In the midst of all the polemics over the 2010 rules and new teams, little has been heard from Cosworth, who will be supplying the engines for all three new teams.
But there are a lot of questions around Cosworth which need answering. Are they up to speed? Will the engines be reliable and competitive, seeing as they have not been in F1 since 2006? Have they got enough people? There have also been suggestions that having a Cosworth contract was an unspoken condition of getting an entry, so how does Cosworth feel about the way the entry process was handled?
I spoke this morning to Tim Routsis, chief executive of Cosworth and put these and other questions to him.
Cosworth has diversified since leaving F1 in 2006 to the point that none of its turnover is derived from motor sport. They have moved into aerospace and after-market automotive work. Given Cosworth’s proud history in F1 it makes no sense for them to come back now and be uncompetitive. Frank Williams implied recently that he thought they would be. He felt that the manufacturer engines today were a big step ahead of the Cosworth he used in 2006 and on which the 2010 engine will be based.
Routsis says that his team has already carried out a test, which proves that the Cosworth engine will be competitive next season,
“There is no doubt that the teams have made some epically big strides over the last few years in terms of engine reliability, ” he says. “The two things that really matter are that we provide a reliable and competitive engine.
“We realised that there was no future for anybody if we rocked up with an uncompetitive engine. We wanted to verify that what we had made sense. So what we did was produce a complex model of the engine’s performance as it will be in 2010 and gave it to a third party agency with the largest body of data. We asked the question, ‘If you were to take all the results this year of the top three teams and substitute this engine into their cars, would it have affected the outcome of any of the races?’ Because that’s the ultimate measure of the competitiveness of the engine.
“The result that came back was that if the engine we are proposing for next year had been in any of the winning cars, the winning car would have still won. If it had been in any of the second place cars they would still have been second, or in one or two cases, would have won.”
From what I’ve heard about engines this year, one of those instances may have been Toyota’s second place in Bahrain. The Toyota engine is not believed to be on the same level as the Mercedes.
What helps Cosworth quite a bit is that because it has been outside F1, it is free to optimise its engine for the current regulations of 18,000 rpm maximum. It was originally built for the 20,000 rpm rules of 2006, but has undergone substantial internal changes. The existing engines have all been retuned from the old 19,000rpm rules, with tight restrictions on areas they could work on, restrictions which don’t apply to Cosworth.
“It will be a lot more fuel efficient, it will obviously be retuned to the 18,000 rpm limit as opposed to the 20,000rpm limit and we are doing quite a lot of work to make sure that it is optimised to give a competitive engine, ” says Routsis. “So whilst you would be able to put the two engines side by side and see a family resemblance, there is a lot of difference in the detail.
“We are picking all of the things from the last three years that make sense and putting them in the engine. We have been given the opportunity to do a proper retune. A lot of activity that our competitors have been carrying out in the last three years has been an enormous amount of focus on areas which they were allowed to deal with, which represent small gains for enormous effort. We are trying to make sure that the things we focus on are the ones which give the big gains. ”
Cosworth shed 200 people after it’s 2006 withdrawal but Routsis claims that “the core kernel of the brains trust” was kept, in other words the core engineering team is the same as before. However, he adds “There is no doubt that we need more people to service three teams and to that end we are recruiting at the moment in the areas of track support and engine build.”
As regards the cost to the customer, Cosworth is supplying 20 engines per team next year for £5 million, according to the rules of 8 race engines per driver per season plus test engines. But the business model requires them to supply three teams and Routsis is expecting all three to honour their contracts. “We have very clear contracts with them and they expect us to honour our commitments and we expect that to be a reciprocal arrangement.”
There have been rumours that USF1 is thinking about using Toyota engines.
As for the controversy over the entry process, Routsis believes that the due diligence process the FIA carried out on the new teams was thorough and that high profile teams which failed to make the cut did so because they either didn’t have an engine contract in place, as the rules required, or were unable to prove adequate funding for a minimum of three years, despite what they may have implied about needing a Cosworth deal to win an entry.
The new teams selection process and by extension Cosworth, became embroiled in the ferocious political fight between FOTA and the FIA and as with any war, the first casualty is truth. No doubt in the coming months we will discover the truth about how the new teams were selected.
“There’s far too much emotion in the debate and in a lot of instances the issues have been lost sight of and it has become a personality debate,” says Routsis.