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.