F1 to scrap engine ‘token’ system next year

F1 Fanatic Round-up

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In the round-up: Formula One’s power unit ‘token’ system will be scrapped at the end of the year.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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85 comments on “F1 to scrap engine ‘token’ system next year”

  1. I guess FIA are okay with Ferrari buying championships again.

    1. Yeah, like Mercedes winning doesn’t hav anything to do with money, nothing at all.

      So it’s wrong to spend on RnD? when everyone agreed?…

    2. I like how F1 fans tend to dislike every (proposed) rule change, while crying for rule changes to end one-team-dominance. :-)

    3. I see no reason to single out Ferrari when it comes to spending – Mercedes has a vast budget and 1,400 staff. What I do find objectionable is FOM subsidising Ferrari at the expense of the other teams.

      1. You are not alone Keith.

      2. Well said!

      3. Spot on Keith. In no other sport does cash equate so directly with success. Ferrari are effectively given a permanent advantage.

      4. FOM subsides every team, not just Ferrari. I think it’s time to move on…

        1. @bio
          But it’s a well established fact that Ferrari gets more money than anyone else right off the top. AND they get their “special veto power ” for anything they deem as “against their commercial interests”.

          That tends to make everyone who’s not a Ferrari fan a bit unhappy.

          1. Ferrari have been in F1 for every single championship so they should get more that teams like Manor, Williams, Red Bull. They started off amongst big manufacturers and earnt their position through loyalty to F1, they would also argue why a little team should come in and get the same as them when they attract far more people to the sport globally than any other team. The thing that I find weird going by this is why do Red Bull get more than Williams or McLaren?

            The funds should be split so some is from winning and some from loyalty and stature, on the 2nd point the order of money should be 1 Ferrari 2 McLaren 3 Williams

  2. Finally. Now, if we can just have a reasonable amount of testing allowed so that rivals have a chance to catch up with Merc, 2017 *might* just be the year I start watching F1 again.

  3. Bob Bell and Vasseur make a really good team in the long term.

    1. I see Nick Chester entering ‘my list’ of exceptional F1 engineers as well. E23 was designed under his supervision and it was a good recovery from E22. You can pull off a recovery from the poor design only if you understand things properly. I consider E22 not being exclusively his responsibility. However, reshuffle of everything in Enstone will have the same effect on the team as financial turmoil of the last season. Consequently, nothing great to expect this season. Regardin’ rule changes they are in preparation with two aims: 1) removal of token system is purposed to end Mercedes’ PU domination. 2) New set of aero rules is purposed to minimize RBR’s aero superiority, especially aero performance coming from the floor. That’s obviously a mystery for all other teams. The way how Mercedes and Ferrari reacted to possible supply of PU’s to RBR tells you a lot about their chassis superiority. Apart from them acting like, you know…, that’s another topic altogether.

      1. So Red Bull make great chassis Ferrari and Merc make great engines sounds fair to me not to give Red Bull your advantage the same as would be true vice versa. Red Bull are scarred to let Newey go to Ferrari or Merc.

  4. HA! Is 2017 too late? Is it three titles for Mercedes? Does Max win 2017 with Ferrari? Found out on the next episode of Formula Ball Z!

  5. Usual Kevin Eason. Just be glad they bought the team for Pete’s sake, they haven’t even started a race yet and we get another cynical tweet.

    1. ColdFly F1 (@)
      4th February 2016, 6:23

      Don’t know the guy; don’t care!

    2. Funny enough all the Renault PRess releases put plenty evidence into their commitment to make it work too, not too sure what is there to complain about.

      1. Exactly, all the teams do it. Toto Wolff was banging on and on about Mercedes and Red Bull’s brands for almost the entire second half of last season.

