The FIA announced its general plans for the 2021 engine specification yesterday and it has been met with a lot of speculation, adulation and disdain depending on who you read/follow in the press and digital media.
That’s perfectly normal and certainly fair game. I am sure the FIA knew they would get a host of questions as the press release was details-light. That was by design, however, because they don’t want to unleash all of the details as big teams would already start working on the engines now and that’s not quite what the FIA wants. In fact, they won’t release the details until approximately 2019 according the reports.
The opinions I am very keen to see are those from Mercedes and Renault as they were the two teams that led the push to hybrid engines and that’s exactly what Autosport offered up today.
“Despite maybe what FOM and FIA would say – what is put forward is a new engine,” Renault F1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul told Autosport.
“That’s really for me the most fundamental element.
“We need to be extremely careful because each time we come up with a new regulation that will come up with a new product; we all know the impact.
“It’s going to open an arms race again, and it will open up the field.”
Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff agreed that this is, in effect, a brand new engine and we all know how that goes.
“When you look at the bullet points presented, it looks like no big change and is superficially similar – but there’s massive change in there.
“It’s all-new engines, with new harvesting and deployment strategies for energy.
“All of us accept that development costs and sound need to be tackled, but we shouldn’t be running away with creativity in coming up with new concepts, because it will trigger parallel development costs over the next three years.”
While I agree that it is a new engine, I guess my thought here is that weren’t we always going to be changing the regulations in 2020 and doesn’t that mean that an engine change is very possible?
When the sport established the hybrid power units, they said in 2014 that these were the regulations until 2020 so at some level, we had to know that things would change and given the lackluster success the hybrid has had with fans, surely the teams knew the sport would move in a slightly, if not drastic, direction?
If I am Mercedes, I want the regulations for the engine to stay the same or thereabouts because they have the best on the grid and perhaps Renault are concerned as they are making ground on the hybrid design or they are concerned over an arms race and the money that will cost. To those ends, Renault have suggested slight changes instead of a new specification.
“Renault’s proposal for six months now has been to keep the current engine but waiving any restriction in terms of fuel quantity, plus moving the fuel flow limitation and also the rev limit,” added Abiteboul.
“The great thing about that proposal is you could do that without having to wait until 2021.
“The world is changing quickly; by 2022, a number of car makers will have moved to something that’s more electrified than today, so I think the timing to decide now what we want for the period 2021 to 2026 is maybe not appropriate.”
Well, that’s one way to look at it and spoken like a man who represents a manufacturer. Mercedes has a similar refrain and depending on how you read it, a slight warning to the FIA.
“We are not learning from our past historic experiences,” said Wolff.
“It should be about optimising the deficits we have with the current engines.
“If you tackle those deficits and have a convergence over the next 24 months there’s not a lot wrong. The costs have been spent.”
The FIA and the F1 Group hope new engine rules will attract new manufacturers, but Wolff said it would be a mistake to ignore the interests of those currently competing.
“F1 needs to stay attractive for the current engine suppliers and then F1 should be attractive for new entrants,” he said. “This is the order of priority.
“We need to enter into a dialogue now to come up with a concept that functions for everyone, and we are keen to enter into that.”
I am assuming Autosport reached out to Ferrari and Honda for comment but they say in the article that neither have commented. Perhaps not a huge surprise from Ferrari but I do wonder what Honda make of this having spent three year sinking cash in a black hole F1 program. Would the change be welcome or feared?
Again, is F1 worried about having an engine that is reflective of car makers showroom floors in 2026 or are they interested in great racing? If it’s the latter and they are worried about cost, I suggest going to a V6 twin turbo or a V8, calling it a day and getting on with racing. That’s possibly silly of me but then I am sure the new owners will have to coordinate a compromise of some sort.
We have a long way to go until 2020 so let’s see what pressure Merc, Renault and others place on the FIA and F1 and whether or not these veiled threats will resonate with the F1 owners.
Hat Tip: Autosport