Di­eter Rencken on pow­er­ing F1



Quiz ques­tion: can you name all the makes of engine that have pow­ered world cham­pi­onship F1 win­ners? Be­tween the first (Alfa Romeo) and the most re­cent (due to take place af­ter this col­umn was writ­ten, but most likely Mercedes or Fer­rari) the list is shorter than you might think.

Dis­re­gard nam­ing ar­range­ments and just 17 makes have taken a GP win (16 if you don’t in­clude the Of­fen­hausers that pow­ered the Indy 500s of the 1950s). Of those, just a few (Cli­max, Van­wall etc) could truly be de­fined as ‘in­de­pen­dent’, and were gone from the scene by the end of the 1960s.

Of course, not all ‘works’ en­gines were de­signed and built by the car com­pa­nies whose name they bore, which is why I sep­a­rate Honda from Mu­genHonda while count­ing the TAG turbo as a Porsche (since it was de­signed and built in Weis­sach to McLaren’s spec­i­fi­ca­tion) and Red Bull’s cur­rent TAG Heuer units as Re­naults. But what­ever the name on the cam cover, man­u­fac­tur­ers are sel­dom far away and their in­flu­ence has been far-reach­ing.

You could ar­gue that with­out man­u­fac­turer in­volve­ment there would be no F1; cer­tainly, 1970s grids would have been mas­sively de­pleted had Ford not bankrolled the Cos­worth V8. Then con­sider the fa­mous align­ment of driv­ers and mar­ques: Jackie Ste­wart and Ford, Ayr­ton Senna and Honda, Michael Schu­macher and Fer­rari. Even when you think of the fa­mously mul­ti­mar­que Juan-Manuel Fan­gio, the im­age in your mind is prob­a­bly of him drift­ing a Maserati.

Man­u­fac­tur­ers en­ter F1, as team own­ers or engine sup­pli­ers, for ei­ther or both of two rea­sons: im­age, and tech­ni­cal chal­lenge. At times, F1 has been ahead of road-car curves (think four-valve tech­nol­ogy and tur­bos) and at oth­ers lag­ging be­hind. The fact, though, re­mains: rac­ing does im­prove the breed. Win on Sun­day, sell on Mon­day never was truer than with Ford in the ’90s.

By the end of the cur­rent engine for­mula, mo­tor man­u­fac­tur­ers will have played piv­otal roles in pow­er­ing win­ners for 70 years. Thus it was sur­pris­ing to hear sug­ges­tions from Lib­erty Me­dia, that: “The au­to­mo­tive world is go­ing off in a dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion – fuel cell cars, elec­tric cars, au­ton­o­mous driv­ing – and that’s not F1. So how do we find the rel­e­vant path for the fu­ture?”

The im­pli­ca­tion is that F1 will in fu­ture forge ahead with­out said mo­tor man­u­fac­tur­ers, un­less they ac­cept that F1 tech­nolo­gies will have as lit­tle in com­mon with road cars as wa­ter wheels have with jets. Why would mar­ques such as Mercedes go against mar­ket (and so­ci­etal) trends by build­ing loud, thirsty big-bore units that dis­play zero com­mon­al­ity with show­room cars, sim­ply to be in F1?

And who then would power grids? Folk point to the past, then speak wist­fully of Il­mor and Cos­worth be­ing ca­pa­ble of build­ing 1,000bhp bi-turbo V6 units with­out hy­brid para­pher­na­lia – but they over­look that mo­tor man­u­fac­tur­ers bankrolled th­ese suc­cess sto­ries. Enoch Pow­ell once wrote that all po­lit­i­cal ca­reers end in fail­ure; so too have the many at­tempts at build­ing ‘in­de­pen­dent’ en­gines.

Th­ese are BRM, Van­wall, Coventry Cli­max and Repco (who all won ti­tles) and Wes­lake (a sin­gle grand prix win­ner). Pray, where are they now? Il­mor and Cos­worth? The for­mer, in its orig­i­nal it­er­a­tion, was ac­quired by Mercedes, while the present en­tity is ac­tively seek­ing back­ing for a For­mula 1 project; the lat­ter made clear it would not re-en­ter F1 with­out a bul­let-proof busi­ness case, for which read ‘man­u­fac­turer sup­port’.

True, elec­tric cars are For­mula E, not For­mula 1, and au­ton­o­mous rac­ing will never be con­sid­ered a ‘sport’ even if it can claim to be a form of auto rac­ing, be­ing more auto even than mo­tor rac­ing. But F1 could con­trib­ute to the de­vel­op­ment of al­ter­na­tive fu­els, and sen­sors and GPS sys­tems could be adapted for au­ton­omy. Th­ese alone are gold dust for car mak­ers.

Man­u­fac­tur­ers have not re­stricted their in­volve­ments to tech­ni­cal ac­tiv­i­ties, ei­ther. When­ever their cars win, they broad­cast the fact far and wide to the over­all ben­e­fit of F1. They (and their deal­ers and trade part­ners) buy tick­ets and hos­pi­tal­ity pack­ages, take mer­chan­dis­ing stalls and ‘bridge and board’ sig­nage. The big­gest spenders dur­ing F1 broad­casts? Fun­ders of the best young driver pro­grammes? You’ve guessed it.

Car mak­ers come and go, but since the late ’60s oth­ers have stepped into the breach. They play to F1’s tech fans, pro­vide fund­ing for in­de­pen­dents and em­power the likes of Force In­dia to go Fer­rar­i­hunt­ing. Lib­erty risk alien­at­ing them at their peril at a time when they need all the tech­ni­cal and com­mer­cial sup­port go­ing. Seventy years should not be chucked aside so ca­su­ally.

@F1Rac­ing_­mag face­book.com/ f1rac­ing­mag

Engine mar­ques tend to align with driv­ers. Think Ste­wart/Ford, Senna/Honda, Schu­macher/Fer­rari

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.