        1. Aren’t Red Bull, Mercedes and one or two others main reason for being in F1, to increase brand recognition? You do that best by winning. I don’t have an issue with that. Its quite amusing listening to Horner whinging and threatening to take his ball home if nobody lets them win. :-)

    3. @john-h I have some sympathy for his view, actually. Renault’s launch felt dull and corporate to me (not that other teams aren’t sometimes guilty of the same thing).

  6. On paper scrapping the tokens is a good idea but let us not forget that this will also mean that Mercedes can develop/improve their power unit & given how they have the best as it is with a significant budget, well organized technical departments & some of the best engine people around this change may end up allowing Mercedes to pull a bigger gap rather than doing what many hope it will & simply allow the rest to catch up.

    1. Doubt this. BMW had the best engine by a significant margin in 2001 (dominated both Hockenheim and Monza), some estimated it to be over 50 BHP more powerful than Ferrari. As time went on, their advantage faded (it was their chassis that peaked in 2003). Come to 2005, the last season of the V10 era, the likes of Mercedes, Ferrari, Honda, Toyota, and Renault had all matched their power output. Stable regulations and open development for several years generally makes the engines closer together, not further apart.

      1. @kingshark

        Even in today’s engine formula, the teams complaining the most about the token system are Honda and Renault. They claim that despite having the solutions to their problems, they are limited by the token system. Ferrari were complaining about the token system in 2014 as well, which helped them in finding the loophole to open development of engines again.

        I think the token system shouldn’t have existed in the 1st place. Engine manufacturers should have had 3 to 4 seasons to keep developing their PUs, after which an engine freeze makes sense to keep costs in check.

        If these rules were implented from the start of 2014, we would see all PUs hitting similar power output levels by 2017. Now, it might take up until 2019

        1. It’s like many of us said at the start, they should cap the cost of supply and allow unlimited development for a set number of years, which appears to be what they have finally agreed to!

          Who’da thunk it!

        2. petebaldwin (@)
          4th February 2016, 21:53

          Spot on. Imagine how much Honda would have improved this year if they could make unlimited changes.

      2. Stable regulations and open development for several years generally makes the engines closer together, not further apart.

        I fully agree with you Kingshark (@kingshark) and I think we don’t need token system.

    2. Like Kingshark, I doubt it. As your engine becomes more and more finely-developed, you reach a point of vanishing returns. There is a finite maximum capability for any given engine formula, and once you get close to it the improvements available to you become smaller and smaller.

      But that’s really beside the point, because even if Merc continue to dominate they will *finally* have done so on merit — not because of a pathetic rulebook that prevented rivals from being able to catch up thanks to an awful combination of homologation, lifetime management and testing bans. OK, we’ll probably still have the lifetime management and testing bans, but at least you’ll be able to develop your engines *somewhat* more freely than you can now.

      What we’ve had for the last several years has been utterly unsporting. Now, it will be at least slightly more sporting. That’s huge news.

      1. As the power unit these days is more than just the ICE and Turbo, do we know where the development end point is for the other components?

        Although I am a retired electronics engineer, I still get several trade publications and I quite often see articles on better battery technology, conductors and magnets.
        How much has the capacity of your rechargeable batteries increased in the last few years? AAA batteries available now can hold as much charge as AA batteries a few years ago.

        Articles on better Semiconductor technology appear every week, frequently on better switching devices with higher Voltage or Current capabilities and lower ON resistance. The lower ON resistance indicates the device will heat up less at the same current.

        1. I only ever felt for the PU makers in a small way regarding the homologation because they all had the same chance from the outset to nail their package by that specific first date a few years ago. Had RBR/Renault not assumed they’d have it handled in spite of stalling in favour of ensuring SV a 4th WDC this might not be an issue today.

          That said, I suppose it is only a good thing that after this year there won’t be the perception of unfairness, and even if it meant Merc would continue to develope and dominate at least it would be during a seemingly fairer time although I also agree there may come a time when they just can’t get anything more out of their package and the others will catch up.

