Horner- Renault’s anemic engine budget no concern

The idea was to create a set of regulations that would make Formula 1 more road car relevant and in doing so, bring manufacturers back to the sport. At first blush, it seems the FIA’s gambit may be working as Honda has announced that it will return to the sport in 2015 after abruptly leaving in 2009 with its tail between its legs and pulling the leash of Toyota, BMW and Renault with it.

Formula 1 will launch in 2014 with a new engine format using a V6 Turbo and it is hoped that this will signal a return of other manufacturers but there was a knock-on effect that some teams are experiencing and it was not intended…at least not publicly.

The elephant in the room is the expense of this new engine development and while Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault may be able to swallow the R&D expense, Cosworth could not and politely, if not sheepishly, bowed out at the end of the 2013 season.

As engine suppliers, the cost has been cast off onto the smaller engine customer teams such as Marussia, Caterham and Sauber leaving many in the paddock with a sour taste in their mouths over the new regulations. The old V8 engine was homologated, low cost and super efficient so why change now? To lure manufacturers right?

It would seem that way but today’s comments from Red Bull Racing’s boss, Christian Horner, has shed some light on the financial struggle that even manufacturers and suppliers are facing trying to develop the engines and Energy Recovery Systems (ERS) for 2014.

“Renault has got a great track record and we have achieved some phenomenal things with them,” Horner told AUTOSPORT.

“They perhaps don’t have the budget of some of the others but they have been prudent in how they spend it.

It appears that Renault are under the budgetary restraints even within their engine development program. Certainly the world understood when the mass exodus of manufacturers occurred as Renault, Honda, BMW and Toyota left the series back in 2009 but struggling to build a new specification engine?

If the small teams are struggling to simply afford the engine supply bill, what must it say about Formula 1 if the engine maker is struggling to even make the darn thing?

The troubling issue is that the Formula 1 series is now using every trick in the book to keep things afloat from a team’s perspective. Pay-drivers for most of the grid, a lack of sponsors knocking on their doors as well as a supposedly more robust commercial rights TV revenue sharing model still have them reeling.

As the majority owner of Formula 1, CVC Capital Partners has enjoyed skimming off big profits from the series but at times like this, it would be nice to see some re-investment back into the series to keep the regulatory expenses low and the teams solvent. After all, they are the main protagonists in this misguided theatrical off-broadway play in which a man who looks like the fifth Beatle is running things as an octogenarian and the school pension funds are buying portions of the series while nations buckle under the weight of a staggering F1 race sanctioning fee and disappear from the calendars like bodies at a North Korean political enemies rally.

It is getting rather difficult to continually be smeared with poor-mouthing from the teams and Formula 1 itself when, as fans, we are all too aware of just how difficult the economy is right now. Listening to media reports about how this or that team is struggling to make ends meet with their anemic $104M budget is falling on deaf ears these days.

The FIA should have read the tea leaves a little better. The regulatory body knew the series was in financial difficulty and they took the risk on rewriting the regulations knowing full well that it would increase participation costs in a major way. They are banking on the uncertainty of getting manufacturers back in the series but there is no guarantee they will come. Feeling sorry for Renault’s little engine budget is hardly garnering sympathy for the operation and especially as it applies to Red Bull Racing who many would like to see taken down a notch or two just to bring equity back to the grid.

Investing in uncertainty equals high risk. Anyone can tell you that but has the FIA, Formula One Management and the teams all made the right choice and if so, why the impoverished team and manufacturer stories in the press?

When the series fires up for the first Grand Prix in Australia in 2014, you might want to bring a box of tissues to stave off the F1 guilt you may feel for watching the Have’s worry about the Have Yachts.

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