Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, 2020

Rivals’ proposal to converge F1 engine performance is “a bit of an insult” – Wolff

2020 Bahrain Grand Prix

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A proposal to ‘converge’ the performance of Formula 1 power units has been rejected by Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff as a “humiliation” which manufacturers should not accept.

Ferrari and Red Bull have endorsed the idea of introducing a mechanism of convergence for F1 power units along with a freeze on development at the end of next season. Yesterday Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto denied such rules would be comparable to the ‘balance of performance’ regulations seen in other motor sport categories.

Wolff rejected that view, saying he doesn’t “see any difference” between ‘convergence’ and ‘balance of performance’. Introducing such rules would be “the beginning of the end” for Formula 1, Wolff warned.

“The power unit is not only measured by the sheer max power but it is subject to driveability, to weight, to cooling. Introducing a simple formula that fits all is impossible and it’s not something that Mercedes would endorse.”

While Mercedes is considered to have the best power unit in Formula 1 today, Wolff pointed out Ferrari have been very competitive in recent seasons, and his team responded to that challenge.

“If you recall, we had a tokens system in the past when the regulations came out. And because some of our colleagues wished the tokens to be removed in order to catch up, we agreed to a removal of the tokens.

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“Now some of our colleagues come back with a system of convergence which, honestly said, is a bit of an insult when you look at the last few years and the development of the performances in the engines.

Start, Brands Hatch, DTM, 2018
DTM’s performance balancing spoiled the series, says Wolff
“Ferrari was clearly the most powerful engine in 2018 and by far the best in 2019. And we developed our energy, we continued to push the boundaries and we brought something to the track in 2020 that we were hoping would catch up.

“That’s why I cannot comprehend that any car manufacturer that trusts in his abilities to develop a power unit and a chassis would want some kind of mechanism that would balance the power units out. I don’t think that anybody would honestly accept such a humiliation in public.”

Wolff said similar performance handicaps have had poor outcomes in other categories such as the DTM, which Mercedes left at the end of 2018.

“I’ve seen it in DTM where weights were introduced based on your performances. The only thing we heard after the races or after qualifying was ‘well, I would have qualified on pole if I wouldn’t have had five kilos in the car’. And that was the whole narrative of the DTM season.

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“So Formula 1 must stay very, very far away from that or we end up in GTs where you design power units for the sole topic of manipulating the system.”

Red Bull is pushing for an engine freeze in order to allow it to continue using Honda’s power units after 2021, when they leave the sport. If they have no engine supply contract for 2022 by June next year Renault would be required to supply either or both Red Bull and AlphaTauri.

Wolff said Mercedes is prepared to accept the introduction of an engine freeze in 2022 and drop plans to introduce new E10 fuel to reduce the demands on engine development, but made it clear they will not support any convergence mechanism.

“We won’t do Balance of Performance because as I said before, that is not in the interest of any car manufacturer, nor Formula 1 nor the drivers. This is a meritocracy and it was always a meritocracy.”

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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
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47 comments on “Rivals’ proposal to converge F1 engine performance is “a bit of an insult” – Wolff”

    1. John Ballantyne Ballantyne
      28th November 2020, 23:36

      Wolff is right but at the moment we have boring racing where even the commentators prey for rain and safety cars to keep their jobs. Do we want racing heroes or Nobel lauriettes ?

  1. F1 isn’t a meritocracy and never has been. It rewards those who spend the most.

    1. @rocketpanda They all spend about the same on their engines though.

      It cost Honda probably most of all actually. Although for them not all of it goes to R&D, but also for paying off the teams to even run the engines.

    2. @rocketpanda Tell that to Honda & Toyota……

      1. Perhaps that should be amended to ‘spend the most intelligently’, especially in the case of Toyota.

        Honda spent a lot of money building a car they never raced which ended up being the Brawn – which obviously won a world championship. And on their return have managed to build an engine capable of winning races without playing dirty tricks.

        Even so it’s money that’s forcing them out at the end of the day, and the financial disparity of prize money throughout the grid almost ensures teams at the front get richer while the teams below don’t, more money means greater technological upgrades and thus the teams with the most money also have the most control and influence. That’s not a meritocracy, it’s rewarding financial success.

