Tag Archives: Ilmor

Formula One: Opinion – Indycar Engine for Red Bull Racing?

RBR

Last month I ran an opinion piece on my belief that Red Bull Racing will run an unbranded evolution of the current Renault engine under an Ilmor development programme. Whilst I maintain this is a possibility, the emergence of a client engine tender from the FIA presents another option.

The FIA have not publicly stated the intended specification of the client engine, but it has been mentioned on several occasions that the engine is likely to be a 2.2 litre twin turbo configuration. By coincidence this happens to be the same configuration of the current Indycar engine philosophy.

The existing Indycar engine weighs 114kg (compared to the minimum weight 145kg F1 engine) with power in the region of 650-700hbhp which would be 50-100 bhp less than the estimated F1 Power Units. Despite a power shortfall the Indycar engine has produced top speeds significantly higher than those seen from an F1 car, albeit racing on oval tracks.

With engine mapping developments to suit F1 track design and gearbox technology, the Indycar engine could pose a formidable threat to the F1 engine in the right car.

There are currently two engine manufacturers supplying engines to Indycar teams, these are Honda and Chevrolet. Whilst Honda produce their engine in house, the Chevrolet engine is developed and manufactured by Ilmor Engineering.

As mentioned in my earlier piece Mario Illien, Co-owner of Ilmor Engineering, has had extensive involvement with Red Bull Racing in proposing a development route for their current engine predicament.

Could it be that Red Bull though Ilmor have privately petitioned the FIA to introduce the existing Indycar engine specification into F1 under the banner of the client engine?

If this is an option the only real question is why the FIA would suggest a tender for 2017 and not 2016? There is an essentially off the shelf solution waiting ready to go. Could the threat of the client engine for 2016 be the weapon the FIA’s arsenal in the fight against engine manufacturers control of Formula One?

Could Red Bull Racing, possibly with the support of Bernie Ecclestone, have engineered this entire situation? Leaving  the  FIA with no real alternative than to allow the Ilmor design Indycar specification engine into F1 for 2016 or face losing two teams from the grid?

Another factor to consider with respect to the Client Engine possibility is that Indycar engine manufacturers supply teams with engines through a leasing model at a cost of less than $4 Million per car per season. This is a fraction of the cost of current F1 engine supply agreements. If a client engine programme could be introduced into F1 with the performance parity the Indycar engine specifications suggest, then engine could be hugely attractive to all non-manufacturer backed / owned  teams.

Finally, the Honda engine in Indycar is a  fast and reliable race winner; the FIA approving a shift towards this specification initially through the client engine could be music to the ears of the Honda Racing F1 engineers in Japan.

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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. 

Formula One – OPINION: Red Bull Racing to enter 2016 F1 season with Ilmor Engineering.

RBR

Disclaimer. Views expressed in this blog are my own. They represent a rational pragmatic view of a situation.

I’ll kick off with the headline. Red Bull Racing will enter the 2016 F1 season with a self-funded engine program supported by Ilmor. Now I realise this view flies in the face of 90% of what the team and media are reporting, but hear me out. Why wouldn’t they?

In 1997, Dietrich Mateschitz purchased a majority shareholding in the Sauber F1 team; this investment came only 3 years after Red Bull launched globally. Dietrich Mateschitz is a self-made billionaire who only a few years prior to his F1 involvement invested his entire life savings on buying a 49% share in Taiwanese Beverage Company bought to his attention by chance when travelling on business suffering with jetlag. It can be safe to say that the first significant investment Dietrich Mateschitz made with his new found wealth was into Formula One. The cynic could say it was simply because he saw the marketing potential of the sport for his brand; my personal belief is he has a passion for motorsport. Either way, passion and marketing potential do not disappear overnight. Walking away from the sport, I believe, is not an option.

Take a second to consider the success of Red Bull. This did not happen by mistake, the growth and development of the business has been carefully structured and strategically managed. This approach to business would not allow itself to be reliant on the goodwill of its peers to allow it to stay in the market. We cannot be expected to believe that Red Bull Racing truly expect Ferrari or Mercedes to supply them with engines, media coverage around these talks has been managed as a distraction technique. Something those with experience of Formula One Management will be well versed in.

