Red Bull are saved – is the cry doing the rounds on the internet. But why?
The recent meeting of the World Motorsport Council ratified the sporting regulations for 2016 and there has been a ruling that F1 power unit manufacturers must supply customer teams with the same specification of engine that they run in their works car.
Well, that’s the headline anyway.
Article 23.5 of the sporting regulations now states: “Only power units which are identical to the power unit that has been homologated by the FIA in accordance with Appendix 4 of these regulations may be used at an Event during the 2016-2020 Championship seasons.”
So Red Bull’s concern that Ferrari will only provide them with a 2015 power unit is banished. However, all this was agreed before Ferrari announced they would not be providing both Toro Rosso and Red Bull teams with an engine in 2016. The regulation does nothing to force a manufacturer to supply a team if they don’t wish to – or rather don’t have the production capacity.
This is all possible given the loophole Ferrari found in the 2015 regulations has been closed – where engines did not have to be ‘finalised’ on 28th February. Article 23.5 continues, “Any manufacturer intending to homologate a new power unit during the 2016-2020 period must provide the FIA with full details of the power unit on or before 28 February of the year of homologation.”
This article in effect means there will be no 2016 in season engine development like we have seen this year. So a Ferrari/Mercedes/Honda/Renault 2016 engine would remain architecturally unaltered through the season and a customer would have the same homologated unit as the works team.
The problem is that tomorrow there is to be a pow wow between the FIA and the F1 engine manufacturers to discuss broadly how the 2016 regulations may be altered to allow the likes of Honda and Renault to catch up with Ferrari and Mercedes.
For this to work, the homologation date would need to be scrapped, and some kind of in season development allowed. This of course then renders article 23.5 as pointless.
This year we have seen Mercedes introduce a new ‘development’ engine specification, but for the works team only. The reason? They claim it’s due to production limitations and it was not possible to offer this ‘new’ ‘developed’ unit to their customers.
So even if a customer team starts the season with an engine identical to the one the ‘works’ team is using, very quickly new iterations would mean the customers are on an older specification engine – even though it is the base design for 2016.
Mercedes have for obvious reasons resisted any change in engine regulations previously, though they are believed to be open to the idea of in season development in 2016. This would require a unanimous vote from the engine manufacturers for 2016 in season engine development to be introduced.
The matter would then proceed to the F1 commission where qualified majority voting could see the relaxing of the engine homologation rules for 2016 then referred to the WMC for rubber stamping.
Yet in a bizarre twist of fate, Red Bull may now refuse to agree to in season engine development. They like Ferrari were up for in season engine development in 2015 because it to provided the opportunity for Renault to catch up with Ferrari and Mercedes.
However, given Red Bull are saying they cannot work with Renault any longer and are hoping Ferrari or Mercedes will be forced to supply them with an engine – it would now be in Red Bull’s interest to vote against in season development for 2016 – because this would then lock in the specification of engine they would receive on March 1st – to the one used by the works team for each and every race.
Article 1.2 of the 2016 sporting regulation reads: “These sporting regulations were published on 30 September 2015 and may only be changed after this date with the unanimous agreement of all competitors entered in the 2016 Championship, save for changes made by the FIA for safety reasons which may come into effect without notice or delay.”
The tangled web F1 weaves…