        1. @rocketpanda Let’s not move the goal posts. How do you explain Ferrari’s failure then, even after having comparable or dare I say more budget than Mercedes and special “heritage” prize money on top of it?

    3. To me F1 has always been about development pure and simple. I fail to see why why any team should be penalised because their development team is better than the opposition. Let the opposition improve and catch up. PU Convergence is like making a sprinter wear a 2lb weight on each leg because his training regime produces better ‘on track’ results than the regimes of his fellow competitors. If fairness is to be the criteria then cap the spend on engine development, chassis development and aerodynamics. Limit the spend, maybe, but don’t stop development.

  2. “We won’t do Balance of Performance because as I said before, that is not in the interest of any car manufacturer, nor Formula 1 nor the drivers. ”

    And this right here, is why the rest of what Toto said is nonsense. A balance of power units is in the benefit of the fans watching, and thus for Formula 1. It’s a benefit for the drivers, because it’s not just two drivers fighting for the top 2 grid positions (and I use fighting, but the difference in skills between the two don’t make this much of a fight) and that includes Lewis himself, who always says he’s craving more competition.

    I mean, I fully understand Toto’s position, which is to keep his advantage. That’s his job as boss of Merc. But lets not pretend the entire show would improve if it wasn’t a boring “follow the silver cars (at a huge distance)” race every week, where we have to pray for some sort of shenanigans or bad weather to give us at least a semblance of a show. For six years now we have to listen to commentary trying to make it sound like there’s a fight for pole when there isn’t, and who is really enjoying that other than Toto? TV broadcasters aren’t. People watching aren’t. FOM for sure won’t love it. FIA no doubt doesn’t love it. Pirelli is probably running out of little tires to give to Lewis. Honda’s leaving the sport so they certainly weren’t enjoying it. Renault almost left, but we luckily avoided that for the moment. Then we can laugh at Ferrari for getting caught cheating, but I’m not sure Haas or Alfa Sauber really deserved to be as uncompetitive as they are.

    I just want to stop having to look for midfield fights to get excited about races, personally, so yeah.

    There’s a reason F2 is so much more fun to follow, and that’s because there’s an actual unknown element to who is going to be at the front every weekend. Six years of this, and if it’s up to Toto and some fans, we’re looking at at least 4 or 5 more. I wonder if the sport can survive it without bleeding millions of viewers more.

    1. @aiii

      I mean, I fully understand Toto’s position, which is to keep his advantage.

      Ehm yeah that kind of is the whole point with F1. They spend about half a billion a year on being the best. Otherwise they might as well run in F2 yes.

      The sport is bleeding millions of viewers since it’s moved behind a paywall.

    2. Yeah F2 is fun but they are using the same equipment. Balance of Performance means that if one team is doing better than the others, they get penalized somehow so that the field is artificially closer together.

      In essence, it’s not a bad idea to have all cars having similar performance, of course, but Balance of Performance, as seen in DTM or Le Mans it’s horrible from a sporting point of view.

      I agree with Toto in that:

      Wolff rejected that view, saying he doesn’t “see any difference” between ‘convergence’ and ‘balance of performance’. Introducing such rules would be “the beginning of the end” for Formula 1, Wolff warned.

      An engine development freeze makes more sense than some guys deciding BoP after every race. We’ve seen at Le Mans every year teams sandbagging to get benefits and then being faster than the rest come Saturday afternoon.

      In the end it’s not Toto’s job (or Mercedes for that matter) to make the rest of the field competitive. They are pushing forward, and while I’m certainly not enjoying these monotone races, it’s not their fault…

    3. @aiii if the experience of the WEC is anything to go by, Balance of Performance has generally not been hugely popular because of how frequently it can generate controversy.

      One example would be the way that the fans reacted when Rebellion won the 2019 4 Hours of Shanghai race – most basically went “well, they only won because the Balance of Performance regulations rigged the race for them”. Even Rebellion was largely going “well, we’re hoping the BoP will give us a race victory”, such that there were quite a few who felt that their eventual victories in the 2019-2020 season was largely a token gift to them from the ACO.

