Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Further thoughts on the Brazilian Grand Prix

Set for a turbo charge
The Brazilian Grand Prix wasn't short on farewells as mentioned. And among the most prominent of these was that it was the scene of the final bow of the current engine spec: V8 2.4 litre units which are to be replaced by V6 1.6 litre turbo hybrids next campaign.

This got rather a lot of ceremony: tributes in the TV coverage throughout the weekend ('let's listen to these engines one last time' seemed a common refrain), references on the internet to 'the glorious V8 era' as well as even some teams revving their units until they went pop, or very nearly pop, after the Interlagos race. But I for one refrained from offering a fond send off.

V6 turbo units are to return to F1 in 2014
Credit: Morio / CC
Partly this is down to the engines being got rid of; I can't say I have much love for the 2.4 litre V8 engines. Although towards the end they did have the virtue that they already existed, and were subject to a development freeze, in an age wherein most F1 cars weren't big on spare cash, as Martin Brundle commented the engines are also 'gutless', and their spec seemed to evolve only in a ham-fisted attempt to control costs.

Further, I am an unashamed enthusiast for the turbo units that await next year. The new engines are absolutely in keeping with a key part of F1 (and for a lot of motor sport more generally), that it improves the breed. The turbos with ERS and the like is exactly the sort of things the car industry is looking to develop right now and for the immediate future, with V8s precisely what they are not looking to. To quote Ross Brawn: 'We're not going to get manufacturers to come in with the V8 normally aspirated engine that we have now. No-one's interested. We've got to create fresh opportunities for new manufacturers to come in because who's going to come in and build a V8 18,000rpm engine? The new engine gives a fresh opportunity and it's a more relevant specification for manufacturers.'

F1 also had to act. It seemed pretty much an open secret that without change Renault would be off, and Mercedes's continuation wasn't clear either. And with Cosworth on the way out anyway that could have left us with a grand total of one engine supplier (Ferrari). As it is with the new spec of engines we have three manufacturers committed as well as one more to come in for 2015 in Honda. Of course there are concerns about the cost, and it's been admitted that the regs were slightly botched in that regard. But ultimately the positives outweigh the negatives.

And I'm really excited about how the big brains of F1 move the turbo/hybrid technology on. F1 attracts the best and the brightest and this, combined with the intensity of competition, usually ensures rapid technological progress (only war rivals it, and F1 for all of its faults is much less harmful than war!). We have witnessed already that in a few months of the 2009 season wherein a handful of F1 teams used KERS that the technology went from something almost entirely abandoned by the car industry to something that features routinely on cars in the showroom. How F1 advances such hybrid technology will also be a fantastic, and overdue, good news story for the sport.

F1's all about looking ahead, and in the case of the engines I believe we have plenty of reasons to do so eagerly.


  1. Spot on! I don't know why it became a truism that F1 won't really be F1 without small V8s revving to ungodly RPMs. Personally, I'm happy with the new spec, and with the return of torque to F1.

    1. Thanks Rick :) I was actually surprised by the amount of lamenting over the passing of the V8s over last weekend. I assumed most people would be like me and not be too bothered to see them go!