Is F1 set for another turbo war?

Martin Whitmarsh has declared that the recent financial troubles that have beset prospective F1 engine supplier Pure – founded by former BAR team principal Craig Pollock – were “foreseeable”.

The McLaren boss and outgoing FOTA chairman has suggested there could be as few as three engine suppliers – Ferrari, Mercedes and Renault – on board for the 2014 championship season, which will be the first under the sport’s radical new 1.6-litre turbo regulations.

Cosworth – which currently supplies V8 engines to the tailender Marussia and HRTF1 outfits – is not believed to be in a position to finance the development of the next-generation engines, unless it can secure a minimum of four customer teams to help bankroll its efforts.

Added to that are questions over the Pure operation, which could never get back on track after its operations were suspended in July due to a funding shortfall.

“For me it’s no big surprise [Pure has stopped],” he is quoted as saying to Germany’s Motorsport Total website.

The Englishman added that the championship could function with just three engine suppliers in 2014, although that would call upon Ferrari and Mercedes to increase their engine supply deals to at least four teams apiece.

Outside of their own bespoke works outfits (Renault being paired with Lotus F1 team), Ferrari supplies Sauber and Toro Rosso with customer units, while Mercedes does likewise with McLaren and Force India. Renault already has four teams on its books, with its customer V8 engines going to Red Bull Racing, Williams and Caterham.

Renault has long since held a desire to increase its engine stake in the sport, and has hinted that it could supply up to seven teams on the 2014 grid if required.

Such an arrangement might no suit Ferrari and Mercedes, as that deal would give Renault serious influence in shaping the sport’s future technical and sporting regulations.

One other “solution” Whitmarsh floated was a blending of the current and new engine regulations in 2014, which would allow teams to run the current-spec normally-aspirated V8 engines alongside the new turbo powerplants.

This would only work, Whitmarsh added, if the V8 engines’ performance was equalised to that of the V6 turbos.

”That would be feasible,” he admitted, “[however] personally I don’t think it’s an attractive solution.”

imageThe last time such a ‘blended’ engine regulation was allowed was in 2006, when Toro Rosso was given dispensation to run a restricted three-litre Cosworth V10 engine, while the rest of the field ran the new 2.4-litre V8 engines dictated under the rules (pictured).

Despite fears that the Italian team would unfairly benefit from the tried-and-trusted engine configuration, the outfit scored a solitary championship point at the attrition-hit United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis.

The last time Formula 1 ran turbocharged engine regulations was in the decade until 1988 (pictured top). The final years of that period saw the sport’s governing body create a separate championship category for normally-aspirated runners, called the Jim Clark Cup.

A double-billing of F1 and V8s at Abu Dhabi!

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.