Ecclestone could still reverse engine decision
If there are fewer than 19 races in 2017, the F1 boss could invoke a special clause to undo his agreement with manufacturers
Bernie Ecclestone could yet mount another assault on Formula 1’s turbo hybrid engines, despite the conclusion of a deal that was aimed at addressing his concerns.
F1 Racing has learned that the engine deal thrashed out over the spring between Ecclestone, the manufacturers and the FIA includes a force majeure clause that enables the agreement to be revisited if the calendar drops below 19 races.
Ecclestone has recently remarked that F1 could lose as many as three races next season. The German Grand Prix does not have a contract for 2017, as Hockenheim has a deal only for alternate even-numbered years. In addition, a deal has yet to be concluded for the continuation of the Italian Grand Prix beyond 2016, even though sources claim Monza will ultimately be retained. And there are question marks over the US Grand Prix in the context of a reduction in funding for the event from the state of Texas.
The engine agreement struck at the end of April addressed issues concerning price and the availability of customer engines, performance convergence and noise. It allowed for a price reduction of 1m on customer engine deals in 2017 and a further 3m in 2018. Ways of making the engines sound louder and more dramatic are also being worked on, while performance convergence is happening naturally.
The Mercedes is still F1’s best engine, with a power output of more than 950bhp, but insiders say the 2016 Ferrari engine is now only 8bhp down on it, while the revamped Renault is just 14bhp adrift. Only Honda are lagging significantly behind– they believe their engine is 60bhp off the Mercedes, but Fernando Alonso told Spanish journalists after the British GP that it was in the region of 80-100bhp down.
Ecclestone has long maintained that he would have preferred Formula 1 to retain the old 2.4-litre naturally aspirated V8s, but these are of no appeal to manufacturers, who want to promote and advance hybrid technology.
Senior figures say that even if Ecclestone does try to invoke the force majeure clause and put the hybrid engines back on the table, he would lose because the proposal would still have to go through the decision-making process and the vote would go the same way as before – in favour of the manufacturers.