Lotus to switch to Merc engines

The word on the street is that Lotus F1 Team, the old Renault F1 factory team, will shortly announce that it will become the fourth Mercedes team, replacing McLaren, and joining Mercedes GP Petronas, Williams F1 and Force India using the German firm’s V6 engines. The news if it is confirmed is a big boost to Lotus, which has struggled with Renault engines. The new means that Renault will be down to three teams: Infiniti Red Bull Racing, Scuderia Toro Rosso and Caterham F1 with the possibility of a fourth supply if the Romanian F1 project goes ahead.

53 thoughts on “Lotus to switch to Merc engines

  1. Interesting news, and surely a positive development for the future of Lotus. Also may mean Red Bull won’t be able to get access to Mercedes powertrains, assuming the 4 team supply limit is still used. Perhaps they’re holding out for Honda.

    1. The 4 customer limit is surely a clear hindrance of competition.

      I believe it should go, and would be first on my list of gestures to make to keep a meddling European Commission at bay.

      I want to see that limit gone already, but if there is a EC inquiry to think of, you might want to keep some easy to afford concessions to hand.

      It’s a very hard limit to justify, provided and only provided, there remain at least two other viable suppliers.

      1. It’s a very small pool – it won’t take much for the viability of the other suppliers to cease.

        1. Fair point, I don’t know where the cost structure for building these engines.

          I think it would be a good thing to ask for some broken out accounts. Should there be such variance in costs?

          Why, for all the supposed emphasis on budget limiting and fairness, has there never been any published set of accounts?

          That’s a very simple question, and I can argue a lot about accounting standards and all that amusement, but it remains a simple question: why no accounts published?

    2. Yeah I was also going to ask this Joe – could you see RB moving to Honda next year if the power train shows promise?

        1. but will they be using Renault past 2015? Based on their recent comments about Renault I’d expect them to already have someone to replace them.

        2. Is it possible that maybe when Renault becomes the ugly duckling, RB will buy it cheap to produce RB engines?

    3. Regardless of the 4 team supply rule, I could never see Mercedes selling their engines to Red Bull…………why sell your best part to your closest rival??

  2. Good for them.

     As per the other news, sadly the name squabble spoiled for me enthusiasm for their progress. If it is arguable that fiasco caused Tony to draw back from F1, depriving who are now Caterham, of much needed focus and energy and money and promotion, it’ll be a long time before I can forgive. Maybe a few more cycles of management change.

     Haas ought to try to buy them, or at least ask. I suddenly have found myself more worried over the long term consequences of another botched American entry.

     I cannot say other than I think Renault went way too far in their RBR support. Ostensibly RBR pulled off many tricks to support their diffuser blowing, but I believe that effort took a lot of resources both sides of the contract. Timing and exhaust gas control mattered. When you have almost no chance to revise a engine, it becomes almost a lock in if you have to choose between a dominant winner and other teams’ concerns.

     It was pointed out to me that there is as little as 0.5% tolerance in MB PUs as currently delivered. But these are such complex beasts now, I am convinced you need a much more intimate understanding of the PU to make it work. Hopefully the other MB powered teams were simply wrong footed this season, and will not be come next year. But the sheer programmability of power delivery in modern F1 (and LMP) is staggering. Anthony Davidson’s Sidepodcast is a excellent introduction. And that, I had to remind myself, is only from the driver perspective of input at the wheel.

     What is good overall, is the development of driver input and intelligence. If only a games company can truly dive in to the real physics so gamers can get realistic engineering responses. This is why virtual gaming, by which I mean displaying the game over the internet, appeals to me. The more chance you have to play a game with friends who do not have the latest hardware, the better. Also I think the physics can still push high end gaming rigs. Not a single mention of GPGPU programming in the press releases. But you don’t reverent to narrow a audience for already a niche game, by indicating top kit required. Gaming supplied by companies such as Mainfame2 is a way off. Network latency remains a problem. Robert Cringely covers those, search for “buffer bloat”. ~~~ but it noticeably makes race talk more interesting about the drivers. And it is good to have another MB powered team who can presumably do well with it. I mean challenge podiums. That’s all I want for next year: more in that top three.

  3.  More worrying to me aside from this is if Ferrari continue to under deliver on their PUs. Maybe MB locking out greater domination of F1 will cause Renault and Honda to realize they need to dig deep. Maybe yet there might be another engine developer to come. I’d say Honda is who will dig deepest into their pocketbooks. The big manufacturers cannot leave MB to consolidate their advantage for long, or else they will incline to a exit. If MB dominate results, all else equal, other manufacturers will think longer whether they should be in, or not. That could be good, but what VW, AUDI and Porsche get from Le Mans will keep them happy enough to stay there… unless MB take their limelight ..

