The F1 Commission has rejected the proposal for an alternative, non-hybrid ‘client’ engine supply for the Formula 1 World Championship, which was earmarked for introduction in 2017.
The plan – championed by Bernie Ecclestone and the FIA – needed the majority support of the teams, which it was never going to achieve after they voted as a bloc to have the idea scrapped.
Instead, the sport’s four current engine manufacturers have agreed to address the key issues that the alternative engine model was aiming to achieve, with the principal intention being to reduce the costs of the supply of engines to customer teams.
The first official meetings on the way forward will take place this week in Abu Dhabi, with final recommendations set to be documented by no later than mid-January.
It is understood that the manufacturers will have to agree to supply a minimum number of teams, if required, in addition to reducing the costs associated with their supply, simplifying the technical complexities of the power units and increasing the overall noise output.
The FIA confirmed that four companies had registered expressions of interest to develop and supply an alternative customer engine, the performance of which would have had to be equalised so neither power unit configuration had an unfair performance advantage over the other.
The political wrangling over who actually controls the direction of Formula 1 has a long and complex history. With the FIA having sold its rights to regulate the sport, it was forced into an uncomfortable alliance with Bernie Ecclestone to outvote the teams.
It was an uncomfortable alliance given the governing body and commercial rights holder have different objectives. Their front is that this initiative is about reducing the cost of engine supply deals to customer teams, but what is clear is that it is actually about breaking what they perceive to be the manufacturers’ current influence.
The manufacturers are, of course, focused on maximising their revenue. They want the technology that Formula 1 brings them to use in their road car business, but don’t want to run massive costs to do so, unless of course they can squeeze much of their income from the non-manufacturer customer teams.
The manufacturers do not need the money – they make far more in commercial car sales – but equally they don’t benefit by reducing their prices to customer teams.
The irony in the entire situation is that the FIA has found itself arguing against the very engine regulations it sought – championed by its President, Jean Todt – to introduce. Any such change to introduce a new engine concept and the articial equivalency formulae that would come with it would only serve to drive manufacturers away from Formula 1 at a time when it desperately needs more manufacturer involvement.
Conversely, if the client engine was considerably less competitive than the existing power units, then it would have begged the question of why they were being introduced at all.
Perhaps it can be argued that such the current outcome is exactly what Todt and Ecclestone wanted in the first place. The threat of the alternative has in effect done its job to reduce the costs for all of the teams while also undermining the power and influence they perceive the manufacturers to have.
Image via Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team