Reflecting on the year that was, Toto Wolff is content with the overall performance of his Mercedes AMG F1 team, though he admits it wasn’t all plain sailing. “Monaco was the emotional low point [a strategy error costing Lewis Hamilton’s victory]. We saw that our systems failed in several respects. And I was part of this system. But we have taken it on the nose, changing certain things, to ensure we are not thrown off course in the future.” Toto concedes the cars performance in Singapore was also a body blow.
Yet on the whole Wolff can be satisfied but also recognises Formula One is facing some major challenges at present. In particular the issue surrounding the current power units which are costing the customers around 20 million euros a year. The manufacturers have been given a January deadline to present solutions to these problems or face the spectre of Jean Todt forcing through an alternative engine design to be supplied by an independent manufacturer at a cost of around 10-12 million euros.
Ecclestone is particularly keen on this idea and has opposed the V6 hybrids from before they debuted on track. Yet Jean Todt is pro the new PU’s and believes it demonstrates from a technology standpoint what F1 is all about. So, if the manufacturers can allay his concerns, the ‘unicorn’ engine of equal parity will be dropped without further ado.
Toto Wolff believes this will be the case.“In January we will present a concept that is based on the architecture we have at present, but will put right the things that we’ve done wrong. The Formula 1 needs to be louder, more exciting and the cars need a lot of power and a higher top speed. ” Toto rubbishes the idea of the alternative budget engine and claims, “it is complete nonsense and just a few people are still debating it. We are using hybrids on the road and will continue racing with them”.
It may be Red Bull Racing are one of the few Toto refers to, and aligned with Ecclestone Milton Keynes look set to press for the alternative engine as the F1 battle of politics resumes in the new year. Yet with all four current F1 manufacturers committed to hybrid power, it seems unlikely they can all be persuaded an alternative should be allowed. Ferrari and Mercedes will find an ‘alternative’ business model which will allow them to offer power units to customers at a more competitive price, because the spectre of losing them to the ‘independent’ engine would bust the current ‘business plans’ in any case.