Engine cost cuts “vital” to keep manufacturers in F1

2020 F1 season

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Formula 1 must bring down the costs of its power units to keep engine manufacturers in the sport, according to Red Bull team principal Christian Horner.

With more governments setting targets to ban the sale of cars with combustion engines including F1-style hybrids, the future involvement of major car manufacturers such as Red Bull supplier Honda has been called into question. But Horner believes the core problem is the costs involved in competing in F1, which does not just apply to Honda.

“I think all the motor companies are under increasing pressure,” Horner told RaceFans in an exclusive interview. “And therefore cost is a key question, I would think, in all the manufacturers’ minds at the moment, not just isolated to Honda. I think Renault, Mercedes and even Ferrari have got the same challenges.

“That’s a worry for Formula 1, particularly with the way the world market is at the moment in the automotive industry.”

A budget cap will be introduced for the 2021 F1 season but it will not apply to engine development.

“Whilst we focus very hard on the budget cap for the chassis side, the engine is untouched at the moment,” said Horner. “And I think it is vital for the sustainability of Formula 1 engine supply that costs are reduced.”

Red Bull used Renault power until 2018, but split unhappy from the French manufacturer five years after their last championship success together. Mercedes and Ferrari have previously been unwilling to supply power units to the 2010-13 champions.

Horner admitted Red Bull would be “in a difficult predicament” if Honda called time on its F1 involvement and “would have to consider our future very carefully.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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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  • 20 comments on “Engine cost cuts “vital” to keep manufacturers in F1”

    1. I found it a bit worrying that Honda only agreed to continue their official involvement for just 1 year, until 2022. After their fairly good results with RedBull last year, I would have thought they might be in this for the long run, given how much they spent already for almost no results.
      The outlook in 5 or so years doesn’t look very good for F1 with Honda on the fence, Renault left to supplying just their own car (after McLaren ditched them too) and Mercedes trying to cut down costs globally. Will F1 manage to survive if it becomes a 3rd party spec-engine championship?

      1. @gechichan F1 didn’t do too badly when most of the field used the Cosworth DFV.

        1. @ijw1 Yes but that was a choice because the Ford/Cosworth was the arguably the best engine of the period, the teams were not obligated to use it. Over time other manufacturers developed better engines, mandating or being forced to use a particular engine as a last resort is not F1.
          The FIA and Liberty need to develop regulations that allows innovation to thrive. That may involve a cost cap to encourage new smaller players to join in and compete with the established manufacturers.

      2. Counterpoint: does F1 actually need or benefit from having more than two engine suppliers?

        For all the breastbeating we see, we currently have three fairly equal engines, and Renault have simply never been competitive under the current format and still don’t look like solving their problems. My reading of that is that it doesn’t matter what the rules or budgets are, Renault have displayed a lack of competence that suggests they’d have failed whatever the rules were.

    2. It’s vital to keep manufacturers, yes. But they also should start thinking about how to bring new ones in, because Honda and Renault (and maybe even Mercedes) could leave at any moment. I don’t see how they can possibly lure new manufacturers in, given the cost of developing these power units, the time required, the little testing and so on. At this stage, with the rules basically frozen, need at least 5 years to get up to speed and score low points… who’s willing to drop such a vast amount of money for very little in return?

      Looking also at what was tried with FIA and the WEC hypercar rules, and how it’s faiiling, only attracting Toyota who were already there in the first place, I can see F1 facing similar problems in the near future…

      1. Nobody is leaving until 2025 when the new PU is scheduled to come into play. Also, I see alot of manufacturers that are interested in the oposed piston 2 stroke which they are considering. Far more money is spent on the chassis and aero every year than the engines. This is just Horner spewing nonsense as usual.

        1. @megatron
          Mercedes: We have to reduce costs regarding engine development for us to maintain in this sport.
          Renault: Ditto.
          Honda: See above.
          Horner: Echoes these statements.
          A 12 year old with zero credibility and a cv devoid of anything F1 related: “This is just Horner spewing nonsense as usual“.

          Lol.

          But professor Megatron, enlighten us and give us a few proper arguments that embolden your statements…..cough cough….

