Cheap customer engines to fix F1?

It has been confirmed by the FIA they plan to have budget engines in Formula One by the start of the 2017 season in conjunction with the rule changes. This comes after the FIA made public Ferrari’s veto against price caps on engines supplied by the four current manufactures, a move aimed at cutting the ever-growing expenditure in the Sport which was supported by all teams apart from Ferrari.

The introduction of complex V6 hybrid engines for the 2014 season was meant to see costs fall which was designed to help the teams lower down the grid who had struggled with the ever-increasing costs, however the introduction of these new engines has seen a sharp rise in costs for these customer teams with engines now costing around €20 million. This hike in prices caused the liquidation of Caterham towards the end of last season and almost meant the end of Manor Marussia who were saved at the last-minute We have also teams like Lotus and Sauber struggle on week by week not knowing whether they will be to afford to stay on the grid for the next season.

I tend not to agree with most things the FIA do in Formula One but if they go ahead with this proposed plan I think it could bring F1 back from the brink of a major crisis. The move would have major benefits for teams already in the paddock and teams looking to join F1 in the future with teams no longer having to pander to the demands of the big four engine suppliers, it will also make the sport much more affordable for future team investors. This is something the FIA and Bernie Ecclestone would be pleased to help with as they look to wrestle back the power from Ferrari and Mercedes who have become too powerful since the regulation changes with them now powering most of the field.

This has been an issue behind the scenes in F1 for sometime now but as both Ferrari and Mercedes refused to supply Red Bull engines for the upcoming season out of fear that Red Bull would be too competitive its been thrust into the public domain leading to this sudden change of heart from the powers that be. Add to this the current complaint lodged with the European Union by Force India and Sauber over the way rules are decided and the prize money is distributed the hierarchy of Formula One have to be seen attempting to resolve the various issues and complaints it faces.

The biggest issue we may face if these budget engines become a reality is the lack of competition. Unless these stand alone engine suppliers can manufacture a power unit that rivals the Mercedes and Ferrari we are likely to face races less competitive and a split championship with the top 4 engine manufactures vying for top spot whilst the customer teams fight for scraps, something that would be detrimental to the spectacle for the fans and participation from teams. Some may say the sport is already uncompetitive but when you take into account the rise of Red Bull to win 4 Championships and the podium finishes from the midfield teams in the last 6 years I believe it has been as competitive as possible.

We need to come up with a solution that takes into account both the competitive and cost aspects I have mentioned above in order to push the sport further and increase its inclusion not only with fans but car manufactures from around the world, to do that I believe we need to start again.

Bernie said at the US Grand Prix “we need another Cosworth” the problem with that is when Cosworth where supplying engines to the sport the rules and regulations were far less rigid which lead to teams creating and developing impressive machines all completely different, this meant any team was capable of building a race winning car. With the current rules and regulations being so strict we have slowly killed the creativity the sport desperately needs to make it competitive. Teams are now scared of going against the trend as one small deviation from the rules can result in a team being heavily penalised with either high fines or points deductions. This has led to some of the worlds very best designers, mechanics and engineers effectively working with one hand behind their back which for the “pinnacle” of Motorsport is completely unacceptable.

To have any chance at making Formula One competitive and cost conscience the rule book needs to be ripped up and the strategy group disbanded so we can start from scratch for 2017, in my eyes this is the only way the sport I love can continue to be the “pinnacle”of Motorsport, if we don’t do this fans will begin looking at other Motorsports for their entertainment and once that happens the Sport will die.

By: Chris Laker
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