#F1 Features: Spot the Elephant – Engine Loopholes

Charlie Whiting F1According to Wikipedia, “Charlie Whiting is the FIA Formula One Race Director, Safety Delegate, Permanent Starter and head of the F1 Technical Department, in which capacities he generally manages the logistics of each F1 Grand Prix, inspects cars in parc fermé before a race, enforces FIA rules, and controls the lights that start each race.”

However, Whiting stated in February 2014 to editor in chief of thejudge13.com that he was “the FIA – as far as Formula One was concerned”.

When pressed on the matter, Charlie revealed, all F1 regulations ‘go through him’ whether sporting or technical, and that he has the final say on what is recommended to the World Motor Sport Council along with interpretive regulations not requiring the sanction of the WMSC.

Of course the F1 strategy Group and Commission have arrived on the scene since Charlie’s statements. Yet the rules governing the engine development, were agreed long before the advent of the new Formula One governance structures – which by the way appear illegal under previous rulings from the European Commission.

According to Autosport, the current situation regarding engine development regulations is as follows.

No date was set for the current manufacturers homologation of their engines for 2015. This means they can alter their engine design by around 48% of what they presented to the FIA in 2014 – throughout the 2015 season.

Charlie and the FIA intended that this work would be done and completed prior to the first race of the season; in effect the engines should be homologated (agreed) at the end of February 2015 and would again be frozen throughout the year.”

“In a note that was sent from the FIA’s Charlie Whiting to all teams over the Christmas period, it was made clear that the upgrades would be allowed to come on tap at any point over 2015,” Autosport report.

“As it is not specifically stated… when a power unit may be modified in accordance with appendix 4 [of the technical regulations], we feel that the weighted items (32 in this case) may be introduced at any time during the 2015 season,”

The failure to specify the intention that engines should be frozen before the first race of 2015, is an oversight of significant proportions by Whiting and the FIA.

Charlie has now issued an opinion that, “The basic homologated power unit will remain that which was homologated for the 2014 season, including any changes made in accordance with paragraph 1 (c) of appendix 4 [of the sporting regulations].”

So the intention of the FIA regulations to freeze engine development beyond the first race in 2015 will now not be enforced.

However, Charlie and the FIA have also failed to regulate on when new engine manufacturers should deliver a homologated engine.

John Noble of Autosport states Charlie’s opinion as follows. “Although the regulations do not specifically state dates for the Japanese car maker to submit its homologated unit, the FIA is standing by its view that it must stick to the February 28 date that the current manufacturers faced last year”.

So we have the intentions of the FIA regulations discarded for the current manufacturers, yet Honda are expected to comply with similar intentions – which are also not regulated.

Whiting sent a note clarifying the position which states, “As the existing manufacturers were obliged to homologate their power units by 28 February 2014 it would seem fair and equitable to ask a new manufacturer to homologate their power unit before February 28 2015”.

We therefore consider this to be a requirement for a new power unit manufacturer.”

mclaren honda 2014This may appear to be an equitable position to take regarding the Honda engine, yet Ron Dennis and Honda will clearly argue, the intention of the FIA is not being upheld so far as existing engine manufacturers and their 2015 engine development freezes are concerned – so why should Honda and McLaren be held to a similar intention of the regulations, which is not clearly stated.

In motor sports, the sanctioning body to race in a given category must homologate a vehicle. This means the FIA must agree a Formula One car and engine fits the specification to be allowed to race.

The regulations stated that the 2014 power unit (PU) would comprise of 66 ‘token’ components – that are weighted individually between one and three depending on how important they are.

Ahead of 2015, five of these tokens were ‘frozen’ completely – but there was scope to review the 61 remaining items if a manufacturer felt improvements were needed.

Engine manufactures are allowed to select 32 of these ‘token’ components and completely modify them for 2015.

Autosport claim that all the 2014 F1 engine manufacturers are now free to develop/redesign around 48% of their 2014 engines, but Honda are not allowed this freedom. Yet the failure to differentiate between engine homologation and ‘engine development freeze’ is crucial to what will be.

Under the current regulations, Honda can theoretically present the FIA with an engine specification which can be agreed (homologated) as suitable to race in Formula One at he end of February and can then design/develop 32 tokens worth of the engine components as can the other PU suppliers, throughout the season.

In fact, due to the oversight of Whiting and the FIA, Honda could argue, they are allowed to present an engine which fits the specification of the new V6 Turbo regulations – have it homologated – and then continue to develop the whole of the 66 tokens throughout the 2015 season. This is not forbidden by the regulations for a new manufacturer.

This gives Honda leverage, and the most likely outcome will be, Honda will present an engine for homologation (agreement) prior to the first 2015 race – and like the other manufacturers will be able to redesign 48% of the PU throughout the year.

