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.