Half-arsed F1

The deadline for expressions of interest to identify an alternative engine supplier for the Formula 1 World Championship for the 2017, 2018 and 2019 seasons has now passed and, although there has been no official word (nothing new there then) it seems that there are at least three engine companies that are bidding to be considered for the deal, if indeed such a thing ever happens. It is anticipated that Ferrari will veto the proposal if it is voted through and then there is likely to be a legal fight about the team’s right to veto, based on documentation that is not in the public domain. This will likely end up in a legal mess, which could delay the introduction of such an engine. That would create a problem because while the legal mess is sorted out, it would be a huge risk for any engine company to spend money to develop an engine that might not ever be used and it is very clear that no-one will be paying any compensation if things do go wrong.

If the idea does go ahead, it will completely undermine the FIA’s hybrid strategy. This would be another disaster for Jean Todt because, as he has often said himself, shifting to hybrid technology is the right strategy for the modern age. The idea was formulated by the FIA in league with the manufacturers and they are likely to see any change to an equivalency formula as evidence that the FIA is not an organisation that can be trusted and that there is not a whole lot of point being in F1. If that happens the credibility of the federation is likely to sink still further, although there will no doubt be an attempt to justify the move on the grounds of cost.

The FIA says it is capable of balancing the performance of the two types of engine, but if these regulations do get voted through all competitors will be at the mercy of an equivalency formula that might be manipulated or simply set wrongly. If one is being beaten on the track by more basic engines then it is impossible for any manufacturer to justify spending on hybrid development in motorsport. It is wiser in that case to develop the engine outside the sport and so it is possible that this could lead to the departure of some of the current manufacturers. If, on the other hand, the new engine is not competitive, there is no real point in it existing.

It is clear that Cosworth has not made a bid to supply the maximum 2.5-litre unit, without any KERS, but there are definitely bids from Ilmor Engineering, Mecachrome and Advanced Engine Research (AER). The first two companies are well known in F1 circles, while AER is an English firm, established in 1998 in Basildon, Essex, by engineer Mike Lancaster. It says that it will be proposing a gasoline direct injection V6 twin turbo engine, which was designed for the 2014 LMP1 regulations, which will be developed to produce more power.

53 thoughts on “Half-arsed F1

  1. You mentioned lack of compensation if the “equivalent” engine doesn’t get built, but I can’t imagine any of these companies responding to the tender with all the work that entails without being paid to do so?

  2. That’ll be a great look for F1 – an old-fashioned engine without fuel limits overtaking greener, advanced hybrid units.

  3. Do you know why Sauber is against this, isn’t meant to help the small teams?

    If a team like Sauber are against it then who the hell is for it?

  4. This is too complex.
    Why can’t the rules just say you must complete the race with 75kg of specified fuel and leave it at that.
    Would end up with a lovely variety of clever solutions.

    1. That’s what I’d like to see, engineering teams competing against one another again. That’s how innovations happen.

  5. Efficient small capacity turbo engines is more the future than hybrids. More cost effective and better long distance MPG.

      1. How much was gas then?
        How much is gas now?
        I’d wager there’s no return on investment for a new hybrid car buyer when gas is under $2 a gallon.

        1. How long will oil prices remain at this level?

          From Jan 2011 to June 2014, Brent crude only dipped below $100 a barrel briefly. It seems reasonable to assume it’ll go back up.

          I’m no expert on these things, I just like graphs.

        2. Here’s a novel concept.. maybe it’s not under $2 a gallon in the rest of the world, outside of the stupidly cheap petrol world that is the US ?

        3. >> I’d wager there’s no return on investment for a new hybrid car buyer when gas is under $2 a gallon.

          I disagree. As someone who bought a Prius recently, I can report that my fuel expenses are just 40% of last year. I will save close to $600-700 per year. My insurance costs are same. I also got a very decent deal as I bought it during model year end period. So it will turn out to be quite a good deal for me 🙂

          Oh and btw, Prius turned out to be lot more fun to drive. Yes I can’t burn rubber but it is fun to find that I can get up to 65-70 mpg for 20+ mile trip. I drive to maximize my mileage – same as driving to limits of Pirellis.

      2. Well, gosh Joe, maybe because that’s what they’re selling right now. Doesn’t mean hybrid turbo PUs are the future.

        1. This is what the industry wants. If you know the future is not hybrid maybe you should tell the industry what is…

          1. I think Tesla have already made that point. The future in towns and cities is ZEVs driven by regulation, but cruising down the Motorway at part throttle, no energy is generated, or needed by KERS.

