The FIA World Motor Sports Council confirmed yesterday it will take steps to ensure all engines used in F1 have equal power outputs in 2009. Rumours about this have been buzzing around since June.
This brief statement marks an utterly radical change for Formula 1 and a major step away from being a series where car builders compete to create the fastest machine, and towards becoming something closer to a ?óÔé¼?£spec series?óÔé¼Ôäó, where all the cars are identical.
What are the implications of this change ?óÔé¼ÔÇ£ and how will the FIA ensure all power units used in F1 give the same power?
F1 engine specifications were ?óÔé¼?£frozen?óÔé¼Ôäó in 2007 in an effort to curb the amount being spent on engine development. However some manufacturers have improved the performance of their engines in other ways.
That led Renault?óÔé¼Ôäós Flavio Briatore to complain his team had been disadvantaged by obeying the ?óÔé¼?£spirit?óÔé¼Ôäó of the rules and not chasing further performance from their V8.
The FIA?óÔé¼Ôäós decision to force all engines to have equal power outputs is an attempt to resolve this and allow teams to make further cost savings, as president Max Mosley explained:
The engine and gearbox together for an independent team is upwards of ?óÔÇÜ?¼30m a year. That could be done for probably 5% of that cost without the person in the grandstand noticing any difference at all. Even those big spenders, if they are given the opportunity to save ?óÔÇÜ?¼100-200m a year will do so.
But it raises some difficult questions:
How will equal engine power be achieved?
It seems to me there are two ways the F1 might achieve this:
1. Set maximum outputs for power and torque.
2. Have each F1 team use the same engine.
More technically-minded people might be able to give more insight into how these could work in the comments.
Option two would obviously be much more radical and I wonder if this is what the FIA already has in mind in terms of ‘future cost cutting measures’. Their reasoning being, if all engines are to have the same power output and power delivery, then what’s the point in having different designs at all?
How will equal engine power be enforced?
Presumably the FIA intends to monitor engine output using the standard ECU.
But having ‘identical’ engines can bring its own problems. In other series where participants have to use the same specification of engines it is not common for wealthier teams to acquire batches of engines and compare each one to find the most favourable unit – even if the differences are tiny.
What will the teams have to say about it?
Max Mosley originally tried to press the teams into agreeing to new regulations on engines at Monaco, during the height of the scandal over his involvement in sadomasochistic sex orgies. The teams asked for that meeting to be deferred, and subsequently set up their own body, FOTA, to respond to a request made by Mosley during the British Grand Prix to propose new engine rules.
We have not yet heard what FOTA wishes to propose. Last month I wrote, “the idea that six car manufacturers are all going to be happy to use the same engine just doesn?óÔé¼Ôäót seem realistic to me” and I still hold that thought.
Will FOTA fall in line with Mosley’s thinking? Or is he trying to pre-empt them to force them to agree to his own solution?