completely different than saying there were no more innovative developments in engine design, ignition, fuel technology etc. Clearly there are.

The technology that Mark reveals is a huge step by Mahle in making internal combustion engines achieve performance and efficiencies that only diesel could achieve before. Getting more out of the most common type of road car power unit in the world is a noble charter by anyone’s measure and while the world may want an autonomous driving electric car to go from 5th avenue to the lower east side of Manhattan, the rest of world have things to haul, roads to travel, fields to harvest and thousands of miles to go.

All those years ago, Steve Matchett and I had one of our podcast chats and he said back then, and I agreed, that starving the V8’s would be a real idea and we would see incredible engineering that would be amazingly salient to road cars with immediate effect. We have these hybrid power units in F1 and yet the biggest gains are being made from the ICE, not the electric. To me, that’s very telling indeed.

Hat Tip: Motor Sport Magazine


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I don’t think that the V8’s had reached the end of their development, it is just that the regulations banned any development at all.
To reduce the fuel used, the development would need to be opened up again, and we would be in a development war much like with the current V6’s. The costs would have gone through the roof, and the parity that existed between the manufacturers would have disappeared.

But they would have sounded different to the current power units.


With new materials, new fuels, new whatever, who knows how much development is or was left in the old V8’s. And why limit the regulations to V8? If they had written the regs with competitive racing, entertainment value, and road relevance in mind, we would be in a different place right now. It says that the minds responsible for developing the technical regulations have a narrow and limited concept of real technological development. I’m not convinced about the cost control issue…..if I own an F1 team, I have stakeholders and a financial budget which is not unlimited. I still have… Read more »

Negative Camber

one of the counter arguments that I get quite a bit is that the road car industry isn’t using V8’s and that they are all moving away from big displacement but that’s perfectly fine, you can still use a V8 for racing. The technology involved is simply halved as far as cylinder count goes. Same injection tech, same fuel tech, just half the cylinders.

you can develop killer 4-cylinder ICE’s by innovating with V8’s.


This is why F1 is dumb. To solve the problem of road relevancy they opened up engine development. Engine development was halted to reduce cost. And now everyone is complaining about the cost of the engines. But wait, the cars are not exciting (which translates into ‘fast’) enough, so let’s open up aero development. Which was curbed in order to make the racing (overtaking) better. So after 2017, we’ll be in the same boat we were in a few years back, but worse, because in the process they screwed up the governance to assure mutual standoffs. Good job guys. Really.… Read more »


We don’t all agree on every point and we have different opinions about a lot of things concerning F1, yet F1 manages to p*** off all of us in some way or another. I find that fascinating. It’s a level of mismanagement way beyond the occasional stupidity here or there. That’s brilliance, redefined – by not taking any brilliant decisions at all whatsoever.

jiji the cat

They could open up the regulations to use/explore new fuel sources.

Paul KieferJr

Here’s the big question: Who’s writing the regs? If you don’t like that answer, then that will tell you why it’s screwed up to begin with.

Fred Talmadge

Just finished listening to Vintage Racing Podcast and the guest thought the Cosworth DFV was the greatest engine and produced the most varied cars ever. That’s about the time I learned about F1 so of course I’m kind of nostalgic for it.

Negative Camber

It was an awesome lump and I would argue that it was possibly the best F1 engine contextually speaking. I would throw a few Ferrari’s in there as well. :)

Roger Flerity

You could never make a normally aspirated engine produce the same power as the current PU packages with the same fuel restrictions. It takes forced induction, and use of the MGUT to spin the turbo to eliminate lag, and the more powerful MGUK to supplement the top end, to deliver power over the entire RPM range that is being made today. Add to this the effect forced induction has on lean burn technology and opportunities in fuel blends which cannot be attained without it, including enabling (if not demanding) the use of TJI ignition to take advantage of lean burn… Read more »

Negative Camber

Terrific insight Roger, I appreciate the lesson, I really do. I know there is a point of diminished returns but I think there was still room to develop in that engine cycle and the Ferrari engine folks told me so when I was there but to your point, it is not without it’s limitations. In the end, however, it is about racing and I feel that continuing with the NA V8’s and perfecting the ICE is a noble charter as well. I would argue it may even be more of an immediate impact to road going cars and reduction of… Read more »


Terrific insight by Matt Somerfield at on the kinds of technology development going on with the current engines. I think it’s more interesting and relevant than a new piece of aero stuck onto a winglet.


When unicorn dust is available to power the grid that powers Formula E, I think we’ll see an immediate transition to electric cars.

In the meantime it’s back to fossil fuels, and did you know that Nobel scientists such as Freemon Dyson and Thomas Gold gave plausibility to the abiotic theory of petroleum, which asserts that it’s not at all a fossil fuel but a natural product of the earth’s mantle?

V8, V10, V12 all the way.

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