When the FIA first announced the plans to freeze the engine development back in 2006 the first thing that came to my mind was – “How can that be ?” The logic of saving huge money by not having to spend millions only to gain few horsepowers more than the theguys in the next garage made some sense. But, if some engine was superior in 2006 that would mean the same engine being superior for the whole of 2007 … Hm … Well, somehow the teams managed to get their powerplants on sort of equal level, the 19,000 rpm limit probably also having something to do with that. But how about if someone has reliability issues ? Will they be for a year(s) stuck with engines that blow up in every race ? No, they wwould not. For this reason there was a provison made allowing manufacturers to change parts at the FIA’s discretion if it reduces costs or improves reliability (creating the future loophole).
Then however came end of the 2007 season and FIA announced that the engine freeze would last for 10 years. What ? The pinnacle of motorsport stuck with the same engines for the entire decade ? That did not make much sense to me and I think few believed this would seriously happen. It is not happening, the freeze has been to reduced to 5 years only. Now it looks that the freeze is not really a freeze …
Already in July this year Flavio Briatore complained that unlike others, Renault have stuck to the letter of the rule and as a result have fallen back. Some others, notably Ferrari, BMW and Mercedes did what the smart guys always do in F1 – they found the loophole in the rules – and added what is rumoured to be as much as 30hps to their engine performances. The situation in Red Bull in Toro Rosso suggests this may indeed be the case.
As Christian Horner said following the Italian GP, Vettel’s win was still Red Bull win, no matter the car is called Toro Rosso. In Horner’s words “the only difference in the package is the drivers and the engine”. Yes, some can argue that perhaps Red Bull drivers are no match for Vettel, but let’s leave that discussion for next year when these guys will be team mates. Christian Horner probably knows these two better than us and he himself is rather vocal about the fact that the engines make the difference:
“Renault give us a very good service. Last year we had a competitive engine and this year others appear to be ahead of us from our analysis. And obviously there is no bigger example than between the two Red Bull teams, so for us it is very important that Renault address it in the appropriate way.
I know that they understand where the issues are. The problem is they took the ruling of the freeze absolutely literally, and others took advantage more than they did. And Renault have paid the penalty for that. The problem is, being stuck with that for five years is an untenable position for Renault or any other team that has that kind of disadvantage.”
And so some behind the scenes efforts have started to do something about this “untenable position”. Those that have fallen behind apparently want to be allowed to catch back. Moreover they are confident that by the end of the season the issue will be solved and the playing field leveled.
Hm, level playing field sounds good, but in this case it means the goal is all engines being equal ! Is that what we want to have in F1 ? If yes, then why simply do not go for single engine supplier, let’s remove another variable like with the tyres… How does that sound ? Not too good to me …
Now, how would they want to level that playing field ? They can’t ask Ferrari, BMW, Mercedes to go back. They all made only necessary changes to improve the reliability, remember ? So the only way is open up the the engine development for few months to allow those lagging behind to catch up. OK, but how will FIA decide who will be allowed to do the catch up work and who will not ? And if next year the same disparity shows up and Ferrari and Mercedes complain about Toyota and Renault, then what ?
Does the engine freeze still make any sense ? Would not this be the right time to discuss some arrangement how to end this “engine freeze” thingy ?
Update: Max Mosley has his idea that he reportedly mentioned to French daily L’Equipe. Mosley’s idea is common F1 engine for all teams … Please tell me he was misquoted …
Photo: Red Bull/GEPA