Okay, let’s make this as short as possible regarding the engine freeze/unfreeze debate.
In the old days, what you showed up with in Australia was NOT what you were stuck with for the entire year. Development would continue throughout the year, even the very next race, if the engine or aerodynamics were found to be wanting.
This lead to runaway costs in the development war and perpetual testing. Now the FIA has frozen the engine specification and what you show up with in Australia IS what you’re stuck with for the year barring a few upgrades that are allowed for reliability and cost-cutting measures.
This had worked for the V8 engine because before the freeze, the performance differential between manufacturers was present but not drastically disparate. Regardless, the freeze worked but when the new engine…I mean Power Unit came into being for 2014, there appeared a drastic difference between the Mercedes versus the Ferrari and Renault.
This advantage is baked in now as there is no allowable performance upgrades during the season. Ferrari, Red Bull and Renault all would like this freeze to be lifted or purged from memory like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Freeze performance in Batman.
Originally Mercedes Boss Toto Wolff said, bring it! We take on all comers because if it’s lifted, we’ve got a lot of upgrades planned ourselves. Something Red Bull boss Christian Horner agrees is a risk if the FIA should lift the ban:
“Quite possibly,” he said. “But at least you’ve got the ability to try and improve because at the moment you’re frozen with what you’ve got. You’re running with your hands tied behind your back.”
Other racing series seek a Balance of Performance or BoP and F1 has seen this naturally occur throughout the years via extensive development but it’s that very issue that has Mercedes changing course on their decision with Wolff stating:
“I don’t know how they make their calculations but probably I need to send them a calculator because there is no way you will not spend more,” Wolff said.
“You will spend considerably more and every other argument is because they don’t think they are where they should be [competitively].”
Will it increase costs? Mercedes says it can’t provide power units to its customers for the price agreed upon if they continually upgrade the lump during the season. Should we simply give it time and see what gains can be made over the winter and then revisit it if Merc is still ahead by a country mile? Horner says it needs to happen and here’s why:
“Mercedes’ true performance is they can drive through the field, and I think it’s too out of kilter – five Mercedes-powered cars in the top five,” Horner said.
“This technology is still quite raw. Mercedes shouldn’t be afraid of competition. They’re doing a super job but I think it’s healthy for F1 that Ferrari, Honda and Renault should have the ability to close that gap, otherwise we’ll end up in a very stagnant position.”
You are all enterprising, young, discerning and critical thinking folks, how do you solve this problem? Is it a problem or do we simply wait for 4-5 years until we have another power unit change and hope Mercedes doesn’t dominate it as comprehensively as they have this one? Is this just part of F1, you snooze, you lose? Or for competitive reasons, should the teams and the FIA find a better BoP?What do you say?
Hat tip: Andrew Benson’s nice article at BBC Sport