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Formula One engines

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Formula One engines

Since its inception in 1947, Formula One has used a variety of engine regulations. "Formulas" limiting engine capacity had been used in Grand Prix racing on a regular basis since after World War I. The engine formulae are divided according to era.


Formula One currently uses 1.6 litre four-stroke turbocharged 90 degree V6 reciprocating engines.[1]

The power a Formula One engine produces is generated by operating at a very high rotational speed, up to 15,000 revolutions per minute (RPM).[2] This contrasts with road car engines of a similar size which typically operate at less than 6,000 rpm. The basic configuration of a naturally aspirated Formula One engine had not been greatly modified since the 1967 Cosworth DFV and the mean effective pressure had stayed at around 14 bar MEP.[3] Until the mid-1980s Formula One engines were limited to around 12,000 rpm due to the traditional metal valve springs used to close the valves. The speed required to operate the engine valves at a higher RPM called for ever stiffer springs, which increased the power loss to drive the camshaft and the valves to the point where the loss nearly offset the power gain through the increase in rpm. They were replaced by pneumatic valve springs introduced by Renault,[4][5] which inherently have a rising rate (progressive rate) that allowed them to have extremely high spring rate at larger valve strokes without much increasing the driving power requirements at smaller strokes, thus lowering the overall power loss. Since the 1990s, all Formula One engine manufacturers used pneumatic valve springs with the pressurised air allowing engines to reach speeds of nearly 20,000 rpm.[5]

Short stroke engine

Formula one engines use short stroke engines. These engines are common in racing motorcycles and streetbikes.[6] The bore is the diameter of the cylinder in the engine block, and the stroke is the distance the piston travels from top dead-centre (TDC) to bottom dead-centre (BDC) inside the cylinder. To operate at high engine speeds the stroke must be relatively short to prevent catastrophic failure; this is usually connecting rod failure as the rod is under very large stresses at these speeds. Having a short stroke means that a relatively large bore is required to make the 2.4 litre engine displacement. This results in a less efficient combustion stroke, especially at lower RPM. The stroke of a Formula One engine is approximately 39.7 mm (1.56 in), less than half the bore diameter (98.0 mm), what is known as an over-square configuration.

In addition to the use of pneumatic valve springs a Formula One engine's high RPM output has been made possible due to advances in metallurgy and design allowing lighter pistons and connecting rods to withstand the accelerations necessary to attain such high speeds, also by narrowing the connecting rod ends allowing for narrower main bearings. This allows for higher RPM with less bearing-damaging heat build-up. For each stroke, the piston goes from a null speed, to almost two times the mean speed, (approximately 40 m/s) then back to zero. This will occur four times for each of the four strokes in the cycle. Maximum piston acceleration occurs at top dead center and is in the region of 95,000 m/s2, about 10,000 times standard gravity or 10,000 g.


This Alfa Romeo 159 supercharged straight-8 engine of 1950s could produce up to 425 bhp.

Formula One engines have come through a variety of regulations, manufacturers and configurations through the years.[7]


This era used pre-war voiturette engine regulations, with 4.5 L atmospheric and 1.5 L supercharged engines. The Indianapolis 500 (which was a round of the World Drivers' Championship from 1950 onwards) used pre-war Grand Prix regulations, with 4.5 L atmospheric and 3.0 L supercharged engines. The power range was up to 425 hp (317 kW).

In 1952 and 1953, the World Drivers' Championship was run to Formula 2 regulations, but the existing Formula One regulations remained in force and a number of Formula One races were still held in those years.

A 2.5 L V8 in the Lancia-Ferrari D50


Engine size was reduced to 2.5 L. 750 cc supercharged cars were allowed but no constructor built one for the World Championship. The Indianapolis 500 continued to use old pre-war regulations. The power range was up to 290 hp (216 kW).


Porsche 804 had a cooling fan to cool the air-cooled flat-8 engine.

Introduced in 1961 amidst some criticism, the new reduced engine 1.5 L formula took control of F1 just as every team and manufacturer switched from front to mid-engined cars. Although these were initially underpowered, five years later average power had increased by nearly 50% and lap times were better than in 1960. The old 2.5 L formula had been retained for International Formula racing, but this didn't achieve much success until the introduction of the Tasman Series in Australia and New Zealand during the winter season, leaving the 1.5 L cars as the fastest single seaters in Europe during this time. The power range was between 150 hp (112 kW) and 225 hp (168 kW).

A 1968 British Racing Motors H16, 64-valve, Formula One engine.