            Hybrids work really well on tracks where heavy braking and acceleration are the norm, but dragging two engines and a load of batteries around has consequences.

            1. Genuine question: Do you think, therefore, that people will have two cars instead; one to meet the needs (and regulations) of driving in towns/cities and another for long highway journeys? (Perhaps many families already have this, to some degree…)

    1. Hybrid technology is complementary to whatever IC engine and platform they are applied to, as they essentially recover otherwise wasted energy. So hybrids are equally relevant to the efficient small capacity turbo engines you speak of. As a matter of fact, the current F1 thermodynamic engines are precisely that….

  6. I wonder how they’ll prevent those disgruntled manufacturers defecting to LMP1, where the state of the art is more relevant to road cars in any case. I would like to see that happen

      1. There’s even less media in GT racing, but that doesn’t bother BMW. There’s less still in DTM, but Audi, Mercedes and BMW are still turning up. I guess it depends on your view as to whether the current media coverage of F1 is beneficial in any case. And Mercedes in particular may well feel that they appear so little on the official TV feed that, in those terms, their huge investment isn’t paying off.

        1. DTM is different, bacause it’s in theory still a domestic championship.


          The competition is really strong in DTM. It consist of three manufacturers. BMW stepped away from the WORLD Touring Car Championship in order to concentrate its efforts on DTM. In WTCC they were racing with (at the time) Seats, Chevys and a boatload of independent teams driving whatever. They went to DTM instead and beat Mercedes and Audi in Germany. And let’s not forget, DTM is the strongest non-open-wheel feeder series to F1. It has a massive appeal.

      2. True. Mark Webber became world champion, but even the Australian press was absent. Shameful.
        Luckily I was able to see the complete race live on tv (no, I too didn’t travel to Bahrain).

    1. Maybe more relevant, but a small fraction of viewer-ship and media coverage, and that ultimately is what pays the bills.

      1. I hope the monkey does not vist Harlepool in case the locals decide he is a Frenchman and we know what happened to the last one they got hold of!

  7. Great to see someone out there exposing this stupid idea for what it is.
    The reporting on this by 99% of the F1 following press is simply sycophantic.

  8. Either Bernie is on some kind of new drug or maybe he needs to be. He is obviously in dire straights with several factors likely to collapse upon him and kill F1 entirely.
    He must by now, know for certain, that he has backed F1 up a one way street with no exits. His original “clever” strategies, secret agreements and conditions are now tying him in knots. The alternative engine is the only wild idea that has lasted more than two weeks, but it is a dangerous one as it is fairly easy to fulfil with one supplier already having a engine that could be tickled to fit the secondary proposed spec.
    We do not want a multilevel race series, the tracks used in F1 are nowadays far too small to accommodate two tier races. Endurance and LMS racing normally use full length tracks with plenty of space.
    Todt is hardly worth mentioning any more, he has proven ineffective and obsessed with his own agenda, he has no credibility in F1.

  9. This won’t happen. Everybody knows it won’t happen. Yet millions of collective labour hours will be spent on finance models and design, not to mention PR and campaigning, to satisfy the power games of people who long since gave up caring about the sport. No wonder they’ve lost a third of the audience, and even the BBC sees F1 as expendable.

  10. Hi Joe. Can’t they simply set the limit on total output and fuel load and leave the rest of config up to pu providers? hybrid, no hybrid, kers or no, I24 or V2 etc at free choice. And allow as many firms to come in as many are ones interested? Why this exclusive tender, why this specific spec? We have seen the times when there were turbos and non-turbos, big guns and small engine firms fighting together, It will always be that there are those who fight for titles and those at the back anyway regardless what the engine formula is. I guess all this current circus is not at all about the engine or cost saving, it’s all about the who is the boss

  11. I can’t do better than quote, er, a certain other F1 website on this:

    > This option is nothing less than rewriting the rules to save one team, Red Bull, at the expense of the sport as a whole.

  12. What kind of business model are these three tendees thinking of? In order to make it even remotely economically viable you would need an economic number of customers/sales but I just don’t see where these could possibly materialise from.

    In bygone days, some series (e.g. F3000) had everyone using the same (Zytek?) engine so sales-wise you had a grid full of cars, multiplied by say half a dozen engines per car, per season plus some spares so you would end up supplying 100+ engines per season – thus making it worthwhile and giving you a fighting chance to amortize the development costs over the units sold and maybe even have some money left over at the end!

