By: Berthold Bouman, F1 Correspondent
- Still no 2013 engine agreement
- Hong Kong dreams of Grand Prix
- France wants to revive French GP
Still no 2013 engine agreement
Formula One teams and engine suppliers still haven’t agreed on the 2013 engine formula. FIA President Jean Todt announced a fuel efficient 1.6 liter four cylinder turbo engine to boost Formula One’s future greener policy, his plan was approved by the World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) last year, but is currently only supported by engine manufacturer Renault.
FOM CEO Bernie Ecclestone is now at loggerheads with Todt, Ecclestone opposes the plan and has written a letter to the FIA that according to the current Concorde Agreement, changes in regulations have to be approved by Formula One’s Technical Working Group (TWG) and the Formula One Commission, made up of representatives from the teams.
The 80-year old Briton has even mentioned he could take legal action against the FIA if they will push on with the new 2013 engine concept. Todt refuses to back down, and the quarrel about the new engine formula is still going on. Todt and the FIA are adamant that greener and more fuel efficient engines are the future of Formula One, apart from the environmental issues, Todt has also always underlined Formula One engines should be relevant to road cars, and therefore smaller engines are a logical choice.
Todt recently revealed both Ferrari and Ecclestone have voted in favor of the new engine rules during last year’s WMSC meeting. “The engine working group, the FIA’s technical people and one representative of each engine supplier from the present time and potential participants, came with a proposal for 2013, presented it to me, I made some comments and they unanimously proposed it,” Todt said.
“The next step was to vote it through the FIA World Council. Who is part of that? We have 26 members and among them is one representative of the oldest team, which is Ferrari, and a representative of the commercial rights holder, which is Bernie Ecclestone. I repeat, it was unanimously agreed, so in 2013 we have the introduction of the new engine,” he explained.
Ecclestone fears the new engine will rob Formula One of two things: the noise of the normally-aspirated engines, which will in its turn lead to a loss of TV spectators. He also doesn’t believe Formula One should be the front-runner of introducing greener engines, “We don't need it and if it's so important it's the sort of thing that should be in saloon car racing,” the FOM boss said. “The rest of it is basically PR -- it's nothing in the world to do with Formula One.”
Renault is in favor of the new engine, because they have experience building Formula One turbo engines, as they were the one who brought the ‘turbo concept’ into Formula One in the late 1970s, and the four cylinder engine concept fits the concept of their road cars, which means such an engine would be an excellent marketing tool.
Ferrari has no affinity with four cylinder engines at all, and the engine would certainly not fit their marketing concept. Mercedes and Cosworth are mainly concerned about the cost aspects of developing a new engine. Ferrari, Mercedes and Cosworth spent millions to develop their current eight cylinder engines, and they would rather like to keep those engines and turn them into more greener engines, rather than to again spend millions on a completely new engine.
Renault is now losing its patience, and has asked the FIA for clarification, and have hinted they could quit Formula One if the regulations are changed or postponed. After the announcement last year, Renault has already started the development of the new engine, and fear their multi-million investment will get lost. Renault's managing director Jean-Francois Caubet, “We want to know what to do rather than delay or defer. It seems to me that the situation is losing control. We understand and respect the ideas of Ferrari, Mercedes and Cosworth, but we are not willing to accept delays or to see things change in this way. The matter is becoming a problem. It is not clear who is managing the sport.”
Cosworth have also voiced their concerns, but above all want to see the FIA makes a final decision. Cosworth boss Mark Gallagher, “We want clarity, if it's a 1.6-litre motor, fine, we'll be there. If not, we've got a V8 that we can continue with. We're agnostic. We don't have to have a V8 or V12 or an in-line four. If the Formula One rules required a single-cylinder two-stroke, we'd be there. The FIA president has said he's listening and taking in everything we're saying. We just want a resolution.”
Gallagher also fears the new engine would lead to a development race, and without a cost cap in place, manufacturers could spend huge amounts of money on the design, which is certainly not a good idea. “Everyone agreed that wasn't the idea, but unfortunately that's what happened. So we've also said to the FIA that a delay might be the right thing to do. I think all the teams, not just our customers, don't need to be spending more money on engine technology,” the Cosworth boss said.
We should have in our view at least the four manufacturers
Mercedes Sport Chef Norbert Haug stated he would like to provide engines to Formula One in the future, but also hinted all four existing manufacturers should ‘stay onboard’. “We should have in our view at least the four manufacturers that are here they should be committed and we have discussed that together,” the German said. “I think establishing rules and then have only two, three manufacturers who are committed is just a problematic situation that needs to be solved together and that needs a decent discussion.”
Haug also thinks it is possible other engine manufacturers could join Formula One, “It would be preferably to have probably a new one, or probably more new ones who are interested.” Which is possible, as last month ex-BAR team principal Craig Pollock announced his new engine company PURE (Propulsion Universelle et Recuperation d'Energie) could join Formula One in 2013 as supplier of the new 2013 engines. The German Volkswagen company has also expressed their interest in Formula One, but only if the new engine rules are accepted.
