The End is Near for Formula 1 Hybrids


In case you haven’t heard, the sport of Formula 1 racing is in revolt. The latest engine formula is a disaster, leading to one-sided racing, skyrocketing operating costs for the teams, and an overall package that is so dismally boring to watch that Formula E- a mediocre series, at best- is beating F1 in American TV ratings. It’s so bad, that even the sport’s top teams are struggling to stay in the sport … but there’s a fix. A plan to end the reign of the hybrids.

Sure, it’s a controversial solution, but the addition of KERS and ERS systems to F1 racers– while advancing the cause of both hybrids and “pure” electrics- has been identified as the biggest cost-adder in recent years. To help teams lower their operating costs, the FIA has put forward the idea of an “alternative engine formula” that would run side by side with the more technologically advanced power units, but at a fraction of the cost.

What the FIA is looking for is a turbocharged engine of around 2.5 liters that produces around around 850 HP without the aid of electric motors. Two companies, AER and Ilmor, have expressed an interest in being Formula 1’s approved “alternative” engine supplier.

AER, as you obsessive Gas 2 readers already know, supplies the IndyLights series with its engines, and also powers a number of entrants in the World Endurance Championship (WEC) LMP series. They are believed to be working on a new version of their WEC engine, a twin-turbo V6 known as the P60, which will form the basis of the proposed F1 engine.

The other company bidding for the Formula 1 contract, however, is IndyCar racing legend Ilmor … and Ilmor has a long and well-documented history of f***ing the status quo right in the teeth every time they show up anywhere.


Ilmor and Mercedes-Benz at Indy, and Formula 1


Back in 1994, Ilmor teamed up with Team Penske to build the Penske PC-23. The Ilmor 265E that was shoehorned into the back of the thing was labelled a Mercedes (but, really, could have been labelled “McDonald’s” for all Benz had to do with it), and the resulting package was the first top-shelf Mercedes-Benz motorsports outing in decades … it is not an exaggeration to say that, without the success of the PC-23 and the Ilmor 265E- later re-named the Ilmor Indy V8 Mercedes-Benz 500I- Mercedes would not be in Formula 1 today.

It is, perhaps, more than a bit auspicious, then, that the engine maker who brought Mercedes back to the world stage might be the one to knock them back into relative obscurity. That is, if Ilmor can somehow channel some of the mojo it once brought sold to Mercedes.

I expect that stuff doesn’t just go away, however.

You can read more about Ilmor’s “beast” in Jade Gurss’ excellent book, if you want to know more about that particular micro-slice of racing. If you’re already well-versed on the subject, let us know what you think of Ilmor’s chances against Mercedes-Benz proper and the rest of the F1 field in the comments section at the bottom of the page.


Sources | Images: Motorsport, Beast.

Jo Borrás

I've been in the auto industry 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the IM network. You can also find me on Twitter, at my Volvo fansite, out on two wheels, or chasing my kids around Oak Park, IL.