    I must think through this better than I have. If MB are the budget PU supplier, and prepared to sell more, I am all for it.

     You see I do reckon Ferrari are going to lag a while, and Renault also, and so the interest is what Honda can create versus the mighty Benz. Plus any distractions that DM can rustle up in Austria.

    But let more teams take a great unit, one that clearly can be used to a very wide range of resulting performance, and you have for me not a bad thing at all.

    Make MB the cheapest PU on the block (sorry for the awful pun, i’d have said “splutter” but that would have been worse) and I’m for it. Why should we not have a affordable new engine available widely, dominating the sport even?

     That then leaves the others to focus more on their customers.

    I truly believe we are seeing the sophistication of the new power units challenge designers at a higher level than was anticipated and in ways that may actually increase the demands on designers in the future

     This is why it may be that other PU suppliers can contract and not hinder the sport, and yet still challenge wins, by working better with their customers.

    1. Personally JoJ, I think it more likely that Renault would leave than stay, if their PU can’t be improved for 2015. The French car industry, and France itself, is in a mess. The economy is stagnating, and French employment law works against national competitiveness. French Unions are in a more powerful position than UK ones. They would see F1 as unnecessary to the Regie, especially if Renault needs to shrink their labour force.
      With Lotus going, that is $40m a year off the Viry Chatillon budget. MB is claimed to have spent $1 billion on their PU, I simply cannot see Renault spending that much. Therefore, in the new PU arms race, Renault is already a loser. With Honda coming in fresh, and able to learn from Renault & Ferrari errors, and MB ideas, it is logical to expect that Honda can leapfrog both Renault & Ferrari, and attack MB.
      With Ferrari stuck in F1 whether competitive or not, and MB & Honda fighting, there is little room for Renault, and I would think a Boardroom order to exit for the Regie, with Meccachrome taking on the title for the PU, would be the best cost/benefit analysis that would be available to Renault.
      Again, if one thinks about it, Renault has had 4 titles in a row, the marketing dept can make mileage out of that for years, ( Citroen is still using their WRC record in adverts for the DS3 even though they haven’t won since 2012 and are unlikely to do so again while VW outspend them ), so does it matter to a giant car company like Renault, if they stay.
      Recent history in F1 show clearly that when Boards decide they don’t want to spend, then the company goes phutt….gone, no regrets etc etc. Honda & Renault have done this in the last 20 years, and Honda prior to that even. Ford has also done it, so if Renault do not see some rapid progress ( which may not be possible at all without a total redesign ), then why stay and spend $ millions for no winning scenario? The big car companies are not known for altruistic behaviour, any more than any multinationals.Honda could supply the Renault teams, it has supplied multi car efforts in the past.But of course, the idea of the new regs was to bring more Manufacturers in with the 1600 turbo ” World Engine “, so if Renault went, this would be a big loss to that idea, and also apart from Honda, the concept has not provoked an influx of new Manufacturers to F1. Given what MB has spent, I would suggest that until the regs change to a cheaper engine spec, it is highly unlikely that there will be any new engine entrants!

      1. Hi Damian,

        Yup, well thought through. I now can imagine Renault picking up their tools. And spot on with the advertising side. Almost having a run like that within the past decade is fine, when a run. Not that that’s advertising more than it is just common sense that it is better to say “we couldn’t be beaten for four years” than “we had, uh, a glitch that year, but otherwise”, and “hey, job done, we’re doing something else now” is better than throwing good money after bad results.

        The world engine needs more explaining to me. I get the idea, that this is increasingly “software” in terms of getting response from these amazing new power units. But I still need to be hit with the clue bat as to what “world engine” is supposed to mean. Can you figure it out? All my best ~j

