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.