A Cosworth DFV 3 litre V8 Formula One engine.
Renault 1.5 litre turbo engine

In 1966, with sports cars capable of outrunning Formula 1 cars thanks to much larger and more powerful engines, the FIA increased engine capacity to 3.0 L atmospheric and 1.5 L compressed engines. Although a few manufacturers had been clamouring for bigger engines, the transition wasn't smooth and 1966 was a transitional year, with 2.0 L versions of the BRM and Coventry-Climax V8 engines being used by several entrants. The appearance of the standard-produced Cosworth DFV in 1967 made it possible for small manufacturers to join the series with a chassis designed in-house. Compression devices were allowed for the first time since 1960, but it wasn't until 1977 until a company actually had the finance and interest of building one, when Renault debuted their new Gordini V6 Turbo at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone that year. It was in 1980 that Renault proved that turbocharging was the way to go in order to stay competitive in Formula One (particularly at high-altitude circuits like Kyalami in South Africa and Interlagos in Brazil) ; this engine had a considerable power advantage against the Ford-Cosworth DFV, Ferrari and Alfa Romeo naturally aspirated engines. Following this, Ferrari introduced their all-new turbocharged engine in 1981. Following these developments, Brabham owner Bernie Ecclestone managed to get BMW to make the team turbocharged inline-4 engines from 1982 onwards. And in 1983, Alfa Romeo made a turbocharged V8 engine, and in the same year and following years, Honda, Porsche (badged as TAG), Ford-Cosworth and other smaller companies made turbo-charged engines, mostly twin-turbocharged V6's. By the midpoint of 1985, every competing team had a turbocharged engine in their car. And by 1986, the power figures were becoming quite crazy- all of the engines had unrestricted turbo boost in qualifying, where they were developing 1,350+ hp at 5.5 bar boost (80 psi). These engines and gearboxes would only last about 2-3 laps, and for the race, the turbocharger's boost was restricted to ensure engine reliability; but the engines still produced 950-1000 hp during the race. The power range from 1966 to 1986 was between 285 hp (210 kW) to 500 hp (370 kW), turbos 500 hp (370 kW) to 900 hp (670 kW) in race, in qualifying up to 1,300 hp (970 kW). Following their experiences at Indianapolis, in 1971 Lotus made a few unsuccessful experiments with a Pratt & Whitney turbine fitted to chassis which had also 4WD.


Following the turbo domination, forced induction was allowed for two seasons before its eventual ban. The FIA regulations limited boost pressure, to 4 bar in qualifying in 1987 for 1.5 L turbo; and allowed a bigger 3.5 L formula. These seasons were still dominated by turbocharged engines, the Honda RA167E V6 supplying Nelson Piquet winning the 1987 Formula One season on a Williams also winning the constructors championship, followed by TAG-Porsche P01 V6 in McLaren then Honda again with the previous RA166E for Lotus then Ferrari's own 033D V6.

A 1988 Honda RA168E turbocharged V6 engine.

The rest of the grid was powered by the Ford GBA V6 turbo with Benetton, then the only naturally aspirated engine, the DFV-derived Ford Cosworth DFZ 3.5 L V8 outputting 575 hp (429 kW) in Tyrrell, Lola, AGS, March and Coloni.[8] The BMW M12/13 inline four was found in Brabhams BT55 tilted almost horizontally, and in upright position under the Megatron brand in Arrows and Ligier, producing 900 bhp (670 kW) at 3.8 bar in race.[9] Zakspeed was building its own turbo inline four, Alfa Romeo was to power the Ligiers with an inline four but the deal fell through after initial testing had been carried out. Alfa was still represented by its old 890T V8 used by Osella, and Minardi was powered by a Motori Moderni V6.

The 1988 Formula One season was again dominated by turbocharged engines limited to 2.5 bar and Honda with its RA168E turbo V6 producing 675 hp (503 kW) at 12500 rpm in qualifying, this time with McLaren drivers Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost winning all the grands prix except one won by Ferrari with its 033E V6 with about 690 hp (515 kW) at 12800 rpm in qualifying. Just behind, Ford introduced its DFR 3.5 L V8 producing 620 hp (462 kW) at 11000 rpm for Benetton, and the Megatron BMW M12/13 was still powering Arrows ahead of the Lotus-Honda. Judd introduced its CV 3.5 L V8 for March, Williams and Ligier, and the rest of the grid was mainly using previous year's Ford Cosworth DFZ except Zakspeed and the Alfa-Romeo for Osella.


A 1990 Renault RS2 V10 engine.

Turbochargers were banned from the Yamaha OX88 75° V8 in Zakspeed cars. Ford started to try its new design, the 75° V8 HBA 1 with Benetton.

