Renault may have come to some conclusions about the current engine regulations featuring a turbo V6 and hybrid system—you know, the regulations they wanted and threatened to leave the sport if they didn’t get? Yeah, those regulations.
It seems they now feel these regulations aren’t really fit for the sport of F1. In fact, they feel the regulations that brought F1—kicking and screaming into the role of an official testing ground for hybrid engines for car makers such as Renault and Mercedes—to this tenuous position with unbearable financial costs, is really not the right way to go. Renault F1 managing director, Cyril Abiteboul, said:
“Hybrid regulations are important, not just to Renault but to any car maker,” he said. “If you look at the future product line of most brands, you will see hybrid elements on all cars.
“If you ask me about this particular set of regulations, how important they are, we should not be precious. I am not completely convinced that we have the engine regulations that are completely fit for purpose for the model of modern F1.
“[I am talking about] for the show, for the cost for the manufacturer, for price for the team, also noise and serviceability and so on and so forth.
“Plus also there is all the sporting elements associated with it – like the token system, which is extremely confusing, and the penalty system, which is extremely confusing. I don’t think we have something brilliant.”
So it’s too expensive, too confusing, to difficult to service and maintain and too quiet. On one side it’s frustrating to hear a team that threatened F1 if it didn’t change to this power unit regulation. On the other hand, it’s refreshing to hear a team, who was all in, admit that these regulations may have missed the mark and they may not be good for the sport—imagine that given the ear-splitting chorus about road relevancy—and they feel a change is needed.
“Having said that, do we need to write this off completely or improve what needs to be improved and fix what needs to be fixed rather than trying to come up with something completely new? I’m not quite sure.
“The problem is when we try to come up with something completely new, which is trying to be a breakthrough in comparison to what we had before, it is not necessarily brilliant.
“The regular thing is evolution rather than radical changes. It is very difficult to anticipate what will be the effect of radical change. But we are completely open to change in the regulations.”
He’s right in that wholesale changes can be very dicey if not completely considered. I think as fans we’ve learned one thing about modern F1. Any changes to regulation is usually met with increased costs for big teams who can spend.
Think of the testing ban. The teams spent tens of millions (if not more) on outrageous simulators to take the place of real testing. A ban on testing could have been re-written for a controlled test program that limited expenses instead of forcing teams to find other alternatives outside of the ban such as simulators.
The hybrid engine is a perfect case as it was ushered in during a time of incredibly heightened awareness of costs in F1 and the knock on effect was a doubling or tripling of engine supply costs and massive R&D for the manufacturers. In fairness, even if they would have said the sport was going back to a V10, the teams would have spent millions on all-new V10 technology and design but it wouldn’t have reached the levels of these hybrids in overall expense.
In the end, I think a turbo is fine and possibly a KERS system to supplement the lack of displacement from a smaller ICE but really that could be achieved and managed. Perhaps even a twin-turbo V6 with KERS and 900bhp? I think that’s enough and wouldn’t be a bridge too far for the series as these current engine regulations appear to be.
Whether or not the current regulations are fit for F1, the question that I would like to ask Mercedes or Renault is this: What elements of F1’s current engine regulations have directly translated to your road cars? How has your road car performance, economy and production all been improved by F1’s power unit regulations and design?
If the answer is anything less than 100%, then F1 has made a mistake on the whims of manufacturers who needed an ideologically reason to justify their expense to go racing. Some sustainability reason to compete that wasn’t simply engaging in brand-building…something like hybrid engines and corporate responsibility and not just pure racing for racing’s sake.
I will be very interested in seeing what Messrs. Todt and Ecclestone come up with this month as the way forward in 2017. Whatever it is, perhaps Renault will be less likely to threaten to leave the sport if it isn’t an electric car because they just doubled down on their long-term investment with the acquisition of Lotus.
Hat Tip: Mr. Noble at Motorsport