Among the proposals agreed by the FIA and the Formula One Teams’ Association to cut costs are a range of money-saving measures targeted at the engines.
The changes include an extension in engine life and severe restrictions in development. Will they achieve the goal of cutting costs while keeping F1 at the technological forefront?
Longer life, fewer races
With just over 100 days until the start of the 2009 season the teams’ options for making immediate cost savings on engines were limited.
The first steps will be to increase the life of an engine from two races to three. This will be accompanied by an overall limit on the total number of engines a team may use in a season: eight per car in the races, and four per team outside of races, for a total of 20 per team
To allow the teams to achieve this 50% increase in engine life, the maximum rev limit will be lowered from 19,000 to 18,000rpm.
This should reduce the number of engines that have to be built and purchased. The manufacturers have agreed to reduce the cost of a year’s engine supply to half its 2008 level next year, with a targeted cost of €5m by 2010.
Development restrictions and future specifications
Internal tuning is to be banned and the same specification of engines will be kept until at least the end of 2012. Renault, who had fallen behind on engine development, has been allowed to make certain alterations to its engine in order to help it achieve parity with the rival manufacturers. The possibility remains for a new engine to be introduced in 2013.
As well as cutting costs, this will further reduce the scope for performance gains to be found through mechanical changes. Inevitably bright F1 minds will find some workarounds to tease more power from the 2.4-litre V8s. But those gains may be limited to areas such as lubricants, where the potential improvements are far smaller.
In some ways it is disappointing to think that the exciting days of dramatic engine improvements from race to race are behind us. It will rob F1 of some of its unpredictability. But that may be the price we have to accept for a Formula 1 that is financially viable.