A 1990 W12 3.5 Formula One engine from the Life F1 car

The Leyton House and Brabham cars. The two new contenders were the Life which built for themselves an F35 W12 with three four cylinders banks at 60°, and Subaru giving Coloni a 1235 flat 12 from Motori Moderni

A 1991 Honda RA121E V12 engine.

Honda was still leading the Modena and Ligier. Ilmor introduced its LH10, a 680 hp (507 kW) at 13000 rpm V10 which eventually became the Mercedes with Leyton House and Porsche sourced a little successful 3512 V12 to Footwork Arrows; the rest of the field was Ford DFR powered.

By the end of the 1994 season, Ferrari's 043 was putting out 820 hp (611 kW) at 15,800 rpm.[10]


This Ferrari 3.0 litre V12 F1 engine (1995) produced 700 hp (522 kW) at 17,000 rpm
A 2004 Ferrari model 054 V10 engine of the Ferrari F2004

This era used a 3.0 L formula, with a power range between 650 hp (485 kW) and 950 hp (708 kW). Renault was the dominant engine supplier between 1990 and 1997, winning five world championships with Williams and Benetton. From 1998 to 2000 it was Mercedes power that ruled giving Mika Häkkinen two world championships. Ferrari gradually got better with their engine. For 1996, they changed from their traditional V12 engine to a smaller and lighter V10 engine. They preferred reliability to power, losing out to Mercedes in terms of outright power initially. At the 1998 Japanese GP, Ferrari's 047D engine spec was said to produce over 800 bhp (600 kW). From 2000 they were never short of power nor reliability.

BMW started supplying their engines to Williams from 2000. In the first season, the engine was very reliable though slightly short of power compared to Ferrari and Mercedes units. BMW went straight forward with its engine development. The P81, used during the 2001 season, was able to hit 17,810 rpm. Unfortunately reliability was a big issue with several blowups during the season.

The BMW P82, the engine used by the BMW WilliamsF1 Team in 2002, had hit a peak speed of 19,050 revolutions a minute in its final evolutionary stage. It was also the first engine in the 3.0 litre V10-era to break through the 19,000 rpm-wall, during 2002 Austria Grand Prix's qualifying.[11] BMW's P83 engine used in 2003 season managed an impressive 19,200 rpm and cleared the 900 bhp (670 kW) mark and weighs less than 200 lb (91 kg).[12]

In 2005, the 3.0 L V10 engine was permitted no more than 5 valves per cylinder.[13] Also, the FIA introduced new regulations limiting each car to one engine per two Grand Prix weekends, putting the emphasis on increased reliability and decreased power output. BMW and Mercedes engines had about 930 bhp (690 kW) in this season. Renault, Honda, Toyota and Ferrari had about 900 bhp (670 kW).


For 2006, the engines had to be 90° V8 of 2.4 litres maximum capacity with a 98 mm (3.9 in) maximum circular bore, which implies a 39.8 mm (1.57 in) stroke at maximum bore. They had to have two circular inlet and exhaust valves per cylinder, be normally aspirated and have a 95 kg (209 lb) minimum weight. The previous year's engines with a rev-limiter were permitted for 2006 and 2007 for teams who were unable to acquire a V8 engine, with Scuderia Toro Rosso using a Cosworth V10, after Red Bull's takeover of the former Minardi team did not include the new engines.[14]

Pre-cooling air before it enters the cylinders, injection of any substance other than air and fuel into the cylinders, variable-geometry intake and exhaust systems, and variable valve timing were forbidden. Each cylinder could have only one fuel injector and a single plug spark ignition. Separate starting devices were used to start engines in the pits and on the grid. The crankcase and cylinder block had to be made of cast or wrought aluminium alloys. The crankshaft and camshafts had to be made from an iron alloy, pistons from an aluminium alloy and valves from alloys based on iron, nickel, cobalt or titanium. These restrictions were in place to reduce development costs on the engines.[15]

The reduction in capacity was designed to give a power reduction of around 20% from the three litre engines, to reduce the increasing speeds of Formula One cars. Despite this, in many cases, performance of the car improved. In 2006 Toyota F1 announced an approximate 740 hp (552 kW) output at 19000 rpm for its new RVX-06 engine,[16] but real figures are of course difficult to obtain.

