Today’s F1 Strategy Group meeting will hear yet another call for a re-think of Formula 1’s current engine specification. While Mercedes enjoys a comprehensive advantage, F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone will advocate revisiting the idea of a return to normally aspirated engines with some hybrid components built in. He told Sky Sports F1:
“I believe if you got everybody in the room, secret ballot, there would only be one company interested in retaining this engine, and that is Mercedes. You can’t blame them because they have done a super job, and the others haven’t, so they’ve a big advantage.
“Is that good for Formula 1? I think not, because we can all put our money together and have a wager they will win the championship next year, and probably the year after, which is not really the sort of thing we are looking for.
“I have been proposing, and am going to propose, at the next meeting we go back to a normally-aspirated engine with some hybrid bits built into it.
“The teams, manufacturers will have to call it a ‘McLaren hybrid’, ‘Ferrari hybrid’ or a ‘Williams hybrid’. It’s so we get across the message they are hybrids, but nobody tells anybody.
“It’s the best-kept secret actually as to what this engine is for, why it was designed and what have we achieved with it because it is a fantastic bit of engineering, it really is.”
Before you get tangled in frustration, Ecclestone realizes that Mercedes have a clear advantage and would not want to walk away from rainbows here but he also believes that the elephant in the room is the exorbitant cost of the engines:
“These are my ideas,” he said. “Nobody can do anything with the engine we currently have, apart from spend a lot of money.
“I have spoken to one of the engine people and they thought the type of engine we are talking about, the development costs would be really small.
“I have always thought, though, it would be an uphill struggle to get Mercedes to ditch what they have built, and honestly we shouldn’t ask them. It would need to be them volunteering.
“But what are they going to say? Them saying ‘The other people are useless, we are great, so we’re happy to help’ is not going to happen is it?
“But if they’re prepared to reduce the cost of the engine then the problem disappears, then there’s no need for a new engine. We keep what we have.”
The notion of reducing costs is something the FIA are looking in to as well and it has been a key element in the argument of smaller teams such as Lotus and Force India. If Mercedes would cap their engine supply price tag to smaller teams, this would be a big help in stabilizing F1 financially.
Again, I am not sure Mercedes is willing to do this but if taking a loss on the engine supply revenue side of the balance sheet means they keep their current power unit and performance advantage over the next 2-3 years, then perhaps they may find that a better option than moving to a all-new engine as Ecclestone is suggesting.
It may be the old Max Mosley form of negotiation: Call of drastic changes and meet in the middle.
Hat Tip: Sky Sports F1