          1. I feel people think that all costs will cease to exist if development stops. The engine is done, just use it… when that is entirely not the case. It must cost engine manufacturers huge amounts just to get the engines to the grid, and keep them running.

          2. asks the 9 year old…

    3. Emission penalties and rise of electric cars with decline of ICE-car sales will shake up the whole car industry. I think the situation in 10 years will be very different. Honda and Mercedes are not doing well in the electric car production, only first steps. There might not be enough money left for expensive marketing like F1 is in only couple of years time.

      This makes private teams like McLaren and Williams especially important. One or two PU manufacturers could work as in Indy. Whatever happens, F1 will survive, but I’m quite certain there will be massive changes soon…

    4. When I hear RB, one of the richest teams in F1 making noises about engines, which they don’t make, I have wonder what are they up to. If Christian Horner is that worried about engine costs, maybe he can arrange for RB to reduce the amount of money they receive from F1 and share it with the poorer teams, like Williams who struggle to pay for their engines.

      Then again, we all know that should Honda leave F1 again, RB will have to get their engines from Renault, at full price this time.

      1. Renault is out for RB and Renault that ship is burned so or Mercedes or Ferrari must supply a engine (which is for full price ofcourse)

        1. Nope Renault, having the fewest customers would be required to supply RBR. But it doesn’t matter as Honda isn’t going anywhere. Horner is just flapping his gums talking nonsense as usual.

          1. @megatron
            Well, you seem to be the expert on flapping gums and talking nonsense; could you please elaborate?

    5. @ Jon Bee RB are always up to something :))
      I’ve always thought there is more to the fact as to why Merc and Ferrari would not supply RB engines. RB were quick to turn on Renault when things got tough, so the separation was by mutual agreement. Much as the situation was with the McLaren Honda split. Honda wanted/needed a platform to develop hybrid technology for their Rd cars and RB had no where to go, so it was a match made in desperation really.
      But with the current attitude of governments it looks like even hybrids are on the nose, so yes it’s wait and see to find out what the manufacturers do.
      And with the Renault engine finally achieving good power and reliability According to McLaren RB would I think have to pay a premium to use their engines, if they’d have them back.

      1. @johnrkh No I think this is a fair warning Honda will pull out sooner than later.

    6. Get rid of the 100kg battery, and kers, boom cost cutting. mimmick super formula, bigger 4 cylinder turbo, it is not like the hybrid part is marketable.

    7. Here we go again with the Horner bashing.

      He’s right – there’s a cap on F1 team expenditure bit none on the engine manufacturing side. There’s a cap on what the manufacturers can charge for them but not on what they cost to build.

      Given the huge sums required to become a supplier of these incredibly complex PU’s and the fact that not 1 new manufacturer showed any interest in becoming a supplier post 2021, surely there needs to be an examination of the current PU designs with the view to lowering their costs to encourage current and future participants.

      As far as I’m aware teams are paying below cost for their PU’s which means each manufacturer is running their PU divisions at a loss – in this day and age Boards find that sort of thing unacceptable, particularly if its a loss on non relevant technology. As Horner says – if costs aren’t controlled, we could see boards pulling their divisions out. I can’t see Renault, Honda or even Mercedes hanging around if the cost of producing PU’s climbs and their losses start piling even higher.

      1. Why would a racing power unit division necessarily be expected to make a profit? It’s good marketing for big manufacturers.

    8. There’s so many ways to view the issue of reducing engine costs. One fundamental is F1 is the premier open wheel racing series, so teams need an engine that will supply a premier open wheel racing team with the necessary power.
      Since F1 teams have to fit a fuel flow monitor to their fuel lines, why not relax the rules on the type of engine a team can use? For example, the Toyota TS050 WEC car used a hybrid 2.4 L V6 engine, while Porsche developed a 2 L V4 hybrid engine for their 919 car that appears to be close to F1 levels of performance. Using these examples, why should Toyota and Porsche have to redesign their engines for F1 when the series uses fuel flow monitoring and has a maximum fuel limit (105 kg)? Supposedly there’s a fixed number of Joules in 95 Octane fuel, so why the mandatory 1.6 Litre V6? If these engines produce enough power to be produce acceptable results in an F1 car, then why not allow these engines to be used by teams?

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