The Williams team (on right) raised the query about the legality of hot-blowing diffusers, but it turns out that 2011’s most dominant car, the Red Bull RB7, never utilized this technology.
powerplants of the future. No more
irrelevantly high-revving fuel burners; in
their place, smaller, turbocharged units
which, in combination with KERS and
turbo compounding, would give
equivalent performance but use only half
as much fuel. In this idealistic vision,
the car manufacturers then populating
Formula 1 would stay, aligning the
technological drive of their ever-greener
road cars with their F1 programs, driving
the technology forward at a faster rate
than it would otherwise progress. In this
way, this top branch of the sport would
be seen to be part of the environmental
solution rather than part of the problem.
Then came the global economic
meltdown that scared the car
manufacturers into seeking an easy way
to wipe a nine-figure sum from their
annual outlay. Honda, BMW and Toyota
left in quick succession, Renault wavered
and, reportedly, Mercedes-Benz’s
decision to stay involved was won by only
a couple of votes in the boardroom.
Suddenly, Formula 1 was staring at a
for something much more costly. In early May, the teams decided en masse they could not afford the proposed new formula and informed Todt. Their expectation was that he’d have to accept the current engines would stay. Instead, he repeated that any alternative to a green formula was not up for discussion. Complicating matters further, Renault Sport said it wasn’t interested in anything other than a green formula, while Cosworth intimated it couldn’t afford to invest in a turbo program without some guaranteed customers. The apparent impasse was broken by a couple of key developments. FOTA chairman Martin Whitmarsh persuaded Ferrari and the others to accept a V6 rather than a four – still 1.6-liter turbo, still “green” but acceptably sexy in concept and sound, and better suited to current expertise in using the ngines structurally as part of the chassis. Oh, and a delay of one year until 2014. The FIA accepted. With that breakthrough made, Renault stopped wavering. It already supplies three teams and, with a Williams partnership set for next year, that makes four. Suddenly the numbers began making more sense as the investment could be spread out longer and between more customers. In that sense, F1 didn’t need more engine suppliers;
“Now, you listen to that!” Bernie’s objections to the
potential sound of four-cylinder F1 engines was one
of Jean Todt’s smaller hurdles this year.
new era of independent entrants.
Short-term survival was taking
precedence over long-term strategy
among the teams, but still the governing
body was absolutely wedded to the idea
of projecting a greener F1, even more so
once Jean Todt took over as FIA president.
For a year, maybe two, they pressed
ahead with their own concerns,
apparently ignoring the looming
conflict. F1 would go to 1.6-liter turbo
four-cylinder engines, limited to
12,000rpm from 2013. (Back in ’06, the
change had been scheduled for 2011 but
was then progressively delayed).
As the time approached when serious
planning would need to be made by
Ferrari, Mercedes, Renault and whoever
else might be supplying engines for the
new formula, there came the inevitable
attempts to delay yet further. But Todt’s
message was clear: this was going to
happen. Only then did the real issues start
coming out into the open. Aside from the
estimated $80 million investment a new
engine program was going to require of
each supplier, there was an additional
problem of image for Ferrari. Luca
di Montezemelo stated four-cylinder
engines couldn’t be aligned in marketing
terms with road-going Ferraris. Next,
Bernie Ecclestone waded in with his
objections as the promoter of the series
on the grounds of the quality of noise.
“The teams said they could not
afford the proposed new formula.
Todt said any alternative to a green
formula was not up for discussion”
the fewer the better. Ingenious commercial tie-ups are being
planned that may see, for example, TOTAL devoting its F1
budget not to teams but to Renault Sport, subsidizing the
engine program, with Renault-supplied teams carrying TOTAL
branding in return, with added value road car tie-ups.
Rumbling in the background of all this is F1’s commercial
future. The teams are adamant the new Concorde deal will not
allow an outside entity to take 50 percent of the sport’s income,
as is currently the case with CVC. Without that happening,
there would be money available to pay engine suppliers.
And so – gradually – a solution to a seemingly intractable
problem is starting to emerge.