The engine specification was frozen in 2007 to keep development costs down. The engines which were used in the 2006 Japanese Grand Prix were used for the 2007 and 2008 seasons and they were limited to 19,000 rpm. In 2009 the limit was reduced to 18,000 rpm with each driver allowed to use a maximum of 8 engines over the season. Any driver needing an additional engine is penalised 10 places on the starting grid for the first race the engine is used. This increases the importance of reliability, although the effect is only seen towards the end of the season. Certain design changes intended to improve engine reliability may be carried out with permission from the FIA. This has led to some engine manufacturers, notably Ferrari and Mercedes, exploiting this ability by making design changes which not only improve reliability, but also boost engine power output as a side effect. As the Mercedes engine was proven to be the strongest, re-equalisations of engines were allowed by the FIA to allow other manufacturers to match the power.[17]

2009 saw the exit of Honda from Formula 1. The team was acquired by Ross Brawn, creating Brawn GP and the BGP 001. With the absence of the Honda engine, Brawn GP retrofitted the Mercedes engine to the BGP 001 chassis. The newly branded team won both the Constructors' Championship and the Drivers' Championship from better-known and better-established contenders Ferrari, McLaren-Mercedes, and Renault.

Cosworth, absent since the 2006 season, returned in 2010. New teams Lotus Racing, HRT, and Virgin Racing, along with the established Williams, used this engine. The season also saw the withdrawal of the BMW and Toyota engines, as the car companies withdrew from Formula One due to the recession.[18]


The FIA announced the intention to change the 2.4-litre V8 engines to 1.6 litre V6 turbo engines including energy recovery systems [19] and containing fuel flow restrictions, in order to make Formula One more environmentally aware and to attract more commercial partners for 2014. The engines are limited to 15,000 rpm, but rarely exceed 12,000 rpm during Grand Prix due to the new reliability and fuel flow restrictions.[20]

Of the previous suppliers, only Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault produced engines to the new formula in 2014. Honda[21] is set to return in 2015 with their own engine, partnering McLaren who used Mercedes power for the 2014 season.

The new formula reintroduced turbocharged engines, which last appeared in 1988. These have their efficiency improved by turbo-compounding and introduce more energy recovery systems – with power to be harvested from the brakes and exhaust gases.[22] The original proposal for four-cylinder turbocharged engines was not welcomed by the racing teams, in particular Ferrari. Adrian Newey stated during the 2011 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. A compromise was reached to adopt V6 turbocharged engines instead.[22]

Engine specification progression

Years Other than
4 Stroke piston
engines[note 1]
Engine displacement (max.) Revolution
Cylinders Fuel
Naturally aspirated Super- or
Alcohol Gasoline
2014[note 2] Prohibited 1.6L[note 3][23][24] 15,000 rpm 90° V6 5.75%[note 4] Unleaded
Pump[note 5]
2009-2013[note 6] 2.4L Prohibited 18,000 rpm 90° V8
2008 19,000 rpm
2007 Prohibited
2006[note 7][25] Unrestricted
2000-2005 3.0L V10
1999 Up to 12
1995-1998 Unleaded
1992-1994 3.5L
1989-1991 Unrestricted
1987-1988 1.5L, 4bar Unrestricted
1986 Prohibited 1.5L
1981-1985 3.0L
1966-1980 Unspecified
1963–1965 1.5L (1.3L min.) Prohibited Pump[26]
1961-1962 Unrestricted
1958-1960 2.5L 0.75L
1954–1957 Unrestricted
1947–1953[note 8] 4.5L 1.5L
  1. ^ 2 Stroke, Gas Turbine, Rotary, etc.
  2. ^ Kinetic(brake) and heat(exhaust) energy recovery systems allowed.
  3. ^ Normally aspirated engines are not prohibited. Boost pressure is not limited, but fuel flow rate (which was not regulated up to 2013) is limited to 100kg per hour. (This translates to about 3.5bar with the specified fuel at the maximum rpm.)
  4. ^ 5.75% bio-sourced alcohol content is required in pump-gas.
  5. ^ 'Pump-Gas' means gasoline and additive composition available at ordinary gas-stations.
  6. ^ Kinetic(braking) energy recovery system (KERS) was allowed from 2010, and used from 2011.
  7. ^ For 2006 and 2007, FIA reserved the right to give special dispensations to teams (without access to new 2.4L engine) to use 2005 spec 3L engines with a rev-limiter. This dispensation was given to Scuderia Toro Rosso in 2006.
  8. ^ For 1952 and 1953, World Championship races were run to Formula Two rules (0.75L with compressor, 2L without), but Formula One regulations remained intact.

World Championship Grand Prix wins by engine manufacturer

Figures correct as of the end of the 2014 season

Bold indicate that this engine manufacturer competed in Formula One in the 2014 season.

