During 1954 to 1960 engines used is formula 1 were restricted to a maximum capacity of 2500cc (normally aspirated) or 750cc (forced induction).  For  the 1961 season this was changed, with forced induction banned and engines required to be between 1300 and 1500cc.  The capacity reduction is comparable to that we are seeing this year, with the old 2400cc normally aspirated V8’s being replaced with 1600cc turbo charged V6’s.

In 1960 some observers were complaining that the new formula for ’61 would not be F1 any longer, and several threatened that they would never watch again.  If the internet had been around at the time I am sure blogs and message forums would have been full of discussions about how this would fundamentally change the sport.  The change however was far more dramatic than that imposed this year, as for 2014 we have turbo charged engines and an enhanced Energy Recovery System that will mean the maximum power output is very similar to than available in 2013.  In 1961 the power dropped dramatically (from 290 bhp for the most powerful 2.5 litre engines down to 150 bhp for some of the first 1.5 litre examples).  Importantly the racing did not suffer, with some giant killing victories achieved by independent Lotus driver Stirling Moss, despite the power deficit to the all-conquering Ferraris (Innes Ireland’s victory in the final race of the year for the works Lotus team was without the Ferrari team present, as they had already won both championships).

The change in engine regulations changed the engine manufactures who supplied the sport.  While some like Ferrari, Climax and Maserati continued, others like Aston Martin, BRM, Castellotti,Scarab and Vanwall stopped their participation in Formula 1.  Some manufacturers entered the smaller eengined cars a year early like Porsche (who were present at the first race of 1960), Ferrari and Climax (who put a 1.5 litre car out late in the season.  While some new manufacturers were attracted to supply the smaller engines (Alfa Romeo and Osca).  The table below shows the range of engines used in 1960 and 1961.

1960 1961
Aston Martin 2.5 Straight 6

BRM 2.5 Straight 4

Castellotti 2.5 Straight 4

Climax 2.5 Straight 4

Climax 2.0 Straight 4

Climax 1.5 Straight 4

Ferrari 2.4 V6

Ferrari 1.5 V6

Maserati 2.5 Straight 4

Maserati 2.5 Straight 6

Porsche 1.5 Flat 4

Scarab 2.5 Straight 4

Vanwall 2.5 Straight 4

Alfa Romeo 1.5 Straight 4

Climax 1.5 Straight 4

Climax 1.5 V8

Ferrari 1.5 V6

Maserati 1.5 Straight 4

Osca 1.5 Straight 4

Porsche 1.5 Flat 4


As Formula 1 continued with the smaller engines until 1965 (only replaced in 1966 with 3 litre units because sports-cars were getting faster than the single seaters), the variety of engine configuration changed, and more manufacturers were attracted to the sport. So in 1965 the following engines were used.

Alfa Romeo 1.5 Straight 4
BRM 1.5 V8
Climax 1.5 Straight 4
Climax 1.5 V8
Ferrari 1.5 V8
Ferrari 1.5 Flat 12
Ford 1.5 Straight 4
Honda 1.5 V12

During the intervening years, other engines had also been tried including:

ATS 1.5 V8
Bogward 1.5 Straight 4
Porsche 1.5 Flat 8

It would appear that engine development was much greater during the 1.5 litre period than it had been during the previous 2.5 litre regulations.  While most were happy with four or six cylinders in 1961, with a late appearance of a single Climax V8 at the final three rounds of the season, by the end of the period most engines were eight or twelve cylinders, with very few four cylinders entered.  The engine configurations varied as well, and it was common for Ferrari in particular to run two different engine configurations in its cars.  By the end of this set of regulations the most powerful 1.5 litre engines were producing 225 bhp, not that far short of the 290 bhp figure the old 2.5 litre engines were capable of in 1960.

