The current power unit regulations are complex and I know the issue is divisive but I have been relatively consistent in my assertion that they are one of the main issues ailing Formula 1 at the moment. Not because the technology isn’t impressive or altruistic or simply cool from an engineering standpoint but that it is too high-tech, too expensive and has put the nail in several coffins of former teams as well as offered Mercedes a baked-in advantage for five seasons.
The very man responsible for moving the sport toward the hybrid power units which gave Mercedes their advantage is now trying to resolve the issues the sport faces which is a tad ironic if you think about it.
Ross Brawn originally set out to usher in a major engine overhaul in 2021 but the teams recoiled and now the series is set to simply make tweaks to their current engines in, presumably, an effort to safeguard their massive investments in the technology—regardless if it produces more entertaining racing.
As you could imagine, this lack of moving away from the current engine formula has not created a compelling reason for new manufacturers to enter the sport and F1 knows this so they have agreed with the current engine manufacturers, Mercedes, Ferrari, Honda and Renault, that they must share their technology with any future power unit manufacturers who wish to enter the sport.
“The drawbridge has been pulled up and the existing suppliers don’t want anyone else to come in,” said Brawn.
“We have found a compromise. There are regulations coming out which would mean new entrants will get support from existing entrants. There will be components and technology which will have to be shared if it is requested.
“It is not quite such a radical change that we were proposing, but still quite a good step in the right direction and there are some nice changes to the way the driver has to manage the engine, which I think goes a long way in the sporting direction.
“There has been a recognition from the existing manufacturers that they can’t shut the door behind them.
“If we start to get serious interest from another manufacturer or supplier, they have to cooperate to find ways of helping that manufacturer come into F1.”
I hope I am wrong but this sounds like a simple compromise. It is light on detail about what the current manufacturers must share with future engine makers and I was hoping for a complete change to something less over the top and more affordable instead of a nod and wink about helping them out and sharing some engine concepts.
If that’s the case, I think Mercedes could immediately let Honda know what they are doing because no one assisted Honda when they entered the sport and they still are quite a ways away from being on par with Merc or Ferrari.
The more I think about it, the less I am becoming convinced that one of F1’s premier engineers will deliver a 2021 regulation set aimed at improving the entertainment and commercial value of F1 rather than try to ramp up more engineering elements to try an achieve something that might be more competitive and to be honest, we’ve been here before.
A draconian cost cap and prize money redistribution may be a bitter pill the sport feels it needs to impose but making F1 fiscally responsible with achievable and affordable tech would help ease team budgets as well.
I was hoping that the cost of F1 could be mitigated through a better set of regulations, not through cost caps while retaining the current power unit trajectory, which is very expensive, and offering fine print to contracts about vague existing manufacturer assistance through IP sharing etc.
Like him or not, Bernie Ecclestone wasn’t an engineer and for years he was all about the commercial and entertainment value of the sport. If teams didn’t like the formula, they could leave. As time went on, he acquiesced to more engineering-centric solutions within the regulations but perhaps moving the pendulum back the other way, now that Liberty Media owns F1, might be worth examining?
In the end, if Ross gets the aerodynamics right and the cars can race each other and overcome the dirty air issue, then the power unit becomes less critical. Still very expensive but let’s hope he has the right solution that isn’t simply engineering more constructs to overcome fundamental flaws.
Hat Tip: F1.com