Start, Sochi Autodrom, 2019

Ferrari power gains show F1 is an engine formula again – Wolff

2019 Russian Grand Prix

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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff says Ferrari’s resurgence shows Formula 1 has become “an engine formula” again.

Wolff had previously claimed engine performance had begun to converge between teams since the V6 hybrid turbo regulations were introduced in 2014. However he is surprised by the gains Ferrari have made with their power unit.

“It’s certainly an outlier because normally with maturing regulations to find these big steps is certainly unusual,” said Wolff.

“So as it stands it has become an engine formula, yes. We all need to understand how we can increase our engine performance and at the same time find the right power-to-drag ratio and understand the tyres, it’s a combination of these.”

He said the team will scrutinise their power unit closely to work out how to close the gap to Ferrari. “I think we need to look at all areas of the engine, if there’s some innovation that we should have spotted.

“Certainly in terms of the combustion in the engine, thermal efficiency gains that we can achieve from year to year, we’re speaking about not several percentages, we’re speaking of something below a per cent that is something that you can physically extract, year on year development. And with good mature regulations like we have now probably even less.

“So you need to be clever and innovative on all the other bits in the engine whilst daring a hundred percent of the regulations.”

However Wolff does not believe the team needs to change the philosophy behind its downforce-orientated car design for the 2020 F1 season. “It’s something we are looking at but you need to put it into perspective between a draggy a car and a not-draggy car,” he said.

“Probably the two extremes that you see on-track on the whole grid you would find two-tenths difference. This is what you can what you can extract in putting lots of bits of the car versus having a streamlined car. So it has not such a big specific effect – it has an effect but it’s not the main effect.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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39 comments on “Ferrari power gains show F1 is an engine formula again – Wolff”

  1. So is he saying Ferrari found something and now either his team will be able to copy it or will ask the FIA to forbid to do it?

    1. It is a roundabout way of saying ferrari found a way to get more oil into the combustion chamber than mercedes has been able to.

    2. He seems to be rephrasing what Dieter Rencken reported yesterday. Wasn’t it leaking oil into the combustion chamber from the intercooler?

      1. yes, that was it. Probably what he is doing yes.

    3. I’m not complaining about ferrari’s engine advantage because if it werent for that mercedes would have this years championship in the bag already, not that they dont already but ferrari wouldnt be able to make it more competitive as they are now. I want a closely fought championship. Give that mercedes car ferrari’s power advantage then no other team would have a chance.

  2. Sure, it’s an engine formula, that is why Toto is so concerned with fending off the Alfas and the Haases breathing down his neck.

    1. petebaldwin (@)
      1st October 2019, 13:25

      I think he meant “Works Engine Formula” because that’s what it’s been since 2014.

      1. Exactly, the bottom midfield cars all have mercedes and ferrari engines while the top
        3 midfield cars have Renault and Honda engines so how can you say this is an engine formula when the slowest cars on the grid have the best engines

  3. SparkyAMG (@)
    1st October 2019, 8:23

    “So you need to be clever and innovative on all the other bits in the engine whilst daring a hundred percent of the regulations.

    Subtle, but confirmation that the paddock suspects that Ferrari is still burning oil.

    If they’ve managed to do what’s been suggested (burning oil mist that’s ‘escaping’ from the intercooler) then kudos to them. Not at all in the spirit of the regulations but I admire the creativity of their engine department.

    I’m beyond caring about having things like this banned as I’m pro innovation, and Ferrari’s huge power unit gains have spiced up the races recently. Mercedes and Honda will figure it out if they haven’t already, and Renault look like they’ll be on their way out within the next 5 years anyway.

    1. So, it’s not the battery anymore, it’s the oil again?

      1. SparkyAMG (@)
        1st October 2019, 11:59

        @mg1982 yep, apparently so.

        I’ve no idea myself what kind of performance benefit you’d get from burning oil, and I’ve not paid much attention to the characteristics of the Ferrari power unit this season, however I do remember that last season everyone was confused about how those power units seemed to get an extra boost later on in the straight as opposed to at the beginning of the acceleration phase when you’d expect the electrical systems to be delivering power.

        If oil mist is passively being drawn into the combustion chambers it might only happen above certain velocities, which could explain the above characteristic. At least from a layman’s perspective.

        1. I’ve no idea myself what kind of performance benefit you’d get from burning oil,

          @sparkyamg – oil is combustible, and thinner fractions would act more like fuel when burnt. I believe the benefit comes from the fact that oil consumption/burn over time (e.g. per second) is unregulated, unlike fuel flow which is capped. So at those moments when peak power is required, you can end up burning 100 kg/hr of petrol + whatever oil that can be snuck into the system.

          Not that I am already a subscriber to the belief that we’re back at oil burning, but just explaining why oil burn is such a contested issue.

          1. SparkyAMG (@)
            1st October 2019, 13:34

            @phylyp yes, oil used in this way is essentially unregulated fuel which is of obvious benefit.

            I guess I was trying to get at the when and how this benefit would be realised if Ferrari are doing what has been suggested. I’d have thought that although intercooler oil isn’t regulated, I can’t imagine they’ve got big reservoir for it (too obvious) and they’d need to be very careful to supply enough of the stuff to do both its primary function within the cooling system and as a secondary fuel all race long.

            Unless the system isn’t passive and can be controlled by engine modes and/or overrides. That’d be too obvious as well though right?

          2. @sparkyamg – I shouldn’t have given a dumbed down explanation, sorry, your username should have been a hint in itself!

            Mmm, active vs. passive is an interesting question. Active will very well be a smoking gun admitting guilt – be it the hardware that controls it, or the software to manage it from the steering.

