Renault and Mercedes should back freeze and “convergence” of power units – Horner

2020 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has called on rivals to support a freeze on engine development and new rules to “converge” the performance between power units.

Yesterday Ferrari, which previously opposed plans for a freeze, indicated it may support one if other concessions are given. Team principal Mattia Binotto raised the idea of adding a mechanism of convergence, potentially using different fuel flow levels, to bring the power units closer in performance.

Red Bull has lobbied the sport to introduce an engine freeze at the end of the 2021 F1 season, when its current engine supplier Honda will withdraw from the sport. The team wants to continue using Honda’s power units without incurring development costs.

Horner said freezing the engines at the end of next season would ease the financial burden on teams ahead of the introduction of a new engine formula in the mid-2020s.

“I think it’s important for Formula 1 generally [because] as we approach in 2026, maybe even ’25, a new engine for Formula 1, the levels of investment that are required under these current engines is just so prohibitive. For all the manufacturers the responsible thing to do, to ensure costs are brought under control before embarking on a new journey with the engine, is to freeze the engine.”

Esteban Ocon, Renault, Bahrain International Circuit, 2020
Renault have also opposed freezing power units
However Horner agreed with Binotto’s view that a freeze on engine development shouldn’t mean locking in a performance disadvantage for any one manufacturer.

“Obviously with that comes, if somebody has undershot, there has to be the ability to correct at a certain juncture. That should be down to the FIA to obviously police and navigate.”

Ferrari and Honda have already confirmed they will introduce new power units next year. Horner believes F1’s other two manufacturers should support the freeze and performance convergence.

“Renault have a new engine for 2022 so I wouldn’t understand [them opposing it],” he said. “Mercedes have the most dominant engine.

“[But] obviously cost is very sensitive [for] everybody. I mean, we’ve lost one manufacturer, we don’t want to lose any more. And I think that these engines have been around now for six seasons, it’s the relevant time to take action.”

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2020 Bahrain Grand Prix

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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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23 comments on “Renault and Mercedes should back freeze and “convergence” of power units – Horner”

  1. Saving on engine development isn’t going to save any team a dime. The costs they pay are already capped off lower than if any development were priced into them.

    I am sure Red Bull wouldn’t agree to this if it weren’t for their own benefit

    1. Nonsense. F ducts were replaced by DRS. Flexible front wings still exist. The FIA never did anything real to stop Red Bull using them even though according to the rules they should have. Just some half baked attempts at slightly changing the test, but at the same ultimate forces. So they gave up and allowed everyone to have flexible front wings

      The rest is cherry picking. Mercedes has had plenty of their innovations nullified too. FRIC, engine modes, DAS.

      Besides, Mercedes is not just the engine. Williams has the exact same engine and they are last.

    2. @jamesbond not really, as there are several rather large flaws with the claims that poster is making.

      The 2005 “single tyre per race” was never meant to benefit the Michelin teams – it was a rushed compromise measure that was proposed because the introduction of the V8 engines, which the FIA had been aiming for to cut power and thus cornering speeds, couldn’t be voted through.

      Here is the text from the Technical Working Group on that rule change:
      On June 30, 2004, the World Motor Sport Council voted unanimously to invoke Article 7.5 of the Concorde Agreement and give notice to the Formula One Technical Working Group (TWG) to propose measures to reduce the performance of the cars within two months. Notice was given on July 6, 2004.

      When the TWG failed to produce proposals by September 6, 2004, the FIA Technical Department proposed three packages of measures to the TWG, in accordance with Article 7.5(c).

      In summary, all three packages involved bodywork changes to reduce downforce, new tyre rules to require “harder” tyres and a reduction in engine capacity from 3.0 to 2.4 litres with eight cylinders. Of the three, Package 1 gave the most aerodynamic freedom but imposed maximum restrictions on the engines; Package 2 gave less aerodynamic freedom but slightly fewer engine restrictions; and Package 3 imposed further aerodynamic restrictions but gave the same technical freedom for the 2.4 litre V8 engine as the current 3.0 litre V10.

      All the teams were prepared to agree the bodywork changes and tyre regulations contained in Package 2. However, opinions differed on the engines. The closest to the necessary 8 out of 10 votes was at the meeting of September 6, 2004, when the TWG voted 7 to 3 in favour of the Package 2 engine rules.

      The TWG met most recently on October 15, 2004, but still failed to vote 8 to 2 in favour of any one of the three packages within the 45 days specified by Article 7.5. The World Motor Sport Council was therefore free to impose its own measures from October 21, 2004, to come into force no sooner than three months from publication.

      On October 21, 2004, the WMSC decided to impose Package 2 and that those parts of it which apply to 2005 would come into force on March 1, 2005 and the remainder on January 1, 2006.

