A lot of folk have asked about what manufacturers can and cannot do to improve their engines for 2015. This has been addressed by the FIA in its efforts to control costs in the course of the life cycle of the new formula, with a series of restrictions over a seven-year period. These are designed to allow development but keep costs down. It was deemed to be too risky to freeze engines from the start as it could have led to one manufacturer, whose initial product was superior, achieving a dominant position from the outset and so it was decided to create a schedule of allowable changes to stop wild spending each year.
To achieve this the regulators came up with the idea of dividing the parts of F1 power units into three categories, ranked 1, 2 and 3. The total ranking for the parts in an F1 power unit is 66. From this total was derived a system of “tokens” that allow for change. If you redesign your pistons, for example, it will cost you two tokens, while the ignition system is worth only one point. Each year, each manufacturer will be allowed to choose what parts of the engine they wish to develop, based on these tokens, with the annual number of the reducing each year. For 2015, therefore, there will be 32 tokens available, which means that almost half of the components in an engine can be changed. Each year the number of tokens will reduce by around nine percent so that by 2018 there will be only 15 changes allowed each year, which will mean only 23 percent of the parts can be developed. Thus, there are increasing financial restrictions but there is still much development possible. As a result, over time the engines should become more closely-matched. New manufacturers can still come in and are not really handicapped because they will inevitably hire staff who know the answers to lots of the pitfalls, so they will not be greatly disadvantaged.