Engine Freeze: pragmatism run amok!

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Max Mosley’s mad dash for cost reduction has effectively cost 191 people their jobs.The rich history of Mecachrome is a terrific story and yet as teams look for engine partners, Max’s byzantine rules have placed 191 employees without a job and an $18M loss for the second quarter. While Mecachrome work across many industries the engine freeze in Formula 1 has been identified as the main reason for the financial troubles Mecachrome currently face. The engine freeze has seen BMW, Toyota and Renault pull their business from Mecachrome and do the work in-house.

Here we are in a frenzy to get Max’s “green” initiatives going such as KERS and other nonsensical trappings and yet one of the biggest issues for a competitive team is an engine supplier or engine development company that works with manufacturers.

In my opinion, Max’s cost cutting regulations and seemingly endless well of coin for “green” things has created yet another brilliant example of pragmatism in action. The knock-on effect is alive and well and I suppose we shouldn’t be stunned if STR, Force India and perhaps even Toyota or Red Bull decide to call it a day with Max’s continued madcap circus of regulations-runs-amok. The world has lost patience and has leased the space your ego used to occupy Max. The last time I checked, Formula 1 was a business and many businesses thrive on its continuation not its “green” image.

Now before you jump all over me about the reality of Mecachrome producing an engine that can compete with McLaren, that isn’t the point. There are many privateers left and companies like Cosworth and Mecachrome are a healthy alternative to mainline manufacturer’s. These smaller companies would allow for smaller teams to be competitive without having to spend the kind of money they do for a Ferrari, Toyota or Renault lump. We want to encourage engine manufacturer’s to enter F1 not discourage them. Color me reactionary but watching this and other moves made by an effusive Max Mosley has left me provoked. Max got his start in F1 as a smaller engine manufacturer called March. His company supplied many of the teams with products only the large manufacturer’s could afford. Chassis, lump and internals. Of all people to understand the plight of the privateer (no I am not feeling sorry for these junior multi-millionaires and their minnow teams) I should think Mr. Mosley would be at the front of the empathetic line.

So who is Mecachrome?

Since 1979 Mecachrome has been involved with Renault Sport, the motorsport division of Renault (though today its F1 operations are conducted through Renault F1, a separate group company).

From 1983 Renault began to supply other teams with engines, Mecachrome was given the responsibility of preparing the engines for these customer teams (e.g. Lotus-Renault in 1983 and Ligier-Renault in 1984). In 1985 Renault withdrew from Formula One as a constructor and withdrew from engine supply for the 1987 season. In 1989 Renault returned to F1 as engine supplier to WilliamsF1 (and Ligier from 1992), with Mechachrome again responsible for preparing the engines for the team.

Renault engines powered Williams and Benetton to six ConstructorsÂ’ World Championships between 1992 and 1997, and five DriversÂ’ titles with Nigel Mansell (1992), Alain Prost (1993), Michael Schumacher (1995), Damon Hill (1996) and Jacques Villeneuve (1997).

In 1995 Benetton acquired Ligier’s stock of Renault V10 engines. In 1996 Renault was privatised and the same year announced its withdrawal from Formula One after the 1997 season. In order to avoid protest by shareholders regarding costs of engine development, Mecachrome agreed to pay Renault for the development work in order to continue the relationship. The 1998 engines supplied to Williams carried the Mecachrome name, while Benetton’s engines were badged as “Playlife”.

In 1998 Flavio Briatore’s company, Super Performance Competition Engineering, signed a distribution agreement with Mecachrome to begin in the 1999 season. The engines were purchased and rebadged as Supertec. Supertecs powered Williams in 1999, BAR in 1999 and Arrows in 2000.

In 2001 Renault returned to Formula One by purchasing the Benetton team and the Renault designed engines again carried the Renault name. The relationship remains unchanged, with Renault responsible for design and Mecachrome assembly; this relationship helped Renault win a constructors’ and driver’s F1 championship “double-double” in 2005-2006 with Fernando Alonso.

GP2 Series

In 2005, the GP2 Series was launched as the official feeder categrory to Formula One. As the brainchild of Bernie Ecclestone and Flavio Briatore, the new series was to be powered by Renault engines, and Mecachrome was tasked with their production. The GP2 Series power units were manufactured at the same base as the Renault F1 units in Aubigny, France with direction from Mader in Switzerland.

The GP2 Series gearboxes would also be created by Mecachrome, through an offshoot known as GearTek.

Despite teething troubles which saw the power units and gearboxes reach what many observers claimed to be an unacceptably high level of unreliability, Mecachrome has been an integral and vital part of the success of the GP2 Series, providing the power which has displayed the emerging talents of future F1 drivers Nico Rosberg, Heikki Kovalainen, Lewis Hamilton, Nelson Piquet Jr and Timo Glock.

The company will continue to supply engines and gearboxes for the GP2 Series in its second generation (2008-2010) whilst also supplying the new-for-2008 GP2 Asia Series with slightly detuned versions of the power unit which has been at the core of the GP2 Series since 2005.

UPDATE:  http://en.f1-live.com/f1/en/headlines/news/detail/080822211149.shtml

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