The FIA get tough with F1 engine manufacturers

FIA

The FIA budget alternative engine drama is over for now. Mechachrome, AER and Illmor will by now have realised they were just pawns in a game – a game where the rule makers designed the board so incoherently before its launch in 2014, that it has and will continually require revision during its 7 year life cycle to 2020. With regard to the efforts from the potential alternative engine manufacturers, the FIA noted at the F1 commission’s gathering: “The meetings acknowledged the four credible Expressions of Interest made for the manufacture and supply of a less expensive alternative customer engine”.

The FIA pretty much allowed the auto manufacturers to write their own regulations for the new V6 Hybrid Turbo power units. Worse still, engineers were at the forefront of the working parties, unfettered by the realism of an accountant.

Then by some dark financial art called ‘internal cost allocation’, a price of around 20-25million euros was set for customer teams to acquire these impressive mechanical creations. Nobody really knows if Toto Wolff is telling the truth that Mercedes are losing money at this price selling their V6 Tubro Hybrid – not even Toto himself. It depends on the assumptions behind the calculations.

Auto manufacturers spend $10m’s every day on R&D so it’s fortunate for Mercedes, Renault and Ferrari they can charge their power unit design costs to an F1 project – making their car production activities more profitable.

This price tag attached to a customer power unit then was between 25-40% of an independent F1 team’s annual budget; quite ridiculous of course, not that Mercedes or Ferrari care a jot.

The president of the FIA wakes from his 100 years of slumber, demands a price cap of 12m euros for the power units, Ferrari uses its veto – and so the ‘alternative budget F1 engine’ notion was floated. This most transparent tool designed to manipulate Ferrari and Mercedes into agreeing to cut their engine price, was never really worth the paper it wasn’t written on.

The F1 commission which includes the teams, the FIA, FOM, race organiser and F1 sponsor representatives, failed to give the new engine proposal the 18 (form 24) votes it required yesterday.

The FIA of course then have to return to Ferrari and Mercedes cap in hand. The following matters must be properly considered by the manufacturers and proposals placed in front of the FIA before the 15th January 2016.

  • All teams must be guaranteed the supply of a Power Unit. Interestingly, the fact that Red Bull had a contract with Renault for 2016 meant this piece of criteria would have been met.
  • There is a need to lower the cost of Power Units to customer teams
  • Simplification of the technical specification of the power units
  • Improved noise

There will also be agreed a minimum number of teams that any F1 engine manufacturer can be forced to supply.

The FIA added the following veiled threat should the proposed proceedings fail to deliver. “The F1 Commission voted not to pursue this option [budget engine] at this stage – however, it may be reassessed after the Power Unit manufacturers have presented their proposal to the Strategy Group.”

The big question is when will all this happen? The answer is HOPEFULLY for 2017 and DEFINITELY by 2018 – when of course there are just a couple of seasons left before the next big F1 changes occur in 2020.

WE’RE BUSY DOING NOTHING,
WORKING THE WHOLE DAY THROUGH.
TRYING TO FIND LOTS OF THINGS,
NOT TO DO.
WE’RE BUSY GOING NOWHERE,
ISN’T IT JUST A CRIME?
WE’D LIKE TO BE UNHAPPY,
BUT WE NEVER DO HAVE THE TIME

proposed new FIA anthem

Yet for the cynics amongst us, the meeting notes concluded: “The first meeting between the FIA and the Power Unit manufacturers on this topic will be held this week at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.”

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17 responses to “The FIA get tough with F1 engine manufacturers

  1. This is getting to be as interesting as watching paint dry – only everytime you put on a coat of red or blue it dries to magnolia!!!!

  2. “Auto manufacturers spend $10m’s every day on R&D so its fortunate for Mercedes, Renault and Ferrari they can charge their power unit design costs to an F1 project – making their car production activities more profitable”

    …again I say – I like this site, but this kind of sentence means you don’t understand what enters in an F1 engine and diminishes your credibility. The mechanical tolerances on an F1 car are bonkers, materials are fragile and have no endurance to speak of, ERS to give an example the battery cells have higher C-rating than most supercaps and the difference in magnet / iron specs to a Prius is let’s say (at least) 2 orders of magnitude in price and performance. Fwiw the only thing partially reusable is software, but not the code – the architecture and overall functions only.

    • Not to mention the cost of retooling for evolving designs. Let me make this clear. Not a single engine manufacturer is making money from this directly. Most will be supplemented by marketing budgets.

    • You are 100% correct about any direct cost benefits with car production. There is however a big chance that there is a tax write off for all R&D activities that indirectly ‘reduces’ the overall loss of the F1 project. That might be too complex a concept for such a headline though and might confuse those who click on it

    • I’d say, if you learn something in one comparable environment – engine, turbo, energy recovery – you can apply that in another. Even if the ‘comparable’ bits are very different. It could lead to the question: what if we want to mass produce engines with the same efficiency?

  3. FIA were responsible for this mess from the beginning. When they told the manufacturers to help them rule on the new regs and design of the new engines, they should have forced a cost cap to customer teams, at that point. Then it would have been up to Merc, Ferrari et al to use as expensive materials, software and personnel to build these engines. They would have to choose at that point whether to go for the Rolls Royce option and lose money on customer engines or risk and try to find a balance.