      Package 2 consists of the following measures:

      2005 (to come into force on March 1, 2005)

      Changes to the bodywork (aerodynamics) to raise the front wing, bring the rear wing forward, reduce the diffuser height and cut back the bodywork in front of the rear wheels.

      Reason: it is estimated that these changes will result in the loss of 20% or more downforce with minimal loss of drag.

      One set of tyres must complete qualifying and the race.

      Reason: a harder tyre will reduce cornering speeds.

      Each engine must last for two complete Events

      Reason: a two-race engine will give less power than a one-race engine.

      2006 (to come into force 1 January 2006)

      The introduction of a 2.4 litre V8 engine together with a number of restrictions concerning design and permitted materials.

      Reason: reducing capacity is a sure way to reduce power (as repeatedly requested by the TWG), while technical restrictions will limit the rate of power increase. It is estimated that power will drop to about 700 bhp compared to the 1000 bhp that existing engines will reach by 2006.

      In order not to prejudice the smaller independent teams the existing 3.0 litre V10 engines may continue to be used in 2006 and 2007, subject to a restriction on revs to be determined by the FIA

      Reason: having reduced engine power, we need an inexpensive but competitive engine for the smaller independent teams, including newcomers. A rev-limited 3 litre can be adjusted to be competitive with factory 2.4 litre units, but will be far less costly.

      Note that the announcement made clear that this was a compromise measure that the World Motorsport Council imposed because the teams couldn’t agree on the changes that were originally meant to come in for 2005, and it was getting to the point that the FIA just wanted to do something.

      The claim that the rule change was “to nullify any kind of aerodynamic or tyre advantage a team has” doesn’t make any sense. It might have had the effect of helping teams using Michelin’s tyres, but that was an accidental side effect of a rule change that the FIA ended up imposing to stop the arguments and to force through the changes they actually wanted, which was the switch to the less powerful V8 engines.

      With regards to the “double diffusers”, what struck most observers was not that the FIA closed that loophole – the FIA were always going to close it, since that was never the intention of the rules – but, rather, that the FIA allowed those cars in the first place and then delayed the ban of the double diffusers for as long as it did.

      It is almost certain that every single car that was fitted with those “double diffusers” was illegal, and there is a suggestion that the FIA deliberately ignored it because they knew that the financial problems that would be caused by banning the double diffusers, and the fact that several teams couldn’t afford to redesign their cars, would make the sport collapse.

    3. What a load of garbage. Also f-ducts were banned because the fia believed they were dangerous. Drivers driving with one hand while using their 2nd to block a hole. Also the fia have introduced many, many new regulations to slow down Mercedes. 2017 a major new aero rules, 2019 new front wings, the fia believed Mercedes were burning oil, so it was banned. Mercedes used more oil in their engines than any other team, the fia reduced the amount teams could use. The fia banned Mercedes fric suspension, the fia banned qualifying modes (who did that slow down?) They banned Mercedes DAS system. Its not the fia’s fault ferrari decided to cheat to beat Mercedes and redbull keep building average cars. Its not the fia’s fault no other team can beat Mercedes.

  2. If you can’t beat them then try to cripple your opponents through propaganda.

  3. So much for F1 being a *motor*sport …

    1. It’d still have motors.
      It’s just that some teams wouldn’t be handicapped by their inability to get the best one.

  4. It all seems to be about making Mercedes slower, punishing Mercedes for doing a better job than the rest. Would they have also made Usain Bolt start competing in hobnail boots to make it fairer for others?

    Everyone has the same formula to work to – Mercedes did a better job than the rest – what is the problem?

    To be clear, I would say the same if it was Ferrari, Red Bull or even Williams that were dominant – I don’t see the point of changing the regulations when one team has made a good job of following them, it stifles creativity and rewards mediocrity.

    1. Robert Richards
      28th November 2020, 9:27

      The problem is its making the sport boring and predictable unfortunately, and fans are leaving.
      I don’t think anyone denies that Mercedes have done a fantastic job, but living in the real world if people are switching off, and not watching, that’s income not coming in is it.
      The sport will survive just like it did after the Ferrari period in the late 90’s early 2000’s, and Red Bull in the 2010’s, but rules were changed to make the sport more competitive, and it will need to happen again.
      Do you really enjoy seeing Lewis Hamilton driving off into the lead not being challenged at all, wouldn’t you rather see side by side battles, not knowing whos going to win the race before its even started.
      I have no problem at all Mercedes winning it again for the next however many seasons, I just want to see side by side racing and less predictability. At the moment its more exciting racing in the midfield between Mclaren, RP and Renault how is that right?

      1. Yes, I’d like that too, it’s so tiring to see mercedes again and again and again, it’s also diminishing hamilton as a driver imo, I liked him at mclaren, it’s definitely more entertaining in a race such as turkey where talent shines over machinery, or machinery isn’t so dominant.