          Presumably costs will be going up as teams spend more to evolve their PUs at a more rapid rate. And/or might there end up being a greater difference between a works unit and what their customers get since they won’t be able to afford anywhere near the latest iterations, not that they can now. If there’s a price cap to customers then for sure they’re going to get far inferior equipment to the ever evolving works effort.

      2. because even if Merc continue to dominate they will *finally* have done so on merit

        What wasn’t on merit about 2014? They turned up at the start of the year with a cracking engine. Nothing stood in the way of Ferrari and Renault doing the same thing.

      3. @gweilo8888 Merc’s dominance in 2014 and 2015 is entirely down to merit – I don’t understand how you could possibly think otherwise. The rules were the same for all and there has so far been relatively little restriction as the engine freeze was tapered anyway. Mercedes built the best engine on a completely level playing field and then in 2015 had developed to remain ahead. If anything the change in rules following the implementation of the loop-hole was a cynical attempt to give everyone except Mercedes and advantage, as we know it failed to have the desired effect because Renault and Honda messed up and Ferrari had already done a good job developing its engine in the off season.

        I appreciate the point that if the engine development reduction path had been followed to its conclusion that Merc’s advantage would have been locked in (though that’s still merit) but in the event the engine freeze never happened so you can’t blame it for the outcome.

        1. The rules were the same for all and there has so far been relatively little restriction as the engine freeze was tapered anyway

          There was, and still is, immense restriction. Which is why even a company with Honda’s wealth and expertise was completely unable to upgrade their engine over the course of a season. What an engine was at the start of the season was what it was at the end of it. That will still be true in 2016 – as Mercedes have admitted, we’ll know after the first few races how the entire season is going to unfold. That is the case because teams have great restrictions on their ability to fix issues with their engines.

          1. But also a company with Honda’s wealth and “expertise” completely screwed up their engine in the first place. It’s not like they didn’t have a fair warning that faltering at the start of the season was a bad bad idea. They also had a whole year to learn from the successes and mistakes of the other manufacturers. Ok once they had turned up in Australia with the god awful piece of scrap they were pretty hampered by the rules, but they still made that god awful piece of scrap in the first place and that is entirely on them!

        2. You said: “Merc’s dominance in 2014 and 2015 is entirely down to merit – I don’t understand how you could possibly think otherwise.”

          To which I say sorry, but no. Merc’s performance at the *start* of 2014 was entirely on merit. However, from that point onwards it was not due to merit, but due to poor rulemaking. Rival teams were essentially forbidden from catching up due to the testing, homologation / lifetime management rules and the token system. These prevented proper development — instead, you could only realistically apply band-aids rather than properly fixing your underlying issues.

          Of these, the token system was probably the worst issue this year. You were only provided with 32 tokens, but the whole engine was 66 tokens — so more than half of your engine was now set in stone and couldn’t be changed. And some parts were as many as three tokens, too, so if you needed to change those parts you ran out of possibilities even sooner.

          In effect, these rules gave Mercedes a near-permanent advantage until the next change of engine formula, or of the rules themselves. That change now looks to be coming in 2017, to which I say “Bring it on!” It’s high time we actually had real racing, rather than a regulated long-term advantage for whichever manufacturer had the best engine on day one.

          1. If they knew what to do 32 was more than enough to appear competitive against Merc the second year. Besides there is no way that every single elements was for the garbage and they needed 66 token. Even if they had 66 i doubt they could have used them. Ferrari did it. Renault even went backwards according to some so the tokens weren’t their problem.
            The truth is that nothing would have changed this two years. The image would have been pretty much the same.
            Tokens would have started appearing restrictive in later years when their number would have been lower and elements would have been locked but it never got there so…

  7. FINALLY! 6 years too late, but better late than never. How this Pirelli farce was allowed to continue for so long points to gross s-t-u-p-idity (and greed) at the top of F1Mismanagement. Even with a lack of intelligent reasoning the outcome of “made to fail” tyres was glaringly obvious from the very first pitwall instruction to a driver to fall back 2 seconds behind the car ahead.

