All engines are equal, but some are more equal than others (updated)

February 1, 2010

The last time the Cosworth name appeared was on a 2006 Williams

As the Valencia test gets underway this week, aside from the car and driver comparisons that can be drawn, the one I’m going to be looking out for is engines. Admittedly Valencia is not likely to be an ‘engine’ circuit, but the performance of the engines, both in power, reliability and fuel economy is going to be a critical factor in explaining the performance of the teams in 2010. Fuel economy is a potentially critical issue as there will be no in-race refuelling and so the ability of the engine to require less fuel to complete a race is going to be a big competitive advantage. An announcement was made recently that the 2009 spec engines would not be ‘equalised’ . The FIA had given the engine suppliers the opportunity to adjust down the more powerful units if there was a view that there was an inequality, but it looks like (surprise, surprise) this could not be agreed. Of course this did not include Cosworth who have based their 2010 power unit on their 2006 spec engine. The engine was originally designed to run at 20,000rpm and will now run at the regulated 18,000.

The word on the street is that, of the 2009 engines, the Mercedes and Renault power units are likely to be the best combination in power and economy, with the Ferrari engine looking to be thirstier. Commentators have noted that Ferrari have recently registered a number of ‘reliability upgrades’ which are allowed under the regulations, which have been interpreted as Ferrari trying to address this problem. One of the most successful corporate and technological partnerships in F1 is that between Ferrari and Shell, in the past Shell have worked with Ferrari to develop fuels that both weighed less and gave a power advantage, I’m sure, if there is a problem, that it will be addressed before too long. But the really interesting question is how well the Cosworth engine will perform. The message I’m hearing from the Cosworth people is a bullish one, they are optimistic that they will be right up there in terms of performance and economy, however there are concerns that as the team have not run an engine in F1 since they partnered Williams in 2006, there could be reliability issues. Either way it will be interesting to look at the times at Valencia in terms of engines as well as cars and drivers.

Valencia first session, it looks like the engine order is Ferrari (Ferrari, Sauber); Mercedes (Mercedes, McLaren), Cosworth (Williams) and then Renault (I’ve excluded Toro Rosse [Ferrari] on the assumption that their poor performance is due to the fact that they’ve had to design their own chassis for the first time!)

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