Rumours about equalising F1 engines

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Would rival F1 teams really be happy to use identical engines?
Would rival F1 teams really be happy to use identical engines?

At the British Grand Prix Max Mosley asked the teams to come up with proposals for the future technical rules in F1 from 2011. As ever, one of his stated priorities is reducing expense.

The teams are due to present their response by October and have formed a new organisation to do that – FOTA.

Now suggestions have come from Mosley and at least two team bosses that F1 teams could move towards using the same engine. This would be a revolutionary change for F1 and it’s hard to believe all the teams are in favour of it.

How engines have changed

In one respect, making all teams use the same engine would be a logical continuation of recent rules changes: first teams had to make engines last for more than one weekend, then engine specifications were switched to 2.4-litre V8s, then the specs were (in theory) frozen for a fixed number of years, and rev limiters introduced.

Giving all F1 teams the same engine would continue a process of harmonisation that’s been going on for years.

But still, the idea that BMW and Mercedes, and Toyota and Honda, would compete against each other in a series where they were all using the same engine, seems a little far-fetched. What would be the marketing value for them?

Presumably other areas of development would be kept free – KERS, for example. But with aerodynamics but severely curtailed next year as well, Formula 1 cars are going to be more similar than ever before – which is something Mosley has argued in favour of in the past.

Conflicting demands

Some will see the idea of making F1 cars more similar in specification as largely a good thing – it will cut costs and it will keep the performance of F1 cars close, creating better racing.

But to others the gradual reduction in diversity in F1 is pure anathema. It violates one of the fundamental principles of F1 – that each constructor builds its own cars.

Clive at F1 Insight reckons “this drive towards a spec series (for that is what it is) invites disaster for the sport.” I understand his thinking completely – if F1 becomes too much like GP2 or F1 Grand Prix, where all cars are built to the same specification, it will lose its “unique selling point” (horrible marketing phrase”.

And it comes at a time when Indy Car is hoping to break out of being a spec series by bringing more engine manufacturers in.

Brad at IHT says, “I am beginning to think that the engine freeze is a failed concept.” This I think we have to agree with. it’s clear this year that Ferrari, Mercedes and BMW have progressed their engine development despite the ‘freeze’, whereas the like of Renault have not.

At present, the only team bosses I’ve seen quotes for in support of the move are Flavio Briatore and Christian Horner – both men whose teams use Renault engines. I could see why they might be so keen for everyone to use the same engine…

The rule makers face conflicting demands: cutting costs; providing entertaining racing; keeping the sport safe; preserving the fundamental character of the sport. There isn’t an easy solution to this problem, and I’m not pretending to have one, but the idea that six car manufacturers are all going to be happy to use the same engine just doesn’t seem realistic to me.

32 comments on “Rumours about equalising F1 engines”

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  1. ..A dilemma indeed. It all comes down to prioritizing Manufacturer Marking vs quality racing. I don’t think there’s room for both in this sport – the top teams are simply too far ahead. I began following F1 in the “Schumacher Walk-Away” years, mostly for the tech aspect of the sport.. certainly not for the quality racing up at the front. With the recent rain-soaked races, I’m all of a sudden recording races I can’t watch live, and thoroughly enjoying the full 2 hours of the race.

    From a pure racing fan perspective – To be able to provide this kind of racing consistently is worth compromising ANYTHING, be it engines, aero, TC, etc, etc.

  2. I can’t see myself enjoying Formula One as much with spec engines. For me, my loyalty to particular teams goes hand in hand with what manufacturers I am loyal to outside of F1. If every team was using the same engines, a huge part of this rivalry to vanish, which in my opinion, will start to kill the sport we all love. The last thing Formula 1 needs is people avoiding the races in favour of something else… Indy Cars for example? Plus, A1GP is already doing that :P

  3. Champ Car and the IRL here in America are 2 prime examples of why F1 should not venture into this territory. Not only has 1 series failed and the other is anything but on the national sports map, but they are/were boring. Not just from a driver/team perspective, but from a technical and fan view.

    If this were to happen I don’t know how I could watch F1 and continue to think of it as the pinnacle of motorsport. If this is the side effect of Max Mosley staying in his position after the scandal then more needs to be done to oust him from his position.

    If I wanted to watch GP2, I would. But since I want to watch Ferrari, McLaren, BMW and other huge Manu’s fight in the best Championship for personal pride and glory, I watch F1.

  4. I’d rather not see standardised engines. You remember engines, and associated constructors, well and it bodes well for the sport – for the constructor and for the fan. It’s another element to enjoy about F1 – the technical relationships with suppliers (e.g. Senna with Honda), a differing aspect on tracks (e.g. Ferrari at Valencia), or another point of discussion (e.g. Renault honouring the development freeze).

