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Let it be said that I do not run a car manufacturer or its racing team but when Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault have major concerns over changing the Formula 1regulations to accommodate new entrants and the fear is rooted in one of the FIA’s trinity of trump races, cost, I have to pause and ask where that sentiment was when they poured millions into the current hybrid formula and sent three teams packing and others in ER on life support?

Cost, sustainability or safety. The mighty trinity of regulatory oversight in which, at any time, a team, the FIA or even the commercial rights holder can use to trump each other in making changes that quite honestly are most likely to reduce one of these entity’s current performance advantage. It’s a war of words to mask a reality and sure, I understand, I would do it too but it shouldn’t become the narrative the FIA president start trumpeting. Jean Todt said:

“What I feel would be unfair would be to undervalue the existing engine suppliers involved, and listen to those who may think they will come,” explained Todt.

“For me, it is important in light of the existing situation to see what will be the best evolution of the engine for the future, but by respecting the investments of those who have made the investments so far.”

Todt has never made it any secret that he was out to lure manufacturers into the sport and the new hybrid was intended to do so and it did snare Honda but that hasn’t gone too well. If I am Mercedes, I don’t want any changes and if there are changes, I would want it to be very minor because I would use the old adage that costs come down with stable regulations. That’s not untrue but given the current cost to get in to F1 with the very expensive and complicated hybrid, it is a moot point for anyone but Mercedes, Renault and Ferrari.

Yet, Liberty Media’s Ross Brawn is looking for a compromise. He’s looking to get folks like Cosworth and Ilmor back into F1 and they most likely won’t do so if the current hybrid format isn’t changed. Todt, thankfully understands that and understands the current format hasn’t been a raging success:

“If you ask me what I feel about the engine, it has been one interesting exercise,” he said.
“I think it is too complicated. I think it is too expensive.

“But it is probably a very good first step to go to a next generation of engine, which will be one evolution from what we have now.

“I am against starting on a completely new development of engine but I think we should take what we have understood with this engine and allow the actual manufacturers who have been investing heavily to be able to enjoy what they have been investing for the next generation of engine, and also encourage newcomers to come.”

It’s clear he’s sensitive to the amount of money that Merc, Ferrari and Renault have poured into this current hybrid but that’s also admission that no one but big car companies could possibly afford this formula even now. The investment they made surely was for the 2014-2020 period and that’s how it has always been in F1. They change the regulations, it lives out its intended period set by the FIA and the manufacturers and then they look to another formula. One could argue, so what? If it’s good, they don’t need to change it but that’s the point, it’s not good.

They knew going in to this that the hybrid regulation period was from 2014-2020 and they made the investment. Being concerned that they can’t stretch their investment out another six years is odd to me.

My hunch is Brawn and the FIA may arrive at a current system modified with no MGU-H, an MGU-K and higher revs and fuel flow for sound. I could be completely wrong there but it is a hunch. He may want to standardize the MGU-K to make it easier for Cosworth and Ilmor to come into the sport.

At least Jean knows there are issues with the current hybrid that need to be fixed. It is a lot easier for me to say..change the damn regulations, than it is for the FIA to do it. Too much money involved. Too much politics. I also am slightly miffed that he views the last three years as an interesting “exercise”.

I don’t envy Jean’s role here. Let’s hope they find a way to keep the current teams as well as lure more into the sport in 2021.

Hat Tip: Autosport

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An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry focusing on technology integration, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • the Late Idi Armin

    there won’t be any significant changes. so no new entrants and Mercedes lowers the cost of its investment, spreading over 12 years instead of six.

    • There could be plenty of upside benefits to argue like spreading an investment over 12-ish years and thus lower the cost of an engine supply contract for customer teams. I’m curious, after three years, if any teams are getting any breaks in supply costs yet? I know there was talk of capping that and it seems there was some pressure to do so but I can’t recall where that issue ended up. I know the FIA mandated that they must supply other teams but I can’t recall the outcome of that so far. My memory is foggy on that one.

      • Salvu Borg

        5 to 4 to 3, the price the customer teams pay was reduced pro rata to the amount of equipment delivered. The cost burden to cost increase customers engine is more on the manufacturer. Going back to more engines will require cost increase for customers.

      • Lovejoint

        I have just 1 question for you.
        How much do teams spend on PU’, and how much on chassis (whats the ratio PU/chassis spending)?

        • Salvu Borg

          Engine costs is around 5% of the big teams overall cost (budgets). and 8-10% for the smaller teams.

          • Lovejoint

            Exactly!

