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The 2014 engine regulations - do we have anything to fear? - There are big changes to the Formula One rules coming

Published by James Boyle

My first experience of Formula One was at the 1986 British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch, and what an amazing introduction to Formula One it would prove to be, for many reasons. This of course was in the era many Formula One fans always refer to as the “romantic period”, and as a youngster watching the cars fly through Paddock Hill Bend and soaking up the intoxicating atmosphere that only this form of motorsport can provide, it certainly got me hooked.

It was to be the last time the British Grand Prix would be staged at Brands Hatch, and I doubt it will ever return, which is a shame, though British fans I’m sure are proud of the newly developed Silverstone circuit that has secured this historic track for many years to come.

The race started with a horrific crash in which Jacques Laffite broke both legs during a multi-car pile up at the start which would end his career. After an hour and fifteen minute delay until the restart, in which Nigel Mansell was to benefit, as his Williams failed ahead of the pile up, he was able to start in the spare car and eventually went on to win the race. His team mate Nelson Piquet finished behind him with Alan Prost third in the TAG McLaren Porsche, not a bad podium line up for your first race.

BMW M12/13
BMW M12/13Credit: BMW AG

So, this was the era of the fire spitting turbos that was to end in two short years, with the BMW M12 engine producing around 1300bhp in qualifying! With the return of turbos due in 2014, I thought it might be worth re-visiting the engines of the 80’s and then look forward to their re-introduction to see whether the fans have anything to fear from this announcement.

The dawn of the turbo age

Firstly, it should be stressed, that the engines for 2014 will be different from those that were run in the 80’s both in terms of design and efficiency. However, for those Formula One fans that are new to the sport, or too young to remember (lucky you), I thought it might be worth looking at them, and remembering why they contributed to making Formula One so great in the 80’s.

The beginning of the turbo era

In the 70’s the FIA rules stated that either 3.0l naturally aspirated (NA) engines or 1.5l supercharged or turbocharged powerplants may be used. It was Renault who were first to take the plunge into working with a turbocharged engine in Formula One, to what can only be described as amusement by the other teams and engine manufacturers. It was 1977 when the RS01 Renault Gordini 1.5l turbo engine car took to the track. The designer for the Gordini V6 turbo was Andre de Cortanze and the driver was Jean-Pierre Jaboulle, and the car first ran at the British Grand Prix. Ken Tyrell was overheard in the pits refering to the car as “the yellow teapot” a name that would unfortunately would stick in most of the Formula One history books for reasons that will become obvious.

The car suffered from bad aerodynamics as Renault were focusing on the engine development, though to be fair, this was a predicament that faced many teams in this era. The other problem was massive turbo lag, and as the Michelin tyres weren’t progressive enough to handle the strain of the peaks and troughs of the power delivery of the engine, this had an effect on performance. The Renault RS01 failed to finish all eight races scheduled in the 77 season, a disaster you might think, but to Renault's credit they persevered.

Renault had seen that, when it worked, the engine would give a constant 500bhp as opposed to Cosworth (the favoured engine of the era) which gave 450bhp. The 1978 season would see Renault return with a twin turbo, to reduce turbo lag and improved aerodynamics and the next year would see the first win at the French Grand Prix on the Dijon track with Jabouille behind the wheel.

By now the other teams began to see the advantages of the Renault's engine design

By now the other teams began to see the advantages of the Renault's engine design, and in 1981 it was the turn of the Scuderia Ferrari to enter their first turbo powerplant with the 120 degree V6 (126C model). In 1982 Ferrari became the first manufacturer to win the Formula One title (Constructors Championship) on turbo power with engines reaching 700bhp by the end of the season, even though turbo lag was still an issue.

Porsche, Honda and BMW entered the turbo era in 1982 with McLaren, Williams and Brabham respectively. Now was the time the turbos would really begin to dominate the Formula One paddock. Keke Rosberg winning the Formula One Championship in the Williams FW08 (NA Cosworth DFV) in 1982 would be the last Championship win for this type of engine until turbos were banned at the end of the 88 season. Michele Albareto’s 1983 US Grand Prix win in the NA powered Tyrell would be the last race win for any NA engine during this era of turbo domination when most manufacturers focused on turbo engine development.