    1. I still claim the “made to fail” nonsense didn’t happen until AFTER Pirelli joined F1 and everyone realized they weren’t up to the task. As far as I’m concerned it’s damage control/media spin at it’s finest.

      1. … . … No, that’s wrong. The tyres had problems, but they stem from trying to create an imposed wear rate. You couldn’t make what Pirelli made by accident.

        1. Yeah, but many accidents were made by Pirelli.

    2. I wouldn’t get your hopes up yet if I was you. I seem to recall Pirelli saying more than once that they’d make racier tires, then going back on that and making a bunch of excuses. Personally, I’d put money on it happening again. (And frankly, I don’t see us having decent tires in F1 until such time as we have multiple tire makers competing with each other.)

      1. Gavin Campbell
        4th February 2016, 14:31

        Thing is they aren’t going to make run on rails rubber for F1 with a massive amount of grip, furthermore you are always going to have tyre saving without refuelling (not that I am in favour of that).

        Now we either state that every driver has to run all 3 types of tyre per weekend (and get rid of the rest of the starting on these tyres nonsense) and you would see more “flat out racing” or something else that forces a pit stop to allow all out attack.

        Personally a simple rule that states you must run 3 different dry (or a wet) tyre would ensure a minimum 2 stops without being too contrived and then have at it boys (and maybe girls)

        1. Forcing all cars to stop twice isn’t contrived?

        2. Pit stops only serve to separate the cars and spoil the racing, encouraging pit stops is as clever as making high deg tyres.

  8. Now if they would just toss the fuel flow and rev limiter out F1 might be able to regain some respect from it’s fans.

    Still, these are some major steps in the right direction! I’ve never understood why multi, multi million dollar cars were running on budget tyres.

    1. They are not budget tyres. Not in the price nor the design.

      I don’t understand why the fuel flow and rev limiter are a problem.

    2. Fuel flow is a great limit to get the cars running as fast as possible using the least amount of fuel.

      whats the issue?

      1. There would be more tactical possibilities during races, more noisy and powerful PUs during qualifing.

  9. Does this mean Cyril will have another excuse for not improving the PU this year as well? He’ll be able to wait until 2017 on the basis of “we needed to wait until the restrictions disappeared”

    They did nothing with their tokens last year and I have serious doubts they’ll do much with them this year as they seem totally bereft of ideas.

    Give it another year for ilmore’s influence and ideas to take shape and we “might” see improvement in 2017.

  10. ColdFly F1 (@)
    4th February 2016, 6:31

    less (blatant) pay drivers;
    max PU cost for customer teams;
    no restriction on PU development;
    tyres ‘designed to perform’;
    all races same points.

    That should solve the racing part.
    Now let’s get the management/funding part sorted!

  11. Really nice story about Hamilton writing back after seeing the written story.

    1. Agreed @bascb
      Great for him to acknowledge his school work and encourage him further too

  12. Great interview with Pedro De La Rosa. He was a driver I always liked. It’s a shame he didn’t get enough time in that Mclaren race seat as he did have a few strong performances in his limited time during race weekends. I think it was just a case of bad timing for him. Mclaren has had a solid driver line up since the Montoya and Kimi days, and the only shot he had was in 2008. Unfortunately, at that time Heikki had put in a solid 2007 season and was more race ready to jump in to a Mclaren.

  13. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
    4th February 2016, 8:21

    What did Renault actually reveal yesterday?

    1. A black testing livery that will most likely change come Melbourne
    2. That their new car will be called the RS16
    3. They confirmed the known rumours that Vasseur, Magnussen and Ocon would be joining the team
    4. Err…that Jerome Stoll is not a natural presenter?

