The two-tier engine formula for F1 has many tongues wagging and even teams you’d think would be all over the concept are making noises about not being convinced the Balance of Performance (BoP) can be achieved or lacking details etc.
In the end, the teams may reach a compromise and simply decide to lower the cost of their current hybrid supply contracts to small teams making the sustainable F1 program more affordable for all teams while the manufacturers take it in the shorts in order to compete and run at the sharp end. Is that the right solution?
In my mind it still leaves a gapping hole in the software and version of the engines provided to the smaller teams and even though they can afford them, you still will have Mercedes running out front with tricked-out hybrid gear and Ferrari chasing them while small teams struggle along with the less tricked-out hybrid engines they got from Mercedes and Ferrari.
What would we have achieved in such a scenario? The fact is, Ferrari never wanted this hybrid engine in the first place and if the new Class B engine spec is regulated using the BoP and put on equal terms as the hybrid in performance, then what justification would you have for continuing to build the hybrid? I think that’s the point really. Formula One Management’s Bernie Ecclestone has never been a fan of the green engine concept and it’s nearly killed F1.
So in my mind, he has to be thinking this very issue. The come back would be that the reason manufacturers wanted to get into F1 with this format is for road relevancy and if Mercedes complains that Force India or Red Bull is competitive with them using a Class B engine, they would get a reply along the lines of…well, this is racing but you’re here to make road relevant engines for your road cars and develop them in the crucible of F1. That’s why you’d continue to make them…are you now saying that road relevancy isn’t important to you and that sustainability in your engine design isn’t something you’re focused on anymore? You get the picture, right?
In reality the new engine spec is a gambit for control of the sport and to dislodge Mercedes and Ferrari from their strong position over determining the future of F1 when their contracts end in 2020. The FIA controlled the V8 and V10 eras through regulatory oversight and there were many suppliers as well as manufacturers providing those engines. The new engines are so complex that the FIA have lost the ability to control the sport as there isn’t a line of people waiting to create engines that only a multi-billion dollar company like Mercedes can afford to make. What good is a manufacturer in the sport if it is leading everyone around by the nose as they are the only ones who can afford to make the very heart of the series…the engine?
Look at it! Mercedes is supplying half of the field and determining who gets an engine and who doesn’t. They won’t give an engine to Red Bull for fear of being beaten and neither will Ferrari. The FIA and FOM know the sport is hanging in the balance and you can’t marginalize Red Bull’s strong position as a privateer with huge bank accounts and no knife in the engine fight. The FIA and FOM can control a series like that and to be honest, I bet they’d gladly show Merc the door if they could have a team like Red Bull to replace them with a huge check book and need for an engine supply. Pretend that Apple or Oracle wanted to get a team in F1 for marketing and branding just like Red Bull. What a coup that would be. Huge influence, massive brands and they don’t make engines.
I think the manufacturers will make a compromise in the end but Mercedes won’t like it at all. Some will consider it a failure of the FIA and I would say yes, the hybrid engine was not a good idea the way the regulations were written and it’s done a lot of damage to the sport. I would rather them admit they went a bridge too far and got back to the business of racing and get out of the road relevance and sustainability industry. If you want to offer KERS, great. If you want to write regulations that demand more performance from a turbo of naturally aspirated engine, great. It all has to start somewhere and this is where it all begins…the Class B engine tender. Well, that’s what I’m calling at as “B” stand for budget.
There’s a reason Max Mosley was on TV recently with Mr. E and that wasn’t to glad hand. It was to foreshadow an upcoming aggressive move by Jean Todt and it was intended to position the manufacturers as the ogres and Jean Todt needing to make aggressive moves for the future of F1. It was to set a narrative and give him an out on moving away from sustainability hybrid engines.
This is my opinion but I think the engine tender is being used as a serious bargaining chip and at some point, if Ferrari think they can make a class B engine and win, they’ll do it. Mercedes might not.
You recall that when a team dominates, the rules change. Remember complaining about the Vettel/Red Bull domination? The Schumacher/Ferrari domination? Well, some folks have had enough of the Hamilton/Mercedes domination but this time, it could have serious implications for the sport in the long run and the FIA and FOM are moving to change that.