    • Sorry Mac, with respect, we all know now ‘what they should have’…..
      It’s been screamed out so many times since pre-season 2014 kicked off. They didn’t. Simple.

  4. When Max Mosley first proposed moving towards more road relevant engines, he was talking about the RESEARCH only, not the hardware. As much as some of us may love a high-revving V8/10/12, you can’t deny that their relevance to road cars is slim to none, and if you want road car manufacturers in your championship, you have to accommodate what they are doing on the roads. That’s your choice.
    Max’s suggestion, in conjunction with Professor Gerschel at BMW, was to use more of the energy that’s lost out of the exhaust and maybe some of the heat aswell.
    Fact is, a simple turbocharger achieves this. A twin-turbo makes sure. Yet the manufacturers took it upon themselves to make engines out of all kinds of stuff from the far end of the periodic table, with little concern for costs.
    Max is quite right in what he’s saying now in that manufacturers should write off a significant amount of what they’re charging as R&D, because at the end of the day, that’s what this whole engine movement was about in the first place, research. The customer teams should not be picking up the tab for this.
    Lastly, if Mercedes, Ferrari et al really thought they were going to get away with 20million euro plus engines for the foreseeable future, they’re mad, especially when they know full well cost-cutting is one of Todt’s raison d’etre’s, and inside 2 years that mindset has indeed been proven to be gravely mistaken.
    In my opinion, a 2-3L V6 twin-turbo with more powerful KERS should have been as complicated as these engines ever got. Cheap, powerful, road relevant.

  5. Me, I’m wondering how huge the smoke and mirrors budget item must be for Bernie and the FIA.

  6. Way off topic, but just felt it worth mentioning that it’s been raining on and off pretty much all day here in Abu Dhabi and, with the wind whipping the sand across the track, even if it dries up tomorrow FP1 is going to be a blast. Perfect conditions from the Crashtonator to strut his stuff……

    • Way off topic’s right. But no matter as you fit right in…..
      The headline said something not even addressed in the text. Best summary would be nothing happened save the ‘other’ engine proposal was rejected which caused a lot of ares cheeks to be unclenched…..

  7. The real fail was no cost price for PU specified in the rules. So the teams guessed at what the teams would pay for the PU and built a business plan round that. You can’t blame the manufacturers for the costs it is the FIA’s fault.
    That said I do think from a technology point the PU are great. They are pushing the envelope for eliminating turbo lag and harvesting energy from the turbo. This is technology that can be used on production engines when the cost come down.
    How on earth the authorities will be able to test emissions on future complex hybrid road Power Units is going to be fun. They can’t even design proper real world relevant tests for today’s engines.
    I would love to see the actual EU rules for emissions without reading the whole book. My guess is that they say the vehicle must pass the test and detail the test. If so VW have done nothing to break rules they have just worked to the letter of the law not what the EU committee actually wanted 🙂
    Sorry to go on 🙂

  8. VW didn’t work to either the letter or the spirit of the emissions rules. They simply set up the engine software so it would know when a test was being run and then ran the full emissions functions but stopped certain functions that would cause their engines to fail the test; then, when the car was running in normal mode, disabled some of the emissions functions. This was blatant cheating to pass the test. They totally broke the rules and have admitted such. If it’s following the ‘letter’ of the law to cheat a result then we’re all screwed. They totally knew what they were doing, were warned by the company that wrote the software (Bosch?) that it was illegal to run it for testing purposed, then do so anyway. How you can possible state that they didn’t do anything to break the rules is ridiculous.

    The US government has let auto manufacturers run their own emissions test, then accepted the results as legitimate. This will probably change. VW is going to end up paying billions (thousands of millions) of dollars to settle this. The emissions requirements are not some sort of F1 like rule to be gotten around, they have real consequences. Here in the States there were very serious air quality issues, especially in California, and although the auto companies fought hard to prevent emissions requirements and corporate mileage requirements, it was one of the best things to happen for air quality here. I know, because I’ve seen it. It not a stupid little Formula One game, like flexing wings. It’s real life, and there is no justification or excuse for what VW did.

    • Sorry for the spelling/grammatical errors. It would be nice if there was an edit function for comments.

  9. I’ve been trying to understand the ‘road relevance’ of the noise the engine makes. I know it’s not a relevance issue. It is alleged to be some kind of marketing issue, that the visceral element of the old F1 engine noise is lost in the 2014 spec. Having never attended an F1 event, I can only trust that it is vital to the fan experience. Somehow, though, I doubt it. I suspect that what the fans really want is significant uncertainty as to who will will in any given week, or at least any given year. I suspect that what the fans really want is that overtaking is possible without the artificiality of wing slats opening. The argument that somehow fans want to see the highest level of technology is BS. We admire that excellence in technology is put out there regardless of the spec. What we want is a race, not a very fast parade in which the manufacturers tour in the same order every week: Merc, Ferrari, Williams, Red Bull, et al. Ooh! Ooh! Next year it might be: Merc, Ferrari, Red Bull, Williams, et al. Won’t THAT be exciting… bah. Where’s the racing?

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