Engine manufacturers agree on F1’s future
Formula 1’s engine manufacturers have finally concluded a deal with the FIA that will cut the cost of engines supplied to customers and is also intended to close up the grid. The agreement covers the four areas manufacturers agreed last November to address.
The first of these is cost. It has been agreed that prices will come down by 1m in 2017 and reduce by a further 3m in 2018.
Next up is convergence. The ‘token system’ restricting engine development will be abandoned from 2017, leaving manufacturers free to change their engines in any way they see fit whenever they want.
The third point is supply. An ‘obligation to supply’ agreement has been concluded to ensure that no team will ever be without an engine. If an engine is ever required, the agreement will guarantee the cost of that supply at 12m.
Last of all is noise. Engineers are working on a sound generator system to enhance the noise the engines make. This was described by FIA head of powertrains, Fabrice Lom, as “not fake, but not purely natural”. The intention is that it will “really increase the intensity and quality of the engine sound”. After many months of wrangling, teams and engine manufacturers have reached agreement over the supply of power units
The ‘obligation to supply’ aspect of the arrangement came about because of the situation in which Red Bull found themselves last year, when they wanted to drop Renault but could not persuade any other manufacturer to supply them.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner was critical of the agreement, saying it “tickles the price, deals a little bit with convergence, the obligation to supply doesn’t really apply”. And Force India deputy team principal Bob Fernley said his team “reserved their position”.
This led an exasperated Toto Wolff of Mercedes to say: “I just want to digest what I heard in the last five minutes. We achieved a major price reduction over two years. We have opened up development scope for others to catch up. We have designed an obligation to supply so no team runs out of an engine contract. We have found a mechanism how performance convergence could be triggered. Lots of good things, months of hard work in trying to get everybody on the same page – I think it’s a good step forward.”
Red Bull’s engine contract with Renault expires this season, but they are unlikely to fall back on the obligation-to-supply guarantees. Renault have already offered them a new deal, and they will almost certainly continue with the current arrangement of buying Renault’s engines and badging them for a sponsor, currently the watch manufacturer Tag Heuer.
Disputes over cost, performance and noise are being resolved, but the independent teams are yet to be fully convinced