        As for the “being punished for doing the better job” argument, does that only hold true for mercedes? Cause ferrari, mclaren, red bull etc. in the past were punished for exactly that, rules are for everyone… I hope!

  5. Lots of people are not willing to hear what horner says because it is horner saying it. But there are lots of reasons why engine freeze makes sense. One of the rarer heard reasons is that freezing the engines now would make it easier to introduce the next engine package when the time comes. Both financially and technically. F1 has been postponing the new engine regulation will be doing so for a long time because of sunk cost fallacy. And because the engine manufacturers are tied into updating these engines.

    This generation of engines are already at the near end of their term. While at the same time we are looking at diminishing returns for every billion poured into the engine programs. Why spend those billions into making slight changes to these engines when f1 can simply freeze the current engines and enjoy couple of seasons of closer racing? All this while the engine manufacturers can choose to spend more money into the next engine.

    And we know engine freeze works when it comes to making the competition closer.

    1. @socksolid – I get what you are saying, and some people are just triggered by Christian Horner.

      The problem here is he is not just asking for a freeze – if he was that would be fine, but he is also saying that “. . .if somebody has undershot, there has to be the ability to correct at a certain juncture. That should be down to the FIA to obviously police and navigate.”. So a freeze for some but not all, that’s where i find this distasteful – it is balance of power, handicapping by the back door.

      I would be fine with an engine freeze that just stopped all development, but what Christian and Ferrari are both saying is “we have problems, please penalise the teams that got it right so we can catch up”

      For clarity, I am neither a Mercedes, Red Bull, Renault or Ferrari fan. The infighting between team principles, engine manufacturers etc. does nothing for me. I am a Formula 1 fan – the formula is in place for all the teams, and all the teams had the same chances to build to that formula – some did better than others, that is the way – and they shouldn’t suffer because others have not been successful.

      Sorry if that turned into a rant – I didn’t mean it to!

      1. Well said @ahxshades; @socksolid, see (haven’t seen it yet here, so) motorsport: Too late for 2022 PU freeze – and note how they point, throwing their own shade, how both Honda and Red Bull decided against a freeze before this season.

        Ferrari said ‘yes freeze, but not too much/soon’ so they too are not really into having an actual frozen solid development.

        It is easy to say it will be cheaper and easier, but it’s not cheaper if you are already heavily invested in upgrading that PU, as both Renault and Ferrari will be. Now, Mercedes might be working on upgrades too, but they already said they saw the wisdom of it, and why wouldn’t they, being again clearly ahead of the field with their PU a freeze wouldn’t be bad. It certainlyu won’t stop them being ahead at all.

      2. @ahxshades

        The problem here is he is not just asking for a freeze – if he was that would be fine, but he is also saying that “. . .if somebody has undershot, there has to be the ability to correct at a certain juncture. That should be down to the FIA to obviously police and navigate.”. So a freeze for some but not all, that’s where i find this distasteful – it is balance of power, handicapping by the back door.

        I would be fine with an engine freeze that just stopped all development, but what Christian and Ferrari are both saying is “we have problems, please penalise the teams that got it right so we can catch up”

        I disagree. I think that is a very weird way to look at it. Engine freeze without parity is the worst possible outcome. Not only do we lock teams into clear advantages but there is nothing they can do about. Only engine manufacturers can. Engine freeze only makes sense with parity and parity only makes sense if you put everybody on the same line in the beginning. Not in the end. I don’t really see this backdoor problem of yours. If you set the parity higher than the worst then it is no longer parity. It is just a different kind of weird competition where the best don’t need to develop and can save a lot of money while the rest have to keep burning million dollar bills just to catch up and then have their engines frozen as well.

        Not to mention what you are suggesting would totally set red bull into disadvantage. Honda is leaving. Their engine program is leaving. If f1 took your parity but catch mercedes approach red bull would be left behind and they can do nothing about it. If porsche thinks they can not jump into f1 because the other teams have too much of a headstart with the engines then what chance do red bull have.

        It could take years before they (ferrari and renault) catch mercedes. To me that sounds like engine development for the sake of engine development. And their reward for all that development? Once they have spend those hundreds of millions and reach that arbitrary limit their engine is frozen. I think downgrading everyone to same level saves costs for everybody and is the fairest option. I really do not see your issues from any point of view.

      3. I don’t really get comments, or rants if you say so, like this. Like there’s a ton of arguments I can make as to why Mercedes has been allowed to keep its lead just as artificially. Testing restrictions, token systems for capping engine developments, restricting engines to a low numbers making manufacturers have to focus on reliability rather than closing power gaps, and more, have all served to keep Mercedes -who did very well to produce an engine that was massively ahead of everyone else to begin with- at the top of the field and then some. Those things are artificial, too.