      • subcritical71

        I feel that even if we keep the same engine type that some changes are needed. If you look at a 12 year span in any technology, that is a long time. I don’t want F1 to ignore developements or trends for the sake of the status quo. What are other series getting right(?), that is also important to look at. 12 years ago people would have laughed at the thought of a mainstream EV production car, today it’s the trend.

        • FryDaddy

          Agreed with a caveat – the only reason current technology EV production cars are a trend is due to the huge subsidy provided by the taxpayers. As a welfare for the rich scheme it’s working pretty good. Especially if you initials are EM.
          But when the taxpayers change their minds, and they can be a fickle group, the direction of that trend is going to change with it. The manufacturer’s most fervent hope is that the battery technological breakthrough (graphene anyone?) will get there before the taxpayers patience wears out.

          • subcritical71

            Yeah, I know what you mean, look what happened in Hong Kong when the subsidies went away…. sales plummeted to basically 0….but I believe more time is needed to see the true affect of the loss of the subsidy. Was the initial drop due to people buying before the loss(?)

          • Certainly not the sole reason but isn’t a large portion of Tesla’s operating income based on subsidies to make the business model work? Some opinion pieces I’ve read felt that they were simply fleecing tax dollars.

          • FryDaddy

            The US Fed gives $7500, and the province of Ontario gives $14,000CAD (~$10,9k USD). That’s a pretty healthy chuck of change for a 75 to 80,000 car. I’m sure that your calculator works as well as mine to figure that out. I’m convinced that they wouldn’t exist without the welfare checks from the taxpayers. If memory serves, and I could be wrong, I believe that their wind farm operations are subsidized even more than the car operations.

            Any geek who really wants to see what the definition of insanity is should read their SEC disclosures. Additionally, their press releases don’t match their 10-Qs. They understate their cash flow losses. The fit and finish on their newest model looks worse than a cheap Ford or Chevy. Seriously, about on par and maybe worse than the low end kia/hyundai Lastly, they’ve invested heavily in lithium battery manufacturing that is very likely to become obsolete as soon as either: The taxpayers run out of patience, or The next generation battery comes online. Which will in all likelihood not be Li/ion.

            To be fair, their investors are even more in the deep than the taxpayers are. But investors voluntarily give him their money, while taxpayers are forced to provide the subsidy, ultimately at the point of a gun. Not cool.

            ymmv

            Cheers

    • Salvu Borg

      Or else formula one will either be running a Nascar/Indycar or F2 series.

  • Salvu Borg

    “Totd: Be sensitive to Mercedes investment!” NC, I must have missed such a Jean Totd’s quote on any one of the formula one websites quoting him.

    • I am paraphrasing with some room for creative interpretation but I think he is saying that the FIA needs to be sensitive to manufacturers investments.

      “allow the actual manufacturers who have been investing heavily to be able to enjoy what they have been investing for the next generation of engine,”

      “but by respecting the investments of those who have made the investments so far.”.

      That, in my mind, is being sensitive to the investment manufacturers have made.

      • Salvu Borg

        “What I feel would be unfair would be to undervalue the existing engine suppliers involved, and listen to those who may think they will come”.
        When the new commercial rights owners through their once game keeper turned poacher officially announced their intended new engine rules and regulations for 2021, they had to do it through the FIA, spells, the FIA officially announces the new commercial right owners intended doings. When that happened many were delighted believing the FIA were in concert with the new commercial rights holders and so against the manufacturers. I was back then the first one on here to say that the FIA was not in concert with the new commercial rights holders and against the manufacturers, and that it looks more like the FIA giving the new commercial rights holders all the rope they need to hang with.

        • MIE

          If you are referring to Ross Brawn, I think you may have the terms ‘game keeper’ and ‘poacher’ the wrong way around.
          He was very much on the ‘poacher’ side when working for the teams – looking for loopholes in the regulations to exploit (see the FIA investigation into the Ferrari exclusion for illegal bargeboards, and how Brawn managed to overturn that decision even though he admits they were illegal). He is now trying to influence the regulations, so very much on the game keeper side to stop the teams having loopholes to exploit.

          • Salvu Borg

            Dave, Yes I was refereeing to Ross Brawn, and yes, you are right, I have used the term the other way round, my bad. and apart from the “bargeboard case and some others I also remember the secret tyre test. but I don’t understand you saying “to stop the teams having loopholes to exploit”. maybe you can expand about the “loopholes” in this here subject.

