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Reading a few articles today about Max Verstappen’s interview on Dutch TV saying he’s concerned about Red Bull’s prospects for 2018. This is because Renault recently announced there would be no major upgrades to its power unit in 2017. That’s a departure from what Red Bull was expecting.

“frankly the next big upgrade will be next year”.

“Then we will have a completely new concept,” Abiteboul told F1’s website. “That will make a difference – but as I said 2018.”

Sure, a series of incremental changes can add up to a large change overall but it isn’t the type of upgrade Red Bull need, nor Renault’s factory team, in order to fight for podiums this season.

If you’re optimistic, then you could argue that good things come to those who wait and perhaps next season will be a huge leap in the right direction. At this point, that’s about all Red Bull can do…wait.

Even without engine development tokens, I believe Mercedes still has a baked-in advantage and it was my main criticism back in 2014. Removing the token system should improve things and perhaps it already has as manifest in Ferrari’s new pace for 2017. 

If that’s the case, it does make you wonder what happened to Renault and Honda in 2017 to still be off the pace as far as they are? I can’t help but think Renault are wanting to avoid the Honda situation by focusing on their complete re-think of the power unit and therefore spend resources on next season for an all-out assault. 

That makes sense to me from a company standpoint but it is not good for F1 because now we’ve just written off the season for two teams. F1 has this issue as last year we were sitting here saying the same thing. Well, next year with no token-spend issue, we’ll really double our efforts. How many times can we write off seasons by hoping for next year? 

This, to me, is another issue with the hybrid power units. The cost and complexity make this a one-shot issue. Did we get it right in Australia? No? Well, next year will be the year then.

I think the 4-engine rule also makes serious mid-season development almost impossible. Many fans may fall back on the position that it really is a year-on-year issue in that the longer the regulation and formula remain unchanged, eventually other teams will catch up. 

I think this is something Ross Brawn will need to consider because making an engine formula for 5-6 years and restricting development through tokens or even engine limitations per season doesn’t lend itself to stiff competition on a continual basis in F1. 

On the other side of that argument, opening the entire engine up means teams will spend fortunes all year long and that’s what the FIA wanted to get away from. A tough question but as it stands now, we’re written off 40% of the grid. That doesn’t sound good but then again, the last three years have written off about 90% of the grid. 

Hat Tip: Sky Sports F1

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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.
  • mrvco

    It’s going to be difficult to get Alonso into a Renault for 2018 if they did make major updates this season that don’t deliver…. It’s easier to just say “Next season will be awesome… we promise!!!”.

    • Max Johnson

      Alonso will be driving for McLaren Mercedes in 2018.

      • puptentacle

        I don’t think he’ll wait around that long. And, of course, Merc may not take on a McLaren partnership. I’m betting on Alonso in Indy for a season. After that? Who knows?

        • Shocks&Awe

          Alonso doesn’t want to do Indy for a season. He has expressly said so, as he doesn’t think he could be competitive for a whole season. As he said it, prepping for one race is one thing –sustaining that effort for an entire season is entirely another.

      • Salvu Borg

        I don’t know who Alonso will be driving for, but whoever will be in that seat will be driving a MCHONDA.

  • MIE

    The idea of getting rid of the tokens was to allow in season development. Unfortunately for the teams that campaigned for this, it also allowed Mercedes to develop in season.
    So far only Mercedes have been reliable enough to allow in season developments without penalties. The advantage that Mercedes have is because they did a better job than the others, the same as Red Bull did with the chassis between 2010 – 2013, or Ferrari from 2000 – 2004.

  • Shocks&Awe

    McLaren should buy a controlling interest in Engine Developments Ltd (Judd) and become a full manufacturer. Going with Mercedes is a short term bet at best.

    Redbull needs to find a new partner. From now on they will play second fiddle to the Renault factory team. Honda is obviously not a desirable option for them. They are pretty much screwed for 2018, IMO. Cosworth?

    Until the rules change, I don’t think you fight for the championship without being a full chassis/engine manufacturer (or have an exclusive engine deal).

    • Salvu Borg

      “or at least have an exclusive engine deal” Ron Dennis was the first one to have expressed that opinion publicly.

      • Shocks&Awe

        There’s no one left to do that with. Not Merc, Not Renault, not Honda, Not Ferrari. Probably not Toyota, BMW or Audi or any other manufacturer I can think of.

        Cosworth would be another option to buy, but they are U.S. based, whereas Judd is in the U.K.

  • Hanwi

    The silly season will be interesting with potential openings at Mercedes, Ferrari, Williams, Renault, Force India, Toro Rosso, McLaren and Haas. I expect a major driver lineup shake up at the end of this season.