Renault could hoard development tokens until 2016

As Formula 1 prepares for its second test of the winter season, engines are still the talk of the paddock and rightfully so. We even mentioned the oddity regarding the lack of excitement comparably to the last era of the engine.

The tactical calculations on just when and how a team will improve their engines were amped up over the off season when it was revealed that a loophole in the regulations could find teams making performance upgrades throughout the season.

In a regulatory method now known as token spending, the teams could add performance to their engines during the 2015 season but if we go back to the concept of the tactical calculations, it now seems that Renault might even delay spending performance tokens until late in 2015 or the off season in order to capitalize on the 2016 campaign.

It’s a tactical move intended to offset the limited performance upgrades available in 2016 and should Mercedes and Ferrari use most of their token in 2015, Renault could find exponential gains in 2016 that could have a mighty impact on their race performance—of so the logic goes according to an article at AUTOSPORT quoting Renault Sport F1’s Cyril Abiteboul:

“I think we need to stay calm. I believe, and I hope I am not wrong, that we have enough of a performance step in order to look and envisage carefully the options for in-season engine development and do the right thing, not only for 2015 but also for 2016,” he said.

“We have options. We have to see how we play with the resources we have to develop this year’s engine or bring forward a bit of next year’s engine regulations.”

So we now have a game of engine chess in which the amount of token available could be hoarded to use in a year that was meant to have limited performance upgrades due to this loophole. Instead of a linear 4-year evolution cycle intended for these engines, it now is a window of evolution with teams using or saving token to apply when they feel they will gain the maximum from doing so given their competitions current performance.

Another factor that has to be considered is the current discussions about a complete change in F1 for the 2017 season. The F1 Strategy Group is considering increasing the horsepower to 1,000 bhp and introducing wider tires and other elements that would dramatically change how a team uses their token in 2015 and 2016 given the overhaul that could be looming on the horizon.

“We have been capable of not only thinking of the next few races or next season, but the next seasons.

“Even though we have two years of partnership to go before hopefully there is a renewal, we need to maximise the value of money from the token allocation that we have.

“I think that there is a bit of strategic thinking to employ for this decision and therefore for the in-season development strategy for 2015.”

It’s an interesting knock-on effect that F1 always has to any regulation. The team will exploit the most minuscule of details in order to position themselves and you can’t blame them for doing so. What could be up for debate is the regulations themselves and this new engine format has proven to be a real burden for the series both financially for teams and emotionally for fans.


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