If you’re Mercedes, then you’ve got to be happy with the way your engine (Power Unit) is performing in 2014. You read the regulations, just as Ferrari and Renault did, and you’ve beaten your competition in the race to build a faster power unit.
If you are Ferrari, building engines is something you pride yourself on. You’ve always been a company known for making some of the world’s best engines yet this year, the design for your Formula 1 car has fallen short and with the engine freeze in place, overcoming those shortfalls is nearly impossible.
The danger F1 has is the engine freeze in that is has now locked the teams into current power unit configuration over the life of the current regulations. There is a post-season engine performance period but it is still too restrictive according to Ferrari’s team boss Marco Mattiacci.
Teams can make subtle changes to software mapping and such but changing mechanical components requires a special request that has to be approved by the other teams. Mattiacci says Ferrari would like the engine restriction loosened a bit telling AUTOSPORT:
“Yes, in a certain way not as rigid as it is today.
“I would like to see a couple of opportunities [allowed] a year to work on the engine.
“The DNA of Formula 1 is innovating and catching up with the best and fastest one.
“That’s what we keep, as Ferrari, insisting, and one of the areas [where this can be done] is engine freezing.”
The key is changing the engine during the season in order to make grounds on their rivals. You could be firm in your stance and suggest that they had the chance to build an engine and they missed the mark so deal with it. You could also see this as condemning F1 to a Mercedes championship domination for the next four years as the also-rans putter around in the back.
It is a fine balance on allowing teams to tweak and adjust their power units in order to catch their rivals for the sake of good racing and to be honest, I think the FIA and F1 may have to do something should Ferrari and Renault be off the mark in the beginning of the 2015 season.
The issue of incremental improvements is that Mercedes will make incremental improvement too so what we could have is a performance advantage that is baked into the regulations and will not change until the complete engine regulations change again like they did in 2014.
On the flip side of that argument is that Mercedes have done a better job of it and is it fair to hold them back while allowing Renault and Ferrari and even, perhaps, Honda in 2015 unfettered effort at improving their power unit in order to reach and possibly beat Mercedes on track?
These are the balancing issues of running a racing series that tries hard not to be a spec series. Where do you draw the line? Are you fine with Mercedes domination for the next four years due to the engine freeze? There is every possibility that the engine improvement allowed at the end of this season could see Renault and Ferrari make significant gains but Mercedes may as well so it could all be a moot point.