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Formula 1 teams meet to decide what engines will power F1 in future

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Formula 1 teams meet to decide what engines will power F1 in future
Nov 24, 2015, 1:09 PM

Today in Paris there will be a series of meetings, which form the next stage in the process of powering F1 cars for the future.

Today in Paris there will be a series of meetings, which form the next stage in the process of powering F1 cars for the future.

The governing body, the FIA, is determined to force the manufacturers like Mercedes and Ferrari to supply the hybrid turbo engines introduced last year to customer teams at a more 'reasonable' price than the €20 million a year which is the base price today.

On the agenda is the new proposal for the cheaper class B engine, which would be available to all teams for under €10m, but which would be based on a V6 2.5 litre engine, without Energy Recovery System, of the kind commercially available and running today in other series.

There are suggestions that several companies are in a position to tender for this contract, with expressions of interest due in by this week. Mario Ilien's company is among them. He has worked with Red Bull to try to improve the Renault hybrid turbo, in vain, but is being held up as an example of what is possible. The new engine would have to produce around 900hp but would not face the 100kg fuel restrictions that the hybrid turbos must use for a 300km Grand Prix distance.

If it came to life, the new engine would change the character of F1 quite considerably, dividing it into a two-tier series and it would lead to questions at board level of the main manufacturers about the viability of continuing in F1.

There is fierce opposition within F1 to this alternative engine, from the manufacturers and other teams, while the Red Bull owned teams are all for it, partly because it presents and opportunity to disrupt the engine supply structure currently operating in F1. This has failed, in their eyes, because it is on the verge of putting the smaller teams out of business for cost reasons while Red Bull have ended up in a position where neither Ferrari, nor Mercedes wants to supply them with contemporary engines and Honda is not obliged to supply more than one team.

Red Bull is pushing for the rules to be changed so that all manufacturers have to supply a minimum as well as a maximum amount of teams.

Horner, Ecclestone

The stages of todays's meeting are that the F1 Strategy Group, comprising FIA, Bernie Ecclestone, Ferrari, Mercedes, Williams, McLaren, Force India and Red Bull Racing will meet to discuss this and other topics. Then the F1 Commission will meet this afternoon to discuss the new engine proposal and to vote on it.

The F1 Commission comprises all the teams, along with some circuit promoters, sponsors and suppliers like Pirelli. The voting is expected to be tight, with Pirelli's Paul Hembery suggesting in Brazil that Pirelli would support the new engine proposal, for example. The next step will be for any proposal to be ratified by the FIA World Motor Sport Council on December 3/4 in Paris.

However Ferrari has exercised its veto right already once on this topic and the next step of the process is for it to do so again. This may then move the situation onto another level, where the FIA can potentially challenge Ferrari's veto right legally and possibly look to go to arbitration.

Wrapped up behind the scenes here are two key objectives: For Ecclestone and Todt, the power of the manufacturers is already a threat and is set to become a bigger one if it goes unchecked. The current bilateral agreements with the teams are to the end of 2020. But if the power brokers don't clip the wings of Ferrari and Mercedes now, then the next negotiations with the teams will be painful.

XPB.cc Sergio Perez

At the same time, there is a move to undo the bonus money deals that were done with Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes, Williams and Red Bull, whereby they receive around $240 million between them in addition to results-based prize money. This bonus money has upset the balance in F1 and many of the sport's current problems stem from that. The deals were done so that CVC could tie in its big names ahead of a planned flotation in autumn 2012 that never happened. Now they are an albatross around Ecclestone's neck.

The EU Competition Commission is also considering an official complaint from Force India and Sauber against these bonus payments and deciding whether to take the case on. A Ferrari veto of a cheaper engine in F1, which would prima facie help the smaller teams, is another escalation of a situation which the EU might find interesting to investigate.

In other words, Ferrari needs to be careful with this next step and using the veto, otherwise the price it pays for saying no could end up being significantly higher than the cost of reducing the price of the hybrid turbo engines for next season to around the €12m that the FIA wants.

It's a process that needs to work its way through. Most right-thinking people in F1 believe that pragmatism will prevail; that a compromise will be reached whereby the manufacturers lower engine prices down to around €14m a season and there's a win for everyone and F1 moves forward with only one class of engine, the current V6 hybrid turbos.

Any other outcome today and we are in for a stormy winter.
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Series Formula 1
Tags innovation