Horner: "If we had eight engines a season it might help us" - But will rescue plan go through?
Red Bull Racing boss Christian Horner has again reiterated that he expects the agreement between F1 teams to allow a fifth engine per driver to go ...
Red Bull Racing boss Christian Horner has again reiterated that he expects the agreement between F1 teams to allow a fifth engine per driver to go through, but added that his drivers would need that upper limit to rise to eight or nine engines to avoid penalties this season.
He added that "there will not be any short-term fixes" to Red Bull's problems, which are keeping them well out of reach of the high scoring Mercedes, Ferrari and Williams teams at present.
His lead driver Daniel Ricciardo will be using his fourth engine in the forthcoming Spanish Grand Prix, having suffered a spectacular blow up on the final lap in Bahrain; the limit in the FIA regulations for 2015 is four engines per driver for the season. After that you have to take a ten place penalty if you use a new engine.
In Malaysia the teams agreed that, for this season, sticking to the rules would mean that cars didn't run much in practice and this would harm the show for fans on TV and spectators at the circuit, so they agreed to allow a fifth engine. But, as always in F1, the devil is in the detail of how that fifth engine might be introduced and what it might be for.
Some teams need it just to get through, the four Renault powered cars and also McLaren Honda in particular. Renault has lost engines with both Red Bull and Toro Rosso repeatedly. But there were suggestions that the fifth engine should be for practice use only, whereas some teams are looking to get an advantage, saving development tokens for the fifth engine for an attack at the end of the season. And as always, the wrangling over these details of how to implement a fifth engine are delaying the process and even threatening it.
Currently D Day for this proposal is the 14th May meeting of the F1 Strategy Group, which precedes the next FIA World Motor Sport Council meeting, at which any change for 2015 would need to be approved. However there is plenty of inertia on various sides of the argument and there was doubt voiced by some senior figures in Bahrain as to whether the fifth engine is going to happen.
For the small teams there is also the question of cost; they already pay a very high figure for their engine supply in comparison with the V8s pre-2014. A supply varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, from around $20 million a year upwards, in comparison with around $7 million for the old V8s. There is now some pushback from the smaller teams on the fifth engine on cost grounds.
"As a customer team on engines, we of course follow what our engine supplier says, but for us, the rules are given," said Sauber boss Monisha Kalternborn in Bahrain. "We suffered that much last year, also with the engine we had. Some engine manufacturers do the job better, others don’t and it’s just different every season. So we say if there has to be an additional engine, as the smaller teams look primarily at the cost of it, and under what conditions it will be introduced, and what it’s meant to be doing." In other words, there is an advantage to them this year having a competitive and reliable Ferrari engine so there's no great incentive to agree a fifth engine at extra cost to Sauber, which gives advantage to the others they are racing against.
As for Horner, he is adamant that the proposal needs to go through, but admits that it's not going to prevent his team from running into trouble,
"It is frustrating. For sure we are going to use more than four - we’ve used three in three races - so the chances of us staying within the limit of four is close to zero," he told the Official F1.com site. "The teams agreed unanimously in Malaysia to introduce a fifth engine, but the engine penalties will affect others too - not only us. For us we would need that number to increase to seven, eight or nine engines for the season. Unfortunately these are the rules and we are not looking great within these rules. Hopefully these rules will become more realistic in the future."
As for the future there are many parallel discussions going on about what engines to use in the "new look" Formula 1 from 2017 onwards. Bernie Ecclestone is still keen to get rid of hybrid turbos altogether, but as that is against what the manufacturers want it's a line he's not winning with at present. He certainly would like to see power increased to over 1,000 horsepower and many components standardised to bring the costs down. There is also discussion about the point at which to freeze the development,
"If they freeze this engine effectively in February next year then you are going to freeze advantages and disadvantages," said Horner. "I think it has to be opened up to allow more development as this is a very immature technology. The downside is cost. Or you come up with regulations that make the engine less of a performance differentiator and take costs out. Whatever you do you will have happy and unhappy faces. So the real question should be what is best for Formula One. But the teams have to look out for their own interests, so there will always be those that try to exploit the rules and it is against everything that a competitive team is to give away an advantage."
What do you think? Should the fifth engine be approved for the sake of the show? Or should they stick with what was agreed in the original rules?If you were running F1 would you approve the fifth engine for this season?
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