Tuesday November 24th, 2015 will be a big day in F1 history. Tuesday morning, the infamous “F1 our-only-Strategy-is-self-preservation-Group” will meet in the morning, and then the F1 Commission will convene after lunch. According to Autosport, topics to be discussed include: Manor/Marussia changing their name, Lotus changing their name, 2017 tyre and Aero regulations, and of course, the Bernie Todt “Unicorn” engine.
Why unicorn? because this engine does not exist, nor could it in any reliable form before 2017. It’s a myth. Less weight, more power, cheap price, total reliability, parity with existing Power Units. Just typing the words made me laugh out loud. It reminds me of the old corporate adage,
You can have it done fast,
You can have it done cheap
You can have it done right.
As Matt Somers has most eloquently put it, “I’m not buying it“, and the real question is who actually would?
Mercedes has invested hundreds of millions. Williams, and Force India are locked into long term contracts, of course in F1-land the terms “Locked”, “Long term” and “Contracts” have totally different definitions on any given day.
Manor appears to have a deal with Mercedes, and Lotus has either a Mercedes or Renault power unit, but lets leave it at that for now.
Ferrari has also invested hundreds on Millions in this new PU. They have a reliable customer in Sauber, though Monisha and contracts are two more words that make me laugh when used within the same lifetime. HAAS is no doubt locked into a deal with Ferrari that he will not get out of unless they choose to let him.
Mclaren is married to Honda, despite the desperately unhappy state of the relationship.
This leaves just Red Bull as a viable client for the ‘new engine’, and possibly Toro Rosso too. It would be downright reckless not to run a new engine in more than one chassis. McLaren’s experience in 2015 appears to demonstrate that running just two cars has led to desperation from Honda, chopping and changing components in a desperate search for more data.
Prior to today’s 2 big pow wows, several viable engine builders have commented as to the feasibility of the Todt/Bernie new power unit project.
Cosworth was extremely blunt. “We have declined the opportunity to loose money”. Ouch.
Ilmore and AER have both responded to the FIA’s “Call for expression of Interest”, and AER has gone so far as to say on Monday they already have an engine that fits the description. Mike Lancaster from AER had this to say today:
“The fact [the FIA] are looking for an engine we actually have is extremely interesting to us. We have spent a good many years developing a specific GDi V6 engine, and it was put together for high levels of modern motorsport, with the emphasis on lower brake-specific fuel consumption. So we’ve produced an engine that fits into exactly what they are looking for, which is a very powerful, modern, fuel-efficient racing engine. Given the power required, the engine we have will easily deliver that, and more if necessary. It would impact the rebuild mileage, but in terms of whether it could do it or not, it would, and it would make a great sound.”
Well how convenient is that? As I stated in the previous article, The new engine specifications appeared to be written fitting a very specific set of criteria… So voila.
All that is remaining is for the new engine regulations to be accepted by the F1 commission today. That said, the FIA have indicated they may unilaterally force them if the teams’ fail to unit behind this proposal – in either event, then the official tendering process would begin.
In a previous TJ13 article, we put a link to the FIA’s official tender page. That linked article has now been removed.
If you try to search for “tender”, or “call for expression of interest” in the FIA’s search bar, the links no longer come up, as they did previously.
But there has been no proper tender. No contracts have been signed. This was a one week rush to get something in before today’s big meetings. Yet Bernie and Todt will walk in to the high noon show down today with the ultimate threat in their pocket; something not too dissimilar to the gun analogy Todt himself used in regard to the Ferrari veto.
The big news is that, Bernie and Jean finally agreed on something! Bernie wants to reduce the power of the engine manufacturers to limit their present power. Todt wants the threat of new engines to force a reduction in Mercedes and Ferrari power unit prices to customers.
Of course there is one big benefactor long term should Todt and Bernie get their way. The Red Bull family. They too would like to be independent of the manufacturers. Beholden to no one, and this is their golden ticket.
However, in reality there is a problem not easily solved. Even if this AER unicorn exists, then there is the matter of parity with the current V6 Hybrid Turbo power units.. The weights will be different. car balance will be different. Tyres will need to be different. Fuel load will be different. The non-hybrid cars will either have to start heavier, or finish lighter than the hybrids. Possibly both, or be allowed a refuel stop, which WILL NOT HAPPEN. The FIA is talking about unlimited fuel flow for the new engine. So what happened to Todt’s drive for efficiency and greener technologies? Red Bull has stated without that the only reason they have chosen to stay in the sport was because of this new engine.
So how will this play out? Well there are two scenarios.
- Todt and Bernie push their cheap engine through. This will possibly drive Mercedes right out of the sport. It also gives Renault no reason to stay, and could even theoretically drive away Ferrari too. It will help no team except Red Bull, as there are no other teams that are not under contract already. This option is nothing less than rewriting the rules to save one team, Red Bull, at the expense of the sport as a whole. It will also insure that no other manufacturers will risk entering the sport… ever. F1 will alienate itself from every major car company on the planet.
- The new engine threat is dropped, and the other manufacturers agree to reduce the cost of the PU to their customers in exchange for an extension of the current engine regs beyond 2020. This would theoretically allow Ferrari and Mercedes to recover their development costs over a longer period, allowing them to reduce the annual cost of a PU supply to a team.
So where will this leave Red Bull? They will either build their own motor from basic components supplied by Renault or leave F1. The clock is still ticking, but no one knows when time as we know it will end.