Several team bosses discussed the future direction of Formula 1’s engine rules today; with different opinions offered on what power plants the championship should use from 2021.
Following a meeting between the FIA and F1’s current engine manufacturers last week – which was also attended by Ross Brawn on behalf of Formula One Management and representatives from OEM companies not currently involved in the series – the governing body issued a statement explaining that a broad agreement had been made to make the new engines cheaper and nosier than the current hybrid V6 turbo power units.
The exact specifications of the future engines are still being discussed, but the outcome of the meeting suggested they would become simpler, while retaining high power levels and remaining relevant to road car technology.
The engine proposals were discussed during the team principals’ press conference at the Chinese Grand Prix, which is taking place in Shanghai this weekend.
Toro Rosso’s Franz Tost, Sauber’s Monisha Kaltenborn, Haas F1’s Guenther Steiner, Force India’s Bob Fernley and Renault’s Cyril Abiteboul were all asked for their thoughts on the future direction for F1’s engine regulations.
Tost – who’s team has run Renault and Ferrari engines since the V6 turbo regulations came in at the start of the 2014 season – and Kaltenborn both called for parity between the different power trains, and the former offered his thoughts on the high cost of the current units.
He said: “The current engine is simply far too expensive. From the technology side, it’s a fantastic engine, it’s extraordinary technology but it’s therefore also very, very expensive.
“Regarding the parity and the costs,” he continued. “This is now in the hands of the people who make the regulations and if the development is restricted from the beginning onwards with very strong regulations then I think we will achieve the goals with the parity and the costs and the sound, it should be able to find a solution that the fans are happy with, the music of this new engine.”
Costs are also a major concern for Kaltenborn, who outlined her belief that engine performance should not be the factor that determines success in F1 after 2021.
She said: “We want them to come down to an affordable level. But more importantly there should be a certain parity amongst the powertrains. We wouldn’t want that the engine should be the main denominator or differentiator in performance. So what’s very important is the parity and the costs.”
Although the V6 turbo engines have divided opinion among F1 insiders and fans, the technology they use is at an extremely high level. Engineers have noted that the current power unit is more powerful than the V8s and V10s used in previous eras, while breaking new ground in terms of efficiency.
Steiner and Fernley argued that F1’s future engines should not drop the technological advancements used in the current units.
“The technology in this engine is amazing for everybody involved in engines, this is an amazing technology, so now we go backwards and maybe invest more money to develop something which is actually not as sophisticated as this,” said Steiner.
Fernley added: “I think that the principle of the current engine shouldn’t just be abandoned, a lot of work has gone into it but I think it could be simplified a little bit. I think a lot of the things that we’re doing perhaps go beyond what even the most sophisticated of fans is understanding, so we could come back a little bit, get the cost right, obviously get the power and the noise right and move forward but you don’t have to throw the baby out with the bathwater.”
Abiteboul, who represented the only engine manufacturer at today’s press conference, described his belief that F1’s future engines should retain their relevance to road car technology. This was a crucial argument that led to F1 adopting the hybrid engine rules in the first place, with Renault arguing in the early part of this decade that it would quit the championship if such technology was not implemented.
He said: “I don’t think that Formula 1 can afford to turn its back on some things that are relevant to the manufacturer, given the current business model of Formula 1. Formula 1 could completely change to a different business model and go for something that is really different and not road-relevant but that would be a brave manoeuvre.”
Abiteboul also believes that the future engines should continue to incorporate electrical elements, but suggested the MGU-H could be dropped after 2021.
He said: “I think everyone agrees that there should be some element of electrification. We don’t necessarily see some road relevance or contribution to the show to an element like MGU-H, so that this orientation for the future, I think the whole debate would be on the architecture of the internal combustion engine which will be an interesting debate and some things that I guess will keep us busy for the next few months.”
Another meeting between the FIA, FOM and the engine manufacturers is expected to take place in May and the governing body has tasked the parties to come up with proposals for the new power units. Those ideas will then be regularly assessed going forward as F1 again heads towards its next new era.
What do you think about the comments from team bosses on potential new F1 engines for 2021? What approach do you think the championship should adopt? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JA on F1 Facebook page for more discussion.