Could Formula One Return To Screaming V8 Engines?

Illustration for article titled Could Formula One Return To Screaming V8 Engines?

As we near the end of the 2014 Formula One season, one thing has become readily apparent: almost everyone hates these supposedly amazing new turbo hybrid V6 engines. Most teams despise their hefty costs, and fans and drivers alike bemoan their underwhelming noise. Could there be a return to V8 power?


That's what some in the F1 world are suggesting, if you can believe it. Teams, especially smaller ones, blame some of their financial woes on the immense increase in costs brought on by the newer, more expensive, but lower-revving and quieter V6 engines.

One agent for change is Red Bull F1 chief Christian Horner, who groused about the new motors at the Brazilian Grand Prix last weekend, according to BBC Sport. Horner has threatened to partner with rival teams to "tear up restrictions on engine development" from 2016 on.

Horner has blamed the adoption of new turbo hybrid engines this season for the problems of the small teams, because engine bills have at least doubled. He said F1 ought to consider a return to the previous outdated V8 normally aspirated engines.

"Nobody likes to go backwards but sometimes desperate means require desperate measures," he said.

"You look at the costs of these power units. How sustainable is it for all the teams and indeed the manufacturers?

Horner added that it's "extremely unlikely" that we would see a return to V8s, but that it could happen if teams push for it in a rational way.

Another opponent of the new V6 engines, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, is F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone. While it's strange to agree with Ecclestone on anything, he's been critical of the new motors all season. Here's what he said to Autoweek:

"We need to change the regulations," the F1 chief executive said a week ago. "We're going to try to get rid of these [V6] engines. "They don't do anything for anybody. They're not Formula One," he insisted.


Smaller teams like Lotus and Force India have also openly criticized the new engines, particularly the associated cost. Lotus owner Gerard Lopez said nobody wanted them in the first place.

One team adamantly against change of any sort is Mercedes. And why would they want things to change? The Mercedes cars and engines have easily dominated the field this season; they don't want to do anything that could affect their winning streak.


In fact, according to Autoweek, Mercedes' non-executive chairman and retired champion Niki Lauda said that if there's a return to V8s, the Silver Arrows will take their ball and go home: "If V8 comes back," Lauda said, "Mercedes will be gone.

But before we can even talk about reviving the V8 power, there will first be a push to "unfreeze" engine development so the V6 motors can be further revamped for the 2015 season. However, Mercedes is pushing against that too, so talks seem unlikely to be going anywhere at the moment.



There will already be a partial unfreeze so motors can be worked on during the offseason pre-2015.

I don't know what to think about the engine regs. On one hand, what is happening is more or less what _should_ happen in a non-spec-series: They set a bunch of engine rules, Mercedes made the best engine and car, and are reaping their rewards, just like RB did from 2010-2013 by making the best car. At least MB is employing two actual racing drivers so that there's still a battle at the front. It'd be unfair to change the rules just because everyone else did a shitty job.

On the other hand, it would be nice for the races to be a bit more competitive.

The cost argument for the engine rule change is pretty dumb though: In any form of racing, people will spend their budget fully. Marussia/Caterham would be just as uncompetitive and bankrupt in a V8-engined F1 as they are in the V6-engined F1. If Merc/Ferrari/RB are spending $400M no matter the engine and the small teams are bringing $60M to the table, it doesn't matter if they spend 1/3rd on engines or 1/8th on engines, they're still going to suck. If money distribution is a problem, the solution is to change the prize rules, not to de-tech the series.