F1 engine penalties make a mockery of Cost Cap

The current Formula One back story is all about the Red Bull Racing breach of the FIA financial regulations. The Milton Keynes squad have been deemed by F1’s governing body of being in a ‘minor breach’ of the $145m cost cap spend for 2021. The exact overspend has not been revealed by either party, but is believed to be under $2m.

This week at the US GP, the FIA have revealed Alfa Romeo and Red Bull are to fit new internal combustion engines (ICE) too Guanyu Zhou and Sergio Perez’s cars.

These will be the 5th ICE’s these drivers have received which is two more than the legally allowed limit for the 2022 season.



Grid drops reduce the more engines taken

Both drivers have been confirmed by the FIA to be receiving a 5 place grid drop from their qualifying positions for the additional ICE’s being fitted to their cars.

However, the regulations appear to reward incremental components above the limit allowed. 

The regulations provide the limits for each power unit as follows.

ICE: Each driver is permitted three internal combustion engines.

TC: Each driver is permitted three turbochargers.

ES: Each driver is permitted two Energy Stores.

MGU-H: Each driver is permitted three Motor Generator Units-Heat

MGU-K: Each driver is permitted three Motor Generator Units-Kinetic.

CE: Each driver is permitted two Control Electronics.

Yet the penalties for a driver’s car exceeding these limits differs depending on how many over the limit they fit.

For the first time the allowed number of components is in breach breaching of the above limits the FIA punish the driver with a 10 place grid drop, yet when they transgress with a further additional component, the penalty is reduced to just a 5 place penalty from their qualifying place.



Engine penalties promote more regulation breaches

When a team is close to breaching the limit with one component the penalties awarded incentivise the team to introduce a whole new power unit.

The entire power unit is believed to cost the teams 15m euros and the combustion engine (ICE) is the primary source of power.

The combustion engine degrades in performance as the mileage it runs increases. To remain within the 3 ICE allowance, each engine would need to run 2,237km in the GP races alone. Add to that 1 sprint race per unit, 7 qualifying sessions and another 22 hours for each ICE. 

Clearly a new ICE will perform several tenths of a second better than one coming to the end of its life.



Ferrari testing a new engine in Austin

Ferrari have completely revised a number of the components within their power unit. The team suffered a power unit failure in Charles LeClerc’s car while he was leading the Spanish GP this season.

This was followed by a double DNF for both cars from power unit failures in Baku.

The power unit designs have been frozen by the FIA from this season to the end of 2025 however the FIA do allow teams to redesign faulty components to improve reliability.

Yet Ferrari appear to have gamed the system by homologating their frozen power unit designed to produce maximum power, but has proven unreliable. This means they can improve the components that fail by improving their design together with the compounds used to produce these power unit elements.

Charles LeClerc will take a 5 place grid drop in Austin but run a ‘new’ Ferrari power unit with redesigned components – for reliability purposes for the US GP. Given the rookie driver testing in FP1 and the Pirelli blind tyres tests in FP2, the Scuderia are set to declare their new power unit regulation breach on Saturday for final practice.



Hamilton 2021 challenge improved by legal new engine

Mercedes introduced a whole new power unit for Lewis Hamilton last season at the Brazilian GP. Hamilton had not won a race since Silverstone and was falling behind Verstappen in the drivers’ title race.

At altitude in San Paulo the Mercedes new power unit dominated the field who were using engines that had run several thousand kilometres. Hamilton won the race despite starting from the back of the grid because his team had spent 15m euros on a new power unit.

The Ferrari new power units this weekend are also being introduced for performance reasons only. The team want to test the revised components for the 2023 season.

Yet given the cost of these F1 power units and their introduction for performance reason only, the cost of up to 15m euros is eye watering.



Engine overspend dwarfs Red Bull alleged cost cap breach

Compare this with the Red Bull Racing alleged overspend in the region of $2m and it makes a nonsense of the FIA budget cap regulations.

The World Motorsport Council meeting 2 months ago in August agreed to retain the Cost Cap integrity for producing the F1 racing cars a restriction will be enforced on power unit spend from 2026.

The limit of spend for teams will rise from the $135m planned for none engine spending limits to $265m dollars for car and power unit.

The teams will receive an increase in allowable power unit s from 3 to 4 for the larger 24 race calendar in 2023.

Based on current power unit costs, this will mean the teams will have a budget per season in 2026 for 4 power units per car plus another $10m for new or recycled power unit parts.

This will end then practice of the rich teams blowing 15m euros on a new power unit for performance benefits alone, while bitching that another team has breached the other restricted spending budget by just $2m.

READ MORE: FIA issues big rule shakeup


3 responses to “F1 engine penalties make a mockery of Cost Cap

  1. It’s not enough to design a great car, you have to game the system now to gain an advantage or you’re toast. Three engines only was an attempt to cap costs, so allowing necessary cheating makes a mockery of it all. Latifi could win a world championship with the will of the right people.

  2. Well said Judge. And of course, the engine trick is not literally against the rules but certainly violates the intention.

    And talking about bitching… the way Russel poses himself, since being a MB driver is truly remarkable. Speaking his masters voice. Commenting without any factual knowledge and using insinuating and inciting language. He reminds me strongly of that kid in school that always stays close to the teacher, sucking up, while ratting out other kids.

  3. Dear Scribe,

    You are surely aware that engine specs were frozen at the end of February 2022 until the 2026 season?

    Similarly the MGU – H/K were frozen from September I believe?

    The only changes manufacturers can now make are reliability fixes which have to be approved by the FIA.

    Any gains Ferrari will get from these new units, is to gain better reliability going forward. Not the same investment Mercedes cynically made last year fighting for a title…

    Just saying

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