The FIA has formally announced its proposal for a low budget “client” engine to be introduced in 2017, which means that F1 could run with two different types of power unit which will somehow have to be balanced by an equivalency formula.
As previously explained it would allow teams to have a much cheaper alternative to the manufacturer supplied hybrid V6s. Although the specification has not been confirmed the FIA wants to have a 2.2-litre twin turbo V6, which in essence is similar to the current Indycar engine. The FIA is planning to launch a tender process, to which the likes of Cosworth and Ilmor could respond.
Today’s announcement is a direct result of a recent meeting between the engine manufacturers are the FIA in Geneva where the subject of a cap on supply costs to customers was discussed again, following a unanimous agreement at the last strategy group meeting that such a plan would be imposed.
However Ferrari used the veto on rule changes which was given to them by the FIA many years ago. The FIA, with the full support of Ecclestone, has used that rejection of a cut in supply costs to find a way to introduce the new engine concept. For Bernie Ecclestone one of the primary motivations is to find an engine that Red Bull could use in 2017 that has no manufacturer strings attached.
In a highly unusual move the FIA has gone public on the Ferrari veto.
The governing body said today: “The FIA, in agreement with FOM, suggested the principle of setting a maximum price for engine and gear box for client teams at the last Strategy Group meeting These measures were put to the vote and adopted with a large majority.
“However, Ferrari SpA decided to go against this and exercise the right of veto long recognised under agreements governing F1. In the interest of the Championship, the FIA has decided not to legally challenge Ferrari SpA’s use of its right of veto.”
In explaining what happens next the FIA used very careful language to emphasise that this is an idea that has to go through the proper processes: “Therefore the FIA will initiate a consultation with all stakeholders regarding the possible introduction of a client engine, which will be available as of 2017. Following this consultation a call for tenders for this client engine, the cost of which would be much lower than the current power unit, could be undertaken.
“Supported by FOM, the FIA will continue in its efforts to ensure the sustained long-term development of the Championship and look for solutions enabling it to achieve this. It asks all of the teams to make a positive contribution to the success of this approach through proposals and initiatives in the interest of the Championship and its continuation over the long term.”
Ecclestone is fully behind the idea and is convinced it will work.
“We used to have people running turbo engine and people running normally aspirated,” he said in Austin. “It wasn’t a two-tier system. It was a choice. Whatever it is, I anticipate they will be able to continue running their engine and others running the other engine.”
Regarding equivalency he said: “Obviously it can be done, yes. Maybe we will have refuelling again for those that want it, if people have an engine that is super efficient they won’t wan to obviously. They don’t have to.”
The existing manufacturers are obviously sceptical about the idea, and it remains to be seen whether ultimately the scheme is a ploy to force them to lower the supply prices of their current engines.