          • MIE

            Loopholes are areas of the regulations that are unclear, allowing teams to innovate in areas that are unexpected. Examples are the double diffuser that Toyota, Williams and Brawn exploited in 2009, or the T wings appearing this year. There is no-where in the regulations that states you can put any bodywork where the T wings are, it is a volume that is left after you draw all the spaces that you are excluded from having bodywork.

          • Salvu Borg

            Yes you are right teams by the nature of there job are expected to look and explore any loophole in the rules/regulations, and I do not see anything wrong in that. but what I was expecting is, you explaining were loopholes are and or got to do with this subject page at hand.

  • kcabmi

    It’s a package. Change even one component and it’s back to the drawing board for the manufacturers. In which case – change it as much as is needed.
    BUT
    along with the ‘engines’, change the biggest issue in F1 – Aero.

  • Matti

    I’d rather see all manufacturer teams leave. Give the sport back to privateer teams and driver talent. Introduce a spec engine by a company not affiliated with any manufacturer, and allow teams to perform modifications in certain areas of said engine.

    • Salvu Borg

      Unless all present manufacturers are gone and a specification engine is introduced privateer engine makers are out of the question. Lets for a moment forget about the rush of blood to the head the boss of Aston Martin suffered as soon as his company broke even, Mario Ilien the best placed of the privateers declared that he sees no hope of participation with an F1 engine not even with the engine rules changes LM intends to force in, unless he is sponsored by a major manufacturer.

    • subcritical71

      That change, IMO, would be pretty drastic and probably wouldn’t fly as an F1 formula. There are plenty of series worldwide that already do this. If that’s what teams would want then they should go to one of those series.

    • geeyore

      Except for the spec engine, I completely agree. 100 percent.

      F1 isn’t a “technology laboratory” for “road relevance,” it’s not Formula Hybrid, and those who want either should leave and create their own series.

      It’s funny really, because manufacturers and sponsors don’t lay their heavy hands on the technical rulemaking of any sportscar series that I can think of, and by that I mean IMSA, VLN, DEKRA, Hankook/Creventic, ACO, BTCC, Supercars, etc.

      What FIA and the manufactures have done and are doing to pervert the spirit and tradition of F1 is really quite obscene. They only possible reason for perversions of this magnitude is big suitcases full of Euros.

      • subcritical71

        Wait…what? No road relevance… I could have sworn I saw a Honda driving down the road the other day with his DRS open, or what that the T-wing falling off!! Damn, I must have been dreaming again…

        Seriously though, the first one you mentioned is IMSA, where 3 of the 4 F1 engine manufacturers are involved….plus a whole hell of a lot more manufacturers! I don’t see many (or any) of the manufacturers leaving or threatening to leave that series, and I would argue that the IMSA series is a lot more representative of the manufacturers brand (as they look like the cars the manufacturers actually sell)

  • Richard Piers

    The solution is cut aero, most of which is totally irrelevant to anything other than F!.
    The current power unit formula has led to overall efficiencies in the region of 50% against about 33% just a few years ago. As these technologies filter down to the real world the benefits will be truly huge.

    • subcritical71

      I’d like to see how they came up with 50% efficiency. It’s not that I doubt the numbers as they will definitely be higher than an ICE only setup, but what were the boundary conditions for the test. When you start involving ES then you can’t start with a 100% charged ES then when your done with the test you are at 0%, your overall efficiency will be artificially high. This has always been in the back of my skeptical mind when I hear the teams announcing these numbers.

      • Salvu Borg

        “I’d like to see how they came up with 50% efficiency?”.
        I do not think it is possible to explain on a discussion forum due to the print length need, so I recommend you visit “fuel thermal efficiency- technical F1 dictionary” to get yourself up to speed on the matter.

        • subcritical71

          Way to pick one statement and turn it into a question. I’m surprised as you seem to be sensitive to N.C. on his headline of this very topic. (Hint: Your quote of my statement added a question mark, which I didn’t have).

          Trust me, I am way up to speed on how to calculate thermal efficiency. The company I work for depends on it and has millions of dollars on the line for shortfalls on every unit sold.

          My question was of the data behind how they (the engine manufacturers) are coming up with the answer. Are they correcting to ISO conditions, are they starting and stopping with all energy producers at the same level, is the 50% at full throttle, is it at -20c ambient temperature. There are lots of ways to game a thermal efficiency number and as I stated in my previous post, what are the boundary conditions?

          • Salvu Borg

            Its OK, Sounds like although you are way up to speed you doubt the manufacturers data used.