    4. @aiii

      A balance of power units is in the benefit of the fans watching, and thus for Formula 1.

      I’m a fan and a contrivance like a Balance of Performance is definitely not something I’m interested in watching.

    5. @aiii Agreed. Toto only cares about keeping his advantage which at this point just hurts f1 as a whole. Balancing out the engines is not impossible. It is not as easy as with the v8s because there are more moving parts but it can be done. And with the v8s it worked out as perfectly as it could. A rule is never 100% perfect but f1 could easily get to 99% like it did with the v8s. And it could be done in software for the next race with almost 0 cost by just adjusting the fuel flow limits and setting some peak values for the other 4 letter acronyms of the power plant.

      And nothing bad would come out of it for f1. The racing would be better and closer, the mid field battles would get even better and driver skill and team performance would matter more. The engine manufacturers would save money which allows the next engine formula be introduced with sensible timetables and at sensible financial numbers. And we could keep honda on the grid. F1 has just 4 engine manufacturers. Losing one will also artificially lock down the engine contracts. Again only merc would benefit.

      F1 won’t turn into spec racing like f2 if there is engine freeze and engine parity. It did not happen last time either, nothing bad happened last time. I feel this is purely emotional argument for some. It is either anti-red bull or just some kind of desire to have engine development in f1 at all costs just because of some purity of technical challenge that the way the engine regs are written now is the only pure way forward and everything else is artificial and wrong..?

      1. @socksolid Shame on Ferrari and Red Bull for asking their competitors to essentially stand still why try to catch up and “f1 fans” like yourself to come up with a convoluted reasoning to try and make F1 a spec series but don’t have courage to just say it.

        1. There is nothing convoluted and it is not even my suggestion. I’m simply stating facts about why I think it is a good idea. Engine parity does not make f1 into a spec series. If I wanted f1 to become a spec series I definitely have the courage to say so. Which is something do not want. I think the next chassis regs take it already a bit too far into the spec series. For me the only holy thing about f1 is that the teams need to build as much of the chassis as possible. As far as engines go I’d be perfectly happy with spec engines because it doesn’t make f1 into a spec series. F1 has a chassis building and and driver championships. No engine championship. Maybe in your eyes that makes me not pure enough as an f1 fan but tbh I don’t really care at all.

          1. But the sport has been primarily a engine championship many times in its history and it was always a core philosophy of Ferrari that they build their own engines. The engine gap at present with the exception of Ferrari is fine, there is little difference between them all. Mercedes would likely have no issue of freezing their hard won advantage but to suggest they should be happy that every other team gets a free boost while they cannot improve at all is stupid.

            The entire idea is flawed and purely being suggested to save Red Bull the embarrassment of begging Renault for engines.

          2. Davethechicken
            29th November 2020, 8:39

            I can certainly see your point here but a Merc PU hasn:t got the once mighty Williams off the bottom spots no matter how good it is.
            Williams would be further disadvantaged in your scenario.
            To be “fair” to them you would need to allow catch up in chassis and aero- so a spec series.

  3. So many words that could be summed thus. Toto is only saying no because he wants to keep the advantage he has. And I say what’s wrong with that? Cars and power units improve year on year and here we are no asking for development to be put on hold which Toto has accepted all be it reluctantly. Now Ferrari and red bull want an equaliser formula. No wonder Toto wants nothing to do with it and I for one don’t blame him.

  4. I couldn’t agree more with him. Artificial randomness doesn’t belong to the highest level of circuit-racing.

  5. Ok, so Toto Wolff sympathises with Red Bull’s intentions to run the Honda engines without development and therefore agrees to an engine freeze from 2022, but only if Mercedes get to keep their advantage. That’s a new level of megalomania, even for Toto Wolff.

    1. You speak of megalomania, but it’s Red Bull trying their darndest not to suck up to Renault. That speaks more volumes than Toto refusing to compromising his team’s position, in anyway.

      What is Red Bulls’ solution beyond the engine freeze and “convergence”? They are simply reaching for short term gains, IMO. This doesn’t help their situation at all in the long run.

