The switch to 2.4 litre V8 engines for 2006 has had a predictable effect on reliability: Cars are failing at a greater rate than last year. There were seven mechnical retirements in last week’s European Grand Prix.
Retirements due to mechanical failure had dropped from 29% in 2002 to 11% last year. The new points system introduced in 2003 shifted the balance towards regular points finishes over occasional high points finishes, placing greater pressure on engineers to maximise reliability.
In 2005, three-quarters of all race starts ended in a classified finish. But with 26 failures from 110 starts so far in 2006, the car failure rate is set to double in 2006 (see chart). It will be interesting to see if improvements to car reliability as the season continues can reverse this trend – and what role it may play in the championship battle.