Dropping the Canadian GP from 2009 F1 calendar was the most shocking outcome of the WMSC meeting this week. But no less controversial are the decisions taken on the future of Formula 1 engines. Currently the engines are frozen for 5 years. However despite the freeze some engine manufacturers managed to squeeze some extra horse powers out of them while some others did not even try. Those who have fallen behind (Renault) lobbied FIA for some sort of unfreeze in order to bring the engines back to the same level with the rest of the field.
They got their wish granted:
It was further unanimously agreed to allow Formula One teams to equalise engine performance across the field for 2009, pending the introduction of cost-saving measures from 2010.
So, instead of freeze, there will be a thaw over the winter. How they plan to make the engines equal is a mystery to me. Will FIA pick the best engine in the field and others will be allowed to tune theirs to match the current star of the field ? In any case this means that we are only step away from specs engines in Formula 1. And that step may be very short … Further from this weeks WMSC meeteing:
The WMSC unanimously agreed to give the FIA President authority to negotiate with the Formula One Teams Association (FOTA) the introduction of radical measures to achieve a substantial reduction of costs in the championship from 2010. Failing agreement with FOTA, the FIA will enforce the necessary measures to achieve this goal.
Mr. Ecclestone is making it known what one of the “necessary measures” may be:
“The thing I am most excited about is pushing and pushing and pushing the homologated engine idea. The new engine will be equalised and there will only be two engine changes a year, so costs are going to dramatically come down, and I mean dramatically.”
According to this idea the manufactuers would still be able to produce their own engines but to very strict specifications. This may mean that all the engines will in fact be the same only with different badge on them.
The intentions are clear. The expenses on engine development and engine productions are huge. Even now with the 2 race per engine rule each team uses about 10 engines per car per season for racing only. Then there are Friday practices and tests that consume perhaps three times as many.
But what would then be the motivation for the teams to actually build the F1 engines ? Would it even be cost and time efficient to build them if the only difference between BMW and Ferrari will be the name on the box and only 2 race engines per car per season will be needed (bar some unfortunate blow ups) ? It does look to me that standard engine in 2010 may soon turn into single engine supplier. Would that be bad or good news ?
Since the car manufacturers took the sport over in recent years we have all become used to different engines in different cars. The manufacturers made their own and some supplied them also to privateers like Ferrari to Sauber for example. But if we go back to 70s and 80s almost the entire F1 field (much more cars than these days by the way) used this beast:
Lotus, March, McLaren, Brabham, Surtees, Tyrrell, Penske, Shadow, Fittipaldi, Ensign, Wolf, Williams, Arrows, Ligier to name the few were all powered by the 3 litre Cosworth V8 DFV power plant. Was the racing any less exciting those days than it is now ?
No matter how outrageous the idea of F1 using pretty much the same engines across the field may look, it would not really be anything new.
So would the standard engine be a good or bad idea ? Would it be a step forward ending the useless spending or would it be a step 20 – 30 years back ?
Here is what Mario Theissen thinks:
“A standard engine is something we don’t really like. I think there are other measures to make sure that costs go down. The experts are looking into things like lifetime extension, homologation of parts, standardisation of parts, although not necessarily standardisation of the entire power train because in this case it would be difficult to justify for manufacturers to be there.”
Photos: Daimler Media, Wikipedia