Formula 1 drivers could be limited to just three engines per season as part of radical plans being considered by manufacturers to cut costs, Motorsport.com can reveal.
In a bid to stave off the threat of an independent engine from 2017, F1's car makers have begun talks to frame a series of regulations that will slash expenditure over the next few years.
The proposals have to be agreed by January 15 for a presentation to the FIA, after which a decision will be taken by the governing body on whether or not they do enough to ease F1's cost crisis.
Although the ideas being discussed between the manufacturers are at an early stage, high level sources have revealed that there are three main areas of focus for the manufacturers right now.
- Extending the life of the power units so there are just three per driver per season. Although this will cause short-term headaches and expenditure, having one engine for seven races will force the use of less sophisticated materials longer term to drastically cut costs.
- Freezing parts of the power units that manufacturers now believe have reached development 'maturity', so can no longer justify money being spent on.
- Define a list of standard parts which can be sourced from a single supplier – which could include the MGU-H and MGU-K, while still allowing total freedom in the management of other electrical motor systems.
The above steps are such that it may not be possible to introduce them as early as 2017, when the FIA is hoping that the engine situation in F1 has changed.
One key factor going forward, then, will be whether or not the FIA is willing to accept such a delay, or if it demands more is done in the shorter term to end its desire for the independent engine.
The manufacturers' efforts to move forward have been made slightly more difficult by ongoing discussions about whether or not certain hybrid elements of the power unit should be kept.
One suggestion initially suggested in Abu Dhabi was to abolish the expensive MGU-H totally, but this idea was rejected because there was not unanimous support to ditch it.
Ferrari too, in the wake of the recent climate agreement reached in Paris, now thinks that manufacturers should continue pushing hybrid technology.
President Sergio Marchionne said at Maranello earlier this week: "After all that has been done with a view to reducing emissions, when we hear about a return to the aspirated engines with a less complex hybrid system, it is really offensive and it would be a retrograde step.
"The world with the choices they make in Paris has moved forward, and thus also Formula 1 must adapt."
The January 15 deadline for the manufacturers come against the backdrop of FIA president Jean Todt and Bernie Ecclestone having been given a mandate by the governing body to make changes to F1 to reduce costs and improve its governance structure.
Additional reporting by Franco Nugnes