Coming to the present, we won’t see such developments now.  The rules are fixed with 90° V6 engines, with details such as the bore size, crankshaft height and total weight mandated in the rules.  Other variables are allowed to be changed, but the number that can be reduces through the period of this set of rules (2014 – 2020).  While new manufacturers can come into the sport (Honda for one) to join Ferrari, Mercedes and Renault, we won’t see the variation in configuration that the early 1960’s produced.  Engine reliability will have to be much better than in the 1960’s though, with only five power units available for each driver to last the 19 race season any failures could prove costly come the end of the year.  This could give the Caterham and Marussia teams their best chance yet to score points in F1.  If they have been ultra conservative with their power unit cooling for the first races, they should get to the finish at the expense of some lap time. If other front running teams have not allowed enough air to get to the essential parts, then they could suffer failures initially, which would give those more conservative teams a chance to pick up points.  With car launches upon us, it won’t be too long before we start to get some answers as to who has got their calculations right.

A long time fan of Formula 1 and grass roots motorsport, I am interested in the engineering aspects not only of F1 but the 'men in sheds' who develop homemade specials to take on the products of the big racing car manufacturers.
  • Jack Flash (Aust)

    To be fair though. The ICE element is not the area of technology development the current FIA regulations are aimed advancing at all. Not like 1961 changes were.

    The ICE is really the ‘static developmental element’ via current FIA rule-set. So all the cycling configuration, bore, stroke, rpm stuff of an ICE is mostly taken out of the development game. The new F1 “power unit” regulations are all about pushing boundaries in Motor-Generator technologies (higher rpm, greater efficiency, greater thermal stress tolerances, etc.), energy transfer technologies, and the smart computing of Energy Management to bind ICE, MGU-H, MGU-K, Turbo induction and Energy Storage elements together as a coherent and highly optimised system. This is the frontier of the Motor Industry nowadays… not ICE configurations. JF

  • F1_Knight

    When they began talking about the changes to the formula, I figured that previous changes had been met with similar friction. So this isn’t entirely a surprise.

    That being said, I think the ICE regs are TOO stringent. I understand that they made them with development of the OTHER components in mind, but what we see is a bunch of marginally different 90º V6s that all go around in largely the same manner.

    it would serve the sport, and in my mind the FIA’s beloved “Spectacle”, better to have the configuration, cylinder amount, bore, stroke, etc. be determined by the individual engine manufacturer’s own priorities. Yes, wide angle V6s are common in many road cars today, but companies traditionally have certain engines associated with them, as somewhat of a brand Identity. Honda, Mercedes, and Renault all have TONS of road cars with V6 engines, but BMW for instance is famous for their Straight six. If they could make a 1.6L Turbo Straight 6, then BMW would be on the grid in a New York minute.

    You want Porsche? Subaru? a 1.6 Turbo Flat 4/6 are extremely relevant to both of their road car divisions.

    VW? Try letting them throw a 1.6 Turbo VR6 in an F1 Car, then they’d be interested.

    Bitter that Audi has rebuked you F1? Let them throw their turbo Diesel in the back of a 2015 Auto Union GP car and see if it’s truly better.

    Different things are relevant to different Companies, so why are they trying desperately to woo manufacturers with different, yet still completely restrictive engine regs. Tell them; “Look, the engine can be however many cylinders you want, set up however you want, but it’s gotta be 1600cc and have a turbo and H/K-ERS. Can you imagine what they’d come back with?

  • NeilM

    ‘Bogward’ sounds like the direction you were heading right before sinking up to your whatsits in ooze.

    The name of the car company, and engine, was ‘Borgward.’

  • JakobusVdL

    Hi MIE,
    Thanks for providing that historical perspective. Do you know if there was as much controversy over the cost of changing engine rules back in the 60’s?
    I think Jack Flash’s comments are very relevant to the current change, they really do shift the focus onto the energy recovery and enhancement technologies – I guess in the hope of bringing more manufacturers into the sport.
    The fact the systems are all so tightly specified seems to undermine the technology development opportunity, so perhaps we won’t see the 9 manufacturers and 13 engines that happened in 1960!