        1. Hi JoJ, Well I expect you heard of the World Engine, but it hasn’t been talked about of late. Mosley wanted the engine, and he wanted a 1600 turbo 4cyl, that would be used for F1,WEC,WRC,WTCC, with the central idea being that all major marques have 1600cc engines, mostly turbo, and all 4cyl, and therefore there would be many engine entrants for all these series where engines could be interchanged…..however Bernie & LdM removed F1 from the equation by demanding V6 1600 engines, and no marque has a V6 1600turbo in it’s range of engines, thus only some company dedicated to being in F1 would build one! I think the central premise for LdM was probably that A ) Merc don’t have any 1600 cars, so would they really want to continue? B ) Renault would have to build an engine that didn’t fit their advertsinig, so would they bother? Leaving Ferrari with a state of the art racing engine, and all the others with a compromise from say Cosworth? And this would be much like 1961 with the 1500cc engines, and 1966 with the 3000cc engines and give Ferrari an advantage….hasn’t worked that way though….
          Having said that the concept of such engines has not done WRC any good, and nobody else wants it either anyway. As they always said in the USA there’s no substitute for Cubic Inches!! I’d rather F1 was 3000 or more, WEC any size over 3000, WTCC 3000 + and WRC 2000+, as when these sizes prevailed, motorsport was on a roll, and not the sad spectacle of today.
          Think of 3000cc V12 Matra in F1, 4500cc Boxer Porsche 917 in WEC, BMW 3500cc Batmobile in ETCC, and Escort RS2000, Manta 2400, Chevette HSR2300 etc in WRC.
          Big engines, big noise, big spectacle…high grip low noise low spectacle is what we have and I miss what was once prevalent. Changing things doesn’t always improve things. I’m glad I saw real motorsport when I was younger, and don’t even get me started on CanAm & F5000!!!
          And to those who say how great it is to see the new 1600 turbo F1 cars slide….all I can say is Ronnie Peterson, Lotus 72 – Cosworth 3000cc V8, Silverstone…Old Woodcote….and go compare! There is no comparision at all, the modern car is totally sterile.
          To see sliding, watch Marc Maquez anywhere!!

          1. “As they always said in the USA there’s no substitute for Cubic Inches!!”

            You should have noticed that currently the IndyCars have 2,2 V6 turbo engines in use.

            1. Yes and what a rubbish idea that is…..how many Americans tune into Nascar and how many into Indycar?

            2. Yes and what a rubbish idea that is. How many American tune into NASCAR and how many into Indycar?

          2. I agree with you Damian, your last paragraph in particular. You forgot to decribe Ronnie’s “full blooded” opposite lock power-slides… pre ’75 chicane of course; could we have been standing next to one another?!

            I was in my early teens and you wouldn’t have got me anywhere near today’s turbo-charged computers for the sake of getting near one of those awesome, living machines. As you say, we have but our cherished memories to reflect upon and we were privileged to be able to enjoy those times.

            1. We may well have been in the same zone ben. I guess you must therefore be an ” Old Fart ” or ” Dinosaur ” like me…..thing is change can be good, bad or indifferent. Changing safety from 1975-now, well that’s fantastic, no question. But changing the basis of the racing and the cars, has that become better? I would argue not. The less aero cars of pre-1978 were better looking than any since. The big fat rear wheels and differing body shapes, made F1 fascinating for me. Seeing everything look mostly similar since then, was a mistake, and the best thing about this year is that although pig ugly, at least the cars are different again, although that may not be so next year.
              I think that the PU idea, is not much different to the awful wind turbine farms, pointless, expensive, retrograde and ultimately doomed. Give me either a naturally breathing large capacity V8-V10-V12 etc, or a 1500 fire breathing flame throwing turbo everytime…do that and the crowds will take care of themselves….

            2. I grew up thinking I wished I’d been just that little bit older. I do no think I am nostalgic for false innocence merely because I was a very little boy. I think there was exuberance of life when I came into the world, in a dull and gentrified equivalent of sorts to a tract house retirement build in a long ride from the freeway in FLA. My first sparks of life came from America, a very genuine transmission of life that got as far as three day working weeks, rubbish piled up, gasoline so expensive you’d hardly bother to queue.. I heard, I received, I was told I was too young to strike out…. I think it a nonsense how we demean youth, by not allowing them to try, not least now communication is so easy. I keep thinking teenage life is a creation. I could build saleable small furniture age ten, with supervision, but to my own design. I am not some special child. Show a boy or girl HOW to do things, and you have a ADULT sooner than later. I mean a youth who can exist in the world, earn keep, learn, be energetic, challenge society in good ways. Look after himself. All I ever remember as being a kid was being slapped down form being precocious. That had such a lasting effect, literally only a nasty blow to my head woke me up in this year.

