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Ferrari and Mercedes Will Benefit Most from F1's New Engine Regulations in 2014

UNSPECIFIED, FEBRUARY 01: In this handout image provided by the Ferrari press office, the new Ferrari F138 Formula one car engine is displayed as the car is launched online on February 01, 2013. (Photo by Ferrari Press Office via Getty Images)
Handout/Getty Images
Matthew WalthertSenior Analyst IIJanuary 5, 2017

After four straight years of Formula One dominance from Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull, fans are ready for a change. The hope is that new engine regulations for the 2014 season will provide it.

While a shake-up at the top of the standings is not guaranteed, major changes to engine regulations in the past have usually benefitted one specific group of constructors: those who build their own engines (or who are the sole customer of an engine company). Red Bull does not. It is reliant on Renault, who will also be powering Toro Rosso and Caterham (Lotus is using Renault engines this year but have yet to announce a supplier for 2014).

The only two constructors who will build their own engines next year are Ferrari and Mercedes. This gives them several advantages, including the ability to develop the engines and chassis side-by-side to complement each other. Meanwhile, engine customers must take what their supplier gives them.

Some historical perspective: In 1960, Ferrari finished third, behind Cooper-Climax and Lotus-Climax, winning just once in nine races. Porsche was seventh, scoring only one point all season.

In 1961, engine size was reduced from 2.5 to 1.5 litres. Ferrari dominated the season with its drivers, Phil Hill and Wolfgang von Trips, finishing first and second in the Drivers' Championship. Porsche, also supplying its own engines, finished third, behind Lotus (still sharing Climax engines with a number of other teams).

The next significant change in engine regulations took place before the 1966 season: The size was increased again, to 3.0 litres. Once again, teams supplying their own engines capitalized. Brabham, while not actually building its engine in-house, hired Repco to build an engine specifically for its chassis. The team, which finished third in 1965, won the Constructors' Championship. Ferrari was second, improving from fourth the year before.

Alain Prost drives the Marlboro McLaren Honda MP4/5 during the French Grand Prix on 9 July 1989 at the Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet, France. (Photo by Pascal Rondeau/Getty Images)
Pascal Rondeau/Getty Images

For the 1989 season, turbocharged engines, which had been dominant for most of the 1980s, were banned. McLaren, the only team using Honda engines, won the championship, as it had in 1988. Williams (using Renault engines for the first time, and the French company's sole customer that year), improved from seventh to second. Ferrari finished third, having been second in 1988.

The reduction in engine capacity for 1995 is an exception to our rule. Benetton and Williams, both using Renault, had their second straight one–two finish, with Ferrari a distant third both years.

The change from 3.0 litre V-10 to 2.4 litre V-8 engines for the 2006 season was the last major change in engine regulations. By now, the results will not surprise you: Renault (now a constructor as well as engine supplier) and Ferrari won every race but one (Honda, supplying their own engine, won in Hungary). In fact, the top six teams either built their own engines or were a sole customer (McLaren–Mercedes). The bottom five teams were customers or shared engine suppliers.  

These results are not significantly different from 2005, when Renault also dominated, but it is good to note that its performance did not suffer with the new regulations. The same cannot be said for Williams—in 2005, the team had four podium finishes and placed fifth in the championship as BMW's only customer; in 2006, sharing Cosworth engines with Toro Rosso (although Williams had a newer model), the team finished eighth in the championship and never higher than sixth in a race. 

NUERBURG, GERMANY - JULY 06:  (L-R) Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP and Fernando Alonso of Spain and Ferrari drive side by side during the final practice session prior to qualifying for the German Grand Prix at the Nuerburgring on July 6,
Lars Baron/Getty Images

For 2014, if the engine advantages are not enough to convince you that we are in for a change, Ferrari and Mercedes will probably have the two strongest driver pairings for next season, as well.

Sure, Red Bull retains four-time World Champion Vettel, but he will be partnered with the unproven (at least in a top-flight team) Daniel Ricciardo. Meanwhile, Ferrari will feature Kimi Räikkönen and Fernando Alonso, who have split three World Championships between them. Mercedes will stick with the same drivers: 2008 World Champion Lewis Hamilton and three-time grand prix winner Nico Rosberg. (In fact, Ferrari and Mercedes are the only teams who will have two grand prix–winning drivers in their line-ups next year.)

Maybe, finally, we will have a new World Champion in 2014.

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