If you’ve listened to our podcast for any length of time, you’ll know that back in 2013, I was questioning why the series was set on moving to a very expensive hybrid engine for the 2014 season onward.
In fact, I had former F1 mechanic Steve Matchett on our show to discuss this at length—I learned a lot from my dear friend Steve.
I wondered why the series, fresh off of new cost cap discussions, couldn’t simply reduce the fuel flow rate to the existing V8 engine prompting engineers to be much more creative in their designs bringing a more immediate road-relevant technology to road cars in the near term.
I’ve often said that for those that insinuate that road car engineers get all their ideas and know-how from F1 are being a bit harsh as companies such as Toyota, Honda, Mercedes, BMW, Ferrari and Renault all have very brilliant engineers themselves.
Having said that, I also admit that the most road-relevant part of F1 is rapid prototyping and unlimited engineering freedom to push the envelope as far as possible. However, with the discussion of a coming cost cap, I was concerned about the impact these new hybrid engines would have on the smaller teams.
I was right to be concerned as it bankrupted three teams and put several others on life support. I wasn’t feeling exonerated but sad because that’s not what F1 needed at the time.
Now, giving credit where credit is due, F1 engineers have created an amazing hybrid power unit that runs at a whopping 52% efficiency delivering nearly, if not, 1,000bhp. That’s an amazing feat by anyone’s measure.
While we amaze at this number and the engineering behind it, Toyota’s road car division has quietly done what I was advocating all those years ago. I was reading about engines the other day and stumbled across the details of this design introduced back in 2018 and it reminded me of just how far the road car divisions have come with internal combustion engine technology.
Their Dynamic Force engine runs at 40% efficiency in normally aspirated application and at 41% in HV operation. Sure, F1’s engines are 12% more efficient and that’s a lot but they use a heck of a lot more fuel too.
My point in all of this is this: As we head into the new engine regulations for 2026, I hope F1 spends time discussing the issue that there is still a lot of gains that can be made in the internal combustion engine (ICE) technology.
The key for me is keeping the cost of the engine supply down to allow for more teams to compete on relatively equal footing. As it is, teams without manufacturer backing or a full works team find it hard to compete at the sharp end of the grid and spend a tremendous amount of their budgets on very expensive hybrid engine supplies.
I understand the KERS innovation and perhaps that’s good to keep but I recall back in 2012 and 2013 when the new engine regulations were being discussed. The initial concept was for the ICE to be a 4-cylinder engine. Ferrari and others had major issues with that so they settled on a 6-cylinder instead.
I recall having lunch with a Ferrari engine designer in Maranello one afternoon at the Cavalino where Enzo lunched. I asked him about the move to 4-cylinders versus staying with the V8’s. I said that I assume they just wanted a smaller engine to push the innovation of 4-cylinder engines for road car relevancy being that this is a ubiquitous engine for the market.
He looked at me and said, Todd, it doesn’t matter. We should still stay with a V8 for F1 because whatever innovation you create, you just cut half of it out and that’s your 4-cylinder. Duh, I wasn’t thinking in those terms.
Anyway, here’s a couple nice video’s that explain Toyota’s Dynamic Force. Also, what do you think the new engine format should be in 2026? Remember, you have to balance innovation with a cost cap.