            Unless… do we know if F1 cars use variable geometry turbos? The actuator for moving the vanes could in turn be releasing a trickle of oil from the bearing under certain conditions. I know, the rumours are focused on the charge air cooler, not the turbo itself, but this feels like the only way they can mechanically control the amount of oil being injected.

          3. Burning oil in the cylinders seems a bit low tech, and unlikely to do wonderful things to engine life.

            Injecting oil and air into the exhaust and burning it there to increase the velocity of the gases going to the turbo would be a lot more fun. Essentially it’s a small jet engine powering a compressor, if they do that.

            They might also be doing things like using an oil mist as charge cooling, which is somewhat less unlikely than the jet engine thing seems.

            But really my money is on Ferrari putting up a smokescreen to hide a clever aerodynamic or suspension trick which is mainly responsible for their impressive acceleration on the straights.

  4. Very interesting – and amusing, in a piranhaish sense – to see a certain narrative being spun – careful nudge-nudge wink-winks to sections of the media from anonymous sources, and more judiciously worded statements from named sources.

  5. Indeed… That’s why LEC did not have a real chance at overtaking BOT for many laps.

    1. Well, they likely can’t do it so much during the race. If what Dieter Rencken wrote on this site yesterday – oil ‘escaping’ (of course completely unwanted and accidental, Ferrari will say), then it’s clear that with the limited oil allowance, it cannot be done for the whole race, and cooling might also be less efficient
      this way (don’t know either way, speculation) @mg1982

      Of course, so far Mercedes is still well ahead in both championships, so good thing that Ferrari are doing this now so they at least have something to fight with.

    2. It has been noticed Ferrari drivers have that ‘Jet mode’ available only during the qualifying, at the Start and safety car Restarts. They are not able to use it continuously in the race.

      1. I’m not entirely sure about that… they seemed to be able to keep their performance advantage for the whole race @ Monza. The Mercs couldn’t get close even with DRS.

    3. @mg1982 How many times can they use that boost?

  6. They don’t know what it is that Ferrari is doing. Everybody is shooting in the dark to see if they can hit something.

    Red Bull says it’s the fuel. “Anonymous” sources say it’s clever intercooler. Last year it was the double battery pack.

    I would say it’s investment and work, but I like guessing too. My bet is the MGU-H and gas recombination similar to what Ferrari patented a couple of years ago.

    But it is just an informed guess, like everyone’s.

    1. “Everybody is shooting in the dark to see if they can hit something”

      “My bet is the MGU-H and gas recombination similar to what Ferrari patented a couple of years ago. But it is just an informed guess”

      Only Facts – 2019


    2. Ferrari has less downforce, and that explain much of their advantage in acceleration.

  7. tony mansell
    1st October 2019, 9:58

    Well its not an engine formula its a power pack formula. Because if you remember Toto you and the rest of the manufacturers demanded f1 run hybrid or you’d leave the sport. You killed it for the purist but hey, you satisfied the accountants running your company and you got to win everything. But please don’t call it an ENGINE formula.

    1. Utterly wrong and/or a blatant lie!

      Mercedes was against new engine regulations just as much as Ferrari was. It was only Renault and potentially Volkswagen who were proponents of new engine regulations.

      1. No matter how many times that rumor has been comprehensively dispelled (I even got COTD for posting proof a while back), every so often someone comes back with the same nonsense about Mercedes demanding hybrid power. The facts are Ferrari wanted to keep the V8s, Renault wanted small displacement 4 cylinder engines, FOM wanted the hybrid bits & Mercedes didn’t care either way & just wanted to know what the hell they’d be building. In the end the V6 hybrids was the compromise.

  8. It has been since 2014.

    Why get upset about it Toto when after all you’ve had the best PUformostnofbthat time.

    It’s going to make a mess of Renault and Honda though – they were actually getting closer just before the break.

  9. Hmmm, it looks like it’s time for brand new engine rules ;)

  10. petebaldwin (@)
    1st October 2019, 13:22

    It’s been an engine formula since 2014. Just because another manufacturer has caught up doesn’t mean the situation is any different. If you have the fastest works engine, you’ll be consistently competing for pole. If you don’t have the fastest works engine, you won’t.

    It’s been the case for 5 years and will continue to be the case for the foreseeable future.

    1. @petebaldwin Mercedes and Ferrari were more or less equal in 2017. Ferrari pulled slightly ahead in 2018 while Renault and Honda came quite close to Mercedes.

      So it wasn’t an engine formula really in 2018, but now it certainly is again after suddenly Ferrari are pulling 8 tenths per lap ahead on the straights.

  11. I’m not quite sure I understand what all the noise is about. Vettel was on the faster tire and when he pitted on lap 25 he was @ 5 seconds ahead of Hamilton, with the largest gap being @ 7 seconds. Given the different compounds, I don’t think those gaps are beyond what would have been expected if the engines were identical.

    1. @velocityboy Ferrari has that boost only a few times. So they can use it only in Q3, the start and perhaps a SC restart.

  12. RocketTankski
    1st October 2019, 16:04

    Formula Mobil 1

  13. Ferrari speed in straights is down to the aerodynamic design too. There’s not such power advantage that Mercedes is saying. Otherwise Haas or Alfa would have a great advantage in the midfield battle.

  14. I weep for Toto, they have only won 90% of all there is to win over a 6 seasons mostly down to the PU.

  15. Oh.. that’s why Williams are doing so well. Wait… it’s a combination of chassis, aero and PU..

  16. This is a joke. Ferrari fix their front wing and its an engine formula.

    This coming after being faster on the straights all year. Ferrari resurgence is the best hope this season has for some entertainment. Mercedes are now bringing up their competitor in the eyes of the public, so when they win it seems like it was almost impossible to do so.

    Ferrari still need to stop shooting them-self in the foot.

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