Rank Engine Wins First win Latest win
1 Ferrari 222 1951 British Grand Prix 2013 Spanish Grand Prix
2 Ford 176 1967 Dutch Grand Prix 2003 Brazilian Grand Prix
3 Renault 168 1979 French Grand Prix 2014 Belgian Grand Prix
4 Mercedes 115 1954 French Grand Prix 2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
5 Honda 72 1965 Mexican Grand Prix 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix
6 Coventry Climax 40 1958 Argentine Grand Prix 1965 German Grand Prix
7 TAG 25 1984 Brazilian Grand Prix 1987 Portuguese Grand Prix
8 BMW 20 1982 Canadian Grand Prix 2008 Canadian Grand Prix
9 BRM 18 1959 Dutch Grand Prix 1972 Monaco Grand Prix
10 Alfa Romeo 12 1950 British Grand Prix 1978 Italian Grand Prix
11 Maserati 11 1953 Italian Grand Prix 1967 South African Grand Prix
11 Offenhauser 11 1950 Indianapolis 500* 1960 Indianapolis 500*
13 Vanwall 9 1957 British Grand Prix 1958 Morocco Grand Prix
14 Repco 8 1966 French Grand Prix 1967 Canadian Grand Prix
15 Mugen Honda 4 1996 Monaco Grand Prix 1999 Italian Grand Prix
16 Matra 3 1977 Swedish Grand Prix 1981 Canadian Grand Prix
17 Porsche 1 1962 French Grand Prix
17 Weslake 1 1967 Belgian Grand Prix

* The Indianapolis 500 was part of the World Drivers' Championship from 1950 to 1960.


  1. ^ Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (2014-01-23). "2014 FORMULA ONE TECHNICAL REGULATIONS". Retrieved 2014-02-27. 
  2. ^ Engine / gearbox Understanding the Sport, Official Formula 1 Website
  3. ^ F1 Engine Power Secrets, Ian Bamsey, June 2000 RACER magazine
  4. ^ Scarborough, Craig. "Technically Challenged: Renault Innovations in Formula One". Atlas F1. Archived from the original on 24 August 2009. Retrieved 4 June 2012. 
  5. ^ a b Taulbut, Derek. "Note 89 - TurboCharging background". Grand Prix Engine Development 1906 - 2000. Archived from the original on 4 June 2012. Retrieved 4 June 2012. 
  6. ^ "Why do big diesel engines and race car engines have such different horsepower ratings?". HowStuffWorks. Retrieved April 2, 2014. 
  7. ^ Leo Breevoort; Dan Moakes; Mattijs Diepraam (22 February 2007). "World Championship Grand Prix engine designations and configurations". 6th Gear. 
  8. ^ "STATS F1 • Engines". StatsF1. 
  9. ^ Remi Humbert. "BMW Turbo F1 Engine". Gurneyflap. 
  10. ^ "A Genius Named Todt". Retrieved 13 February 2011. 
  11. ^ "Williams F1 – BMW P84/85 Engine". Retrieved 13 February 2011. 
  12. ^ Roy McNeill, Copyright BMW World 1999–2005 (22 September 2003). "BMW World – Picture of the Week". 
  13. ^ 2005 Formula One technical regulations. FIA
  14. ^  
  15. ^ 2006 Formula One technical regulations, chapter five, 15 December 2005
  16. ^ F1 technical, Toyota TF106 Specification, 14 January 2006
  17. ^ "F1 News: FIA agrees to engine re-equalisation".  
  18. ^ "Are there enough engines in F1 in 2010?". Inside F1. Retrieved 2 June 2011. 
  19. ^ "FIA Formula One World Championship Power Unit Regulations".  
  20. ^ "Teams are keeping revs under 12000 rpm". Retrieved 11 October 2014. 
  21. ^ Straw, Edd (16 May 2013) Honda confirms 2015 F1 return as McLaren engine supplier. Retrieved on 1 October 2013.
  22. ^ a b Allen, James (20 April 2011). "F1 set for electric only in the pit lane?". Retrieved 2 June 2011. 
  23. ^ "How Formula One's Amazing New Hybrid Turbo Engine Works". 2014-01-22. Retrieved 2014-08-09. 
  24. ^ Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (2014-01-23). "2014 FORMULA ONE TECHNICAL REGULATIONS". Article 5.1 on p.21. Retrieved 2014-08-12. 
  25. ^ "2006 Formula One Technical Regulations". 
  26. ^ "F1 rules and stats 1960-1969". 2009-01-01. Retrieved 2014-08-09. 

External links

  • Formula One Engines In-depth article covering facts, evolution and tech specs of F1 engines
  • Racecar Engineering F1 Engines
  • Viva F1 Engine Cycle Statistics
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