Tag Archives: Cosworth

Formula One: Are Cosworth the solution to McLaren-Honda’s woes?

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On the eve of the 2017 F1 season McLaren Honda head into the third year of their partnership with little cause for optimism. Despite the FIA’s removal of the Power Unit development token system which previously limited manufacturers ability to modify / redesign technology, Honda solutions seemingly remain at odds with the F1 Hybrid era.

2017 pre-season testing saw Honda introduce an entirely new Power Unit, a fully integrated unit developed around the MCL32. In a bid to improve performance and resolve drivability issues which plagued the 2015 / 16 design, Honda engineers have taken inspiration from the solutions seen with their immediate competitors. This approach, in the short term at least, appears to have failed. McLaren have reported extensive issues with vibrations within the power unit limiting any ability to push for out right performance. Neither team nor engine manufacturer have been able to validate design concepts through pre-season testing and have minimal expectations around the team’s ability to complete a race distance let alone score points in the opening races of the 2017 season.

The situation is unsatisfactory for all parties involved.

In recent days it has emerged McLaren may have made preliminary enquiries towards Mercedes around future power unit supply, some media outlets going as far to suggest a mid season switch could be possible. The reality of this is highly unlikely, both from a commerical and technical perspective the strategy defies logic and any form of long term thinking.

McLaren maintain an ambition to compete for and win world championships. Using Williams Martini Racing as a prime example, despite access to the dominant power unit for the past three seasons, customer status with Mercedes limits their ability to challenge. This should not be the strategy McLaren seek or accept. It may resolve short term frustrations with partners, but it will not deliver world championships.

Instead McLaren may need to seek an alternative solution. It is understood Honda support the team and power unit development to the tune of $100 million per season. On the recommendation of McLaren, Honda could look to redirect this finance to a third party. The third party in question being Cosworth.

When the Hybrid F1 regulations were originally outlined in 2010, Cosworth, similar to Mercedes, dedicated significant resource to develop a new power unit for the sport. The intention had been for Volkswagen to badge the Cosworth power unit, however as the implementation of the new regulations grew nearer VW reneged on their F1 ambitions. This left Cosworth with a concept power unit 4 years in the making but no manufacturer budget to bring the power unit to the grid.

Cosworth have stated in previous years that with budget the power unit they developed could be on the grid within 6 months. They remain confident that the solutions they engineered would be competitive. In theory it would be possible for the Cosworth power unit to become the 2018 Honda F1 Power Unit. It is fair to say there would be a certain amount of pride to overcome between all parties involved, but ensuring future competitiveness may ease the short term pain.

To those who see the suggestion of Honda badged Cosworth Power Unit as the future of the McLaren Honda relationship as far fetched, take a look at the companies house registry for the list of directors at Cosworth. Top of this list you will find Mr Zak Brown, Executive Director of the McLaren Technology Group.

Formula One: Cost Reduction Statement – FIA

Austin

FIA Statement 

The FIA has studied cost reduction measures for teams participating in the FIA Formula 1 World Championship which were not conclusive, including:

– a global cost ceiling,

– a reduction in costs via technical and sporting regulations,

– an increased standardisation for parts.

The FIA, in agreement with FOM, suggested the principle of setting a maximum price for engine and gear box for client teams at the last Strategy Group meeting.

These measures were put to the vote and adopted with a large majority.

However, Ferrari SpA decided to go against this and exercise the right of veto long recognised under agreements governing F1.

In the interest of the Championship, the FIA has decided not to legally challenge Ferrari SpA’s use of its right of veto.

Therefore the FIA will initiate a consultation with all stakeholders regarding the possible introduction of a client engine, which will be available as of 2017. Following this consultation a call for tenders for this client engine, the cost of which would be much lower than the current power unit, could be undertaken.

Supported by FOM, the FIA will continue in its efforts to ensure the sustained long-term development of the Championship and look for solutions enabling it to achieve this. It asks all of the teams to make a positive contribution to the success of this approach through proposals and initiatives in the interest of the Championship and its continuation over the long term.

Opinion : Public declaration of plans from the FIA to launch a tender for a client engine (independent) package is a bold approach from the FIA, no doubt in conjunction with FOM, made ever greater through holding Ferrari’s veto rights to account for the decision. This move could be seen as part of an extended chess game encouraging Ferrari to renege on their earlier stated position, or a way in which the FIA could quietly move away from the current engine Formula. 

Details of the engine specification under which tender proposals are to be made have not been made clear, but it should be seen as unlikely that the current specification would be maintained given the development costs. In order for an engine to be attractive to teams it must have the capability to compete with all teams as well as being cost effective. The likely customers for such an engine still have an ambition to win, accepting an uncompetitive engine simply to allow them to be on the grid would be short sighted and not commercially attractive to sponsors.

Should two specifications of engine be available in Formula One, which one requiring substantially less investment surely all manufacturers would develop engines to the lower cost base.  Nullifying the current Formula. 

I personally do not envisage Formula One getting to this point. Ferrari will bow under the pressure of this threat from the FIA and agree to cost caps. 

However, if I’m wrong. Why would Renault still seek to buy a team in F1, why not focus on a customer engine package? Other likely Independent submissions would come from Ilmor or Cosworth, but both would require assurances around customer base and commitment in order to ensure profitability of any engine programme. Renault on the other hand could off set engine costs as commercial or marketing expenses.