In the ongoing conversation regarding the Power Units or engines in Formula 1, the components that typically make up the discussion are centered on hybrid design, Turbo and costs. When F1 ushered in the change, we questioned how this new format would ever be cost effective given that the V8 had reached a relatively decent parity amongst manufacturers and the costs had reached a manageable level.
One could, and many have, presumed the same will be true for these new hybrid systems and aside from wishful thinking; the jury is still out on that. If history is any road map, then they should become less expensive over time as the regulations remain solid for several years.
The old V8’s were in a state of engine freeze and they continued that notion with the new hybrid systems freezing your efforts year on year and reducing the opportunity of development during the season until a loop hole was discovered in the regulations for 2015. Now we have development tokens that can be used but the power units are still limited to areas of development and will continue to become even more restricted over time.
The initial cost of these new power units have bankrupted a few teams such as HRT, Marussia and Caterham and it has placed other teams in troubled waters such as Lotus, Sauber and Force India. Some say the cost of an engine supply has tripled but I’ve read many differing accounts as to exactly what multiple it is you use. Regardless, it is an increase in the multiples and it is very expensive. It’s exactly what F1 didn’t want to happen.
So will it reduce over time? We’ll have to wait and see but an interesting story today from Toro Rosso’s Franz Tost regarding that very issue:
“The reason why we came up with the tokens is to save costs, but in the end it’s more expensive,” he added.
“If you are in front then you have already invested the money, but if you are not in front you have to invest that money later, which is much more difficult because of the regulations.
“You are forced to find a way, so in the end it becomes very expensive.”
AUTOSPORT suggested that opening the engine development would allow Mercedes to run away from the pack yet even more to which Tost replied:
“Yeah, OK, but then the others must catch up if they want to stay in Formula 1.
“Personally, I would prefer a single-spec engine, but then you lose the manufacturers, and they are important for Formula 1 and for its image.
“I hope more manufacturers join, but you have to give them the possibility of reaching a certain level, to close the gap to the top manufacturers.
“You can’t do this with the current regulation that they are only allowed to develop with a certain number of tokens.”
For me, this is a salient issue in the F1 paddock and I am sure it is for all the teams. The elements added to the equation are manufacturer interest, avoidance of a spec series and open development along with increased costs. There is no one simple answer and yet F1 does have to have an answer sooner than later.
F1 has a history of being the mother of all pragmatism that nearly always turns upon itself and does the exact opposite of what was intended. Banning testing begat more costs in simulators and wind tunnel time that many have argued is more expensive that testing.
Attempting to be cost sensitive with smaller, hybrid engines and yet now we have tripled out engine expenses. Freezing engine development and now using tokens and spending more as the regulations grow older in trying to find performance gains. It’s typical of F1 to continually seek the dodgy thinking of pragmatism over prudence. I’ve said it a thousand times. But then I don’t have the kind of skin in the game that these teams have and the politics to navigate. Easy for me to have the bravery of being out of range.
Hat Tip: AUTOSPORT