At the moment it seems like every few weeks a new tender goes out. First, it was the move to homogenise the gearbox internals, then came the announcement that wheel rims and braking systems could also be standardised.
The latest area to be targeted surrounds the fuel management system. Bidders will be competing to become the supplier of components such as “the primer fuel pump”, “the HP [high pressure] fuel pump”, “the pipes from the primer fuel pump to the coupler located at the exit of the fuel cell”, the pipes from the coupler located at the exit of the fuel cell and the HP fuel pump” and “the damper, if deemed necessary.”
The FIA cited the reasons for issuing tender (which will last for four or five years) in this area – namely cost control:
“The components can be carried over between seasons, which removes the need for costly continuous performance development. Fuel flow limitation enforcement is key to the fairness of the competition, and common fuel system components shall contribute to a fair regulation of the competition by the FIA.”
Before you head to the comments to moan about standardisation (if you haven’t already) and how F1 should be about building the entire car, it should be noted that the areas being targeted are rather small in the grand scheme of things. What’s the point in teams spending millions of dollars developing in these areas when the gains to be made (if any) are absolutely minuscule and teams all end up with virtually identical solutions anyway?
It doesn’t mean that F1 is becoming a spec series. The FIA could standardise another dozen areas of the car and it would still be miles away from becoming a spec series. It’s not going to suddenly make all teams equal (not that spec series’ do that anyway – just look at the recent Indy 500 qualifying results) and it’s not going to negate any advantages teams have in any truly meaningful or significant way.
What it will do is help teams with smaller budgets by allowing them to divert more resources to the many other parts of the car that do matter. That’s also true of the bigger teams, but a $5 million saving (for example) is going to have a much bigger impact on Racing Point than it would on Mercedes.
Saving money on parts that are more or less invisible or unnoticeable to the majority of F1 fans is a good thing. There will be a tipping point, but we’re a long, long way away from that happening at the moment.