Today there is a meeting of the Formula One Commission at a Heathrow hotel to discuss the new engine regulations, the outcome is unpredictable, but it is expected they will ask the FIA to postpone the decision, if not, engine manufacturers could simply scrap the plans, or worse, go to court if the FIA doesn’t give them what they want.
Hong Kong dreams of Grand Prix
Another city has joined the long list of possible Grand Prix candidates: Hong Kong. After a demonstration by Toro Rosso driver Jaime Alguersuari in the streets of Hong Kong in front of 43,000 spectators, Hong Kong’s Motorsport President Wesley Wan admitted this could be the first step to a future Hong Kong Grand Prix. “This is the first step in gaining the support of the people. We want to raise the exposure of Formula One by staging this live show, and I hope it will lead to Hong Kong hosting a Grand Prix race one day,” he said.
And he added, “My dream is that Hong Kong, like Singapore, Malaysia and China, will be a stop on the Grand Prix circuit. And as far as a street circuit is concerned, if Monte Carlo and Singapore can have it, why can't Hong Kong?”
Indeed, why not Hong Kong? The problem is of course the Formula One calendar, which is by the current Concorde agreement restricted to 20 races per season. Last year Korea joined the circus, this year India is the latest country to join, and next year Austin will stage the American Grand Prix, and in 2013 or 2014 the Russian city of Sochi will host the first-ever Russian Grand Prix. Argentina is reportedly also interested in reinstating their Grand Prix, and so is Mexico, who with Mexican driver Sergio Perez now starring in the sport, are also interested in staging a future Mexican Grand Prix.
Ecclestone once said ‘get ready for 25 events on the calendar’, but that is unlikely to happen. Teams have already successfully protested against a Grand Prix in early December during the Bahrain postponement, because the work load on their personal would be too high.
France wants to revive the French GP
Another country that dreams of a Grand Prix again is France, the race was dropped from the calendar after the French organizers no longer could afford the race fee asked by FOM. For some it was a relief, as the circuit is literally located in the middle of nowhere, no hotels, no towns with restaurants or pubs to relax, and most team personal had to stay the night on the circuit.
But France wants its Grand Prix back again, and Prime Minister Francois Fillon has appointed a task force which has only one objective: to get the French Grand Prix back on the calendar again. Lotus Renault team principal Eric Boullier and Paul Ricard director Gerard Neveu are members of the task force. The most likely circuit to stage the race would be the Circuit Paul Ricard at Le Castellet, located in the south of France, about 35 km east of Marseille.
The biggest challenge they will face will without a doubt be finding the funds, as the French government has so far been very reluctant to contribute to the costs. Previously there have been plans for a new circuit near Versailles, a Paris street circuit, and a circuit near Euro Disneyland.
Fillon, who was born in Le Mans, about his new task force, “It is true that I have put in place a team [to] attempt to create a proposition that will allow the organization of a new grand prix in France. It is led in particular by one of my former colleagues Gilles Dufeigneux, working with the French motor sport federation, the FIA and also Eric Boullier and the director of Le Castellet, Gerard Neveu.”
The last race on French soil was won by Felipe Massa for Ferrari in 2008 at the Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours as the official name of the circuit is. The French Grand Prix has a long history, the first official Formula One race was at the circuit of Reims in 1950, and was won by five-time World Champion and Argentinean racing legend Juan Manual Fangio.
Italian Giancarlo Baghetti wrote history in 1961 at Reims after winning his debut Grand Prix, but curiously enough never won a Grand Prix after that and only scored a handful of points during the remainder of his short Formula One career. Over the years the French venue took place at several circuits, Rouen-Les-Essarts, Charade, also known as the Circuit Louis Rosier and Circuit Clermont-Ferrand, Paul Ricard, also known as Le Castellet, Dijon-Prenois and Magny Cours.
Dijon became another famous circuit after the historic dog-fight for second place between Gilles Villeneuve for Ferrari and Rene Arnoux in his turbocharged Renault during the 1979 French Grand Prix. Villeneuve, who eventually finished second just half a second ahead of Arnoux, later described his fight with the Frenchman as his ‘best memory of Grand Prix racing’. More important, his team colleague Frenchman Jean-Pierre Jabouille scored a victory on home soil, for a French team (Renault), with a French engine (Renault) and on French tyres (Michelin) and using French fuel (Elf).
But it also marked the first-ever victory of a turbocharged engine in Formula One, the Renault-Gordini 1.5 liter V6 turbocharged engine. Renault introduced the engine in 1977, and it was mockingly named the ‘yellow teapot’, as the engine was still very unreliable, and despite its enormous power failed to finish any race in 1977. But other teams quickly stopped laughing after the car and engine became more reliable, and the historic win of Jabouille in 1979 was in fact an incentive for other teams to also develop their turbocharged engine.
And this is where the past meets the present, it would of course for Renault be a great PR stunt to race again with a turbocharged engine, albeit not one as powerful as the V6 engine of the 70s and 80s, but a scaled-down more fuel efficient V4 engine.
Join us again next week for another episode of “Formula One: On and off track”