Reading the stories surrounding Formula 1’s search for a new, economic engine supplier for 2017, you’d get the impression that it is the death knell for the series. In lockstep, most legacy F1 fans and purists are absolutely against the idea. A two format F1? Are you insane?
I’m a legacy F1 fan, a purist and you may be slightly surprised to know that I am not against the idea of a two format F1 with a Balance of Performance (BoP) measurement. I know this removes all doubt from my critics as to my level of my idiocy but the reason I am not storming the keep with torch and pitchfork is that I love Formula 1 and the new engine has brought the series to its knees. Something has to change and if a new, less expensive engine can get the teams focused on racing and not begging for cash or bragging about their earth-saving technology while gouging small teams for R&D recovery pricing programs, then I am willing to look at anything at this point.
You see, I am a purist when it comes to F1…think old school like Jimmy Clark, Lotus 49’s, Ferrari’ 312’s, Ligier and Laffite, Rindt, V12’s and V10’s, Mugen Honda, Mecachrome Williams, March and BRM, Ken Tyrrell, JYS, Prost and Ronnie Petersen. You get the point. So why would I even dream of having a second engine in F1?
It’s really down to the politics of the sport and while a second format isn’t, in itself, a good thing, it may be the only thing that can dislodge the manufacturer domination of the sport, the bleeding of the small teams and the return of the pendulum back to driver-centric racing. It is being used as a way to rid the series of the current power unit.
The very soul of the sport is at risk and this new engine tender is more to do with the reclaiming control of the sport than it is getting giddy about having two engine formats. You have to think long game here.
Let’s be honest
The new power unit is killing F1. There, I said it. It’s incredible technology, astoundingly efficient and super cool but regardless, it’s killing F1. The price is too high, the stakes are too high and the manufacturer footprint on F1 is too high. The balance of the sport is off kilter. The sport has lost it’s DNA as a two title sport with drivers and manufacturers. The prize money has been divvied out in a manner that has only emboldened the manufacturers and created the power struggle for control of F1.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the manufacturers but I also love the privateers and while I think the constructor’s championship is terrific, I also love the driver’s championship. The problem is, the balance between these four elements is askew. The FIA and Formula One Management (FOM) need to get the balance corrected and this new engine is a the first salvo in what will likely be a bloody war for control of the sport.
The new power unit is a bit of the case of the emperor’s new clothes. I said that back in 2013 and I still say it now. That’s not to marginalize what Mercedes has achieved but then having your own guy (Ross Brawn) writing the technical specifications for the new engine always helps doesn’t it? In a small way, I feel like the FIA was duped and Mercedes stacked the deck on that front. That’s not an indictment of Mercedes, kudos to them for seizing the clay and shaping the series they felt that could dominate. The question now is, who will grab the clay and re-fashion the series back in to Formula 1?
The series needs a soft landing. It needs to create an escape plan from these power units and it needs to have an engine that is affordable and places the real focus back on the racing and the driver. It knows it needs to get away from the current power units and try to save as much face as it can in the process and having a new engine that slowly gains ground over the hybrid power unit will start to cloud the issue and gently ease fans back in to more traditional F1 formats. The expectations of saving the planet will be slowly ushered out the back door in favor of faster, more affordable racing.
AER and Mecachrome
AER/Ilmor have shown interest in the engine tender and now Mecachrome have said they will throw their hat in the ring as well.
“We won a few months ago the GP3 engine supplier deal from 2016, which will be an atmospheric 3.4L V6,” Jean-Charles Raillat, Racing Activities director for the Mecachrome Group said.
“We also won the supplier contract for GP2 series from 2017 with a turbo V6, also a 3.4L.
“The FIA request for proposal in F1 imposes a 2.5-litre maximum. Our developed engine basis is absolutely compatible with this FIA request.
“In terms of resources and capacities, we are totally there. We are used, at Mecachrome, to conceive and industrialize an engine in six months. The planning window is still quite large for us.”
I say bring it on. I recall the Mugen-Honda, mecacrome and Supertec eras and having multiple engine suppliers is fine by me. Sure, having two engine formats may not be my first choice but to be honest, that’s a temporary element as the power unit will slowly fade away and if it takes a two-format series to make that happen, then I am all for it.
Hat Tip: Motorsport