The Friday deadline looms large as the day when the F1 manufacturers have to supply Jean Todt and Bernie Ecclestone with concrete proposals over power unit supply and prices for customer teams. January 15th was the deadline set by the president of the FIA and failure to deliver meant the threat of an independent supplier producing a ‘budget’ engine as competitive as the V6 hybrids was left hanging over Ferrari, Mercedes, Honda and Renault.
Rumours are now emerging ahead of Friday’s meeting that the engine suppliers have agreed to restrict the cost of power units to customers to 12m Euro’s from 2017. This is despite previous protestations form Ferrari and Mercedes who claimed this price would be below the cost of making these units. Part of the proposal will be that power unit allowance for the season is reduced to three per driver however Michael Schmidt of AMuS writes today “Ecclestone will not be satisfied. He wants an engine that in theory also an independent supplier like Cosworth or Ilmor can make.”
This of course is because Ecclestone believes the current engine manufacturers have too much power, a sentiment echoed by Red Bull’s Christian Horner. He argues that Ferrari and Mercedes refuse to supply a team like Red Bull because they know the Milton Keynes designed chassis is highly competitive. This may well be the case, yet the dot in the connection Horner makes is disingenuous. “The rules needs looking at. It cannot be right that a group of manufacturers can get together and say, ‘we are happy to see Red Bull go to the wall.’”
Of course Red Bull were not being forced to go to the wall by anyone, they had an existing contract with Renault which they didn’t fancy honouring. Red Bull’s gripe was that they expect to be granted each season a competitive engine, which is not the way F1 has worked over the decades. Both McLaren and Williams can testify to being constructor champions one year and losing their highly competitive winning engine supplier and being nowhere the following season.
So the question remains, should an F1 manufacture like Ferrari or Mercedes be forced to supply Red Bull with a power unit? In terms of equipment and personnel numbers, the Red Bull operation in Milton Keynes is similar if not larger than those comparable ‘non-engine’ departments in Maranello and Brackley. So given the lack of cost control on chassis spending, Red Bull could conceivably blow away the likes of Ferrari and Mercedes if supplied with one of their engines.
This is clearly something Mercedes and Ferrari fear will be forced upon them and Sergio Marchionne has already spoken on the matter. The Ferrari president suggested the notion of an ‘engine for all’ is not one Ferrari is opposed to and in fact he was open to a Ferrari collaboration with Mercedes or another manufacturer on delivering such a power unit. “Ferrari is available to join a project where we could develop power units,” he said.
However, Marchionne believes the funds for this project should be guaranteed by Ecclestone. “Ferrari spends a lot of money in F1 and this has a great impact on the brands and development on a lot of our commercial activities that do not have a lot to do with F1,” he said. “It costs a lot of money. This is also expensive for Mercedes. It seems the only winner is Bernie. Those who are managing the commercial rights should take their responsibility.
The Ferrari president makes it clear, Ferrari should only be forced to spend money in F1 where this suits its commercial interests and its other brands. This then prohibits them being made to subsidise the success of another global brand like Red Bull. “A change in the rules, imposing obligations on Ferrari or Mercedes, is absolutely inappropriate,” concludes Marchionne.
If you thought it was safe to come out because F1 engine wars was at an end, think again.
Share your thoughts on the matter. Should Ferrari or Mercedes be forced to supply a power house of chassis design like Red Bull? Or should those who want to eat at the top table in F1 have to go about it like McLaren and Williams have done over the years and find an agreeable engine partner?