Engine development limits to be scrapped
Token system will be axed to help lagging manufacturers catch up, but fuel efficiency will remain a priority
Formula 1 bosses have agreed to end restrictions on engine development in an attempt to make the sport more competitive. The move to abandon the controversial ‘token’ system has yet to be officially ratified, but high-level sources say that there is unlikely to be any attempt to block it, since all the engine manufacturers have now agreed to it.
Under the current regulations the various parts of the engine carry ‘token’ values, depending on their effect on performance, and manufacturers can develop up to a maximum limit of tokens – with the number permitted reducing each year. But the system has been criticised for being overly complicated and for having the potential to permanently enshrine performance disparities.
The theory behind axing the token system, is that by freeing manufacturers to develop their engines in any way in which they see fit, the performance of the various power units should eventually converge. The ban on in-season development has already been lifted for 2016 – just as it was for 2015 – and the number of tokens has been raised from 25 to 32, the same as the three manufacturers who competed in 2014 were allowed last year.
Abandoning the token system altogether is an attempt to give Renault and Honda the chance to catch up with Mercedes and Ferrari. All involved agree that it is bad for F1 to have two such large manufacturers struggling for competitiveness.
But Red Bull design chief Adrian Newey has criticised the move, saying it will lead to a “spending frenzy” and that the “gaps will get bigger not smaller”.
Newey, whose views may be rooted in a concern that Red Bull’s route back to competitiveness is looking increasingly difficult without a works engine partnership, says that previously the agreement had been that the engines would be frozen at a certain point and that “teams who were behind would still be allowed to keep developing”.
Newey said the amounts being spent by manufacturers were “eye-watering” and that companies not prepared to spend as much – notably Renault – would be left behind.
However, there will be attempts to ensure that spending is still kept under control. The total number of engines allowed for each driver per season is likely to be reduced from four to three, possibly for 2018. And there will be a series of mandated parts that cannot be developed. Limits on the amount of development time permitted have also been suggested.
But the key drivers of fuel efficiency – the combustion process and the hybrid system, especially the MGU-K, which recovers energy from the turbo – will remain free. Over the past
The engine token system is set to be abandoned, letting other manufacturers catch up to the dominant Mercedes engine