    Who would be potential customers in F1? Mercedes? No! Ferrari? No! Renault? No! Add to these main teams at least one other each that act as ‘B’ or ‘feeder’ teams and how many potential sales are left? Answer: surely not enough to make any kind of commercial sense! F1 engine regs limit teams to four per car per season (plus a couple of spares depending on reliability) for RBR and TR plus A.N.Other? So, not exactly a massive market then. New entrants? Don’t make me larf!

    Surely Cosworth has it right and it doesn’t make commercial sense even to tender. I am really struggling to see why even these three companies are bothering to tender!

    Sorry, rant over …

    1. the economies would come from, AER and Mecachrome, these are ongoing companies, they have the capacity or can add it at marginal cost. and it creates a new market for those companies and others . the cheaper costs would add teams to the grid adding to the market. the market would be made by the FIA opening up the tender to all takers

  13. I don’t see the problem with several different engine configurations.

    1. Current engines with the option to use a single or twin turbo setup with a more powerful Kers systems.

    2. FIA proposed engine for 2017 that also requires a Kers system.

    Both these options should allow for different thinking in getting engines to produce 1000hp. Just look at some of the examples in the WEC series.

    1. The problem is that if you keep changing the rules no new manufacturers will want to come in to the sport – their BoDs would not wish to take on the risk of having the rug pulled from underneath them if they are successful. Manufacturers may not want to come in now for other governance issues eg the distribution of money, but when the rules can be changed at a whim of Todt and Ecclestone it just further reduces the chance of new players. If the PU takes 3 years and hundreds of millions to develop you do not want to suddenly find that the 6 years that your thought the PUs would cover is no reduced to rthree years. If this goes through there is every chance that Mercedes will quit with their mission accomplished. If the FIA wanted lower cost power units then they should have specified this new spec or perhaps allowed a range of options within the original rules. Rules is rules!

  14. Seems the half-arsed got tossed today. Hope it stays that way but I suspect the one’s pushing it will be to thick to see that it is not wanted.

  15. I am not surprised that Cosworth wanted no part of this exercise. They were last recruited back into F1 in 2010 with the FIA and FOM insisting that new entrants that season should use Cosworth engines. The idea being that Cosworth would be the affordable F1 option. Then the major manufacturers, with the V8 engine specification frozen, their R&D expenses already amortized, and their costs therefore limited, picked off their customers one by one, leaving them out of F1 again. I am sure that Cosworth does not want to go through that process all over again.
    Ilmor is (I am sure) bidding at the behest of Red Bull, Mecachrome is there because of Todt and Ecclestone as the safe pair of hands (and their record of building and servicing the Renault engines is exemplary), and AER is working on the principle that bidding for an F1 supply deal will gain it more publicity in a few weeks than years of involvement in LMP1.
    The underlying issue of equivalence formulas remains, waiting to bite the sport in the posterior, just as it did in the 1970s and 1980s.

    1. I knew David, right back to when he was racing in F3. He could be quite difficult to get on with (a bit like James in that respect) but to be fair I never had a problem. He was very good at finding money back in his days in F3 and F3000, but I always felt that the Lotus revival was “a bridge too far”.

      1. Joe, I hadn’t realised David had passed away, do we know the circumstances as he could not have been too old. I recall seeing him race at Brands in the 80’s when Jonny Herbert had a bad accident, can’t recall the formula maybe F3. Sad news.

    2. Very sad to hear this. Had the pleasure of speaking with David on several occasions and found him a man of integrity. I agree that the Team Lotus revival (the one he really wanted) was a forlorn hope but an admiral one nonetheless.

  16. If Mercedes-Benz Renault and Honda will also refuse to accept the new engine, why should Ferrari pose their veto? Always talking about Ferrari, but why any company who has already invested hundreds of millions in the hybrid engine accept to compete with a much cheaper option? Second question: FIA and part of the press talk about engine manufacturers as the bad guys wanting to keep an unfair advantage over their competitors. If so, why doesnt anybody ask RB to sell their aerodynamics knowhow to competitors at a cheap price? All of this discussion is RB / Real Bullshit. If RB are not able to find and engine or they think they should pay an excessive price they just have to quit.

  17. “Half-arsed F1”; a masterpiece of understatement!

    Come back Jimmy, Colin, and Keith… or Jackie, Ken, and the woodyard.

    All the elements that made the era exciting are what F1 needs to find now. i.e. it didn’t have, or need to rely on, IT or IT-supported media. IT, Green policy, and commercialism have killed the essence of F1

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