An alternative ‘spec’ engine package for F1 looks likely to become a reality as Bernie Ecclestone and Jean Todt are pushing the concept of low budget engine for 2017 – one that would literally take the power away from the manufacturers.
Both men have become increasingly concerned at the influence wielded by the engine suppliers. Sources suggest that the FIA will could launch a tender process for a 2.2-litre turbo turbo V6, similar to the current Indycar engine, as soon as next week. How an equivalency formula would be worked out remains to be seen.
The news comes after the idea receiving no support at the meeting of the sport’s engine manufacturers in Geneva last week. However the manufacturers also rejected any kind of cost cap on their current engine supply deals, and has prompted prompted the FIA to act. It remains to seen if the concept is ultimately being used as a bargaining chip to bring those costs down.
Ecclestone has long been pushing for a way to find a “Cosworth” who can supply a budget engine to struggling teams, and Todt is also sympathetic to the idea of a low cost package. It could be forced through for 2017 without unanimous support.
In April when I asked Ecclestone about a twin-turbo V6 he told me: “I never wanted to go back to V8s, I wanted to set up a single engine to be in F1, which they could run for let’s say 10% of what these manufacturers spend. It would be a different regulation, which would be cheaper. If the manufacturers then decide this would be a good thing, then that’s OK. Or if they want to supply [current] engines at a realistic price to the teams, then good.”
Asked about how two types of engine could compete in parallel he said: “We used to run turbos with normally aspirated engines before. You can do either.”
A return to V8s or a move to a twin-turbo V6 with a basic KERS package has also been mentioned as a last ditch alternative for Red Bull to use in 2016, although it would require unanimous support for a rule change.
Longer term the turbo idea was always more likely to fly than a return to V8s, as it would represent less of a loss of face for the FIA and those who have been pushing the new technology.
Red Bull boss Christian Horner remains open to the idea of an alternative, and he also favours a turbo route rather than a move to older technology, as he indicated today when asked about the prospect of a return to V8s.
“We might have to because we don’t have an engine!,” he joked. “I think if you look at what the plus points of the V8 were, the sound was the obvious one for the fans. It was quite simple technology compared to what we have now, so the costs were quite significantly lower.
“But the machinery that we have now through the regulations, they’re incredible bits of equipment, and I think what we need to do rather than look backwards look forwards to what should the engine developed be for the future. There’s elements of what we have that are strong at the moment that can be improved, and I would certainly love to see the volume go back up, and certainly the cost of development come down.”
Inevitably these representing manufacturers are happy with the status quo, and don’t want to see any kind of dumbing down of F1 technology.
“Honda joined the sport because of the challenge of the technology,” said Eric Boullier. “And obviously some may regret the engine noise of the V8, some may regret the cost as well, but it’s true that we have to look forward. It’s a piece of technology that’s brilliant, once it works, in our case hopefully soon, it’s a nice challenge to run these engines.”
My April story can be found here: http://adamcooperf1.com/2015/04/23/ecclestone-believes-teams-can-run-cheap-engines-in-2017/