Reliability: A false economy & bad for F1

The F1 Strategy group met yesterday. One of the subjects covered was whether F1 teams will have 3 or can use 4 engines for 2018.

The “less engines” rule  was introduced as a measure to reduce cost. However, all engine suppliers have made the conclusion that this is asking a lot of the materials used. Getting quality levels up from the already very high standards is working counterproductive, at least in terms of the targeted reduction of cost.

Suppliers Ferrari, Honda, Mercedes and Renault have all concluded that extending engine life will means more development ($$$) and more tests ($$$, plus suppliers are limited in the time they can spend testing..)

Furthermore, engine suppliers estimate engines could become heavier or even lose power if the target continues to be more reliable and be able to do 7 or 8 races.

The 3 engine rule is particularly sensitive for Honda, since they are running a high risk development strategy:

“Our concept is completely different. It’s very high risk, we don’t know a lot of things about that new concept. We know it will give us a performance advantage but the biggest risk is whether we can realise that potential this year.” Hasegawa said in February.

As written in a previous article, Honda lost 2015 and 2016 to the size zero concept, was unable to recuperate since engine development was still limited by the token system. The 3-engine rule would severely limit their possibilities to recuperate from any mistakes made (which are inherent to high risk development).

It would also limit Red Bull chances of getting their independent engine supplier: upfront development cost would go through the roof as this supplier would have to develop from scrap.

We expect that Liberty Media will not care either way: 3 or 4 engines, it wouldn’t change the circus. The teams however are still worried about cost implications. A couple of years ago teams were paying a couple of million and got 8 engines for a season. Currently they are paying around 20 million for only 4.

Given the fact it is very (if we should believe Red Bull too) hard to enter as a F1 engine supplier, the 3-engine rule would effectively close the market, and it already hasn’t by the 4-engine rule. In such a closed market teams have no choice but to pay the prices (current) suppliers are asking.

Ergo: suppliers will decide for 4 engines. To make everybody (and especially the privateers) happy, I estimate the 4 engines will be supplied for the budgeted 3 engine price. If only to be safe to see McLaren compete in more races than 3.. ;-))

Happy? No! If it were up to me the number of engines shouldn’t be limited at all. What should be limited is budget! I am an adrenaline junkie, and wish we could return to regulations were we see Martin Brundle’s Peugeot engine expire spectacularly, back in 1994.

7 responses to “Reliability: A false economy & bad for F1

  1. What is more bizarre is the FIA trying to get / force Ferrari / M-B and Renault to assist Honda in fixing their engine. That would be an interesting article.

    • Only quotes I could find on the subject were Eric Boullier’s:

      “It is something that we have to raise, we are in a position today where I am not sure everyone wants us to get more performance from the power unit, but I think it will be fairer for F1 to have a level playing field.

      “I am not saying helping someone to beat the best power unit, but to be within this 0.3 seconds ballpark of performance.

      “I think it will fairer and good for F1. It will be more attractive for other car and engine manufacturers to join F1, and for the fans, it will be much better as you will have closer racing on track.

      “So it would tick all the boxes: except we are in a competitive world and I know a lot of people do not want us to deliver on that part.”

      I can imagine McLaren’s point of view, but I would be more interested in the other supplier’s reaction, and I cant find anything on that.

  2. Budgets are tough to enforce but I agree in principle. I heard the idea floated once of making previous season tech open-source for all teams to see. In this highly technical era, I believe it would work and save the sport.

  3. When and how did F1 engines became so expensive?
    Some 20 years ago average F1 team was going through 50 or so engines per year, Manufacturer team probably double that, if not more.
    And yet, they operated on a tenth of a budget they have today.

    Okay, now they have all the gizmos within hybrid tech there, but pretty much the same story was in, say, ’13, when the engine was atmospheric, development was frozen, and engines had “only” 8 cylinders.
    I don’t get it. 🙂

  4. It’s a no brainer. If the aim is to control budget, then control budget. To me though, F1 is always more interesting when there is less regulation and more innovation.

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