How Hot Do F1 Engines Get? (The Numbers)

Formula 1 cars are technological marvels that have spent decades going through research and development. Current Formula 1 cars use 1.6 liter V6 engines and, despite their small size, they are very powerful. But this means F1 engines can get very hot.

F1 engines can reach temperatures of between 100 and 120 degrees Celsius (210-250 degrees Fahrenheit), but the exhaust gases can reach 2,600°C (4,700°F). There is the possibility of these engines overheating under high strain, which can cause severe damage to the power unit.

The exhaust gasses inside the combustion chamber can become far hotter than that though. Cooling is extremely important in a Formula 1 car, and it’s crucial for teams to get it right. Below, we’ll take a look at how hot F1 engines get in more detail.

What Temperature Do F1 Engines Run At?

F1 engines run at a temperature between 100 and 120 degrees Celsius (210-250 degrees Fahrenheit). This is the ideal range for the engines, which work incredibly hard to produce over 1,000 horsepower. If they don’t run at this ideal range, they won’t perform properly.

The engine of a Formula 1 car can’t be too cold before it leaves the garage either. A car’s engine is heated to around 80 degrees Celsius (176 degrees Fahrenheit) while it’s sitting in the garage. This heating process is done by pumping warm oil around the engine while the driver is waiting to go out on track.

The engine’s temperature is brought close to the optimum operating temperature, but not quite at the required temperature. The driver still needs to head out and do a warm-up lap before they can put their foot down, which will raise the temperature further.

How Hot Are F1 Exhaust Temperatures?

F1 exhaust temperatures can reach 2,600 degrees Celsius (4,700 degrees Fahrenheit). This is half the temperature you would experience on the surface of the sun, and the exhaust temperatures on a Formula 1 car are much higher than those of the engine itself. 

The exhaust gasses alone get so hot that they could melt aluminum. There are two main reasons why the exhaust is hotter than the engine. First, there is nothing cooling it down. The engine has a cooling system that is used to keep its temperatures under control even when it’s been running for a long period of time. The exhaust on the other hand doesn’t.

The other reason why the exhaust gets so hot is that all of the heat and energy generated by the engine needs to escape and is sent through the exhaust. The massive amounts of energy in the engine cause this surge of heat through the car’s exhaust, and there’s only one direction for all of it to go.

Finally, the engine itself is made up of solid pieces of metal and other materials. These absorb a lot of heat, but not all of the energy of the exhaust gases. The exhaust gases dissipate so quickly that they can’t pass that much of their energy onto the surrounding surfaces before they cool down when they meet the atmospheric air.

Why Does A Formula 1 Engine Get So Hot?

Formula 1 engines get so hot because there lots of internal components moving around, including 6 cylinders, rubbing together, and generating friction. Despite extensive and intricate cooling systems, F1 engines can still be incredibly hot while running at optimum temperatures.

Let’s take a closer look at what goes on inside the engine. In the combustion chamber, fuel and air are mixed and ignited. This creates a miniature explosion. This explosion naturally causes heat to be given off, and this heats up the entire engine and exhaust. These explosions are what drives the pistons and gets the wheels turning. 

When the driver presses down on the throttle, more fuel is sent into the combustion chamber. When this happens, explosions happen more violently and more frequently. This generates even more engine temperature and general heat inside the car.

Why Do F1 Engines Need To Run At Minimum Temperatures?

F1 engines need to run at minimum temperatures because an engine that is running too cold can get damaged and won’t offer optimum performance. Drivers have to ensure that their engines are at a certain temperature, so they always go on a warm-up lap before they begin to push their cars.

The engineers on the pit wall will always be monitoring the engine temperatures to make sure that they are within the optimum operating range. If the engine is too cold, the internal parts can become damaged, because they are not warm enough for high performance. This is similar to how you would warm up before a run.

To ensure that the driver doesn’t need to spend ages warming the engine up, the team will warm the engine while the car is in the garage. When this is done properly, the car is ready to go, and the driver only needs to do one warm up lap to get it up to the minimum temperature.

How Are F1 Engines Cooled?

F1 engines are cooled mostly using air. The radiators on a Formula 1 car are positioned in such a way that the car has to be moving in order for the engine to be cooled effectively. If the car is stationary, crew members will blow air into the radiators using a high-power fan.

As air flows into the cooling ducts in the sidepods and the air box above the driver’s head, a cooling liquid is pushed through a series of pipes that go around and through the most integral parts of the engine. 

The cool pipes will take heat away from the engine and move it elsewhere. This is done through basic heat transfer. If a hot object and a cold object are in contact with one another, heat will flow from the hotter object to the colder object until they are both at an equal temperature.

More coolant is then sent into the pipes to ensure that the cooling pipes remain as cold as possible, which keeps transferring the heat away from the engine. The cooling louvres on the sides of the cars are also used to expel hot air away from the engine rather than sealing it inside the engine cover.

What Happens If An F1 Car’s Engine Overheats?

If an F1 car’s engine overheats, the internal components will expand and change shape.  As a result, the space inside the engine becomes too cramped, and some integral components will begin to grind against one another to break or be otherwise damaged. F1 teams work to ensure this never happens.

What’s even worse is that once the engine cools down, these parts never truly return to their normal shape. This is why an engine’s lifespan shortens the more it is used. Eventually, the internal components become so mangled and out of place that the engine is rendered useless in Formula 1.

An overheating engine can quickly run down to failure if the driver and the team do not address it. There have been many engine failures over the years caused by overheating, some of them ending in a spectacular plume of smoke or even flames.

How Does Dirty Air Cause F1 Engines To Overheat?

Dirty air causes F1 engines to overheat because it interrupts their cooling. Since the air is from the lead car’s exhaust it’s very hot. F1 cars rely on cool air flowing into the engine for cooling, and so trailing cars may need to move out of the slipstream to avoid this hot air from the lead car.

Formula 1 cars rely on the fresh air from their movement to cool their engines. Without this cool air, the cooling system is much less effective than usual. We often see cars having to move off the racing line just to allow the car to catch some clean air when they’re stuck behind another car. 

Even if the hot exhaust air from the lead car isn’t reaching the trailing car, the dirty air is usually turbulent and less dense than clean air, which means the trailing car’s cooling systems cannot work as effectively as they do outside of the dirty air.

How Can F1 Drivers Cool Down Their Engines In A Race?

The most common way F1 drivers can cool down their engines in a race is through lifting and coasting, which is when the driver brakes earlier and uses less engine braking going into a corner. The driver will also be slower on the throttle at the apex, which uses less engine power. 

Another common technique that you might see is short shifting. This is when the driver changes gear before the engine hits the rev limiter. This means that the driver is not getting the maximum amount of power out of the car, but they are also asking less of the engine and making it work much less than usual.

The higher the revs of the engine, the harder the engine is working. The miniature explosions will be more violent and more frequent, which will generate more heat. Short shifting prevents this from happening by lowering the revs before they reach their peak.

Final Thoughts

F1 engines are very hot, reaching temperatures exceeding 100 degrees Celsius, or 210 degrees Fahrenheit. The crew will warm the engine as much as possible while the car is in the garage to ensure the engine reaches its optimum operating temperature to offer the driver the best performance.