What Ecclestone really meant by demanding V8 engines

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When Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone mentioned a return to V8 engines that would sport 1,000bhp, the paddock shuddered and many fans weighed in on the thought of changing from the current V6 hybrid engine format.

AUTOSPORT even ran a story on why this would be bad for the sport. They made very cogent arguments as to why it would be more difficult than simply shoving one of the old V8’s onto the back of a new car. The tooling and technical details would be expensive. The teams would still have to design and produce a V8 that could handle 1,000bhp.

What we may be missing—or maybe we aren’t, I’m just being heavy-handed with my comment here—is that the comments made by Ecclestone is a call back to the way things happened in the past in order to effect change in F1.

In the old days, when Max Mosley was at the helm of the FIA, F1 would be mired in a technical format issue or stumped on a direction for the future but Max would work with his technical delegates and devise a plan for change.

Knowing that most teams would resist any change—especially those who were currently successful with the established regulations—Mosley would offer a draconian change to F1 that would have the teams and suppliers apoplectic.

This was by design as Mosley knew he had to ask for a mile in order to get what he originally wanted which was a half-mile. Ask for way more than you actually want knowing that both sides would eventually arrive somewhere in the middle. It was classic Mosley.

Ecclestone said last week in Bahrain:

“It’s no good talking to these people. They will have to be told,”

His point could be proof that the F1 Strategy Group is not very effective as a body that determines future changes and the future direction the sport will move in. Ecclestone has always maintained that the sport needs a benevolent dictator and it had one in the Ecclestone/Mosley combination.

The point in asking for 1,000bhp V8 engines is to get the teams to move—and move they did. First to blink was Mercedes boss Toto Wolff who said:

“I think there are pretty easy ways to increase the horsepower – this is increasing fuel flow,” said Wolff. “Then it’s a question: what do you want to market? Does it make a big difference between having 950bhp and 1000bhp?

“If you want to increase the fuel flow by 10kg or 20kg etc an hour, then you are going to have more than 1000bhp.

“But then you need to redesign crucial components of the engine, you need to make them more reliable and that again involves a lot of development costs.

“I think we all understand we want a spectacular formula, not only on the chassis side but also the power-unit side.”

Ecclestone gets the plot…he always has regardless of what his detractors have been saying via social media. He understands the cash flow and the process. If you were under the impression he is out of touch or doesn’t “get it”, you are seriously underestimating his intelligence. He “get’s it” but he’s also working in a sport that is owned by multiple entities and the days of the iron fist of Ecclestone in the velvet glove of Mosley are long gone.

By telling the sport that it will be returning to V8’s, Ecclestone has now forced a dialog that will most likely end up as a 900-1,000bhp V6 turbo with some hybrid components—an evolution of the current format that brings sound and performance back to the sport.

Ecclestone knows F1 needs to change and he also knows that these new engines, regardless of how expensive they are to build, must be affordable to smaller teams. He understands that the pendulum has swung too far toward being all about the tech and losing the plot of entertaining racing:

“F1 isn’t just technology, but enjoyment too,” Ecclestone said. “We need to think about who buys a ticket, goes in the grandstands and wants to see a great sporting spectacle.

“It’s money doing the rounds: the public pays for tickets, the organisers cash in and pay us, who then forward the money to the teams together with TV rights.

“But if TV audiences shrink and the public at GPs do too, then it becomes a problem.”

The fact is, Ecclestone is pulling a Mosley on the teams and placing markers down in order to get them to do something and move off of dead center with a format that is leaving the sport in complete disarray. Sure, no teams wants to simply return to where they came from but simply staying the course with the current format is a sure way of killing it and Ecclestone knows the series has to change and change quickly.

Time will tell but my hunch will be a new format for 2017 based on a V6 turbo with 1,000bhp and KERS. The MGU-H component and ERS is a very expensive element and while it is a technological marvel, most F1 fans are completely unaware of the technology and in some ways, if you can’t see it or hear it, then what’s the point?

