As we head toward the Bahrain Grand Prix this weekend, the owners of Formula 1 are set to hold discussions with the teams on their planned go-forward program for 2021 onward. While there is much to discuss, and the stakes have never been this high, one of the main talking points will be the engine or power unit regulations.
To those ends, Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault aren’t too keen to simply chuck their new hybrid power units having invested tens of millions in their development. But for the sake of argument, how do the teams get from the current engine regulation to the new regulation smoothly? That’s the question Renault and Toro Rosso will have for Liberty Media.
“The one thing we will not want to do is to have the burden of developing two engines in parallel,” Abiteboul told Autosport.
“There are two things basically in our key message and position at Renault: first, before committing to a regulation, we need to understand the bigger picture.
“And secondly, we don’t see it’s acceptable or sustainable to have to work on two engines in parallel at the same time, for the simple reason that if there was to be a new entrant, which is what we wish, he will have a fantastic advantage in being able to focus on the future, and not to have to worry about the present and the customers.”
The point is taken about a possible new entrant, but I also believe that a team like Mercedes has the resources to work on two completely different engines in development. That’s something that Renault don’t want to do and neither do Toro Rosso.
“If new engine rules are coming, then we have to freeze the engines as they are now,” Helmet Marko told Autosport.
“And there should be a rule that every engine has to be within 3%.
“Then we can live until 2020. Nobody has to make development on these engines, and that’s the way to go.”
Marko brings up an interesting point in that freezing the engine is one thing but if there are still major performance gaps—and I believe there are when it comes to Mercedes—then the engines should be frozen within 3% of each other. Red Bull boss Christian Horner expanded on that notion.
“In an ideal world if you want manufacturers to get involved in a new engine for 2021, and not have them incur large development costs between now and then, some form of BoP – Balance of Power – ideally through fuel flow, could be a sensible route,” Horner told Autosport.
“That way, those that have done a better job would retain an advantage because they would use less fuel, and would be starting the race with a lighter car. But the power could create more interesting races.”
Now this gets more interesting because the use of a BoP would be an intriguing element in F1. It’s a standard in endurance racing but not something you see in F1 racing. If they were to use this system, there could be a case made for using it continually to reign in such disparate power imbalances such as the one that Mercedes have enjoyed since 2014.
Point here might be that engine regulations could be loosened and the use of a BoP could be applied. Small teams could use V8’s, Mercedes could use hybrid power etc. Apply the BoP and then spend your time complaining about the BoP for 21 races. That’s pretty much what sports car racing does now.
Regardless, there is wisdom in the notion that developing two engines isn’t very cost effective and the FIA hates high costs—as we know because they tell us all the time while introducing things such as HALO and hybrid engines—so how do teams approach these new regulations with an engine freeze? If they do not balance the power, this means that Mercedes could win nearly everything until 2021…or for the next three years. Could the freeze be for the final year in current regulations (2020)?
Remember back in 2014 when I said that Mercedes will now have this baked-in advantage until the regulations change again? This is what I was talking about. Eventually they will have to freeze the engines, and that locks Merc in with an advantage, as they develop the new ones. They did this with the V8’s too. My thinking back then was the 2014 engine was way better than any others, there was a token development system that limited development and even when that was lifted, Mercedes still had an advantage. Then they will freeze them locking that advantage in. Can they use BoP or freeze at 3%? That’s what Marko and Horner are asking for…eliminate Merc’s baked-in advantage.
It could get messy this weekend at the big kid table and Liberty Media have a lot of work to do as well as a lot of questions to field. Can Ross Brawn accommodate as many teams as he can while still moving the Liberty Media plan forward? To be a fly on the wall.
Hat Tip: Autosport