Brought to you by TJ13 contributor Mattpt55
Well, well it’s barely 2016 and already the readers are looking for loopholes in the engine regs. So the fine taskmasters at TJ13 thought a close reading of the new NEW regs was worth the effort, especially since they didn’t have to do it themselves, having stuck me with the job instead.
The new bits are in purple!
Of course, having made a thorough mess of last year’s intended regulations by failing to specify a homologation date, the FIA was certain to not let itself get fooled again, including the February 28th date not once nor twice but 4 times (10 if you count the recursive nature of articles 4 and 7) in its eye-watering update to last year’s goat rodeo.
Advanced Computer Simulation of FIA Regulations
In order to help you look clever down at the pub without doing too much work on your own, TJ13 engineers have helpfully broken down Power Units into the 3 flavours found in this year’s regs:
If you are an engine manufacturer that was already making engines for F1 under the 2014-2020 regulation period then you may re-homologate your existing power unit. Specifically if you have already made changes for the 2016 season. On the other hand, if you are an engine manufacturer foolish enough… errr ummm… confident enough to join F1 then you will have to homologate your new power unit. Lastly, if you are a team looking to cheap it out and go with a 2015 engine (despite the new, low, low price of just $12 million so you can afford such things as food and staff), your power unit manufacturer can simply apply to re-use last year’s engine for you, without giving the FIA an engine in a box by February 27th, the official date it must be delivered. Assuming, of course, your manufacturer of choice agrees to provisioning you in such a way.
The wording of section 4 comes under particular scrutiny as it codifies a fairly standard practice that simply wasn’t mentioned in the previous year’s regs:
4) Other than any parts agreed by the FIA at their absolute discretion to be solely associated with
power unit installation with different teams, each manufacturer may supply only one specification of homologated power unit during any given calendar year, subject to any changes permitted by the FIA in accordance with the procedure set out in 5) below.
The bright shiny object in this section is that different teams get different parts when the PU is installed, raising the spectre that a team might exploit this for ill-gotten gains. The truth is much more mundane, in that given the different chassis designs, different fitments are needed to wedge the PU in and the FIA has not only codified this practice, but threatened to stomp into jelly any team attempting shenanigans (though they use the rather less entertaining “absolute discretion” to make their point).
Section 5, by the way, is the famously infamous reliability, safety and cost-saving whereby Renault wound up dominating the V8’s despite being rather off at the beginning of the formula; even last year Mercedes made rather impressive gains without spending a token through the Canadian GP through strategic use of reliability upgrades.
The difference this year is that the FIA is now being rather stern and demanding loads of extra paperwork before rubber stamping the application, and yet again the threatening and stentorious “absolute discretion” is hung over the manufacturers’ heads like a veritable Sword of Damocles. Granted an actual sword would be cool, but the FIA is way too safety-minded for that sort of thing.
CAVEATS & QUIBBLES
Artist's Depiction of F1 loopholes
Oh there are definitely a few, as the FIA once again demonstrates its inability to write a regulation that doesn’t include massive loopholes (or actively promulgates, depending on your monthly household spend on tinfoil). Particularly intriguing is the wording of Section 6 which allows a manufacturer to apply to re-use last year’s 2015 spec PU without re-homologating it. What it then spectacularly goes on to fail to do is mention whether or not the team and manufacturer can make use of the 32 development tokens available in 2016 (this example is for speculative purposes only, as TJ13 does not endorse these sorts of shenanigans unless they are really, REALLY entertaining, like the the ones Ferrari lawyers brought us last year; in which case, pass the popcorn). So theoretically, a manufacturer could have a total of 64 tokens of development to play with (it takes 66 tokens to make an engine), 32 for a team running a 2015 re-used engine and 32 for a different team running a re-homologated 2016 engine.
The actual language is “may also apply to the FIA to re-use such a power unit in a given team, to the same specification, without going through the re-homologation process described above”. While the phrase “same specification” might give the reality-challenged a pause, the fact that it goes on to mention only competitiveness without excluding use of development tokens would allow one to make a fairly sanguine argument that “same specification” only applies to the February 27th deadline and not the permitted in-season development. Just sayin’…
The other highly entertaining omission is that nowhere does it preclude any current manufacturer (possibly rhymes with Zonda or Leno) from rocking up with a PU, saying it’s new and claiming to homologate it for the first time under Section 3. This would allow the clever party(ies) to have had a full spend of 66 tokens and then get an extra 15 for the season. Plus a bonus 32 the year after when the rest will be limited to 25. Granted, it’s rather unlikely given the development time and expense involved but still, IT COULD HAPPEN!!! And it wouldn’t even be against the rules, best of all.