    IN OTHER NEWS – Good news for fans of KKand yet more bad news for fans of interesting liveries

    1. It is curious that I had the impression that the presented car was the first version of the RS16 that was still based on the the E23 but actually it is a a E23 with the new livery and I guess a Renault engine mounted (which already is a big change on the car).
      Only now reading these new articles I realize the RS16 that will test will be a different car. OK, they just presented the team as it was announced initially, @william-brierty

      1. ColdFly F1 (@)
        4th February 2016, 12:13

        and I guess a Renault engine mounted

        Why even mount an engine, @bakano?
        Probably just the shell with a (slightly) different paint job.

        1. @coldfly you are right. I saw the exhaust and assumed they would mount the engine but they could just put a pipe there and that’s it :-D
          Even worse, they could just kept the Mercedes engine and imply paint the car!

          1. With engine being a stressed member of chassis… Pretty sure car will not fit together without the engine. So in the heart of that sexy Renault… is a German engine.

          2. @jureo, there will be no Mercedes engine in there, because those would have been returned to Mercedes at the end of the 2015 season (as is quite commonly the case across multiple series, the engines are effectively leased out to the teams). In reality, the team have probably just put a metal spacer in the engine bay instead of an actual engine.

          3. Lewisham Milton
            4th February 2016, 21:53

            Which one’s faster? My money’s on the metal spacer.

    2. @william-brierty Like you I was left slightly underwhelmed by the Renault event yesterday.
      So the car they revealed is not the car they will be racing. The livery they revealed is not the livery they will be racing either. To be honest, they could have revealed a doughnut on a skateboard with the same relevance, but I suppose they had to show *something* when they introduced/confirmed the new team members.

    3. 5. Apparently there’s a track called the Nuremburgring

      1. Where they hold production front wheel drive record.

        Speaks well for their plan to dominate F1.

      2. @keithcollantine I spilt my tea on the sofa at that point! Do you think teams expressly seek out women with no knowledge or interest in motor-racing to present their events? Do they have a preference for synthetic enthusiasm? Certainly this lady had performed a miracle by having never come across the word “Nurburgring” in her life before.

    4. They announced to the world in general that Renault is upping its involvement in Motorsport, that they are re-entering F1 with force and they signed a promising team to get into winning as soon as can reasonably expected @william-brierty.

      Sure, for us, who knew they were coming back in, and who knew about the drivers pretty much in advance too it was nothing new to be heard (well, apart from that new track as Keith highlighted). But for the wider world it certainly did mean something.

      1. @bascb Thank you for diffusing my sarcasm so efficiently

  14. I hope that free develompent will attract new manufacturers. F1 just really needs more diversity.

    1. ColdFly F1 (@)
      4th February 2016, 12:17

      Not sure how atttractive it is now for a new manufacturer to join.
      – 2+ manufacturers that are years ahead;
      – current manufacturers can freely develop further
      – huge initial R& D lay-out
      – almost guaranteed to fail initially (see Honda).

      1. But now when you enter you are not restricted so can get up to speed quicker. No different than joining any other series where people have developed freely for years, you cannot re set everything to zero with new rules to be fair to whoever is entering. What happens if you join WEC now with the big 3 teams already having developed for years? For Honda in F1 read Nissan in WEC and at least they could develop whatever they wanted to catch up.

        Free development on the engine is very fair as you can develop freely on the chassis and both are equal in my book, limiting the engine and not the aero was engine-ist (I made that word up)

  15. A much needed pump to F1’s adrenaline would be to ban that rule with immediate effect.

  16. The thing to remember with the token system is that it never stopped teams from developing every component in the engine, it just restricted what they could homologate to a limited number of components. So say there are 10 parts of the engine, and you can only change 5. You have to test multiple permutations of which 5 to focus on for the best result. You’re not doing any less development and testing than if you could do a clean sheet design because you’re still looking at every components impact on performance to find out which 5 gives the best gains, then throwing away all the development from the parts which may have still actually boosted performance, but weren’t the optimal 5 to choose.

