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Max Mosley and the Engine Freeze

The storm regarding the FIA’s insistence on homologation of engines from 2008 continues. Everyone is still waiting for the promised unanimous agreement by the constructors that the new rules be relaxed a bit, and Max Mosley, President of the FIA, now wants the the big companies involved to contribute to a fund that supports independent engine manufacturers like Cosworth.

Max Mosley

Max Mosley

At first sight, I thought this was another instance of the FIA creating unnecessary and impractical rules. Surely a freeze on engine development goes completely against the ethos of F1? Technological excellence is one of F1′s main selling points and to prevent advances in this area would ensure that the most powerful engine stays that way.

But the FIA have a good point when they cite the huge sums spent by the major manufacturers on obtaining just a little more horsepower. Present costs of development cannot continue increasing for long before driving manufacturers out of the sport. And we want them to continue, don’t we? Umm, yes, I suppose so.

It is natural that most of the manufacturers are against a freeze; each wants to continue development in the hope of getting a lead on the others. But Max counters this by pointing out that the others are not going to stand still meanwhile.

It’s a perplexing problem. Costs need to be brought under control but, equally, F1 needs to be seen as an important arena for leading-edge technological advance. There are no easy solutions, I think.

Perhaps Mr Mosley’s idea of a fighting fund for the smaller engine builders contains the germ of a compromise to suit everyone. Would it not be possible to limit the amount an engine supplier can spend on development each year? It would be hard to police but, especially if the amount chosen were small in comparison to present costs, it would ensure that the most efficient outfit wins. Much would depend on the large manufacturers agreeing to such a limitation – the temptation to cheat would be greater if they did not believe in the measure in the first place.

Whatever happens, F1 is entering a time of change more radical than ever before. Following on from the engine freeze will come the FIA rules to enforce development in the area of fuel efficiency. It sounds like anathema to any diehard F1 fan, bringing memories of the weird fuel efficiency formula once present in the Le Mans 24-hour race. That led to some of the strangest cars ever raced, long teardrop-shaped oddities with tiny engines. But it seems to be the way the world is going and F1 cannot ignore it.

Sometimes I fear for the future of the sport. It may be that I’m just an old dinosaur living on dreams of the past but the creature that now slouches its way towards Bethlehem to be born looks very unlike F1 to me.

3 Responses to “Max Mosley and the Engine Freeze”

  1. Oooh I’d missed this post somehow and it’s interesting stuff.
    World Superbikes has homolugation rules, basically you must make x amount of road going versions of your bike to be allowed to enter. You’re allowed only so much tuning on this basic platform (unless your name is Ducati).
    What effect does this have on bike manufacture? Well, basically the super sports bikes that you can walk into a shop and buy for, say, eight grand would have won pole position in WSB a decade ago without modification! Also you can watch a bike very close to yours being thrashed round a circuit by Toseland and co.
    So does this mean that in a few years time we can buy cars with basically f1 engines in them? Now that’s a cool idea…

  2. I don’t think it’ll work quite like that in F1′s case, Mad. In my day homologation meant that you had to build and sell so many models for ordinary customers before you could race something but now it’s being applied to mean that the engines will be frozen in development at a specific time. Since they’re already revving to over 19,000 rpm, I think it’ll be a while before we see any of them in a production car!

  3. Bah, no fun.

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