Just one more year: Why Red Bull are obsessed with controlling engine spend

Todt reforms require unanimous consensus

As we know, the old structure of Technical and Sporting Working Groups proposing rules through a 70 per cent majority for ratification by a 26-man F1 Commission is being revamped.

Autosport reports that instead, a 18-strong ‘Strategy Working Group’ is being created – which will be made up of six team representatives (Ferrari, McLaren, Red Bull, Mercedes, Williams and the next best in the constructors’), six FIA representatives and six representatives from Formula One Management.

This group will vote on rule changes that will be decided through a simple majority, and these will then be passed on to a trimmed 18-man F1 Commission.

The new F1 Commission is made up of the six teams from the Strategy Group, every outfit that has scored a point in the previous championship, plus an FIA representative, an FOM representative, six promoters and an engine manufacturer.

“The decision will be based on majority and not any more 70 per cent,” said Todt, who thinks the new structure will be better able to react to the needs of the sport as a whole. “It will be a democratic and balanced organisation, which doesn’t exist now. So for the FIA it is a plus.”

Todt U-turns to majority rules

This is a U-turn from Todt, as earlier this year he had 10 teams in favour of the FIA policing the Resource Restriction Agreement and refused to implement this without a unanimous decision. It appears the plan is to sign an 8 year long Concorde agreement and then get the teams to agree on cost cutting for 2014.

So Red Bull/Torro Rosso have got their way and the restrictions will include chassis and engine spending. A couple of things are worthy of note, firstly this is not democratic as the rules in place were already democratic and allowed the 10 teams in agreement for 2013 restrictions. Secondly, this obsession by Red Bull over engine restrictions only applies to Mercedes AMG F1 and Ferrari.

Will Ferrari and Mercedes outspend Renault?

Their argument is that Ferrari and Mercedes can spend gazillions on engine development as part of their road car operations  and then use that resource in their F1 teams.  Renault do not have a works team and so Red Bull must believe that they’re less likely to spend the same kind of money.

Yet Renault are also a manufacturer of road cars and they supply engines for Red Bull. Further, they are receiving all the plaudits for being the supplier of the power units for the drivers’ and constructors’ title winning team for what probably be will be 3 consecutive years. So why are Red Bull concerned about leveling the playing field for Renault?

The fact that Renault do not have supercar’s in their product range is maybe one concern, particularly as the 2014 engines are specified more towards the kind of power train that Ferrari and Mercedes could adapt for their premium models.

Renault’s F1 pedigree

Yet I find this to be suspect for the following reason. Renault has a long and respected tradition in F1. They began in 1977 as a works team and continued as such until 1985. In 1986 they withdraw as a works team but supplied engines for Ligier, Tyrell and Lotus. Renault took a 2 year sabbatical until returning in 1989 as partner to the Williams team.

Since then Renault has continually been making F1 engines and have contributed to nine drivers’ world championships (1992-3, 1995-1997, 2005-06, 2010-11) and ten constructors’ world championships (1992-1997, 2005-06 and 2010-2011) for Benetton, Willaims and Red Bull.

Spurious reasoning

In all this time Renault have never had a road car that competes with Ferrari or Mercedes, yet their commitment to F1 now spans a quarter of a century. If anything, the new V6 engines will be more aligned to something Renault could utilise in the new arrangement they have just announced with Caterham – that is to revive the Alpine Renault sporting marque.

There are other reasons I don’t buy the argument that suggests Renault may not continue to supply Red Bull with competitive engines for many years. In F1 there has always been a kudos for the most powerful engines. Ferrari were still using V12’s when others had migrated to V10’s, and generally it was held that more powerful engines cost more money.

Yet Renault have in recent memory never built power units that are the fastest. I can’t get in to BHP/torque/lbs pressure etc here – not because it’s too complicated to explain, but I don’t get it all either. Suffice to say, there are clever solutions to producing the best F1 engine, like engine mapping, and clearly Renault have been streets ahead of the others in this area too.

Why Renault will benefit

It is even more incredible to believe Renault will have less commitment to the new 2014 engines when you consider the huge commitment they have to a whole range of feeder series for F1. Renault 1.6, 2.0 and 3.5 single seater championships  together with supplying the engines for GP2 now considered the last step before F1.

The new F1 engines will have more crossover technologies into other engines they make for these series and benefit Renault no less than Ferrari or Mercedes.

Just one more year

Back to my original question. Why are Red Bull so obsessed with engine cost control being linked with chassis spend. The simple answer would be that by failing to find agreement on chassis spend for 2013, it gives Red Bull their current advantage for at least 1 more year. Red Bull have no real concerns over Renault not being able to compete with Mercedes and Ferrari developing F1 engines.

This advantage is in the vast amount spent on aero and chassis development by Red Bull – where clearly Adrian Newey is the class designer in the field of F1. So by kicking the RRA or cost control measures into the grass for another year, they can spend as much as they want on these areas of F1 car development – and it is these areas where the most freedom in the regulations is found – and where the biggest wins can be created, dollar for dollar.


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One response to “Just one more year: Why Red Bull are obsessed with controlling engine spend

  1. I don’t get it. It’s as if FIA likes the status quo. They were backing Ferrari thruoughout the Schumacher years and now they seem to be doing the same for RBR. I really really hope Ferrari and Merc level the field from 2014 onwards. As for next year, I already know whom the WDC and WCC is going to. A boring repeat of 2011.

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