A couple of weeks ago, I read an article that suggested Formula 1 will not be seeing any new manufacturers in 2021. Regardless of Porsche, Aston Martin and Cosworth all being involved in the new engine regulation discussions, it seems that none of them are keen to enter the series in 2021.
It was reported that those regulations would see the back of the MGU-H and a reduction in complexity and cost of the hybrid engine solution. Apart from sound and cost, the MGU-H was seen as not a very road-relevant element in the engine design.
The article I read said that the regulations were now being revisited to include the MGU-H as there were no new teams interested in joining the series so why change things? Today I read an article at Autosport that quotes FIA president Jean Todt as being focused on keeping Ferrari, Mercedes, Renault and Honda happy:
“My priority is to make sure that we keep them four,” Todt said.
“I always said it would be very unfair to the four engaged to say, ‘OK, we want to attract a new one so let’s change everything’.
“But what about them? What about all the investment they have been doing for years and we say, we change completely the regulations because we may have one or two coming?
“That is one of the reasons why it was not a revolution on the engine regulations.
“Now if we can secure those four for me that would be a great achievement.”
Todt goes on to say that he was doubtful the series would get more than four manufacturers given that the regulations are so different to other series.
“I was always pessimistic to the fact that with specific rules for F1, we could have more than four manufacturers,” he said.
“I feel personally it is really a great achievement to have four different powertrains for 10 teams – because it means 2.5 each.”
Perhaps I am not understanding the statement but I think herein lies the issue in that the current regulations are different to anything else and overly complex and costly. I’ll go out on a limb and suggest that if Porsche, Aston and Cosworth were all at the table during initial engine regulation change discussions and are still not willing to join after hearing the proposed changes for 2021, then I would say those changes were not enough.
Color me reactionary but having four manufacturers involved with the FIA leading the sustainability message is one thing but is that what’s best for the longevity of the sport? If the initial suggested changes were not enough to lure Porsche or Cosworth in, then I understand Jean’s dilemma in that keeping the four he has in hand committed and happy is critical. So why change the regulations at all if these four are massively invested in the technology and happy with it?
Then there is the other side of that coin, what do the fans think of the current engines and quality of racing they produce? You have to have engine makers and you have to have fans. If a majority of fans wanted a normally aspirated engine such as a new V8 evolution, that may be more cost effective, sound better and faster but would you lose current manufacturers and would you also gain them? Would Aston, Cosworth or Porsche commit? It is a big risk.
The existence of only four manufacturers may make Todt happy because each has 2.5 teams to supply but it also breeds another issue of satellite teams such as Mercedes, Force India and Williams or Ferrari, Haas and Sauber. There is already concern over these junior team scenarios, listed-parts programs and shared engineering allegations.
A nagging question is, if the 2021 originally proposed engine changes weren’t enough to lure in new manufacturers, that may suggest that F1 is not a compelling opportunity due to its current form. Four manufacturers or not, perhaps the changes weren’t significant enough and not inclusive enough to include lower aerodynamic downforce and other elements to improve overall racing. Perhaps possible new manufacturers didn’t feel the series was in rude health and were not willing to join.
If that is the case, then simply making few changes to continue on the path they have been on in order to keep the four manufacturers they have is just kicking the can down the road and avoiding the hard decisions that could make the series a very compelling prospect.
Hat Tip: Autosport