              Kids given the ability to DO things, in my experience are not recalcitrant, not rude to their seniors and betters. when a kid, you recognize who is better at things, and seek them out, the natural instinct is to learn. I guess in long history a pre teen was alert to the fact they had to survive. No creature wants to hang with losers. It is inbuilt. Losers are a fiction. I think so much of the cultural vivacity of America is because they were unshackled from strict apprenticeships and guilds that were enforced by old Europe. Until 1914 almost no large town had no German language newspaper. No proper data to link for you, sorry, it was a study of census, and now fuzzy recollection of deep diving records of the Hanseatic enclave of the Corporation Of London, which in some technicalities remains a independent city state.

              Oops, wanted to say something about racing! I beg this F1 lot to embrace youth who are artificially stuck in a condescending description of adolescence. Treat the kids as kids only until they do something in life. It is so EASY to be productive, to learn to make or fix or build. On a small scale, sure, but you start, you learn. First you help, then you do. I don’t get the rigmarole of formal qualifications as a *speculative* effort, which was my question which got me blackballed from a wonderful school fearful they’d ever have a blemish on their records of notional success in life if defined at eighteen.

              What you said, Ben, made me think of just simple delights. The racing is no better fundamentally for technical gremlins in every brake pedal curve subroutine. And we have tooling that allows the young to engage with actually bloody well making things that really were big boys toys, now. Within both our memories, this has changed for the better. Minute we start hogging “adulthood” making it a purely arbitrary passage, ill defined or even defined as illness, the sooner we all start to retain a joy in living.

              Look at all we can give kids to work with. Kids form their gangs and not just nerdishly. There’s prowess in racing, something nerds can beat the jocks at is precious interaction. F1 goes on and on about being the pinnacle of motorsport. I want it to be the pinnacle of learning and breaking stereotypes that mold kids in false fashion.

              Actually, I do think anyone over forty may have a more acute nostalgia, for some of the generic social reasons I point at with grubby fingers and dopey mind.

              How much of teenage life is a marketing creation? Or even academic fear. Take math and how few significant mathematicians are young ? Well, some argue that it is so hard to make progress in a “more than half solved” field (I just made that up, I have a friend compiling for years a book of unsolved problems, think he holds only two doctorates, been at that quietly for decades) anyhow, I got taught “A level” syllabus eight years early. I’m no genius, but I could learn enough to pass 80% and better, OX/CAM board. Only I didn’t start learning until much later. It’s how exams are set, you can know and not understand. I didn’t realize I was confused and interested by number theory and discrete math until I was seven years out of dropping out of school. I can’t rattle off names and papers, so don’t please challenge me on something which my friend described as ships passing in the night when he discussed set theory of calculating numbers approximating infinity, but I grasped more concept about more regular math from my friend’s struggles that I ever expected to, in unapplied fields. I could be taught, because my teachers tried to talk above my head, and drum it into me when I had no clue. Ha, I got put straight into the top set for a whole week, before I was caught out and demoted from1a to 1b and boy was there a gulf between them. That was for one question I kept treating wrong over and over and my mind would not do rote, so my frustrated teacher explained to me the solution theory, way beyond my capacity, but he made something click, and I regurgitated that, and so was thought smarter by far than I was. That got me fascinated with how I was taught math, because I came from a school who never imagined a boy would get to where I talked my way in, as a wild card.

              Anyhow, whilst these are great memories, I want anyone close to my generation to start rethinking what is cool, how we get taught, how we still learn, and how a big ‘ol’ lump of metal can be the most exciting thing with no self appointed proprietor dissing his own racing for sounding crap start of maybe the most important year in the sport for many. What we need to do is speak out, every opportunity, I actually ordered some textbooks today, to see if I can pass the same exams. I rather doubt it, actually. I always thought i’d come back to math, somehow. I look forward to scratching my head a lot next week. But when you see a machine in motion, driven by a real star, and have a understanding of the physics and skill involved, that has been for me a a pleasure throughout life, and I am only just starting to realize how impoverished is Formula One, in the absence of communication of these primordial things which excite us as if they vibrate the very chemistry of our bodies, the electrons of our atoms, the equations the particles which make our energy spin our electrons. There’s something about controlling so much physics and yet being linked to a man, flesh and beast and brain, that cannot be matched by other sports. And I fancy some rawness again in how it is, and some respect in the way we two ways think of F1 for that most vital spinal cord of sport.

              1. You’d think I had had another bang on the head yesterday. Big whopping ugly brute of a unpleasant clue hit me square on the temple, actually, that is deeply worrying. Looks like my subconscious was rattled rather much.

