When Formula 1 ushered in high degradation tires, hybrid V6 power units with ERS, MGU-H and MGU-K, fuel-flow rate reductions and per-season power unit limitations (2017 had four engines for the entire 20-race season). The thought was a radical change that was hopefully going to really shake things up and put the cat amongst the pigeons. It did no such thing.
In fact, the author of much of this direction—Mercedes—under the leadership of Ross Brawn, had loaded the deck so comprehensively that we are still suffocating from their punishingly dominating baked-in performance advantage. It bankrupted three teams and put the rest on life support.
As we head into the 2018 season, we are faced with one more grand prix for a total of 21 races and yet the FIA have reduced the number of power units to three (3) for the entire season. As we said way back in January, the engine penalties would wreak havoc on the 2017 season and most folks ignored our warning, already knew it or just laughed at our attempt to once again criticize the sport. That wasn’t our intent, we were genuinely concerned and as it turns out, we were right as the penalties became laughable this season.
We’ll offer this warning right now—the 2018 season will be plagued with more penalties that will impact the championship table in a negative way and be a plague on the sport once again. We will not be able to see a guy like Lewis Hamilton ply his skills because he’ll be taking a 10-place grid penalty or Alonso starting from the back of the grid with 35 grid-place penalties. We may even see teams start taking multiple engine changes early in the season to amass an inventory of engines to complete the season.
This rule has run its course and is painfully unwanted in F1. Fans hate it, teams hate it and its unclear why Mercedes or Renault would still want it. Thinking about that, they would want it if this was an engineering championship and the competition was really down to the propeller-heads in the garage and not the drivers on track. Mercedes, hoping for a Ferrari falter or Renault blow up, would be elated and it would be great fun for an engineer but it does nothing for fans.
I agree with Lewis Hamilton on the three-engine rule for 2018:
“This is the first time I’ve pushed an engine like that,” he said when asked about his Interlagos settings by Autosport.
“It was nice, normally you’re managing it.
“Ultimately they test these engines to a certain limit, and then they set a limit below it as the limit, and they tell you this is how much mileage you have in the race, but I always come in way, way under. I always look after it more than I need to.
“I often turn the engine down and they keep telling me to turn the engine up, and I’m [saying] no, no, no, I prefer it to stay down, and I’ll figure out a way to catch up in another way.
“I guess that’s just through fear of pushing it a little bit too much, like the engine blowing up in Malaysia last year.
“To be able to push the engine [in Brazil] makes me think, I don’t like the idea of going to three engines, I think that sucks.
“We should be able to push more, sprinting is what we’re missing in F1.”
Let’s just nip this in the bud, shall we? Sure, Merc, Renault and Ferrari probably aren’t keen to supply 9 engines to their customers and the customers aren’t keen about the current price of their engine supply contracts so something has to be done to stop the madness. But what?
As it is, we’re going to head right back in to the same situation we had this season if no one takes the reigns and sets the correct course. I’m not sure about you but I had a blast watching Lewis fly through the field with the wick all the way up on his new engine in Brazil.
Drivers have always had to manage their resources
This was the argument that some fans offered back in 2014 with all of the Sustainability shackles the governing body placed on the sport. Tires, engines, fuel…it was all the proverbial sustainability tech in which everyone just has to get used to getting less from their tech and getting over it. The justification is that “drivers had to manage their tires in the 70’s too!!!”. Yeah, they did but nothing like this. Non sequitur.
Managing engines and de-tuning them for the long run and managing tires with a very narrow window of performance and managing the amount of fuel they can run is just completely antithetical to racing. It’s not antithetical to a series that is now an R&D department for manufacturers. It’s engineering fun and makes for a happy board of directors but it is getting to the point that the last person considered in F1’s appeal and reason for being, is the fan.
I honestly don’t care if Mercedes has an F1 engine that lasts for six races. I want Lewis to throttle that sucker and let it run like a stuck pig. This series has folded like a chaise lounge to the manufacturers and the pendulum needs to swing back to pure racing.
Back in the early 70’s, there were not many manufacturers and you know what? That was okay. Can the sport survive without the massive manufacturers these days? Many would argue not and they may be right. Therefore, F1’s Ross Brawn needs to start making changes now and not waiting until 2021 because there may less fans to impress.
Hat Tip: Autosport