Enzo Ferrari challenged his competitors when he said, “Aerodynamics are for people who can’t build engines,” which suggests a level of self confidence bordering on hubris. However, it also spoke to the competitive nature of the man, his love for the drama of racing, and the attitude to racing in the era in which he made his name. Over the years, Ferrari’s F1 engines have held an audience of their own, and even when powering less than competitive cars, the fans are more than happy to hear the racing engine which is as much a Stradivarius as it is a collection of greasy pistons and springs. Here’s a collection of the sweetest of those glorious powerplants.
The last of the great 3.5-liter engines, Ferrari’s Tipo 043 also represented one of the last iterations of the famous V12. At that point, no other team in F1 sported a V12. In the early ’90s, Renault demonstrated that the V10 offered the best compromise between engine power and rotational ability. Ferrari always put a high value on theater, however, and so they continued to use twelve cylinders. The 90° V12 made great power though: an official 750 horsepower 15,000 rpm, though development would see those numbers rise.
The engine was a completely new item, made from scratch by Osamu Goto and Claudio Lombardi, who opted for a wider vee angle and a shorter, 45.8 mm stroke. Goto was a former Honda F1 engineer before the team pulled out after 1992, and after their departure, the Scuderia began consulting Goto in secret before hiring him formally. As he had been instrumental in the development of F1’s best motors of the late eighties/early nineties, he carried over a few tweaks, including the 65-degree angle, to give Ferrari the engine edge once again. He also proposed moving to a four-valve setup as opposed to the five-valve arrangement used since 1989. Additionally, he introduced the vacuum pullback spring, which helped the valvetrain brush an incredible 16,000 rpm!
However, the 412T1 always had aerodynamic problems, and even with John Barnard’s expertise, could not develop the same downforce as the Benettons. When the wings were less relevant, the immense power could be used to its full advantage. Generally speaking, at long tracks like Hockenheim or Monza, the downforce is minimzed to try and make the cars as slippery as possible on the long straights. Conveniently, the upgraded version of the car, the 412T1B, made its debut at Hockenheim, and with a few additional tweaks to the motor, Gerhard Berger was in a class of his own.
With an increased vee angle to 75 degrees, a shorter stroke, a raised rev limit, and 820 screaming horsepower, it gobbled up straights with a ravenous appetite. The Austrian took courage in his hands, braked later than the rest, qualified half a second ahead of his teammate Jean Alesi, and even outpaced Damon Hill in the dominant Williams by six tenths! Clearly, the aerodynamic deficit was less noticeable and Gerhard Berger bravely wrestled the car to victory; leaving the dominant Benettons and their Ford V8s seeming puny by comparison. Not bad for a debut.
The length of the engine was a downside, but it’s power kept it competitive, though probably not the best all-around package in the field. Such was the power of the motor that at the end of the tunnel in Monaco, the Ferrari could pull 11 km/h over Schumacher in his traction control-aided Benetton. By the end of the season, the engine was making a reported 850 horsepower at 15,800 rpm, and with great torque, it helped carry Berger to his 9th victory and five podiums; a very successful year indeed.
Though the diabolical shriek of the V12 had fans shrieking with excitement, the motor, restricted to a 3.0-liter displacement for the 1995 season, lost a bit of its competitive edge, and its thirstiness became a greater burden. Though the 412T2 nabbed a string of podiums and one victory, the bright minds at Maranello swallowed their pride at realized the need to change. For 1996, Ferrari ditched the V12 and developed an entirely new, 3.0-liter V10 to help their car find that perfect balance between power, fuel economy, and handling. They also acquired a starry-eyed new talent to develop this motor, and the package would prove very fruitful in just a few short years.
F2002’s Tipo 051 V10
Adhering to the proven formula of a three-liter, V10, Ferrari’s Tipo 051 was a load-bearing, 90°, cast-aluminum motor that powered what is considered the fastest F1 car of all time. Developing 900 horsepower at 19,000 rpm in qualifying, this monster was one of the strongest on the grid and only out-powered by the peaky and unreliable BMW motors, which made a reported 940 horsepower. For the race, revs were reduced to 18,600 and the power output 865 horsepower, which was sufficient but only one part of the motor’s success.
While power still played a significant role in the overall performance of Formula 1 cars then, their integration was just as important. For that reason, the Tipo 051 excelled; it used shorter heads and a different crankcase design, which allowed for a lower crankshaft. To complement this, it integrated an ultra-lightweight gearbox cast in a stiffer titanium alloy, some 15% lighter than its predecessor, and the internals were further lightened as well. These ingredients kept the center of gravity exceptionally low, and made the F2002 the best-handing car on the grid. It also boasted the high-exiting exhaust system which diverted the exhaust flow backwards and over the rear diffuser.
This comprehensive integration made the F2002 one of the most successful cars of all time; winning 14 of the year’s 15 races, and coming in second place 10 times. While the F2004 holds the greatest number of lap records, the F2002 is still the most successful. In the era of the massively-powerful V10s, aerodynamics accounted for some of the success, but having a powerful motor could still make the difference, especially when it complemented the rest of a flawless car.
