Seeking a level playing field may be the goal of many in F1. Unfortunately that may not be what they got this year with the disclosure that some teams did gain a mid-year advantage with slight modifications, for reliability purposes no less, to their engines while technically in a frozen state of development per the regulations set forth my the FIA for 2008.No one more exemplifies this caught-out nature than perhaps Flavio Briatore and Renault who first started shaking the rumor tree and has been a fierce proponent of an equalized engine rule for 2009.
Part of the issue is the current ‘frozen engine’ regulation that has the F1 lumps frozen in development at a very expensive and high performance level. While some teams took the engine freeze regulation at literally it is argued that others made small ‘reliability’ updates, allowed by the FIA, and actually increased their performance through these upgrades. The first mention of a engine freeze was set for a 10 year moratorium on new development but many feel this is antithetical to F1 which has always been the cutting edge of technological advancement in motorsports. Having conceded that fact, something does need to be addressed as the FIA, led by the cost-cutting, green, knight errant Max Mosley, is seeking serious measures in the reduction of costs associate with F1. While their goal is a noble charge, many of Max’s initiatives have actually cost more money when applied tangentially within the teams constructs. Application sometimes breeds error in paper and lead logic.
Enter the champion, Ross Brawn appears to weigh in on his position regarding the holy grail of engine cost-cutting and parity in F1. The big difference between Flavio ranting and raving about it and Ross Brawn calmly offering the faintest utterance about it is; people listen when Ross talks because he has a pedigree of building championship teams…nay, building dynasties. With all due respect to Flavio, he too has won a few titles in his day but Flavio is a salesman. A high profile team boss with a penchant for the dramatic and sometimes when you are castigating a clearly unfair position of several of your main rivals, the high road is the road less traveled. Flavio rarely sees that high road on his map.
“We have to have a sensible equilibrium, and it does need fettling all the time,” said Brawn. “You know what you feel is the correct equilibrium, and you know you’re going to have to adjust it because you didn’t quite get it right. That is part of the process as far as I am concerned.
“The homologated engine has served a purpose, and those who have had an advantage from it should be glad they had their advantage and be prepared to (accept change). The rules say fair and equitable â€“ and I don’t think it is fair and equitable at the moment.”
“Our situation on record is that we think the concept of a frozen engine without some parity system is not very fair,” he said. “It is partly because of the time involved.
“If you said, right we are going to freeze the engine, you guys did a great job and you will get an advantage for a year and then we will find some way to bring it all together, I think everyone would understand that.
“But to say you are going to freeze an engine, originally for 10 years, then there is bound to be a league table of performance. So whoever is at the top maintains that advantage for 10 years and whoever is at the bottom maintains that disadvantage for 10 years. It just doesn’t seem right.
“And the other thing that is happening is that in order to reduce costs, a number of avenues of car development are being reduced. There is a lot of discussion about a reduction in testing, and a lot of discussion about reduction in investment and aero development.
“If you shrink all those things, then the scope to recover performance if you have not got the best engine gets reduced.
“If you shrunk all this down to the minimum â€“ so there was nothing you could do on the car – the best driver would then look at the league table of engines and says I am driving with that engine this year. He goes to the team with that (best) engine, the cars are all the same, so why should he not win every race?”