Marussia team president Graeme Lowden fears that the implementation of the costly 2014 engine regulations will put the futures of numerous Formula 1 teams on the line.
Despite the in-development 1.6 litre, turbocharged V6 engines, and accompanying energy efficient systems, being less than 18 months away from their scheduled introduction, the new engine formula continues to prove a divisive issue with concerns over the cost of the technology for customer teams in particular.
In recent days Bernie Ecclestone, a long-time critic of the 2014 rules, renewed his calls for the engines to be canned, suggesting that FIA president Jean Todt may scrap them altogether or delay their introduction, a stance he stays Ferrari’s Luca di Montezemolo backs.
“I listened to the noise of the engines in (Ferrari’s headquarters at) Maranello the other day, the new engine and the old engine, and even Luca di Montezemolo said it sounded terrible and didn’t like it,” Ecclestone told the Hindustan Times, going on to suggest that FIA president Jean Todt “will get rid of it”.
“I think Luca is also saying we should suspend it for two or three years, he added. “I think it is sensible to get rid of it and stick with what we have got. It is much cheaper than the new one. It probably could be 30% of the price.”
The continued uncertainty over Cosworth’s 2014 plans, and the recent suspension of Craig Pollock’s independent engine firm PURE’s operations over funding, has created the prospect of there being only three engine suppliers to serve the whole grid when the new-spec engines come in for 2014.
And with the several fold increase in the development cost of the drastically new designs set to be passed on to the customer teams, Marussia chief Lowden admits he has real concerns over the sustainability of the grid.
Speaking in an interview with the October edition of the JA on F1 podcast – which you can download and listen to directly here – Lowden said: “Looking back over the last two or three years, one of the things that’s really been surprising is just how much the goalposts have moved in terms of things like cost control or resource restrictions and things like that.
“Also uncertainty over engines for 2014, which I think is potentially one of the biggest threats to the sustainability of large numbers of the teams on the grid, and that really shouldn’t be the case.
“Introducing any new step is good for a sport – you need to be innovative, you need to be relevant, that’s absolutely for sure. But it has to be done with sustainability at the heart of it.
“We’re all running businesses, we have responsibilities to our employees and there’s an awful lot of investment, time, effort and devotion that goes in from a lot of people. We owe it to those people to ensure that this sport is sustainable and has a long and bright future.”
Expressing concern that the 2014 engines will only increase the notion that spending more money is the only way to success in F1, Lowden added: “I think most fans aren’t too worried whether it’s a V4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 – who cares? It has to be fast, it has to make a noise, preferably environmentally friendly, although I think there’s an awful lot that the teams can demonstrate in other ways with carbon footprint and the like.
“But the key thing is we have to maintain and create great competition, that’s what people want to watch. My own view is that we owe it to the sport to promote a regulatory framework that has the fans at the centre of it. That is ultimately what pays the bills.”
Any about turn in the 2014 plans would certainly require a delicate approach given both Mercedes and Renault, in particular, have committed their futures to the sport in part due to the opportunities presented by the new more environmentally-friendly technology.
Mercedes, having only last week signed up to the new eight-year Concorde Agreement and lured Lewis Hamilton to spearhead its assault on the world titles, is confident its F1 team will be very well placed to take advantage of the new format.
Listen to the full interview with Graeme Lowden and lots more on all the latest goings on in Formula 1 in the new edition of the JA on F1 podcast. Download it directly here or visit iTunes.