The struggles Renault & Red Bull Racing have experienced in the hybrid era of the sport did not come as a surprise to the team. In 2013 the team, despite clinching their fourth consecutive constructor’s championship were making moves to streamline the operation. In the knowledge of a drop in competitiveness the team discontinued the contracts of a number of employees working on temporary contracts. With the knowledge that performances were unlikely to meet those of their competitors it could be argued that the team began considering the long term future of their relationship with Renault at this point already.

In the first half of the 2014 season the Red Bull Racing Renault relationship rapidly deteriorated. Before the first lap of the Melbourne GP Red Bull Technologies had already seemingly taken on some responsibility of engine development entering into an agreement with AVL, the world´s largest privately owned and independent company for the development of powertrain systems with internal combustion engines, to resolve immediate performance issues and use the company rolling road facilities. At this time there was a rumour Red Bull Technologies signed off investment in their own in house rolling road.

Later in 2014 Helmut Marko publically earmarked the Austrian GP as a milestone date by which time Red Bull Racing expected Renault to have resolved performance issues. There was no public statement around the consequence of failing to meeting this milestone, but it is my opinion that this was this point at which Red Bull Technologies green lit their engine development partnership evaluation between AVL and Ilmor. Renault, in my opinion, had full awareness of this project and the likely end point.

Moving further forward consultation between Red Bull Technologies, Renault and Ilmor was made public; the details of the agreement remained unclear, but Mario Illien (Ilmor co-founder) was present as a guest of Red Bull Racing  at a number of races in 2014. It was stated that Mario Illen acted advisory capacity providing direction on possible development routes for the Renault power unit, earlier this year it was announced that Renault had elected not to take the development path outlined through the Ilmor partnership. In my opinion this represented Renault allowing a contractual option defined by Red Bull Technology to expire.

It is my belief that the ‘messy divorce’ between Red Bull Racing and Renault is around the Ilmor engine development program. The Ilmor program uses Renault developed technology as a baseline. Red Bull will argue they have been involved and invested in the development since the beginning and as such lay claim to the rights to the engine. Renault of course will disagree. This disagreement will be concluded through a financial settlement, and the basis for future Red Bull Racing engine supply will remain the original Renault power unit with development direction becoming Ilmor’s domain. The project may latterly be badged by another manufacturer.

When I have discussed this option in the past I have lambasted on two key points. Firstly, the time it take s to develop an engine, and secondly Red Bull can’t afford an engine program. I don’t see either of these arguments as valid.  To support this I contacted a Cosworth representative some weeks ago to understand the time they believe it would take to develop a power unit compliant with current regulations, their response; 10 months. Red Bull Technologies and Ilmor by the start of preseason testing for the 2016 season may have had as much as 18 months (Since the 2014 Austrian GP), and will have been using an existing engine to base the concept on  which would serve to further reduce the development  time required.  To address financing, how much do we believe it costs to develop an engine? If we consider Red Bull Racing have been awarded $200M in prize funds over the past two years alone, and have an extremely healthy sponsorship portfolio minimising the investment Red Bull have to make into their own racing team, despite operating as a private company and as such not reporting profits, we can be confident Red Bull is a highly profitable organisation. Red Bull has the money. It should also be noted the cost of engine development may not be paid up front. The cost of capital could be shared over future years performances, with FOM heritage payment assured Red Bull could borrow money against his assurance to fund an engine program if necessary. So in summary, they’ve had the time and they can afford it!

If Red Bull pulled out of F1 they face significant penalties from FOM and will be left with extensive racing infrastructure on their books. The cost of leaving the sport is greater the than the cost of a self-funded engine development route.

So, to 2016 and the prospects for Red Bull Racing & Toro Rosso, it is my view that the current ‘negotiations’ or lack thereof with Mercedes and Ferrari are somewhat of a front. Red Bull wants to position themselves as the injured party with no other option than a self-funded program. This will go some way to once again endear the team to fans of the sport. Success with the Ilmor project will not come overnight, but that is fine. The teams can spend 2-3 seasons as a capable mid field entrants, focusing on restoring their reputation as a fun team with the fans, whilst using their clout with FOM and the FIA to restore an emphasis on aerodynamics in future technical regulations.  Success in Formula One is cyclical. Red Bull, despite what we see through the media appreciates this and remains fully committed to the sport.