Then and Now – Engine changes in 1961

During 1954 to 1960 engines used is formula 1 were restricted to a maximum capacity of 2500cc (normally aspirated) or 750cc (forced induction).  For  the 1961 season this was changed, with forced induction banned and engines required to be between 1300 and 1500cc.  The capacity reduction is comparable to that we are seeing this year, with the old 2400cc normally aspirated V8’s being replaced with 1600cc turbo charged V6’s.

In 1960 some observers were complaining that the new formula for ’61 would not be F1 any longer, and several threatened that they would never watch again.  If the internet had been around at the time I am sure blogs and message forums would have been full of discussions about how this would fundamentally change the sport.  The change however was far more dramatic than that imposed this year, as for 2014 we have turbo charged engines and an enhanced Energy Recovery System that will mean the maximum power output is very similar to than available in 2013.  In 1961 the power dropped dramatically (from 290 bhp for the most powerful 2.5 litre engines down to 150 bhp for some of the first 1.5 litre examples).  Importantly the racing did not suffer, with some giant killing victories achieved by independent Lotus driver Stirling Moss, despite the power deficit to the all-conquering Ferraris (Innes Ireland’s victory in the final race of the year for the works Lotus team was without the Ferrari team present, as they had already won both championships).

The change in engine regulations changed the engine manufactures who supplied the sport.  While some like Ferrari, Climax and Maserati continued, others like Aston Martin, BRM, Castellotti,Scarab and Vanwall stopped their participation in Formula 1.  Some manufacturers entered the smaller eengined cars a year early like Porsche (who were present at the first race of 1960), Ferrari and Climax (who put a 1.5 litre car out late in the season.  While some new manufacturers were attracted to supply the smaller engines (Alfa Romeo and Osca).  The table below shows the range of engines used in 1960 and 1961.

Aston Martin 2.5 Straight 6

BRM 2.5 Straight 4

Castellotti 2.5 Straight 4

Climax 2.5 Straight 4

Climax 2.0 Straight 4

Climax 1.5 Straight 4

Ferrari 2.4 V6

Ferrari 1.5 V6

Maserati 2.5 Straight 4

Maserati 2.5 Straight 6

Porsche 1.5 Flat 4

Scarab 2.5 Straight 4

Vanwall 2.5 Straight 4

Alfa Romeo 1.5 Straight 4

Climax 1.5 Straight 4

Climax 1.5 V8

Ferrari 1.5 V6

Maserati 1.5 Straight 4

Osca 1.5 Straight 4

Porsche 1.5 Flat 4


As Formula 1 continued with the smaller engines until 1965 (only replaced in 1966 with 3 litre units because sports-cars were getting faster than the single seaters), the variety of engine configuration changed, and more manufacturers were attracted to the sport. So in 1965 the following engines were used.

Alfa Romeo 1.5 Straight 4
BRM 1.5 V8
Climax 1.5 Straight 4
Climax 1.5 V8
Ferrari 1.5 V8
Ferrari 1.5 Flat 12
Ford 1.5 Straight 4
Honda 1.5 V12

During the intervening years, other engines had also been tried including:

ATS 1.5 V8
Bogward 1.5 Straight 4
Porsche 1.5 Flat 8

It would appear that engine development was much greater during the 1.5 litre period than it had been during the previous 2.5 litre regulations.  While most were happy with four or six cylinders in 1961, with a late appearance of a single Climax V8 at the final three rounds of the season, by the end of the period most engines were eight or twelve cylinders, with very few four cylinders entered.  The engine configurations varied as well, and it was common for Ferrari in particular to run two different engine configurations in its cars.  By the end of this set of regulations the most powerful 1.5 litre engines were producing 225 bhp, not that far short of the 290 bhp figure the old 2.5 litre engines were capable of in 1960.

Coming to the present, we won’t see such developments now.  The rules are fixed with 90° V6 engines, with details such as the bore size, crankshaft height and total weight mandated in the rules.  Other variables are allowed to be changed, but the number that can be reduces through the period of this set of rules (2014 – 2020).  While new manufacturers can come into the sport (Honda for one) to join Ferrari, Mercedes and Renault, we won’t see the variation in configuration that the early 1960’s produced.  Engine reliability will have to be much better than in the 1960’s though, with only five power units available for each driver to last the 19 race season any failures could prove costly come the end of the year.  This could give the Caterham and Marussia teams their best chance yet to score points in F1.  If they have been ultra conservative with their power unit cooling for the first races, they should get to the finish at the expense of some lap time. If other front running teams have not allowed enough air to get to the essential parts, then they could suffer failures initially, which would give those more conservative teams a chance to pick up points.  With car launches upon us, it won’t be too long before we start to get some answers as to who has got their calculations right.

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