          • subcritical71

            Not the data used, but maybe how it was calculated. I took at look at the Technical F1 Dictionary and they confirm my suspicions by way of a quote from Mercedes;

            Begin Quote;
            Cowell revealed that the Mercedes power unit is now achieving more than 45 and close to 50 percent thermal efficiency, i.e. 45 – 50 percent of the potential energy in the fuel is delivered to the crankshaft, and efficiency of more than 50 percent when the ERS is operating at full power.
            End Quote.

            By stating that using full ERS power they gain thermal efficiency shows they may gaming the calculation. For instance, if I have a tow truck push the F1 car down the track while it was switched off is that infinite efficiency (work was done, no fuel was used by the engine). I say no because you have to take into account the efficiency of the tow truck now. My point is, you can’t add the ERS power and discount where its energy was derived. Now, if they took into consideration the power necessary to charge the ERS then they may have done it correctly.

            Give me that same engine I guarantee I can get better thermal efficiency by lowering the ambient temperature to say -100C. Also, lower the fuel temperature to the same. Unless it is corrected to a standard, it means very little.

          • subcritical71

            I shouldn’t have said it means very little, but my point is that it should not be taken at face value… its just too easy to influence the calculation. I hope that makes sense.

          • Salvu Borg

            if an engine engineer the caliber of Andy Cowell says that they have achieved a fuel thermal efficiency of 50% I will certainly not doubt that he may be “gaming his stated calculations” or “doing anything to influence his calculations”. And although I am a mechanical engineer, I will also never hope or dream of being able to better his great achievements.

          • subcritical71

            Again with the quotes…
            1) I didn’t say he was “gaming his stated calculations”, I said “There are lots of ways to game a thermal efficiency number”.
            2) I didn’t say “doing anything to influence his calculations”, I said “its just too easy to influence the calculation”

            I also didn’t say he did anything wrong. I can tell you when there is money on the line you would be held to a standard methodology and every little nuance that could affect performance. If you are not being held to anything you can take your own liberties which can lead to inconsistencies.

          • FryDaddy

            That is a VERY interesting engineering question. My train of thought went along the lines of what contribution to the ICE efficiency was provided by the “hybrid” components.
            It is one thing to say that we use hybrid tech to move us down the road. It is quite another to consider using some of that tech to break some of the commonly accepted boundaries of ICE development.
            WRT the OP, the secondary real world applications of a road PU system that could provide 95% of the benefits of the hybrid, without the costs, reliability issues, and battery loads of a full hybrid. HUGE.

          • subcritical71

            I like the whine of a turbo spooling up and the blowoff that occurs, I like the sound of a supercharger spooling up more…. I like dialing these systems in to get peak performance out of my own car, but what I find the most interesting is to be able to get the power out of the ICE and no power adders (turbo, nitrous, supercharger, etc). I know technology and the trend in the automotive industry is to go to hybrid power or full EV, and I also find nothing wrong with this but my that doesn’t mean it needs to be my hobby :)

    • Salvu Borg

      Thanks to the technology advancements made by the F1 hybrid PU (the third biggest effort/the third biggest peak reached in the history of the development of the ICE since its beginning) the efficiency gains achieved makes the F1 hybrid PU more energy efficient than the average electric road car.

      • subcritical71

        Yes, the F1 power unit is an engineering marvel and far outperforms a hybrid road car. But if you are talking a pure EV vehicle they are well above 90% efficiency.

        • Salvu Borg

          The present F1 hybrid PU is more energy efficient than the average electric road car.

    • geeyore

      What does any of this have to do with competitive racing?

      Answer: Nothing.

      IMO the manufacturers are perfectly free, welcomed, and even encouraged to take their Formula Hybrid series and create something new.

      And then we’ll have the true Formula 1 to evolve without the hamstrings, usurpations, and silly demands of those who want a “technology laboratory” for “road relevance.”

      Gawd, those terms make my skin crawl. No other series in motorsport is brazen enough to spout such risible nonsense.

  • charlie white

    It sounds like Jean Todt is talking to Ross Brawn via the media. If this is the case, I find that rather curious. One side, he says the current specs is too expensive then, on the other side, he wants continued manufacturer participation(with a glance to Merc and Ferrari) and new specs to attract others. So his compromise is to change the specs enough to reduce costs and keep the present manufacturers while challenging enough to attract new ones. I find that a tough, if unlikely, compromise. Interesting in all this talk from the characters is no one has said anything about attracting “new” teams to F1.

    • Salvu Borg

      I am 100% sure a man the caliber of Ross Brawn known exactly Jean Totd’s feeling about the matters he intended pushing out without the need of Totd having to spell-it out.

  • geeyore

    “Too much money involved. Too much politics.”

    And for motorsport fans that is a monumental turnoff.