Formula One: FIA – Convergence is coming as tokens are dropped

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At the Circuit de Barcelona – Catalunya, the FIA earlier today held a press conference with Head of Powertrain Fabrice Lom & F1 Director Charlie Whiting, chaired by Matteo Bonciani, to discuss the developments in the Power Unit Strategy from the governing body.

The full transcript of the press conference can be found here

Changes explored in this press conference are set to be implemented from 2017 onwards.

In essence the FIA have broken the power unit strategy into 4 pillars:

  1. Addressing the cost of current Power Unit technology
  2. Obligation to supply
  3. Convergence of Power Unit performance
  4. Reviewing the sound of current Power Unit technology

For details on each of the pillars I highly recommend reviewing the press conference transcript, particularly the area regarding engine supply plans (pillar2), as referenced on this site earlier this week.

One other area of specific interest is that of power convergence. Fabrice Lom explains the need and enabler to the topic here :

“The third pillar was to help performance convergence. So, to do that the first big thing that people thought was important is to have stability in the regulations.”

Regulations stability closes the door to dropping hybrid technology for the FIA and ensures the series Power Unit Strategy remains relevant to the automotive industry:

“There was a lot of discussion of changing completely the regulations, going back to normally aspirated engines, no hybrid. Firstly, nobody wanted that because the trend of the world is to go hybrid and to go low consumption.

But also they thought if there is a big change there will be a redistribution of the cards and there could be a big difference in performance between the power unit manufacturers, so they said stability of regulations would help a lot. So this is the first tool for convergence.”

The current token system around Power Unit development would not facilitate an environment in which manufacturers would be able to achieve a convergence of performance. However to ensure there is no ‘free for all’ the FIA will be implementing specific restrictions around such developments:

“Then we free the tokens, because the ones that are a bit behind wanted no limitation of development to try to recover. We also put limits on some performance related dimensions. This is a bit technical and you all have the regulations but for example we put limits on the crankshaft dimensions, on the weights of some parts, so we are sure that there are limits on the development on these items. These limits were put where the best one is today, so that people know the target and also allow us to stop the best ones to develop more, to go lighter or smaller, so that we put something like a bit of a barrier to development.

In addition to this we put limits on the boost temperature, so they cannot develop too much their cooling and also a bit of packaging on the energy store and control electronics to avoid having to redo all the energy store to help the chassis performance.”

Following this overview the FIA opened the press conference to the floor. In this session further questions around convergence were addressed.

When you do the power convergence, how are you going to ensure that whoever your benchmark is is actually not sand-bagging at the time to be artificially low, so that you can ensure that you have there actual performance to ensure that they don’t gain an advantage after the convergence date?

Fabrice: So clearly the package is to help convergence. We are not mandating convergence; there is no prescribed convergence. So we just put measure that should help convergence.

Naturally the convergence will come with the stability of regulation and we try to speed up the convergence by having these measures but there is no prescribed convergence.

What’s the timeframe for sorting this convergence out, because they have talked about 0.3s per lap around Barcelona. When would expect that to be in place and what if it’s not? What if one of the manufacturers has found something and is suddenly 1.0s clear?

Fabrice: So this figure of 0.3s is apparently something that went in the media. There is nothing prescribed, as I said, but we will measure it at the beginning of each season and if it is considered to be not at the level that we expect to be, we will come back to the Strategy Group and just report, and then what will happen will be a decision of the Strategy Group, according to the F1 governance we have today.

It remains to be seen how in reality a convergence system will work. Given limitations around Power Unit components through a season, manufacturers will  a limited opportunities to introduce updates without penalty. The sport should also question if convergence, which is tantamount to standardisation, is the direction any sport representing a pinnacle should be taking. That being said ‘the show’ element of Formula One can be assured through these actions, which may encourage further investment and a new audience to the sport.

At this time Formula One Management have made no comment around the FIA’s Power Unit Pillar Strategy.

 

 

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