Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Engine Rebalance?

F1Fanatic wants to know if the currently available engines should be equalized. Currently Red Bull is whining that the Renault engine they are using (to lead the Driver's championship with, natch) is down 20 to 30 horse power when compared to the Mercedes engine, currently the benchmark for power.

Like all issues in Formula One, the answer to this depends on what the FIA and the constructors want Formula One to be.

If Renault is permitted to boost their horsepower, then Mercedes will be put out because the Renault engine is lighter then theirs. Cosworth will be put out because the Mercedes is smaller. Ferrari will be put out because the Renault is more fuel efficient. Or whatever. The point is: whenever you have different engines, there are going to be pros and cons to each one. Some will excel some areas while being deficient in others; other engines will offer a balance of all criteria[*].

If you give legitimacy to this complaint, you are opening the door to validating the rest of the complaints, and this road leads to... a spec engine. If every manufacturer is making the same engine, you might as well just have one make the engine and save everyone some money.

Formula One is slowly sliding down the slope to a spec series, or a might-as-well-be-a-spec-series like CART used to be.

If you want to let engineers try to have new ideas in an attempt to gain an advantage, you have to accept the fact that sometimes this advantage will put some teams ahead of others, and that sometimes these ideas are going to get it wrong, either in conception or execution. And this will happen in all areas of the car that are not "spec".

The engine freeze probably looked good on paper, but in execution it makes the manufacturers line up rather predictably. And this running order is rather rigid.

It also puts even more lie to the idea that concepts learned in racing are (or even can be) applied to road cars. Especially since aside from the last round of rebalancing, very little has changed in Formula One engines in two years.

From all that, I have this opinion. I think the engine freeze should be lifted in its entirety.

But failing that, I think that a "rebalancing" isn't appropriate, as it would lead to other complaints.

[*] = In the case of Cosworth, the only particularly important area this engine excels in is "availability", since most teams cannot get a Mercedes, Renault, or Ferrari engine for any price. But that's still a valid advantage for Cosworth.