1 November 2017

The shape of things to come


Joe Saward is a motorsport journalist, primarily covering Formula 1, and has done since 1988. Joe has attended over 500 races and is therefore considered one of a very small group of opinion formers at the very centre of this multi-billion dollar global business.

The FIA, the F1 commercial rights holder and current (and potential) Formula 1 manufacturer representatives met in Paris yesterday to reveal the plans for F1’s engines in 2021. The goal of the regulations is to reduce costs, while retaining some road relevance, improving the sound of the engines and attracting more manufacturers to the sport. The proposed rules will feature 1.6 V6 engines, which will rev 3000rpm higher than the current units. There will be design parameters to control development costs and to discourage extreme designs. The MGUH (which recovers energy from heat) will be removed but there will be more powerful MGUK (which recovers kinetic energy). These will be controlled more by the drivers and they will be allowed to save up energy over a series of laps in order to add a tactical element to the racing. There will be a single turbo within new limitations while the energy stores and control systems will be standardised. There is also a desire to develop tighter fuel regulations and to have designs standardised more so that engines and transmissions can be switched around more.

The key point about the announcement is that it is quite vague and this is believed to be deliberate, in order to stop the manufacturers starting work instantly and investing hundreds of millions immediately so that they would have an advantage in 2021. By delaying the details, the development will be shortened and this will give everyone more of a chance. The plan is to have a definitive set of regulations by the end of 2018

The 2021 power unit is an example of the future way the FIA as regulators, F1 as commercial right holders, the teams and the manufacturers as stakeholders will work together for the common good of the sport,” says Ross Brawn. “The proposal presented today was the outcome of a series of meeting which took place during 2017 with the current teams participating in the FIA Formula 1 World Championship and the manufacturers who showed their interest to be part of the pinnacle of motor sport. Also, we’ve carefully listened to what the fans think about the current PU and what they would like to see in the near future with the objective to define a set of regulations which will provide a powertrain that is simpler, cheaper and noisier and will create the conditions to facilitate new manufacturers to enter Formula 1 as powertrain suppliers and to reach a more levelled field in the sport. The new F1 has the target to be the world’s leading global sports competition married to state of the art technology. To excite, engage, and awe fans of all ages but to do so in a sustainable manner. We believe that the future power unit will achieve this.”

The next step in formulating the future shape of Formula 1 will come next week when the Formula 1 group will unveil its plans for a budget cap and a redistribution of F1 revenues from 2021 onwards. It is expected that the proposal will be to have the teams getting equal shares, allowing for come benefits based on performance, but also the creation of a budget to develop the sport, this will require everyone to reduce their share of the take, but should result in an significant overall increase in revenues in the years ahead. The goal of the new financial structures will be to unite the teams in a common cause, give additional value to their assets and to provide funding so that F1 can go to the places it wants to go to and not to the places that offer the most money.

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