It would all come to an end when turbos were banned at the end of the '88 season

Indeed, this would be the time that many Formula One fans look back at the era fondly, both for the amazing cars that were developed and the characters that drove them. Take, for instance the Williams FW11B with its Honda V6 (RA167-E 60 degree V6 turbo) winning both the Constructors and Drivers Championship in 1987, with Nelson Piquet winning the Driver’s Championship ahead of his team mate Nigel Mansell, after Nigel’s major crash during practice for the Japanese Grand Prix. Who would forget the turbo era’s swan song with McLaren’s utterly dominant 15 of 16 race wins with Ayrton Senna taking the Driver’s Championship ahead of his team mate Prost, again with Honda V6 turbo power.

It would all come to an end when turbos were banned at the end of the '88 season, after numerous attempts by the FIA to balance the competition between NA and turbo powered cars, including pop-off valves and limiting the amount of fuel used by the turbo engine cars.

The 1.5l Turbo Engines of the 80s

BMW M12Inline-41.5l turbo
Motori ModerniV61.5l turbo
Alfa RomeoV81.5l turbo
Renault GordiniV61.5l turbo
Ferrari ( 021 )V61.5l turbo
TAG PorscheV61.5l turbo
FordV61.5l turbo
ZakspeedInline-41.5l turbo
HartInline-41.5l turbo
Megatron (rebranded BMW M12)Inline-41.5l turbo
HondaV61.5l turbo

The Future

Moving to the future, what do the 2014 engine regulations mean, and what changes can Formula One fans expect. Below is a list of the fundamental changes to engine rules for 2014.

  • The capacity of energy recovery systems has been increased to 120kW (KERS is 60kW now).
  • Minimum weight increased by 20kg, i.e. no less than 660kg.
  • All gear ratios must be declared at the beginning of the season and cannot be changed, although for 2014 only, the teams will be allowed to change them once. (8 forward ratios & 1 reverse ratio) It is believed the move from 7 to 8 gear ratios is to compensate for the difference in torque characteristics of the electric powertrain for use in the pits.
  • V6 1.6l turbo charged engines, (single turbo charger, maximum revs 15000rpm).
  • An overlooked rule change is the heat energy recovery system that operates off the exhaust gases.
  • Cars will have to carry their own starter motors under the control of the driver, since the engine and fuel systems will need re-starting the moment they exit the pit lane, as the car must run on electrical power only within the pit lane, though this needs clarification since Bernie’s comment with regards use of electrical power only in the pit lanes!
  • 90 degree V configuration (single turbo).
  • ERS = Energy Recovery System.
  • MGUK = Motor Generator Unit Kinetic.
  • MGUH= Motor Generator Unit Heat.
  • Fuel Flow Control (limit), has been imposed to improve fuel consumption and the increase from 12000 to 15000rpm will focus the engineers on reducing friction and gaining on engine efficiency, thus keeping Formula One in the technological lead within motorsport.

FOTA has already been angered by the announcement of Gilles Simon appointment as technical director at Craig Pollock's new engine manufacturer PURE. As reported by AUTOSPORT:

This has led to calls for the FIA to include a clause in contracts, preventing them working for a team in Formula One within two years of leaving their FIA role.


I can certainly understand the argument the other engine manufacturers are putting forward as the ex-Ferrari engine boss left his position within the FIA. As Jean Todt said on Gilles Simons departure:

After a very fruitful 18-month period at the FIA where he has been able to leave a significant legacy in the 2014 power train regulations, Gilles has been offered an opportunity at PURE that will enable him to make a substantial contribution to a new era in Formula One. I wish him a successful future.

- Jean Todt

With that ringing endorsement, no wonder the other engine manufacturers are seething, though I have to say it was great move by Craig Pollock at PURE, whether it will be rewarded with success, only time will tell.

Another point that might shed some light on why teams were not happy with the original plan of 4 pot engines came from none other than Adrian Newey of RBR. He stated during the European Grand Prix that the change to a V6 enables teams to carry the engine as a stressed member, whereas an inline-4 would have required a space frame (chassis design).

And as for those Formula One fans who are concerned about whether these engines will sound right, I can say with experience, although they may sound different, the turbos of the 80s, which I might add only revved to 12000rpm, sounded great, and I’m sure we have nothing to fear with regards the new 1.6l V6s that are coming our way in 2014.