With the same displacement as a Fiat 500, Ferrari’s Formula 1 turbo V6 makes 600 hp

As if Formula One wasn’t complicated enough, this season of racing will introduce any number of new rules. Foremost among these are radical changes to the type of engines allowed in the cars. They are going to be tiny, and will need to be incredibly efficient. In fact, Ferrari just released the details of its new engine and it’s a 1.6 liter V6 … 1.6 liters?! That’s what you get in a Fiat 500!

Before you whine about the death of F1, you should hear just what Ferrari’s engineers are capable of getting out of this tiny turbocharged engine. It may be smaller than a bottle of soda, but it produces 600 horsepower and can rev up to 15,000 rpm.

At 375 hp per liter of displacement, this motor will blow the socks off of most engines twice or even three times its size – and we haven’t even gotten to its secret weapon: It’s a hybrid.

Sure, previous F1 cars used KERS, a hybrid system so complicated that only mechanical engineers and F1 nerds could even pretend they understood it. This new system, though, is far more impressive.

Like the Audi R18 e-tron LeMans car, it uses the engine’s turbocharger to charge the batteries. The way this works, if I understand the Italian accents in the video, is that the turbo can direct some of its energy to a generator. So when you reach maximum pressure or come off the throttle the turbo switches over to the generator and uses its spool down to charge the batteries.

The creatively named Energy Recovery System adds 160 hp and, according to Ferrari, can cut as much as 33 seconds off a lap time. That’s a huge improvement over the 80 hp and three seconds a lap the old KERs system was good for.

But that’s not all the system gives the team. New rules strictly limit the amount of fuel a team can use during a race, so efficiency is key. 

During the upcoming racing season, it will be interesting to see  just how reliable these new engines and hybrid systems are. F1 rules now require an engine to last at least 2500 miles – significantly more than in the last few seasons. My guess is that a cars this season fall apart in pretty spectacular fashion.

If you’re wondering why F1 has switched over to turbocharged, efficient hybrid V6s; it’s because the series aims to help spur future consumer car drivetrain technology. Meaning, it wants not only to entertain the masses but make their cars better at the same time. Pretty cool stuff, if you ask us.

Get our Top Stories delivered to your inbox: