It seems that the days of counting tokens, the reduced token spend levels and engine development stagnation could be coming to an end in Formula 1. According to Renault’s Cyril Abiteboul, the teams have agreed to chuck the token system in favor of trying to allow for engine development to close or converge the performance disparity. Cyril said:
“We have all agreed to do that because we all need the performance of the engine to converge.
“An F1 that is dictated by the performance of the engine is not good for anyone.
“You see it is not good for Mercedes, it is not good for Renault, Ferrari, so we are all interested to change that.
“To stop the public being confused between the penalty system, token system, we have decided to simply remove the token system.”
Much of the reason the token system is being abandoned is down to the agreed upon engine supply cost reduction the FIA said was agreed to a few weeks ago. The thought here is that if the manufacturers are capping their engine supply costs at $12 million per year, then they would be freed up to develop however they wanted and spend whatever they wanted as long as the R&D expense levels weren’t trying to be cast upon the customers supply contracts.
Many discussions about the current state of F1’s engine performance gap with Mercedes beating the field like a rented mule is couched in the counter argument that the V8 era had much the same issues and it takes time for the development cycles to reach parity and a point of diminished returns on engine development. That harmony, through time and logical development limitations within a certain, bound set of regulations, will reach its zenith and achieve equilibrium.
The token system was an artifice that prevented any escalation of the parity timeline and artificially tied the hands of those trying to play catchup with Mercedes. Now unleashed, Ferrari, Renault and Honda all have a chance to put their development systems in high gear and close the gap quicker than the token system would have allowed. Some believe the system would have always prevented any true parity as there were black and white parts that were frozen from development in the token system that permanently locked certain parts out of the development cycle possibility.
What this means is that the arms race over engine development has been opened completely with a safeguard to protect small teams from being saddled with manufacturer development costs. It also means that Ferrari, Renault and Honda could achieve engine performance parity with Mercedes much quicker and that the hybrid engine era may actually be allowed to flourish under its own weight and technology development cycle.
It could also mean that Mercedes is free to take their current dominance to the next level and out-pace the others with an already matured baseline in which to start developing with.
Time will tell but as a person who doesn’t like constructs or artifices that overtly impact F1 in negative ways, I am for the removal of the token system and either reaching the zenith of this current engine specification or getting to the end of it quicker than originally proposed.
Hat Tip: AUTOSPORT