McLaren’s Andreas Seidl may be new to the team and Formula 1 but he’s not short of sharing his opinions to Autosport as we’ve heard quite a bit from him of late. In this weekend’s installment, I was intrigued about his thoughts concerning the entrance of a new F1 team or rather the lack of any interest of teams signing up for F1.
We’ve been discussing issues around F1’s current state of affairs in the last week or so and I’ve quoted Andreas recently but today he is, in my opinion, on target with regards to the appetitie other manufacturers lack in getting into F1.
“But in order to be attractive as a sport for a manufacturer to enter again, I think it’s also very very important to make sure you can enter this sport with an investment which is a lot smaller compared to what you have to do now,” said Seidl.
“If you want to enter this category at the moment, then the investment you have to do for the infrastructure, and the budget you have to use in order to get to the point where the established manufacturers are, you have to be realistic.
“It is pretty difficult to imagine that anyone would invest that money at the moment.”
Andreas is suggesting that F1 remain close to the current engine regulations and that seems to be what F1’s Ross Brawn is now suggesting as well. You might assume that Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault and Honda may also like that idea given their investment in the engine format and in particular, the domination Mercedes currently enjoys with their power unit.
There is a long-standing notion that the longer you keep the engine regulations, the more the engine manufacturers reach parity in performance. That’s been true in the past so this isn’t an unfounded notion by any measure.
There are, however, regulatory circumstances that made that performance evolution and parity easier to achieve in the past. Unlimited testing, unlimited engine changes and less expensive, less complex engines. I wouldn’t marginalize the equilibrium achieved through consistent regulations, but you also have to acknowledge the differences now that teams can’t test and can only change engines three times per season.
The current engine regulations were ushered into the sport in 2014 and initially they had development limitation through a balky engine develop token system. That had teams stuck with under-performing engines so they opened development but then limited the amount of engines a team could use during the season.
You could argue that in 2019, the engine regulations have been unchanged and consistent for seven years and that’s a very long time but with the token system and now limited engines per season, they have artificially extended the amount of time it has taken to reach engine parity in performance output from all manufacturers.
What team or manufacturer would be interested in entering F1 with an engine format that is seven years old and still hasn’t achieved parity? What would the cost of initial engine development be in order to enter the series and be remotely competitive and know you can only make three changes during the season? The answer is astronomical given the complexity of this current hybrid engine.
“in general it’s very difficult for a new engine manufacturer to come in”.
“This is why I think also that from ’21 onwards it makes sense at the moment to really keep the regulations as they are,” he added.
“We see at the moment already that with keeping the regulations stable all the powertrains are coming closer together.
“We simply have to wait for the next cycle of the regulations and see how the automotive industry is going, to see if there is any chance to create interest for another manufacturer to come into this sport.”
F1’s Ross Brawn was initially going to scrap the MGU-H but the teams have lobbied to retain that element as it is integral to their power unit design. In some sense, you wouldn’t want to lose any manufacturers by making drastic changes that move F1 down a road that they do not want to go for commercial reasons.
The other side of this argument could be that the complexity of the current regulations may, over another 2-3 years find parity but remaining with these current, complex, expensive engines may not be alluring to new manufacturers. Do you keep the manufacturers you have happy with no changes or roll the dice, make a much less complex and more affordable engine to lure new manufacturers and teams?
Hat Tip: Autosport