Lauda’s Tipo 015
Another of Ferrari’s best-integrated cars has to be the iconic 312T. In the hands of perhaps the best driver of the seventies, the 312T’s 3.0-liter flat-12 is an engine inseparable from Ferrari history. With more power, thanks to more cylinders and higher piston speeds, it could best most on the fastest tracks. With a broader powerband, it was a useful weapon at technical tracks like Monaco. Building torque from 4,000 rpm all the way to a scintillating, 11,500-rpm redline, the smooth delivery of power helped preserve tires and that matched Lauda’s clinical, super-smooth technique.
The popular, contemporary Ford Cosworth V8 was almost like a two-cycle engine in comparison, and therefore, fell out of the powerband more easily. The meat of the powerband began at roughly 6,000 rpm, and when it came on, was far less smooth in its delivery. Therefore, it wasn’t quite as easy to put the power down. The best of the Cosworths were making somewhere in the 470-horsepower range throughout the mid seventies, but the Ferrari could nudge a cool 500.
It wasn’t faultless, however. Due to a poor water jacket design which resulted in cylinder and cylinder head distortion, the engine suffered from compression leakage past the piston rings, and overheated valves, respectively. This meant a loss of roughly twenty horsepower over the course of a race, so after every practice session, the motor was replaced.
Being a flat-12, the crankshaft was long and therefore subject to torsional vibration, which claimed plenty of motors at the start. After a bit, they got wise after lightening many of the internals without improvement, and turned their attention to the flywheel and clutch assembly. Instead of having the crankshaft mounted directly to the flywheel, they implemented a rubber element that dampened the rotating masses and gave the flywheel a limited amount of movement independent from the crankshaft.
Over the course of the eight years it was useful to the Scuderia, they made numerous upgrades to the valves, moving towards smaller and smaller angles over time; the Lucas injection system, to improve consumption with the thirsty motor. Eventually, the flat-12 design proved too heavy to match the Cosworths, which made similar numbers towards the end of the decade, and it was too broad. While offering a low center of gravity, the demands imposed on designers by the sliding skirts of the day required a narrower engine to allow space for the tunnels. Ferrari’s 12-cylinder didn’t offer the necessary real estate, and so after a dismal 1980 season, moved on to a 1.5-liter, turbocharged V6.
Though the smallest of Ferrari’s modern F1 engines, the Tipo 021/031 was the most powerful. The Tipo 021, a 1.5-liter V6, sat in the back of the quick but unreliable 126C. To counter their dismal 1980 season, Ferrari ditched their flat-twelve that had powered their machinery in the seventies; it had become too heavy and broad for the amount of power it produced. Not only were the smaller, Cosworth V8s producing comparable amounts of power, but with the ground effects becoming more prevalent, the designers were trying to make their motors narrower and narrower to suit the ground effects.
So Ferrari designed a V6 to suit their needs. Initially, the team tested the Comprex supercharger, which would’ve solved some of the lag issues plaguing Renault, the only other team with a decent turbo engine at the time. The Comprex system offered fewer parasitic losses as the power needed to drive the wheel was quite small, but was much heavier – roughly 45 pounds heavier than a complete twin turbo setup, and much thirstier. As the turbo era went on to be defined by economy runs, misleading fuel computers, and cars weaving to thrust the last few drops of gas into the collectors, Ferrari seems to have made the right decision. That being said, their twin-turbo motor was notoriously thirsty, but also very powerful.
Packaging issues forced Ferrari to use twin KKK turbos, which they mounted centrally beside each other, in the engine valley. While this negatively affected the center of gravity, it helped keep the red-hot turbos out in the airstream, allowed for one wastegate unit instead of two, and minimized the exhaust layout for better response. To simplify the piping arrangement, the turbocharger mounted astride the right bank fed the left bank of cylinders, and vice-versa.
The 120° vee angle helped offset the high-mounted turbos by keeping the center of gravity low and the cowl narrow, but it also weakened the design. Therefore, the block was cast in iron, and offset the weight with aluminum alloy heads. As Ferrari is a manufacturer that typically goes for peak power output, the package originally produced 600 horsepower in qualifying and 550 horsepower in race trim at 11,500 rpm, which made it the highest-revving turbo engine at the time behind the unsuccessful Alfa Romeo V8.
At its debut at the 1980 Italian Grand Prix, the strength of the motor gave the 126C a lap time half a second faster than the quickest 312 could muster. Within a year of development, some fairly clever tech was used, including a fuel supply system driven by the opposite bank to try and balance the fuel load across the motor.
This was the first turbo engine used by Ferrari, and at the time of its inception, only the second on the grid. Though the Renault had been around for three years, it was far less reliable and less successful: the Ferrari won twice in its first year of competition, and three times the following year with some development. In its sixth year, the Tipo 031 provided enough power – nearly 900 horsepower in race trim – but proved unreliable. Had it been more robust, Michele Alboreto would’ve clinched the championship, instead of finishing a close second to Alain Prost.