    The only plus side is that maybe Ferraris’ reliability will be on level to everyone else’s. But even seeing them blow up is almost customary in certain seasons, and standardised engines doesn’t mean they will all last anyway.

    Sorry, the other plus side is obviously level the playing field – but modern F1’s never had a level playing field…and I think part of the hierarchy appeals to some fans.

    As originally pointed out, what marketing value will the commodity car manufacturers get from such a move? I remember Renault milked their championships on every single car advert I saw, god knows what else. Nothing to stop them doing that I guess if they all had standardised engines, but it takes a significant part away from the constructor imo.

  5. See I don’t get why F1 is messing with engine regulations. There was very little support towards the change to the V8’s (Especially from BMW) a few years back. You could argue about the merits of the current transmission and engine regulations are just as costly then when teams could do whatever they want.

    It’s not just that but we are seeing a revolution in transportation technology with hybrids, super-efficient diesels/petrol engines, electrics, and hydrogen power. I think there is an opportunity beyond KERS for Formula One to take advantage of these technologies.

    Frankly I think if Formula One wants to maintain its’ sprit as the première motorsports and as the place that is at the cutting edge of motoring technology, they need to open up the regulations instead of close them down.

  6. When I was writing my post on the F1 engines yesterday I really did not expect that half a day later Max would send his idea to the air. I think someone should seriously tell him that it really is time to go and that it has nothing to do with private life …

    But who ? He listens to nobody and I am afraid that if decides he can push even such a nonsense as standard F1 engine …

    So, we have standard ECU, standard tyres, now standard engines what will be next ? Standard chassis ? Why Max simply does not tell Jonathan Palmer to call his F2 to be F1 instead and get over with it …

    I would like to see some real figures that would proove that the engine freeze has caused some spending reduction … Well maybe less spending on engines but I am quite positive that the money is being spent somewhere else. No matter what will FIA standardize the teams will always go to the extremes and spend those millions trying to gain those tenths of a second on oposition. When will Max & Co finally get it …

    And when talking about Flavio and Horner – It was Red Bull who got out of the contract with Ferrari and shipped the Ferrari engines to Toro Rosso to make room for Renault. Horner only has himself to blame … And Flavio – why instead of crying on Mosley’s shoulder doesn’t he do something about his engines … The rules are same for BMW, Ferrari, Mercedes, Toyota, Honda. He has been talking about their engine falling back since June, what has he done since then ?

    Hm, how about standardizing the drivers too ? Some drivers are too good and the teams who have them benefit from them too much …

    Sounds to me like it is Marx not Max ruling the sport …

  7. I would dare to say the engines are already the same in every car (since they should be producing similar outputs if they are produced to the spec) but I digress.

    I think the move towards overspecification is a bit too little, too late. Someone in Clive’s blog referred to the age when almost all the teams were private and almost all the teams were powered by Cosworth. If Max wanted to save the private teams, the move to do so should have been made years ago.

  8. As a new fan, I just can’t see how F1 would operate under it’s current guise if all the engines were to be the same. Indeed, they may be very close already in terms of development, but things such as reliability do surely differ from one manufactuere to another, and the dilemma of finding the right engine partner for teams such as Williams and Toro Rosso remains a key factor in the sport’s operations.

    In short, using one spec engine would not be a death blow to the sport, but would indeed diminish it quite a bit. Hopefully it will never come to that, but with Max, you never know…

  9. If that is going to happen, then I would stop following F1. The technical freedom was a unique thing that F1 had, it is now being slowly subdued by Max & Co. I don’t know what is in Mosley’s mind, does he think cost reduction would just help them to boost the sport? yeah, it could, but certainly it won’t be the case when that happens at the cost of technical compromise.

    Teams will lose their uniqueness, then F1 would be just drivers’ race as the other spec series. OK, at least I feel technical restrictions will certainly have negative effect with the fans like me. The sport will be doomed sooner, or it will evolve into some other sport where there is zero importance for technical stuff! I truly hate this move Max.

  10. I don’t see the teams, at least the leading teams agreeing with it. They gain valuable publicity for their non-F1 car manufacturing from their F1 car manufacturing and people who put down $100Ks of money like to know that the engine in their was developed using F1 technology. Keith, as you said, where would the marketing value be? I know that Honda in particular in their current ads for family sedans, heavily trade on their F1 involvement. Also, in my mind, there are points not just for the driver, but for the constructors, the more homogenous the cars get, the less meaningful the constructors points table.

