Proposed 2021 Formula 1 Engine Regs Are Here And Mercedes Is Not Happy
Louder, simpler, less expensive engines sounds like win for everyone. Unless you're Mercedes.
Liberty Media in conjunction with the FIA have released their first proposed 2021 engine regulations. The new regs would call for cheaper, louder, more affordable engines than the ones being currently used. The new engines would have a higher redline in efforts to produce more pleasing audio for the fans and a less complex design to keep costs down.
The proposed regulations would see power units based off of the current 1.6 liter V6 engines and would see the removal of the complex MGU-H hybrid systems in favor of a simpler method of hybrid drive. It just so happens that Mercedes has perfected MGU-H so naturally they would balk at any proposal removing such technology.
In short, MGU-H systems convert heat from the turbo and other exhaust components into electricity. Electricity that is then used to power the electric motors giving the cars more hybrid power. The problem is these systems are very complicated (because science) and thus very expensive. It is widely believed that it is their MGU-H system that gives Mercedes their power advantage over their rivals. So any removal of such systems would see the Mercedes lose a noticeable advantage over the field.
However, Mercedes doesn't want to come out and say this so when reached for comment Mercedes boss Toto Wollf said, "The concept sounds similar to what we have now. But it means a completely new development that will mean we are working on two engines at the same time between 2018 and 2020." He may have a point, he may also be posturing to get a rule set that is more advantageous to his own team. Completely understandable as any of us would do the same in his position.
Red Bull is in a uniquely difficult position. Their cars given a competitive power unit are top notch. That also makes engine suppliers wary of providing them any advantage.
The interesting bit lies in the other manufactuers. According to Germany's Auto Bild Renault and Ferrari are also backing Mercedes. Apparently this is not in line with what they want as well though at the time of publishing no one from either manufacturer had issued a statement. Where things get interesting is Renault purchaser Red Bull loves the new idea. Why would they not? they are almost immediately being put on level footing power wise with everyone else.
Wollf described the proposed regulations as, "It's a vision rather than a regulation," Wolff said of Tuesday's Liberty presentation. "And it's their vision rather than the manufacturers." While it is important to note the wishes of the manufacturers the input from fans can not be ignored. The modern F1 car sounds nothing like the glory years of the sport. Up until this season championships were only a matter of which Mercedes driver won. Both of these factors combine to make a less than spectacular spectacle for the fans. Liberty is keen to change this and this is where the proposed regulations are coming from.
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Manufacturers need to take a step back and remember, with no fans there are no eyeballs to see any sponsors. With no sponsors there is no money. With no money Formula 1 ceases to be. This is an extreme view of things but at it's core Formula 1 is a marketing exercise. An exercise that gives companies a chance for their brand to adorn the side of the world's most complex racing machines. in order for this model to continue the sport needs fans, their concerns need to be addressed. Not saying fans should run the show, we already have NASCAR and F1 does not need to nor should they go that far. However, if the biggest complaint the cars don't sound correct and the racing isn't competitive enough steps should be taken to address those complaints. Afterall isnt the prospect of a Mercedes vs Ferrari vs Red Bull vs McLaren vs Surpise team nobody expected to compete an attractive prospect?
Lastly reducing cost and complexity benefits the little guys of Formula 1. The budgets required in F1 are enormous, the little guys need to be protected. They need to have regulations in place that protect their interests, their bottom line. If F1 becomes cost prohibitive to these teams then the series will die. Another extreme view but in today's day and age there are plenty of series for teams to compete in that are no where near as expensive as F1. These new regs will level the playing field at the sharp end of the grid but their real benefit will be to those in the middle. They will be able to operate on a more palatable budget.
Yes, the concerns of the Manufacturers should not be ignored. They are in the sport because it is the pinnacle. If you dumb the series down too much they will also pack up their things and leave because it no longer makes sense. There has to be a middle ground. I personally think these proposed regulations provide that middle ground. Let us not forget that they are still squeezing 650+ horsepower out of a little 1.6 liter engine. Plus adding restrictions on hybrids will only force the teams to create more efficient units while retaining overall power.
Smack in the middle of the fans and manufacturers lies Liberty Media. Formula 1's new owners have a difficult balancing act ahead of them and only time will tell if their decisions are the correct ones.