The most recent Formula One engine meeting was held last week and featured a surprisingly large number of manufacturers according to Mercedes AMG F1 team boss Toto Wolff.
“There were surprising participants like Porsche, Lamborghini, Aston Martin, Cosworth, Ilmor and AVL,” Wolff said. Other manufacturers at the meeting included Audi, Alfa Romeo, and Zytek, all of whom seem to be interested in what the future of F1 holds.
While many fans have, since 2014, called for the current engine formula to be scrapped entirely in favor of a return to louder, naturally-aspirated V10s or V12s, the sport is committed to lower-footprint hybrid power units.
We’d already heard that the current 1.6-liter V6 engines would be kept for the new engine rules in 2021, with a second turbocharger added and the complicated, expensive MGU-H unit removed in favor of a single KERS system. Following the most recent meeting, it was suggested that Formula One may move up its deadline for new engine rules by one year.
One goal for the next engines is not just to make them less expensive but also to make them more exciting to the fans and lighter in general, as the current F1 cars are heavier than they have ever been in the history of the sport. Because of this, all-wheel-drive has been ruled out.
“Four-wheel drive is not a good idea because it means more weight. The problem with electrification is that it is heavy, and that reduces efficiency. We must find a middle road. Hybrid yes, but not too much,” explained Renault chief Cyril Abiteboul.
At the same time, reducing complexity may well be the key to drawing other manufacturers back into the sport. The associated costs of developing F1’s complicated power units have already led to the demise of several teams and are at least in part responsible for the strong performance disparity on the current grid.
“Many companies can handle the technology of the current engine very well,” noted ex-F1 driver Gerhard Berger. “But when it comes to the entire thing in its complexity with the hybrid systems, only a few are really able to do it very well.”
Some would even like to see the return of independent engine suppliers that aren’t invested in any single team, such as Cosworth and Fordused to be. Currently, works teams such as Mercedes, Ferrari, and Renault all develop and manufacture their own engines and supply them to others, but such a setup puts those other teams at a disadvantage.
Most famously, the Renault-powered Red Bull team tried to coax Mercedes into supplying them with engines after Renault’s engines proved embarrassingly slow in 2014, but Mercedes—seeing a potential championship threat in a Mercedes-powered Red Bull team—refused, putting the Milton Keynes-based outfit in a precarious situation.
“The new regulations should also stipulate that an independent engine is both competitive and affordable. The dependency we have now is not acceptable to us,” said Red Bull consultant Dr. Helmut Marko. “Liberty Media is doing everything to ensure that it happens, with initial financial support as well. If we have alternatives for the engines in the future and we can choose with whom we cooperate, our exit from Formula 1 will be off the table.”