Given Whiting’s role in F1 on behalf of the FIA – once again questions of competency are unavoidable.

30 responses to “#F1 Features: Spot the Elephant – Engine Loopholes

    • Getting anxcious that someone else might win for a change? 😉 No matter how badly it reflects on Whiting and the FIA, for F1 this might be a blessing in disguise. The Mercedes strangle-hold on F1 was worse than the Ferrari domination of the 2000s or the three years of RB domination from 2011 to 2013. Nobody, who loves F1 can wish for yet another one-horse race for years to come. In that regard it is bad for FIA and Whiting, but good for F1.

      • So Mercedes had one season of dominace and you classify it as a strangle hold? Hmmmm that’s interesting. I’m really baffled as to how you can compare 1 season to the Ferrari and Redbull era’s.

        So how exactly will this help the other teams? You do know that this ruling also helps Mercedes as well? It really changes nothing, because they still can only use the original 32 tokens.

        • I think Mercedes clearly has a PU package that can pull 2s per lap. With the current regulations no one can catch them. You are right, mercedes can also develop but when you are so close to perfection it is deminishing returns.

          • But that’s assuming that they’re close to perfection.

            Wasn’t there talking at one point last season, when the debate started about relaxing the regs, that Mercedes had identified areas that could bring them a further 70 bhp?

            IMHO, this cockup doesn’t really changes anything for the other teams.

  1. As Hippos says, possibly some good comes from a bureaucratic error. The FIA have their own lawyers, who supposedly examine documents before they are published. However the intent/effect of the rule is not really within their remit. This lack of error trapping is ‘connected’ with the stroop effect. We read what we believe, or want to believe is written, and vice versa. Assumption/assuming also contributes. Proof reading is a real skill.


  2. Given that the engines can only be frozen once (and this must be declared by the manufacturer, NOT the team), I can imagine that Merc’s domination will be even bigger come Melbourne if they get their 2015 engine ready on time.

    Renault and Ferrari will have to wait several races before they can use their 32 tokens (as they have to use them all at once, not one at a time). We could end up Renault and Ferrari using 2014 engines until Spain whilst Mercedes bring an engine that produces up to 900 hp and is more fuel efficient.

    • I don’t see why Merc would want to use their tokens before Renault/Ferrari. Why should they when they are already 2s a lap ahead? There’s not really any point getting further ahead because they are pretty much guaranteed to be smashing Renault/Ferrari until the updates. I think the smart tactic would be to continue to develop and refine their new engine parts and hold back until Renault and/or Ferrari use their tokens.

      Renault and Ferrari are both in a tough spot because if they continue to hold back on using their tokens then they will continue losing races by large margins and look like fools in the meantime. The pressure is on them to show their hands first.

      Honda are the ones who could throw a spanner in the works – if they have a strong engine from the start – and force Merc to use their tokens before Renault/Ferrari.

      • The product lifecycle of F1 PU parts is a matter of months and not weeks; if they are already on schedule to deliver their PU for Melbourne then they’ll do just that. It’s too short notice for them to allocate tokens later in the year as it takes several months for the R&D and production of those parts to come through.

        Honestly, if they bring the new PU for Melbourne they will walk the opening races. They could delay it and spend more time improving it but I can’t see that happening.

        You’re right about Honda; if they can match Merc’s 2014 PU they will be very handy.

        • But there’s a risk if those teams aren’t able to bring their 2015 units to the first race.

          Given that they’ve only got 4 units for the season and if Dominic Harlow is correct and teams elect to bring their 2015 units to the first European race, Spain, that would only give them possibly 2 units to use for the rest of the season, because only one PU can be homologated per season.

          The link below gives a bit more insight.

          • I foresee an even worse Bahrain 2015 for Ferrari! Nil points! It makes sense to bring the engines in at Spain, after 4 flyaways and 1 engine, but being behind now I can only imagine they’ll still be behind in 2016 etc.

          • That’s if they don’t suffer any engine failures during those 4 flyaway races. If that happens, then it’s still only 2 PU’s for the rest of the seasons.

          • Yeah I think 2015 will be an utter disaster for Ferrari and Renault. They will have to compete with an inferior engine for the entire season again but this time the gap could be even bigger (at least in the early races). Bahrain could be embarrassing; Ferrari could be using an old 2014 engine in their cars versus fresh 2015 engines in the Merc’s (and potentially a very good Honda engine).

            I honestly can’t believe how badly Renault and Ferrari have messed it up this badly.

    • Against my better judgement, I read Allen’s piece – thx for the link 🙂

      Just how deeply he is embedded in the F1 gravy train is exposed by his closing statement in response to the notional question about what the poor rule making means for the sport in 2015

      ” It also shows that the sport did something to improve the sporting balance ”

      Also, his article headline refers to “engine rule changes”, as if the c*ck up was somehow intentional.

