With the new engines set to come into play in 2021, Renault is worried about a potential situation where it’s having to develop both the new generation of engine and the ones currently being used. That would obviously force suppliers to run two engine programmes at the same time, but could also give a big advantage to any new suppliers who are only having to focus on the 2021 regulations. Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul told Autosport:
“The one thing we will not want to do is to have the burden of developing two engines in parallel. That’s one thing that is sure, but it’s too early to talk about the technicalities of the way achieve that.
“We don’t see it’s acceptable or sustainable to have to work on two engines in parallel at the same time, for the simple reason that if there was to be a new entrant, which is what we wish, he will have a fantastic advantage in being able to focus on the future, and not to have to worry about the present and the customers, and so and so forth. I’m just discussing principles which I think are logical, and fair for the next steps.”
Freezing development of the engines would be nothing new for F1 – for much of the V8 era the only upgrades that could be made were for reliability purposes.
Red Bull is also for an engine freeze as long as power levels can be equalised to within three per cent of each other. Christian Horner then took it a step further, saying that there should be some kind of ‘balance of power’:
“I think an ideal world if you want manufacturers to get involved in a new engine for 2021, and not have them incur large development costs between now and then, some form of BOP – Balance of Power – ideally through fuel flow, could be a sensible route. That way obviously those that have done a better job would retain an advantage because they would use less fuel, and would be starting the race with a lighter car. But the power could create more interesting races.”
For some, the very idea of making anything in F1 more equal is absurd, but if engines development was to be frozen, there could be some benefits. Reliability would likely improve, meaning drivers could push their engines harder for longer without having to worry about risking penalties.
Of course, chances are this is just a case of Renault looking for a way to get a simple boost up to the performance levels of Mercedes and Ferrari, having failed to make many gains over the course of the hybrid era. We’ll find out what the Liberty and the FIA decide to do soon, though, as they’ll announce their intentions for the future during the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend.