What the fuss over 1000bhp Formula One cars is all about

The drive towards a dramatic increase in engine power is gaining traction as the F1 Commission vote for future direction looms.

It's an intoxicating premise: a 1000bhp Formula One car. It reminds you of the mid-1980s turbo cars, those flame-spitting monsters driven by heroes like Senna, Mansell, Piquet and Prost.

And yet, I recall some mind-numbingly dull races during that period. I remember too that when they reverted to normally-aspirated engines – in 1989 – I rejoiced. Less power on tap, of course, but what a fantastic noise! Those turbo engines always did sound flat, worse even than today's V6 hybrids.

It feels like Formula One has chased its tail repeatedly to find utopia. The huge (and worthy) safety drive after the deaths of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna at Imola in 1994 reduced corner speeds drastically through strangled performance.

It resulted in stronger chassis, so the buffer of comfort returned over the past two decades. Only Jules Bianchi's awful accident last year, with an 'outside factor' in play, has blighted its impressive safety record.

But, if laptimes are again to be slashed with far more powerful engines, and perhaps less downforce to keep them under control, at what point does that start risking the safety side? At what point do you risk producing cars that are too tough to tame?

Let's not forget the consequences the ban on electronic driver aids had at the start of 1994 in making the cars more edgy to drive…

Where we are at right now

The ethos of Formula One has been marked by a raft of cost-cutting measures in the last decade. And a great question to ask in these times of global austerity is: Who is going to pay for all this new 1000bhp development?

The four manufacturers involved have already invested many, many millions on the most-recent hybrid technology. That's a lot of money for just three years.

We're in a fiefdom of energy recovery and efficiency – but the trouble is that it's hardly sexy, is it?

F1 cars of 2015 do remarkable things with 100kg of fuel, an amount that would barely have got you past half distance in seasons of yore.

But does the casual observer really care? Or would they rather be hooked by that '1000bhp' lure?

Power is nothing without control

My final question is this: what's the point of 1000bhp if it's applied through high-degradation tyres? If a driver knows he can't use all that power available, is there any point in actually having it? (that's two questions, I know! – Ed)

So the onus would switch back to control-supplier Pirelli again, to be more aggressive with its compounds to keep up with the increased power. And recall how uncomfortable that experience was in 2013, when we came close to a total farce at Silverstone as tyre after tyre exploded under racing conditions.

I will leave you with one guaranteed bonus, however: It would make qualifying absolutely mega – just like it was in the 1980s. Imagine watching these cars through Massenet, Tabac or the Swimming Pool at Monaco? What an intoxicating thought.

The drivers would again be heroes, perhaps just for one day… Saturday.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Ayrton Senna , Roland Ratzenberger , Jules Bianchi
Article type Commentary
Tags 1000bhp