  4. Am I wrong in thinking this is a great deal for Lotus? Best power train and cheapest package to boot from what I remember reading here the other day. That’ll be a few pretty pennies saved.

  5. So Lotus ( ex Renault F1 works team of not so long ago) is parting company with Renault F1. Does this add weight to the speculation of Renault F1 heading for the exit door?
    Next years Red Bull stable to be powered by Mecachrome built Infinity branded powertrains designed at Viry under new management?

    or have I joined up the dots in the wrong order

    1. I see no logical reason for Renault to leave F1. If they do not wish to sell shares in Viry to Nissan (as seen last year) why would they leave? They have to work through some pain and get it fixed. I am pretty sure that is what they will do.

      1. Without the sporting pedigree there really wouldn’t be much to distinguish Renault from all the other mid-market mid-volume car manufacturers.

      2. I can see one Joe, CH is quoted as saying that RBR have another engine option for 2016, and as a manufacturer partner not just a customer. This kind of prodding at the Regie might just inflame them enough to bog off as in the recent past.

      3. It is not the first time they went the wrong lane with the engine but came back and turned right.
        Remember the flat V10, their first attempts with the turbo in 1977-1978? And the 1983 championship was likely to be theirs, if only they dared to play a bit more with the fuel and providing Bernie & FIA knew nothing about it.

  6. Well, if this is true, I’m pretty damn sure that Esteban Ocon will get a driver seat in 2015…

  7. Assuming the move goes ahead, i have no doubts whatsoever this will be a boost to the Lotus overall competitiveness level. However, the PU is not all to blame for the Enstone-based team substantial slump in form, thus lack of favourable form compared to the last few years. I suspect something is wrong with the design of their car, particularly with the peculiar front wing design route they have taken adding to their struggle. Also the departure of key personnel like James Allison certainly did not help their cause with the creation of the E22. Romain also can be counted as a good driver with the potential to be a podium contender regularly possibly a world champion eventually, but is he good at driving the team forward and embrace the number one driver role withing the team to guide them out of uncompetitive territory when the car is not born competitive enough relative to the opposition? You also have to ask, how is Eric’s move to McLaren affecting their decision making process?

    1. Lotus’ problem with their car is that they had too few people to pour over it. It’s a product of a creative and aspiring but underfunded and understaffed engineering department.

  8. Joe – any idea when the change is to be effected from? I’m presuming (perhaps wrongly) that Caterham have singned a deal to purchase Renault engines for a particular length of time and up to a specific date. If they are to switch to Merc, within that time-frame, couldn’t this put them in breach of contract with Renault, unless they deicded to let the deal that they had with them to come to the end of its natural life?

  9. Do you know if Lotus will use the MB gearbox or will they keep this key skill in house?
    In my opinion if they want to win a championship agin they will need their own box and when possible become the lead team for an engine company.

  10. I wonder if this year’s “Power Trains” are suitable for multiple Safety Car standing starts? Might they overheat? Might the Power Train manufacturers be allowed a do-over on their design for next year because of this new rule? Would this help Ferrari and Red Bull?

  11. Poor Renault. I suppose we’re going to have to get used to them whining and moaning that they should be allowed to develop their engine non-stop to equalise their performance, like they did with the V8. Next thing, they will have fiddled with everything and created an engine suited for only one team.

  12. If Renault produces another substandard engine in 2015, my guess is that their very existence in this sport would be under threat.Red Bull for sure will look at Mercedes or Honda ( if they produce a decent unit) as will others. See what happened to Cosworth when they started loosing customers one by one.

    Would love to see BMW or Ford back in this sport, the later more so given its strong inclination towards hybrid technologies.

  13. In 2015 the PUs can be revamped. Up to this date it will be rock and a hard place for MB´s pursuers. Even harder for Renault than for Ferrari, because the Ferrari petrol V6 engine itself is OK, but they messed up the MGU-H-position (in contrary to MBs split concept), their turbocharger is to small and the heatshield for exhaust manifold is missing and (!!!) cannot be changed because it is HOMOLOGATED!. So, if a simple heatshild, which can be changed in the Autocross European Championship, but not in F1WC is subject matter of cost cutting the whole system should be reconsidered….

  14. Are Lotus allowing this story to leak to create leverage in talks to sell the team back to Renault?

    With the RBR Renault relationship on the rocks, Lotus might be looking to cease the opportunity to demonstrate to Renault that they could be left with no teams to supply. Thus encouraging them to refocus on the Lotus team and give up on RBR.

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