      No word of criticism, just limp-wristed spin. He could maybe blame his subbie (if he has one) for the dodgy headline – in fact the lead states the situation correctly – but crediting the FIA for accepting their own balls-up is laughable.

    • What’s funny is that the engine pictured in the post title is ……… a 2.4L V8 from the previous formula.

  3. What a surprise, Charlie Whiting has made another balls up and look who benefits, Ferrari, Red Bull and Renault. Would anyone like to guess who pointed out the loophole to those three?
    With £millions involved, why is one fool allowed to have so much power in F1? In the past few months he’s attempted to change the rules with his radio ban and restarts after SC nonsense. How can Whiting be allowed to continue in his post?
    Todt has rolled over and given Whiting free rein to bugger up F1. Is Todt French by any chance?

  4. I have to admit, i’m totally confused now. Is it possible for the engine manufacturers (excluding Honda, to keep it, hmm, “simple”):

    1. to enhance the already homologated PU of 2014 using for example 16 of 32 tokens and use this PU already at Melbourne (without homologating it again of course), followed by a further enhanced PU, consuming the remaining 16 tokens beginning with Spain (or later) OR

    2. will they have to use as many tokens as necessary throughout the season ,but racing the unchanged and homologated PU of 2014, including all enhancements made for reliability etc., up to a specific race, introducing the enhanced PU at Spain (or later)?

    According to this AMuS article (in German):

    Ferrari will use 27 of the 32 tokens before season, Renault will split the tokens throughout the season and Merc “saves” 5 tokens for a later time.

    But if *2. would be true, what would be the benefit of the procedures described?

    • My understanding is that teams can ONLY race a homologated engine. If the 2014 engine is raced it will have to be the 2014 engine as homologated in February, 2014. If this engine is upgraded it must be homologated and then that’s it for the season, no changes. So it makes sense to run the 2014 homologated engine until the 2015 is ready, homologate the 2015 and then run it for the rest of the year.

      All teams running an engine brand must run the same homologation; i.e. if Renault enters the 2015 engine, all teams running Renault MUST use the currently homologated engine, the 2015. The manufacturers can’t just sort of change bits and pieces as they please. They get only one chance. The only difference the rule ‘change’ makes is that the manufacturers now have the ability to run the 2014 engine until they think the 2015 engine is ready; they don’t have to introduce it February 28, 2015 as previously thought.

      • Also lets not forget that if they use the 2014 PU’s, that counts as part of their 4 allocated units. So any failures before they introduce the ’15 units, can cause a setback.

      • I wonder where this leaves Lotus, who have changed from Renault to Mercedes engines. I assume their 2014 chassis won’t work with the Mercedes engine, so which engine will they run with at the start of the season – the 2014 or 2015 Mercedes engine. If they are forced to use the 2015 version, will all of the other Mercedes powered cars have to use the 2015 engine?
        Typical F1 – confusion reigns, until the courtroom decides the issue.

  5. Using 2014 engines in 2015.

    There is another point to consider, which was brought up by Renault during the Caterham discussions in December. The PU installation is going to be repackaged, and Renault stated that the 2015 engine would not fit directly in the 2014 chassis. This could mean the introduction of an entirely new chassis at the same time as the 2015 engine. Ferrari are supposed to have the same problem. If all this is correct, and people opt to stick with last years car, either by choice or been forced to by their engine supplier, then the bottom teams will take a big performance and financial hit. Producing parts for two different cars will be problematic.

    However I don’t think that scenario will play out. Unless Ferrari and Renault have major problems with their ICE, then they will reserve their tokens for ancillaries. Having said that, both Ferrari and Renault have admitted the need to address combustion problems. Renault are doing this with Mario Ilien/Ilmor, and Ferrari with AVL. Ferrari also hired an ex Mercedes HPP combustion sim specialist.

    Of course its F1, and so many of those involved are adept at speaking from both sides of their mouth at the same time, simultaneously making completely contradictory statements.

    • Meant to add that the loophole was first discussed by the teams some months ago. So it would be fair to assume that they didn’t wait until last weeks FIA announcement, to work on a parallel development strategy.

  6. I find this odd that this loophole just became known as I’m sure all the teams knew this before the ink dried on these regulations. I’m sure Honda knew this all along and have created a build timeline around this.

    The excitement that this brings is the differences at each track we see. As the tracks differ such as Monaco vs Monza will we see spec engines that uniquely cater to each track?

    Think of how Alonso kept Hamilton behind him the last few laps in Hungary? I think Ferrari engine had equal power to Mercedes in the lower speed corners but places like Spa and monza they suffered.

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