    The next step in engine development rules where by certain components would be completely frozen was also so short sighted and I’m glad that’s been scrapped as well.

    1. ColdFly F1 (@)
      4th February 2016, 14:17

      @philipgb you make a very good point there. And it could be even worse as I’m sure a lot of extra cost would be involved in picking the right 5 out of 10.

      1. Yes and same costs but the fans do not get to benefit by potentially seeing closer competition because all 10 parts may have helped, development was spent on 10 parts but the manufacturers could only use half the beneficial parts.

        They can still only update 4 times a year though as I take it there is still a restriction of 4 engines per season?

        Either way it must be more attractive to new manufacturers as it allows greater scope to catch up faster.

    2. The thing to remember with the token system is that it never stopped teams from developing every component in the engine

      You’re a quarter right. The token system as such did not prevent teams from developing every component in the engine. There were other rules in place which “blacklisted” many engine components i.e. made them off limits to any development.

      1. I don’t think those restrictions had come into place yet though, things like the crankcase, piston design etc… were due to be frozen completely as you said, but those restrictions hadn’t happened yet. The only reason Honda or Renault couldn’t show up with a total clean sheet design last year or this year was the token system. Any element of the engine could be upgraded, but only so many of them could be meaning they would have to leave some ideas on the floor and just implement the best until they had used up the token allowance.

        1. I don’t think those restrictions had come into place yet though

          You’re mistaken.


          It would cost 66 tokens to change every item on the power unit once – which is more than twice as many tokens as the teams have. However for 2015 three items (with a total weighting of five tokens) are frozen in specification and cannot be modified. These are:

          Upper/lower crankcase: Cylinder bore spacing, deck height and bank stagger
          Crankshaft: Crank throw, main bearing journal diameter and rod bearing journal diameter
          Air valve system: Including the compressor and air pressure regulation devices

          1. I will get my orthopedic shoes

          2. I am almost certain that those black boxed parts had already been freed up for this winter to allow especially Honda, but also Renault to catch up @JohnS, @philipgb

  17. WOW so many news!

    1.) Token system… GEEZ! throw that away nau. Good job. It only served to keep #1 team #1 for longer time. Very bad. All manufacturers are in this for R&D and good publicity. If they cannot get good publicity for 300-400M€ then its a very bad policy to be had. Let them research do their thing… but also cap engine price to teams. Then let them R&D all they want.

    2.) Tire changes… YES! That is what i’m talking about. We will see how they deliver, shame we have to endure another year of this tire life conservation….

    3.) “While Honda has thus far resisted McLaren’s urging to make strategic staff hirings from other teams, Renault has landed a designer who knows how its team operates and knows how the current champions do it. That isn’t necessarily going to present them with a short-cut to success, but it should keep their efforts pointing in the right direction.” This just says it all. Open up your wallet, get the best man available and get to work. Its this kind of attitude for sure that enabled Enstone team to score a podium each year for the last 14 years? McLaren is in dire straits, Honda try to push their own thing… which is resonable, but it is quite pretentious to say. We have the best possible people, if not we’ll make our people best possible. Life just does not work that way. And stopwatch will show it.

    So Good news for F1, good news for Renault. Formula 1 after 2009 is finally starting to make ground in the right direction rule wise. Fans pay for the sport indirectly, you’d best be serving them.

  18. these are very good news…let’s not be cynical…

  19. Why wait until next year? The engine token system should have been scrapped in mid-2014. In a sport where the rules are written in sand it’s remarkable that the more foolish rules have the greatest longevity.

    Well, they’re taking baby steps in the right direction. Now if they could just allow a little testing ….

  20. I’m amazed that the people who can influence F1 are finally seeing the light. Great news on the changes coming up. I’m enthusiastic.

  21. It’s very good!

  22. Thank god for unlimited development. now just apply this thinking to the aero teams please.


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