Formula One Engines

The power a Formula One engine produces is generated by operating at high rotational speeds reaching over 18,000 RPM.

Formula 1 engines are currently (2012), four stroke V8 naturally aspirated reciprocating engines which converts pressure in the combustion chambers which is by means of pistons, conrods and crankshaft transferred into a rotating motion. These engines produce approximately 300 bhp, (brake horse power). The engine is also know as a piston engine which is a heat engine that uses one or more reciprocating pistons to convert pressure.

Until the early years of the 1980’s F1 engines were limited to 12,500 RPM due to the traditional steel valve springs used in engines which could not rev much higher without catastrophic failure, due to metal fatigue and 'valve bounce'. Renault replaced these valve springs with pneumatic valve springs, (light weight compressed air bellows). The speed required to operate the engines valves at a higher RPM was greater than this introduced in the 1980s in a Renault 1.5 liter turbocharged engine. Pneumatic valve springs used in turbocharged engines is often said to be the most powerful engines.

Since the early 1990’s all F1 engine manufacturers moved to pneumatic valve springs for their engines with the pressurized air allowing engines to reach rotational speeds of up to 20,000 RPM.    

To operate at high RPM engine speeds the crankshaft stroke must be relatively short. Having a short stroke means that a large bore is required to make the 2.4 litre required displacement. The stroke of the crankshaft of an F1 engine is approximately 30.7 mm, which is less than half as long as the cylinder bore is wide at 98.0 mm. This essentially produces an over square 'bore x stroke' engine configuration.

For each stroke, the piston goes from zero speed to almost two times the mean speed, which equates to almost 40 metres per second and then back to zero in one turn. This will occur 4 times for each of the four strokes in the cycle.  


Engine size was reduced to 2.5 L. 750 cc


In 1961 the new reduced 1.5 L engine took control of F1


In 1966, the FIA increased engine capacity to 3.0 L atmospheric and 1.5 L supercharged engines.


Following the turbo domination, forced induction was allowed for two seasons before its eventual ban.


Turbochargers were banned from the 1989 F1 season, leaving only a naturally aspirated 3.5 L formula.


This era used a 3.0 L engine, with a power range between 650 Hp or 485 kW and 950 Hp or 708 kW.

In 2005, the 3.0 L V10 engine was permitted with no more than 5 valves per cylinder.


For 2006, the engines had to be 90° V8 of 2.4 litres maximum capacity with a 98 mm maximum bore x 39.7 mm minimum stroke. 2009 saw the exit of Honda from Formula 1. Cosworth returned in 2010. The new season also saw the withdrawal of the BMW and Toyota engines.


The FIA has recently announced the intention to change the 2.4 litre V8 engines to 1.6 litre V6 turbocharged engines including 'energy recovery systems' for 2014. The engines would also be limited to 15,000 RPM. Energy recovery systems will harvest power from the brakes and exhaust gases.

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