What is the smallest, most powerful engine

Berger thinks 2000 hp is possible in Formula 1

It is the crucial question that is currently preoccupying the Formula 1 scene: With which engines should the premier class be launched from 2025? Gerhard Berger, winner of ten GP races, has a clear answer: “Back then, we drove with poor safety standards with 1500 hp. So why shouldn't Formula 1 be able to drive with 2000 hp today? "

For the best racing drivers in the world, that shouldn't really be a problem. After all, there is already almost 2000 hp for the road: The Rimac Concept Two has 1914 hp, thanks to four electric motors. The most powerful combustion engine is installed in the Koenigsegg Jesko: the 5.0-liter V8 engine not only roars properly - it is also 1622 hp.

But Formula 1 is currently content with around 1000 hp. This horsepower is taken from a 1.6-liter V6 turbo. With the small motors, this is only possible thanks to additional electrical power, the energy of which is obtained during braking and from the exhaust system. No question about it: modern Formula 1 engines are a marvel of technology. It wasn't always like this: in 1952 the engines did not even produce 200 hp on the asphalt.

Formula 1 with less than 200 hp

It all started with the 1950 World Cup. At that time, Alfa Romeo had the best racing car. First Giuseppe Farina, then in 1951 Juan Manuel Fangio won the title. Alfa Romeo was only so dominant because there was no real competition. The engine was an in-line eight-cylinder with a displacement of 1.5 liters, charged by a supercharger. He mobilized up to 425 hp in 1951. In 1937, however, the Mercedes engine brought over 600 hp to the asphalt in GP races.

When Alfa Romeo left Formula 1 at the end of 1951 and other manufacturers followed suit, the Formula 2 cars were updated for the World Cup for two years. The world champion Ferrari got just 175 to 190 hp out of a 2-liter four-cylinder.

A new engine concept came from 1954 to 1960: Engines with a maximum displacement of 2.5 liters were now permitted. The Mercedes engine (an in-line eight-cylinder), with which Fangio was again world champion in 1954 and 1955, was the most powerful unit of this era with almost 300 hp. More and more, it was no longer just engine power that played a role, but also the car. When Cooper no longer installed the engine in the front but behind the driver for better road holding in 1959, the title was secure despite a 60 hp deficit in the in-line four-cylinder engine from engine manufacturer Climax.

The 3.0 liter era began in 1966

From 1961 to 1965 new engine regulations were in force again. This time only 1.5-liter engines were allowed. They were the smallest engines in Formula 1 history. Of course, that was also a step backwards in terms of horsepower. Ferrari was the world champion in 1961 with Phil Hill, although its V6 engine only mobilized 190 hp. In the last year of this era, Jim Clark became world champion in the Lotus-Climax. After all, it already had 225 hp.

From 1966 everything was allowed. Four, six, eight, ten and twelve cylinders. BRM even built an engine with 16 cylinders. Lotus had a gas turbine for Formula 1 made by Pratt & Whitney, but only brought it to the track for a few races. The limit was only set by the displacement: 3.0 liters maximum, with supercharging even only 1.5 liters.

Of course, the Formula 1 engines got more powerful with this open format. Ferrari's V12 engine produced 520 hp in 1977. But the horsepower did not really increase rapidly, which was also due to the fact that only very few manufacturers built engines in 1977. Most of the teams drove with the Ford-Cosworth DFV engine. If you wanted to win, you had to optimize the car's aerodynamics.

Turbo era lit a horsepower fireworks display

It was not until 1977 that Renault, a manufacturer, found a gap in the regulations, according to which charging was also possible with a 1.5-liter limit. Unlike in the 1930s and 1950s, this was no longer done by compressor, but by means of a turbo. It started with 520 PS, but the more manufacturers entered the turbo race in Formula 1, the more a PS fireworks ignited.

In the mid-1980s, the BMW turbo is said to have reached 1500 hp despite a four-cylinder concept and a displacement of just 1.5 liters. It was the era that Gerhard Berger had spoken of. Nobody knows the exact performance: the boost pressure was initially free, but could not be tested on the engine test benches. Therefore, the full engine power was only developed in qualifying, in the race the manufacturers turned down the boost pressure and thus the horsepower figures.

The insane performance of the engines was a thorn in the side of the security guards. First the fuel was limited more and more - up to 150 liters in 1988. Then the boost pressure was also reduced - here too with a minimum in the 1988 season of 2.5 bar. In 1989 the turbos were completely banned from Formula 1. As a result, the power sank again to below 700 hp.

More and more bans

But the manufacturers caught up with the performance. Ferrari mobilized over 800 hp again in 1994 with the V12 engine. In 1995 the displacement limit was reduced from 3.5 liters since 1987 to 3.0 liters. At the end of the 1990s, the number of cylinders was limited to ten, and from 2006 to eight. But the speeds shot up to over 20,000 revolutions per minute - and with it the performance. 2005 was the wedding with over 900, almost 1000 hp. The most powerful engines were BMW and Honda.

In 2006 the engines were castrated again: a maximum of 18,000 revolutions per minute, a maximum of 2.4 liters displacement, from 2008 even a development stop. This means that the power has been frozen to around 800 hp for years. From 2009 and from 2011, the teams were allowed to install an energy recovery system on the brakes (KERS), which could mobilize around 80 hp for 6.7 seconds, on top of the combustion performance.

The current engines have been used since 2014. The power has since increased from a little over 800 hp to over 1000 horsepower.