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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.

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An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry and as a CTO, he focuses on technology integration in commercial workspace design, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • No ! F.I.A. Cant move the Goal Posts Mid Season

  • The Captain

    YES PLEASE! Oh please mister Santa open up the engine regs.

    But yes, this is getting ridiculous. If the engines are going to be major a differentiating factor between team performance then you have got to let them develop it.

    On top of that, isn’t this what the FIA claims the sport should be doing? I though the whole point of this new crappy engine was to make the cars road relevant and help “develop” new technologies for road cars? Well to “develop” something you need to allow the teams to .. you know actually develop the engines.

    Also I’m sure you can get fans much more with an engine development race rather than just one over the wingy bits.

  • sportpak

    Let everyone make some tweaks. Let’s get the most out of this “package.”

  • Rapierman

    The FIA needs to get out of everybody’s way. Oh, wait, I think I’ve heard this before. Some guy named “Reagan”, I think it was.

  • Julian

    Yeah, good luck with that idea Luca!

  • Yeti

    There is no engine freeze between two seasons. Only in a season. Engine Manufacturers are allowed a lot of changes between two seasons in the coming years, so there is no such thing as a set Mercedes dominance for the coming four years. For next year almost a complete engine overhaul is allowed. For the year after about half of that and then a quarter and so on.

    • Said in a paragraph what I said in a novella. Damn you, to the point people :)

  • To clarify, the annual homologation schedule allows substantial power unit improvements. Next year for example, the manufacturers can redesign approximately half of the unit by the token-weighting system FIA’s employed. FIA’s schedule prioritizes ERS development as the homogolation limitations take effect, which is precisely where many feel Ferrari/RBR is lacking. Yearly homologation does not mean engine freeze.

    It’s accurate that in-season development’s constricted. I’ve no problem with that, nor with measured in-season upgrades if introduced; both have positives/pitfalls. As is, homologation limits delivery dwell to the customer teams and forces the cash-flush to develop in smaller areas; this shrinks the gaps and also rewards those that’ve done their homework. Conversely, in-season upgrades add easily-digested technical interest and is likely cost neutral; the teams will spend their money any way they’re able.

    The homologation’s effect on customer teams is a fascinating point worth mentioning; each has had to evolve its car to its particular power unit, benefitted/lost out from its characteristics. Mclaren with its draggy car and FI’s develop/implement its low downforce setups means they’re wasting the PU advantage, whereas Williams lucking out with a slick initial car has developed around those attributes. It’s the same with the Renaults; Ferrari cars are outliers, as the Works team’s customers frankly suck.

    Overall, I think FIA’s struck the proper balance, particularly in year 1. If my guesses on manufacturer development mantra are correct, Mercedes holistically designed ICE, ERS, and chassis design, and is earning the rewards. Renault thought along the same lines, but with a more conservative bent (perhaps lack of funding/thoroughness?); they are suffering, but are closing the gap. By prioritizing the engine portion and relegating ERS to a KERS-like add-on, Ferrari has left itself in a penalty box where its reliability upgrades are less effective than its competitors. It’s surprising how much time Ferrari’s MGU-H spends harvesting on the straights; it’s transfer rate from the turbine must be quite a bit slower than its competitors.

    All three are reaping what they sowed, and its trickling down to its customers as well.

  • Rapierman

    I think the people are asking “what’s fair”? Is it fair to penalize people with previous success? I dunno. it seems like a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ situation. After all, what may be fair to me (and I usually base this in part on my moral stances) may not be fair to anyone else. We all have to agree on ‘what’s fair’ or it’s not really fair at all. This is the conundrum that the FIA / F1 / FOM and the teams and the fans find themselves in, and getting the entire Human Race to agree on “what’s fair” is a nigh-impossible task.

  • Engine freeze is stupid. If they decide on a V6, I want the best goddam V6 they can come up with. If they can tweak other aspects of the car throughout the year, why not the engine?
    Motorsport! C’mon!

    BUT not this year. As @hpv1west said, no mid-season rules change.

  • Yes, the regulations should always allow for advancement.

  • Does an engine freeze mean that Honda will be able to come in with more information and have an advantage even over Mercedes for a year or so?

  • Yes! Please Yes! I want a bone and it tastes like looser engine regulations.

    • I don’t want to see a change mid-season to increase the show, but I would like to see the team develop. To see them do what they do best at getting the most out of the car’s engine and the suspension that helps the drivers control and push the car.

      I’m ok with some aero regulations, but this engine freeze is hurting the teams who couldn’t get it right on the first chance and the fans would would like to see their team re-surge to the podium. That dream is impossible with the current engine freeze. There is a limit to how much aerodynamic band-aids can be designed into a car with a terrible engine.

      • Andreas

        There’s actually far more that can be done in-season than just aero work. Once the 2014 engines were homologated, they were in theory frozen for the season. However, the manufacturers can make reliability upgrades in-season, so for instance the Renault ICE raced at Spa is most definitely not the same as the one they had in Australia. One trick would be to wind the engine management software up to the point where you then need to make reliability upgrades to keep the lump from blowing up, and hey presto: your engine makes more power! :-)

        Between this season and the next, the manufacturers are allowed to make substantial changes purely for performance gains, and then the 2015 engines are re-homologated and frozen for that season (although the reliability side of things will still be open). Between 2015 and 2016, a smaller amount of performance changes are allowed, and so on.

        So if Ferrari needs more horsepower, there are plenty of ways for them to do that in-season. But the major components – overall turbo design, for instance – will have to wait for the off season.

  • raceviper13

    So Ferrari is back-peddling on their, “we’ll make it up with the aero package” decision prior to 2014 development?

    • Rapierman

      Yeah, I think they’re beginning to realize that it’s never a good idea to rely on any one single thing.

      • Benalf

        Marmorini’s comments show how disorganized Ferrari has been. They are on the same position as Merc to design the car on a balanced, integrated way and yet they gambled to develop a “power-limited” energy unit hoping that the aero superstars will spawn incredible aero package……something that Ferrari hasn’t done in years!! Sounds more like the F1 of the ’70s

  • Sam L.

    So. This year we get brand new power units and chassis design requirements–and no more testing pre-season than last year. Driveability? Hope for the best, because you are stuck with what you got. Power delivery and reliability, same as driveability. Should have had more pre-season testing, and allowed PU upgrades thru race #6. I haven’t noticed Renault complaining, and they have a lot more to complain about.

  • Charlie w

    No, Ferrari. Again, you signed off on this rule 2 years ago, now deal with it. Change the rule now, watch development costs soar and say goodbye to Mercedes-Benz/AMG and couple of teams. Renault is suffering(and winning) but not complaining openly about it. Enough of the Ferrari/FIA special exception.

  • Benalf

    Why not? there is a precedent last year with the tires; FIA simply allowed for major changes to the approved tires, resulting in a drop of performance for Ferrari and Lotus. Now, 2014 season is back to classic F1 -except from the Merc feud and the smart kid Ricciardo-. It’s been a while since a powerplant is SO AHEAD of the competition and that certainly has hurt the show. Since F1 racing in the last years has been about killing ingenuity and transform racing into a show, they should allow for engine improvement mid-season…I would love to see Williams and RBR exchanging the lead and winning races by racing Merc

    • Charlie w

      That was done on “safety” reasons afflicting a few teams not performance.

  • Phil

    I understand that many of the regs are aimed at saving money but it seems many of the contrived and convoluted methods employed to increase competition could be eliminated if teams were allowed the opportunity to develop on a race by race basis rather than season to season.