Syntagma Digital
21st-Century Phi
Stage Latest
  • Auto Insurance
  • Nascar Tickets

Microsoft to Enter Formula One?

One of my commenters has pointed out a BBC report that suggests the FIA has agreed that Microsoft supply all engine control units in F1. The full thread of the resulting conversation can be read on my post, Here’s to the FIA.

Egine fire

What can I say?

Apart from all the MS jokes that will inevitably result, the news raises some interesting questions. Further digging has revealed that Microsoft are in partnership with a McLaren subsidiary called McLaren Electronic Systems. If true, this would surely give McLaren a potentially unfair advantage over the other teams.

Given Microsoft’s complete lack of a track record in ECU systems, one must presume that the real work would be done by McLaren’s subsidiary. And how tempting will it be for them to ensure that the software works best with Mercedes engines? In fact, that would be quite natural, as the engine most readily available for testing the system would be their own. Is this why Fernando Alonso is so sure that McLaren are going to be the team to beat in the future?

It has been reported today that the World Motor Sport Council has approved the changes to the 2006 and 2007 F1 regulations. The concentration has been on the reduction of final qualifying from 20 minutes to 15, and the elimination of third cars from Friday practice. Presumably any mention of standardized engine control units will wait until the engine homologation issue has been signed, sealed and delivered.

The whole business reminds me of the FIA’s introduction of standardized fuel delivery systems several years ago. The company awarded the contract for these produced a system that has given constant trouble with sticking fuel nozzles, yet the teams were forced to soldier on with them. Will we see cars stopping inexplicably in the middle of a race while monitor screens suddenly turn blue and advise that the engine has committed an illegal operation? Will the teams have to phone MS to activate the software every time they change an engine? The mind boggles.

If the report turns out to be accurate, I can see an interesting struggle developing between the FIA and the constructors. With McLaren Electronic Systems involved, it might well become a war resulting in a split similar to CART’s. Can the FIA really be serious?

5 Responses to “Microsoft to Enter Formula One?”

  1. [...] Update on Microsoft to Enter Formula One?: [...]

  2. [...] The potential storm over the FIA’s choice of manufacturer for a standardized engine control unit, as mentioned in my post Microsoft to Enter Formula One?, is brewing nicely. [...]

  3. I may not be old enough to remember ‘the good old days’ but it seems to me that the FIA is doing whatever they can to make this sport more like A1GP only with more powerful cars and more egotistical drivers. I understand that they are trying to keep costs down for the sake of everyone and i also believe that some changes are necessary to make the races more competitive. I would like to see a series in which the engines are regulated but the areo rules are very lax. Give me your Hammerhead noses, fan cars, active suspensions, wheel inlets, maybe even different engine displacements based on overall car weight. Massive amounts of money will always be thrown at problems in F1, instead of a 1% increase gained from money spent, why not have that millions go to a crazy new design that will revolutionize the sport.

  4. That’s a very interesting idea, Dan. When we consider the innovations springing from F1 over the last forty years or so, it seems a pity that such inventiveness should have the lid put on it through regulations designed to keep costs down. In the early days of GP racing (before the FIA was even a gleam in anyone’s eye), there was no accepted norm for engines and some pretty weird solutions were tried – so, if we free up the aerodynamics, we could see some amazing things resulting!

  5. [...] that the FIA has been able to ban traction control in F1 from 2008, thanks to the introduction of the standardized Microsoft/McLaren ECU. Anything that removes driver aids from the cars and puts more emphasis on the skill of the driver [...]

Leave a Reply