Teams call for engine freeze

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

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“Balance of power” words spoken by Christian Horner? Whoa! Shots fired across the bow of Mercedes and Ferrari and battle lines being drawn between “us” and “them”. Note to Liberty: bring us live-broadcast of the Strategy Group meetings as part of the streaming service and I’ll gladly pay for it. The one with Liberty Media this weekend will have the best drama of the race weekend.

sunny stivala

“Some form of BOP-balance of power-ideally through fuel flow”.
The red bullies already tried that in the very first race of the new hybrid formula, but back then they did that to gain an advantage.


“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.”

And that’s pretty much why I pretty much don’t even bother to watch sports car racing. The only thing worse than a spec series is a half-assed bunch of sandbaggers.


Completely agree. BoP is ruining imsa. The only way to enjoy that form of racing is to be oblivious to the artificial balancing in the background. Ignorance is bliss. Both GT and Prototypes have a lot of issues. It’s sad because the cars on the grid are so good looking. The tracks are awesome. But then you in the back of your head the politics of Ford GT(cheater car : ) and the massive Daytona Prototypes massive advantage.

sunny stivala

I honestly cannot understand why Renault and Toro Rosso are being lumped together on this here subject. “we need engine parity” “Red Bull demands FIA to act on Mercedes domination”. This reasoning is akin to asking for action being taken to stop Usain Bolt dominance in sprint (during his past time dominance). The cat-piss-in-a-can team is the real bad apple in F1. They start pushing out something that they think will help them gain an advantage, the usual well known F1 British tabloid media obliges to help push, after the ball starts rolling, those at RBR comes out and says… Read more »


I think a few questions need to be answered so we can have this discussion about engines fairly: Should the power unit be a source of competitive advantage. Because RB w/ Newey have been a aero powerhouse. Yet no one is trying to equalize their competitive advantage. Has Mercedes ever produced a bad engine/power unit? Not really. Power train has always been their expertise. So no matter what source of propulsion we as fans or RB decide to go with, Mercedes will always be strong in the area. All I will say is be careful what you wish for. Unless… Read more »

sunny stivala

“V SIX TWIN TURBO WITH KERS AND NO EXHAUST HARVESTING” The red bullies have a declared supporter. “WITH REDUCED FUEL FLOW” The red bullies have an adversary. “technically a reduced fuel flow plus no oil burning is not possible. “SPEC FRONT AND REAR WINGS AND MORE HORSEPOER THAN DOWNFORCE” The red bullies will not like that.


That already exists. It’s called Indycar. Why morph F1 into something it’s not? If the Indycar formula is appealing, why not just watch that and be happy, or watch both and appreciate their differences? F1 is a constructors championship, even though Hass is blurring that line. Spec aero won’t fly with RB. So that right there reveals their ulterior motive; to remove a rivals competitive while they maintain theirs. Pardon the puns.

sunny stivala

The red bullies are openly demanding the FIA takes action on Mercedes dominance, which means that while they are competing under terms and conditions they agreed upon they now demanding the goal posts are moved to a position that they calculate will give them an advantage.


I’d be all for a spec front or rear wing… this is the type of change that offers the diminishing return on investment that I believe is needed in F1 if costs are going to have any hope of being brought under control…


I am with you on this one,cheaper engines may get more different engine suppliers involved.


If the Mercedes Power Unit has such a “baked in” advantage, then why are the Mercedes customers so far behind the Ferrari and Renault customer teams? Yes they did a much better job to prepare for the new regulations, and the token system restricted the ability of the others to catch up, but we haven’t had any token restrictions for a couple of years now, and the others have caught up on power output. This season will show if they have caught up on reliability as well.