F1 engines unfrozen due to FIA loophole for 2015

The continuing debate over engine homologation has taken a turn toward clarification for 2015. The desire from Ferrari and Renault was to open or un-freeze the engine development regulations allowing the teams to bring upgrades to their power units throughout the season.

As you can imagine, Mercedes were not too keen about the idea as they have a clear advantage over their rivals at the moment and continuing the freeze would simply mean they have a baked-in advantage that would see them through the 2015 season.

The debate took an interesting turn when it was revealed that there may be a loophole, intentional or otherwise, in the dates the teams must submit their final engine design for the 2015 season. The assumption was February 28th, just like last year, but apparently the there was no date in the verbiage for 2015.

After conversations around the matter, the FIA released a statement to the teams which AUTOSPORT was made privy to in which FIA technical guru, Charlie Whiting, said:

“As it is not specifically stated… when a power unit may be modified in accordance with appendix 4 [of the technical regulations], we feel that the weighted items (32 in this case) may be introduced at any time during the 2015 season,”

“The basic homologated power unit will remain that which was homologated for the 2014 season, including any changes made in accordance with paragraph 1 (c) of appendix 4 [of the sporting regulations].”

That’s a big win for Ferrari and Renault as they are desperately trying to catch up to Mercedes but then the German team itself doesn’t have a hard date either meaning they can continue to develop their power unit as well.

The big freeze was intended to lock in a design and prevent rampant development which only increases the cost of the engine which is already over twice as expensive to customer teams as it was in 2013. With no hard date and no apparent freeze, the costs will surely rise this year and that’s in spite of two teams falling into bankruptcy over the new hybrid engine costs.

The flip side of that argument can be made in favor of more competitive racing. The dull light of another Mercedes runaway year in which they win just about everything has some fans already seeking alternate forms of entertainment and F1 may be gliding through a financial crisis at the moment but it also has a viewer issue to solve as well and letting a loophole continue in order to potentially neuter Mercedes could help the competitive issue but surely at a large cost in engine development during the year.

What about Honda and McLaren?

The bad news for Honda is that the FIA do see a hard date of February 28, 2015 for their homologation process just as the other teams had to comply with in 2014 as Whiting stated:

“As the existing manufacturers were obliged to homologate their power units by 28 February 2014 it would seem fair and equitable to ask a new manufacturer to homologate their power unit before February 28 2015.

“We therefore consider this to be a requirement for a new power unit manufacturer.”

Not the answer Honda and McLaren were wanting to hear. This means that the existing teams will be able to develop their engines throughout the year but Honda and McLaren will not and that’s going to hurt should the engine maker miss the mark on performance. Look to a complaint to be lodged from the folks in Woking.

Mr. Noble at AUTOSPORT does a nice job of explaining how the engine freeze and development works should you like to know more but suffice it to say that the engine was frozen, save versus reliability upgrades throughout 2014, with a certain percentage of the design available for performance upgrades this winter. Without getting too technical, the teams are allowed to make these development changes this winter but with the new loophole, they will continue making changes throughout the year…except Honda.

Hat Tip: AUTOSPORT’s Mr. Noble

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