Mecachrome is in, bring on the 2-engine format

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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

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John The Race Fan

Preach it, brother Todd!

Negative Camber

LOL…I know it’s not a popular opinion but it is mine. It’s really about wresting control of the sport and changing it to a series that FOM and the FIA believe fans want and it’s contrary to what current manufacturers have invested heavily in. not and easy situation but it is what it is.

Alianora La Canta

The trouble is that current manufacturers invested heavily in this formula because the FIA told them that that was what fans (and the series as a whole) wanted. The judgement from the top hasn’t been there, and if it had been, I could have believed in the upsides of your idea.

geeyore

It’s a popular opinion with me, and I agree with every particle of it. They do have to walk the series back from eco-oriented and politicized racing to competitive racing, and this is the fastest, best, most face-saving and economical way to do it. As an avid fan of WEC I have no problems whatsoever with hybrids + turbo V6/V8 on the same track and in the same race. That seems quite normal to me, and there’s plenty of precedent for variety in the history of F1. And by the way, WEC Fuji last month was satisfyingly loud and visceral… Read more »

The Sarcastic SOB

Now that you mention it, the need for earplugs may be the best measure of appropriate sound levels!

John The Race Fan

After listening to the Engine Breakdown Podcast (pun possibly intended?) with you & Dave, I was thinking about the “generic” engine idea. While others may be reluctant to bring BoP into the picture (and for good reason), the idea makes sense. From a fan’s perspective, I like the idea of the underdog team making the most out of a lesser engine and none advanced electronics that control turbo spooling and braking and the like. Potentially, the right driver in such a ride could outperform drivers with the current-spec hybrid PUs. They can use traditional late-braking instead of the “lift &… Read more »

Negative Camber

Yeah, imagine Verstappen in a 900bhp budget engine getting on podiums. :)

John The Race Fan

While this may be the dream of fans like you and I, it is also the nightmare for Toto Wolff & Maurizio Arrivabene.

Paul KieferJr

It’s always been “Us” vs. “Them”. I’ve got my pitchfork. It’ll take a moment to get the torches distributed.

The Captain

Alright, I have to admit to not watching F1 back in the ‘halcyon’ days, the ‘good old’ days, or even the ’70’s-80s’ back when the driver had to push the car both ways up a hill in snow. But this isn’t really ‘new’ is it? Didn’t we have V12’s fighting against V10’s before? Straight blocks versus V-blocks? Fan cars! As great a job I think WEC has done with their BoP that’s the one part I would love to see dropped from this idea. F1 is a lot more political than WEC and I just can’t see the FIA getting… Read more »

Richard Bunce

Without much Power Unit restrictions… max power output combined at all wheels (I think they can be trusted to not install a jet engine… maybe) and max external energy input such as fuel, battery charge, etc. and probably higher than it is now but give some incentive for energy recovery. Limit the use of exotic materials that drive cost (see carbon brakes.) Other than that let them have at it.

Bacon Wrapped Sushi

I would like the V6 hybrids to stay if the manufacturer wants to build them. However, I am definitely down for some larger displacement high revving motors to help the smaller teams. WEC runs multi motors in LMP1 and does just fine. F1 can too.

Alianora La Canta

If the FIA knew how to do a BoP sensibly, I’d have more faith in this. They have trouble doing it in WEC GT, where development changes are minimal, once-per-year things (except when new generations of cars come up, when they get extra tests just to establish a BoP). In the other sportscar series I’ve seen, it’s been… …less successful (though arguably never as bad as in TUSCC). F1, which has engine changes coming in big blocks at all sorts of times of the year, would be nearly impossible to BoP, even before considering the obstacles presented by having multiple… Read more »

Andreas Möller

Interesting post, Todd! I’ve been one of those who defended the new power units – both re the sound (or was it “noise”? :-) and the “relevance” (whatever that is) – and I still feel F1 hasn’t even tried to capitalize on the immense step forward in thermal efficiency they represent. At the same time, I have to concede that the engine regulations – and most specifically, the lack of constructive cost regulation – has allowed a situation where the manufacturers have too much influence on the sport. So even though I really like the engine format, I’d have to… Read more »

Paul KieferJr

It would seem to me that the best way to solve this problem is to split F1 into an F1A (works teams/auto makers/manufacturers) and F1B (Privateers). Let’ the A guys spend money out the wazoo and the other guys can keep their budget low, and everyone survives. Am I wrong here?

Junipero Mariano

I just hope that the BoP happens as few times as possible, maybe just once to establish a baseline at the start of the season. I’ve read of BoP completely changing the outcome of a championship, such as in DTM.

Does the FIA have different departments for writing regulations? It almost seems like multiple personality disorder with cost cutting on one side and extremely expensive cutting edge technology on the other.

Of course, I am new to this sport. ;)

BasCB

I understand, and even agree with a lot of what you write there Todd. But your premises, that the engines have ruined F1 is wrong. Even in your detailed analyses, you point to the more important factors that are really killing things (i.e. the way the money is distributed as well as who has a say in the rules). This engine won’t “save” the smaller teams, afterall they are not missing 12-15 million in their yearly budget – the difference between that “economy” engine for 6 million and the current packagas for 18-22 million (let’s forget for simplicities sake about… Read more »

The Sarcastic SOB

Well, obviously Mecachrome wasted the price of a stamp on their (late) response, didn’t they.

The Sarcastic SOB

I think the thing the big teams fear is Bernie and Friends continuously diddling this “equivalency” formula to make them look bad in the races.

Coji

Anything needed to make smaller teams sustainable and invite more manufacturers into the sport is fine with me at this point. I’d want to say it will change BoP but with the cars so heavily aero dependent, it doesn’t look like it will do much in terms of on-track action. While I’m not necessarily for abandoning the current PU format and establishment, there comes a time when one has to cut the losses. It’s not bad as is current but the costs is suffocating and then some. Let’s try something different in this era and see what happens. Investment sensibility… Read more »