        But all that doesn’t mean I agree with you in the first place. “Artificial” equalizing of gaps doesn’t damage the sport. At all. It damages Mercedes dominance, but it won’t damage:
        1. The enjoyment of the sport by the fans
        2. The competition between the drivers
        3. The teams, any one of them

        Merc isn’t going to not be a top contender because they lose their engine advantage. But they’d definitely get more competition if the engines had parity. The fans will finally get to watch qualifying where it’s not HAM BOT VER. We get to watch races where it’s not HAM BOT VER. And how could anyone watching the sport really be against this? Do some fans really love to watch the same foregone conclusions where before the season starts we already know that long before the season is over both Merc and Hamilton will have +1’d their championship tally? Mind you, this would happen until 2025 if there’s no “artificial” rule change.

        Rule changes should serve to make the sport more fun to watch and move to make drivers more important than engine advantage. There can and should be a factor of team development contributing to the competition, but it should be 25% car and 75% driver, not 90% car and 10% driver as it is right now. Engine parity is a great step to take along with the 2022 aero rules.

        1. Well said. In the end it is a technical sport and any technical advantages can be taken away with a rule change at any given time and that’s it. Merc losing their engine advantage is no different or less artificial than red bull losing their bendy wings, mclaren losing their f-duct or engine manufacturers having oil burning rules set up (with merc being allowed to consume more than everybody else).

    2. @socksolid The problem is not the proposed engine freeze, but it’s the obviously the forced convergence that is the issue.

      We’ve gone through this before and back then Horner just kept on crying that Renault should get yet another chance of “convergence” upgrades.

      Motorsport reported that Honda was only 20 bhp behind on Mercedes and Renault is on par with Honda. That’s within a a reasonable margin of each other.

      Renault and Honda themselves claim the gap is even smaller. Maybe they look at race pace rather than the quali gap when engine modes were still allowed.

      Maybe Ferrari needs some catching up after their engine was basically banned, but there is no reason to go through a convergence soap series for the others.

      Either they can all keep developing and Renault and Honda will most likely still stay 20bhp behind Mercedes or they can all stop developing and keep things as is.

      1. @f1osaurus There is a lot more to the engines than the peak hp number of the engine. Merc is probably 20hp ahead in every category of engine performance. The thing that I don’t understand about being against forced convergence is that it doesn’t even hurt f1 in any way, like @aii said above. Doesn’t hurt the enjoyment of the sport of the fans, the competition between the drivers and the teams.

        Only argument I get is that because f1 has engine development it must have engine development. Like it is this emotional argument about what f1 should be and for some reason for some folks engine development seems to be really important. To me f1 is all about chassis development and drivers battling it out. The engine to me is like a ballast. If a team has bad engine they just have to carry it and can do nothing about it. I think it does no good for the sport at the moment and there are a lot more good reasons to level out the playing field than keep it like it is.

        1. @socksolid So? What are those other parameters and what is the lap time difference they give?

          Now “converge” all these parameters so they are all equal. Do you understand the problem now?

          The engines have naturally converged to within a small margin. Only Ferrari is somewhat more behind due to their cheating and consequent ban of parts of their design.

          Where Red Bull is losing out is their aero design. The high rake makes their car naturally more draggy. It results in them being faster in the corners and slower on the straight. That’s not an engine disparity.

          it doesn’t even hurt f1 in any way

          This is the pinnacle of motorsport. Not some minor league.

          What I don’t understand is why we should reward the teams that did not perform well. Or do not even care to try.

          1. Now “converge” all these parameters so they are all equal. Do you understand the problem now?

            No I don’t. Engine freeze and parity is not the same thing as making everything equal. But I’ll ask you the same question. If engines must be free then why not tires or refueling strategies?

            This is the pinnacle of motorsport. Not some minor league.

            And penguins live in the southern hemisphere. A statement like that doesn’t mean anything on its own.

            What I don’t understand is why we should reward the teams that did not perform well. Or do not even care to try.

            So why should teams like haas, alfa romeo be penalized if their engine manufacturer does a bad? It is not the teams’ fault in any way. Why should racing point and williams have an engine advantage that they have done nothing to earn it?

            Nobody is getting rewarded. Everybody are getting the similar performing engine. The teams can still make the biggest difference with their chassis, strategy, drivers, technical teams.

  6. I’m surprised Ferrari are coming around. Their stance previously has been that the power unit should always be a competitive difference between teams in F1. Maybe they’ve just given up on that considering their predicament.

    1. Ferrari are coming round because they think if they vote for an engine freeze the fia will push for engine convergence. Binnotto has already said that if they freeze engines they should be allowed to use more fuel to catch up to Mercedes.

      1. Yeah, which is why I say it’s interesting given their stance previously lol.

        They are very quick to compromise their principles when it benefits them…

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