Road relevancy? Whatever. F1 is not simply a testing lab or track for car companies. It is a racing series first and a manufacturers involvement may become a proving ground for its tech but it can’t be the prime mover. Racing must come first, road car relevancy second. Besides, if you really want road relevancy, then enter the WEC.

Hat Tip: AUTOSPORT

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Paul KieferJr

Entertaining racing? Well, I suppose we could bring back the Romans and their chariot races and the slave-vs-lion battles. The entire human race was moving in that direction anyway.

Coji

Do you love Ben Hur as well?

SteveM

Mosley’s technical delegates = whores dressed in Nazi attire…

Scottynz

I have a question for you all. Do you think that there would be a great difference between cars developing 1000 hp and the current Mercedes that develops close to 950 if the various commentators (including Toto)on in F1 are to be believed…. Just putting that thought out there. Personally I think that the 1000 hp engine and extra noise thing is really a red herring that is distracting a lot of fans from the real issues within F1. While noise is what attracts a lot of people lots of noise does not mean great racing. Noise is just wasted… Read more »

jakobusvdl

Lots of good points in there scotty, I don’t think you are wrong there is lots wrong with F1 and you highlight a number of the problems and red herrings correctly.
To pick on the least important of your points (so easiest to have an opinion on) 1000bhp or 950 is only important if not everyone has the same – remember the effects when cars lost their 80bhp KERS units.

Coji

I think the 1,000 figure is just an idea and irrelevant because the idea is to open the field to pursue horsepower in various methods. “Teams having to spend huge dollops of money to achieve very small performance gains” is the crux of every top level of sport. Take soccer for example. Teams have physios conducting MRIs for every little knock. They have club psychologists and optometrists and data engineers (reviewing everything from proximity to the ball and what speed the player maintains for what duration, to direction of the head and eyes in respect to teammates in various high-conversion… Read more »

Scottynz

I agree with your point that at the top level of sport that x=y2. However, What I am trying to point out that if you have a very open formula e.g. engine is a 1.5 litre unit of any design you want, the car has four wheels and fits in this size box then then constrain the teams with an effectively policed cost cap then you will see many ways of approaching the problem just like we saw in the 70’s and 80’s. By imposing a cost cap then we probably won’t get into the x=y2 zone.

Coji

Toddddd. I completely agree with the relevancy and transmission of information to the public. It’s a tough ask to have broadcasters, at least in the States, communicate the what, when, and how of the MGUs to the public when they are stuck on rain in one corner and sunshine at another. I think your 2017 idea is good, maybe because it’s what I thought upon reading, in that just use the same block and dimensions, continue with ERS, and call it a day. Maybe more manufacturers will come into the fore being that they format and electronics could be opened… Read more »

MIE

wait, it can rain on only one part of the track?
tell me more…

Schmorbraten

I agree that the racing action needs to improve in F1, but since you mention WEC (and are comfortable with the tech and the road relevance there): WEC proves that you don’t have to choose between either tech or good racing, or to choose between road relevancy or good racing. So why then would F1 need to decide to either have good racing or be tech-relevant to the world? Just because F1 needs to be much louder than other racing series? If that is so, then I guess the best compromise between what you want and what we have would… Read more »

jakobusvdl

I think what Bernie really meant was ‘LOOK OVER THERE! it’s those power units, DON’T BE LOOKING HERE AT THE MONEY DISTRIBUTION!, no sir, no problems over here’

ports

You’re quite right, jacobusvdl. The distribution of money is all wrong, starting with a private equity firm taking 50 per cent of revenues (and don’t forget who sold them their controlling stake). A good return on a long term investment is 7 – 10 per cent, not 50 per cent. But giving Ferrari and Red Bull much more than an equal split is also nonsense given these two already have giant sponsorships. I reckon 75 per cent of the TV money should be split equally between all the teams (how new teams enter the competition would have to be negotiated)… Read more »

Morbius Strings

In this video I enjoyed Niki’s ideas on the changes that need to take place in Formula 1. The video is about 5 minutes long, but his explanation is great!

https://youtu.be/SsiS-6xhf_k