  11. the worst thing about F1 turning into a spec series is that people wont be able to bash drivers such as Hamilton for “having the better car”.

    something I would sorely miss

  12. Now we fans do not want F1 to be a glorified A1 racing series, do we? That should answer many a questions to Mr Mosley.

  13. nice one Max … Did all teams must use Ferrari’s engines ? or how exactly Ferrari or BMW or Toyota or Honda or any other manufacturer will use some 3rd party engine ?

  14. Remember, this is an idea currently, not an implemented rule…

    I can imagine this would not be at all popular with the major engine manufacturers in F1. Ferrari certainly wouldn’t be happy giving-up its sporty engine image, and Mercedes would hate the idea of being dissociated with a winning car.

    A good article and debate, but I think the answer is clear… this is so totally unlikely to happen.

  15. I think good racing is hardly dependant on engines. If the dependency on aerodynamic grip is (partly) fixed for next season, let us see what else is necessary.

    If we want to see drivers race eachother with spec cars and spec engines, we might as well watch GP2, World Series by Renault et al.

  16. None of Max’s ‘cost-saving’ measures has ever saved any money. Even if the cars were all re-badged Formula Fords, the teams would still spend $500 million on wind tunnels and CFD work to optimise the shape of the driver’s helmet. And McLaren would drop another 500 mil developing an even shinier silver paint.

    Everything Max says and does has the whiff of Machiavellian politics about it. He is probably doing one or all of the following:

    1. Allay the fears of Briatore and Horner so that they will support him on a different unpopular measure.
    2. Propose something extreme, to make the less extreme measure he really wants to implement more palatable.
    3. Distract the teams from a completely different rule change they would otherwise have rejected.
    4. Force the teams to put all their powertrain development cash into KERS, given that so many of them have voiced doubts as to whether they will run it next year.

  17. I would rather see all the teams use the same engine than what F1 is currently doing it’s best to do in making the teams all build their own engine and then working backwards and trying to equalise them from there, which makes no sense at all. Ok this year has saw some differences begin to appear again between engines, but progress is being made by circumventing the rules to do so!

    There’s quite a bit of snobbishness about spec series. I think the thing to remember is that Mosely does actually get some things right – when he says that most people don’t care if the manufacturers spend $x million to get another 5 bhp or 500rpm, he’s right. The hardcore F1 fans might care and might think it’s against the ethos of F1, but so are customer cars apparenttly and noone is telling Vettel his win doesn’t count because his team didn’t build their car and they didn’t build their engine.

  18. Didn’t this man have to resign and dedicate himself to a full-leather sexual life? It’s only a question I have…..

  19. All I can say is “Obvious issue rearing it’s ugly head” It can be done but shouldn’t. Reason being that it wouldn’t feel right for me, to turn up on a Sunday evening in my lounge room, south of Sydney, wearing my Ferrari red PJ’s and prancing horse logo-ed baseball cap (not to mention the claret red G-string!) to watch a replay of the Singapore night race, when I know that next door, John is in similar attire (only his G-string is al-foil for McLaren)but after all our efforts are in vain as it’s irrelevant which constructor we support it’d be all about the driver not the team.

    On the other hand it would have to make more sense to limit the funds available to each team. I believe if Ferrari had Force India’s resources or vice versa it wouldn’t have the same negative impact as spec engines.

    In closing, spec engines in F1 = moot point.

  20. If this really is a serious suggestion then I think it is the first step towards Bernies rumoured ‘GP1’ spec. Of course he wants the equal cars, as he sells the ‘show’ on the drivers and not the teams. He has already hinted that he prefers to count the Champion from the number of wins, and not the number of points, so he doesn’t want the teams to count for much….very similar to GP2.
    However, I can see the Manufacturers not liking this, but Bernie now has control of them with FOTA, so it will be ‘like it or lump it’. He will be playing them off against each other to be the sole engine supplier too…
    I wonder if it will mean that a ‘Team’ could run more than 2 cars? The independant ‘Teams’ will be pretty safe – Red Bull, Williams, Torro Rosso, Force India, its only the ‘Works’ teams which are under threat – Ferrari, BMW (although they can run as Sauber), Toyota, Honda, McLaren (although they don’t have to use Mercedes engines).
    And certainly if the KERS development continues, it would be cheaper all round to have one supplier looking after all the cars, again similar to GP2.
    On a slight off-topic, Gerhard Berger has said that STR is not really for sale, just looking for a secure backer separate to Red Bull, to comply with the vague ‘Customer Car’ rules. I wonder what the rules would say if Ferrari (as engine supplier) pumped more funds into the team for chassis development etc….?

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