Is 2.4-litre V8 racing the way to go?

The big question being asked in Formula 1 circles at the moment is whether or not 2.4-litre V8 engines are the best way forward for the sport, even if most of the manufacturers involved in F1 have accepted that they will need to build the new units if the FIA insists upon a change. Although the idea of producing fewer engines means that production costs will be reduced, building new engines is going to be an expensive business and development costs will be even more expensive because the V8 engine is a type of engine which has been developed over and over since the 1960s. Thus a huge amount of data exists which will enable car makers to build competitive engines quickly but after that finding an advantage is going to be hugely costly.

The danger of the 2.4-litre V8 idea is that it will cost more money than the current V10s and that power outputs will not stay down for long. It is worth illustrating the development rates in F1 by looking at Ferrari's engines in the last 15 years. When the FIA first insisted upon a 3.5-litre normally-aspirated formulae back in 1989 Ferrari built a V12 which boasted 600 bhp. By the end of 1992 this had been developed up to around 745bhp. The FIA then banned exotic fuels but although the power output dropped to 710bhp it was back to 725bhp by the end of the following season and that figure was pushed up to 775bhp during 1993. For 1994 Ferrari built a completely new V12 which jumped the numbers straight up to 820bhp but after the accidents at Imola that year the FIA decreed that team's must use 3-litre engines in 1995. The Ferrari engine was a revamped version of the 3.5-litre engine and its horsepower was down in the 600bhp region but by the start of 1996 when Paolo Martinelli had time to produce a proper 3-litre V10 the horsepower went shooting back up to 800bhp and that unit had been developed gradually since then and is now producing around 915bhp.

Switching to 2.4-litre V8s will take the horsepower down significantly, particularly if designers modify existing engines, but it is unlikely that purpose-built V8 engines will produce less than 850bhp and the development process will soon take that back up to the 900bhp mark. If one notes the horsepower difference between the 1994 Ferrari V12 and the 1996 Ferrari V10 one can see that despite all the costs the difference was only around 20bhp.

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