Red Bull could scupper in season engine development proposal for 2016

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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…

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14 responses to “Red Bull could scupper in season engine development proposal for 2016

  1. The other problem is that while the physical engine may be frozen by homologation the software and fuel are not. So in theory an engine manufacturer could limit their non works Power Units to lower power outputs via software (modes, limits etc), not to mention cooling, exhaust, etc. Plus customers may be forced into using different fuels and lubricants.
    I don’t think customer teams have the opportunity to work with fuel and lube manufacturers to develop a fuel or lube on a homologated engine.
    So even if they do freeze a power unit in Feb manufacturers will still be able to hobble their customers Power units!!

    • That’s the thing about the Power Units, whilst most people look at the ICE, Turbo and compressor layouts, very few pay attention to the complex chemistry going on with the fuels and lubricants. Software wise ? I would expect Mercedes reserve the very best modes and engine maps for the works team i.e. Mercedes is on version 3 of software while Williams and co are still on 1.5 or 2.0 etc As far as fuels go ? I expect Mercedes give it’s customers guidance on basic fuel mixes that will run the ICE safely but no more than that.

      As far as Red Bull go ? If the manufacturers want in season development and they are blocked due to Red Bull ? Expect power units that are crippled in software and fuels if any of them decide to supply Red Bull with a Power Unit. It would be totally different if Red Bull were building Power Units of course – No restrictions on development or spending until they’ve leap frogged the rest, then an immediate freeze to lock in the advantage for X years.

    • And exhaust blowing might come back with Bernie wanting louder cars. Gets more and more complicated.

      • @mclaren78

        Exhaust blowing will not return. There has been furth r clarification and it states that the additional exhaust has to exit in the same area as th current models. Check out somersf1 blog to see a picture.

    • +1

      It is amazing how much weight is being put on the idea that all hardware must be the same without taking the software into account. Before saying “freeze the soft too” remember that one of the purposes of this formula was to have the soft “free” and ERS development less restricted in order to improve the non-smokey part of the PU as well as energy management software. This last bit is important as it is the only thing in an F1 that can be used for road cars (Mercedes, Renault and Honda, for better or worse were heavily motivated by this aspect of the PU rules, Ferrari wanted a N/A V10)

      …and Software can’t be the same, no matter what. A pilot is not like another, so ERSK brake mapping may be different. A chassis isn’t like another cooling-wise so thermal management isn’t identical. Even if you have the same PU there’s no way to impose identical software. A factory outfit tho can optimize their chassis for the engine and unless the customers make a carbon copy of the factory chassis, they will not be as good (baring genius, which I doubt even RedBull possesses in limitless amounts).

  2. Hello Mr Horner. Please sign here for your delivery of your works equivalent specification boxes of fresh air. Good day to you and enjoy.

  3. … or their vote could be seen as a strategically important detail for the manufacturers other than Mercedes. If Ferrari, Renault or, God forbid, Honda wanted to ensure continued engine development during the season, why not offer Red Bull a 2016 engine contract if they voted a certain way?

    It’s funny anyway, that a team like Red Bull could vote on the future of the sport and not be a part of it next season.

  4. Somehow every one seems to think the one-spec rule is new. It isn’t. It was already in the regulations of the February version of the 2016 Sporting regulations.
    It might change though, as the engine manufacturers will convene on Thursday to talk about new engine regulations like in-season development and use of 2015 engines. Which then will be forwarded to the WMSC to ratify if all teams agree to this.

  5. all just further brinkmanship from the Bullies. let us play (win) or we will ruin it for everyone.
    its my ball etc
    i’ll see your engine development ban and raise you exhaust blown diffusers.
    what’s an exhaust blown diffuser anyway, is it not just a lot of hot air?
    No wonder Red Bull were the masters of that tech 🙂

    Bit of idle threat anyway, Red Bull can block away, Merc and Ferrari still won’t supply them and then once Red Bull withdraw from F1 then their consent will no longer be needed to allow in season development – so win/win/win for Honda/Renault/Merc and Ferrari.

  6. What an utter, utter mess our sport is in.

    Shaking my head in disbelief that really well paid folk have tied such epic knots in the soi disant pinnacle of motorsport.

  7. And they really think that will help them get an engine contract? It’ll just mean the remaining options will vanish in to thin air…

    Ferrari have already said year-old only so they will withdraw the offer.
    Renault need the ability to develop so if that is gone they also will refuse to play ball.

    Will it be possible to reverse this rule quickly once RB leave, or will it have to wait until the 2017 regs – meaning Renault will probably pull out as well without the ability to upgrade, and Honda will be tempted likewise.

    • These regulations were brought in on the pretext of reducing costs, with lamentable lack of thought. But hey, this is Formula1. What did you expect? Costs have escalated, as we all knew they would. Engine suppliers who didn’t get it right first time are put at a huge disadvantage for years to come. The extra costs and atrociously small allocation of money to the lower teams, and the delay in getting that money, means they will always be running at the back of the field. But look on the bright side, CVC, Bernie and his cronies, are happily making lots of money, so it has worked out ok for some people. 😛

      • Well put Mike. Red Bull could try going to Ferrari and saying power units for yes votes. It wouldn’t happen though. As much as I would like to see Red Bull help put an end to in season development, it’s not a good idea as it the only chance Ferrari, Honda, and Renault have to catch Mercedes.

  8. Whether you hate or love Red Bull you’ve got to at least appreciate that they have made the en of this season quite entertaining 😉

    Mercedes’s domination on track has made the battle for the world championship quite boring, luckily there is enough entertainment coming from the mid field teams, and Ferrari has made the driver silly season quite boring by keeping Raikonen so I feared for the most boring end to the season we’ve had for several years but now Red Bull brings in some entertainment with inducing an engine silly season and Red Bull being the biggest losers in that silly season is the icing on the cake. Can’t wait to see what kind of entertaining twists and turns were going to see next 😀

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