While Max Mosley's comment about not giving the manufacturer teams any income from F1's revenue from 2008 looks likely to once again stir up discontent with the Grand Prix Manufacturers Association, there is another saga that continues to rumble...
While Max Mosley's comment about not giving the manufacturer teams any income from F1's revenue from 2008 looks likely to once again stir up discontent with the Grand Prix Manufacturers Association, there is another saga that continues to rumble on. The debate about the restricted V10 engine having an advantage over the V8 is no closer to being put to rest than the never-ending talks about F1's future.
The engine squabbles may seem rather irrelevant when it's perhaps only the back-of-the-grid teams that are directly involved, but any team having an advantage -- if there actually is one -- makes others raise questions. Toro Rosso, formerly Minardi, is likely to be the only squad to run restricted V10s this season and as such is attracting the criticism.
MF1 Racing's managing director Colin Kolles, whose team is probably going to be Toro Rosso's closest rival, claims the Italian outfit will be breaking the rules if it runs a V10. His argument is that the restricted V10 was a compromise for Minardi, as the team did not have the finances to fund a V8 package.
Article 5.2 of the technical regulations states: "For 2006 and 2007 only, the FIA reserves the right to allow any team to use an engine complying with the 2005 engine regulations, provided its maximum crankshaft rotational speed does not exceed a limit fixed from time to time by the FIA so as to ensure that such an engine will only be used by a team which does not have access to a competitive 2.4 litre V8 engine."
Now that Red Bull owns the renamed Toro Rosso, and the energy drink company has more money than Minardi ever did, Kolles believes the team should be using the V8. "I have a very clear opinion -- this engine does not belong in F1 any more," he said, in regard to the V10, at the launch of MF1's Toyota-powered M16 at Silverstone. "It was accepted due to a financial reason for Minardi and this is not the case any more."
Kolles added that if Toro Rosso proved more competitive than MF1 at the start of the season he could possibly take action. "If they are in front of us then they will have a problem because I will not be very happy with this and I am very clear about this. I trust the FIA. It is in the hands of the FIA. We are looking at it, but we are looking very carefully at it."
Unsurprisingly, there is debate about the advantage of running a restricted V10. Cosworth will supply the V10 units to Toro Rosso and also V8s to Williams; at the request of the FIA the manufacturer carried out equivalency tests based on data from its own V10 and V8 engines and reached the conclusion that the V8 should have the upper hand.
"Taking all the factors as being equal, a car with our V8 should finish ahead of a car with our restricted V10," said CEO Tim Routsis recently. "It will be interesting to see how it pans out, but my expectation is that the rules will stay pretty much as they are at the moment in terms of where the equivalency figures are."
Toyota technical director Mike Gascoyne believes that, based on the equivalency formula, the Toyota V10 would perform better than the V8. Toyota reportedly questioned the FIA in regard to this but the sport's governing body said it was happy with the data provided by Cosworth.
Performance aside, the alleged 'rule-breaking' focuses not so much on the competitive advantage -- although obviously that's an underlying bone of contention -- but on the premise that the V10 engine "will only be used by a team which does not have access to a competitive 2.4 litre V8 engine." Minardi didn't have access but surely Toro Rosso, with Red Bull ownership, does?
"I don't think it's good that only one team is using a V10 engine," Gascoyne said recently, according to Reuters. "The rule was there for teams like Minardi who didn't have the finances to get a competitive V8. I'm not so sure that's the position now for Toro Rosso and I think it would just be better for everyone if all were using V8 engines and you had no arguments about restrictions and everything."
The FIA has the right to change the rules at 24 hours notice if the V10 does prove to have an advantage and Cosworth confirmed it could make the changes if necessary. However, simply detuning the V10 further is not likely to appease Kolles. "It is not a question of making the engines slower," he remarked.
"It is a question that the regulations state a V8 engine, and not a restricted V10 engine. It was an exception for Minardi due to financial reasons. For us it is not only (engine) power, it is also a financial matter. A V8 engine is much more expensive than a V10 engine and if it is restricted you can run much longer and be more reliable. It has more torque. It is not just restricting the engine, it is a completely different world."
So far this year MF1 and Toro Rosso have done scant testing and not at the same circuit either, so a comparison between lap times of the two teams is not possible. But it appears that, even if Toro Rosso does not have a competitive advantage with its V10, the engine regulations are just another subject on the list of things to be argued about.