      For them and Ferrari to go down this road instead of pushing a more long term solution to their current predicaments is quite embarrassing and reeks of entitlement.

      I can’t believe any F1 fan would give any artificial shenanigans their support. Instead of being political, Ferrari and Red Bull should look within to catch up, and they respective fans should keep their foot on their necks until they do.

  6. I agree with Toto. BoP is way too artificial and shouldn’t be considered.
    However, if they are going to bring in an engine freeze for 2022, they should also introduce the new engine formula earlier than 2025. I just fear that Mercedes will once again find an advantage over the others and with the engine development being frozen, it would result in at least two more years of Mercedes-domination.
    This is the great unknown. What do you do, when by the time the engine freeze arrives, the differences in performance are greater than before?

  7. Introducing such rules would be “the beginning of the end” for Formula 1

    This is a meritocracy and it was always a meritocracy.

    Well no, Renault were allowed to improve their engines while the others were frozen at the end of 2008, so this isn’t exactly treading new water.

    However that did indirectly lead to Red Bull’s era of domination so I can totally understand why Horner is pushing for something similar again and why Mercedes will do all it can to deny it.

    At the end of the day this kind of political machining is as much as what F1 is about as car development or driver talent.

    1. Yeah thats a ridiculous comparison Renault were allowed to improve their engine. But redbull & ferrari aren’t calling for that. They are saying if they are slower than Mercedes they should be allowed to use more fuel.

      1. And the difference is?

  8. F1 is the pinnacle of racing. I agree totally with Toto on this. I mean everyone starts and designs their engines from scratch. If I did a better job than the competition why should I be penalized.. Renault asked for equalization of engines for 2022 last year and Redbulll were against in . Now that Honda are exiting they are all for it.That is rich coming from them

  9. Right. I am convinced, lets do this freeze with convergence.

    Toto hates it so much, but what I hate to explain is.. To my 12 year old how F1 is booring because today Ham is on pole and tomorrow he will most likeley win, mostly because his car is best.

    I can try to explain how he is also a great driver, but he does not want to watch anymore.

    Then my dear says, this is just like Schumacher, always winning, booring to watch.

    Now I am a fan, I watch anyway, but I do it alone, and it is not hard to explain why.

    1. Then my dear says, this is just like Schumacher, always winning, booring to watch.

      Thank you! This has been my family’s opinion too, really thought I was alone. I was also just like your son when Schumacher was winning too. I love the premise of F1 but domination with no practical way for the others to catch up is so boring. It’d be like watching football but your favourite team always has to play without shoes.

    2. You would rather explain to your 12 year old that Russel won because the race officials decided he was the worst on the grid? That competition is meaningless? Everyone gets a trophy…

    3. This is nothing like when Schumacher was winning 5 titles. 2000 was an even battle against the superior McLaren and 2003 was a three way fight for the championship.

      The only truly one sided years were 2002 and 2004.

      Ferrari had 15 front row lockouts 2000-04.

      Mercedes has had 83 since 2014.

  10. If anything can be called the beginning to the end, it would be DRS. It was an admission that F1 as a racing discipline, refuses to design machines that can race against each other.

    The engine issue here is typical of manufactures though. When manufactures set focus on a racing discipline, that discipline gets divided into the haves and the have-nots. And manufactures always win. The racing body’s love the money and attention, and the manufactures wind up dictating the rules.

  11. Let’s make F1 fun again and less expensive. New engine rules – 3 liters max, no turbos, no ERS, any number of cylinders, 20,000 rpm, any cylinder configuration (flat, V, straight line). The sound would be great. And, get rid of the grid penalties. By simplifying the engine, the cost would go down. Instead of an engine limit, use a dollar limit. If you can build an inexpensive engine that is powerful, competitive, and stay within the dollar limit, you could build many engines – no penalties. The differences in cylinders and configuration would provide some very unique sound. With more freedom in engine configuration, say a flat configuration, the center of gravity would be lower and could make for some interesting aero possibilities.

  12. digitalrurouni
    29th November 2020, 1:23

    I hate balance of performance regulations. innovation should be allowed period as it is their rules are already way too restrictive if you ask me. Honestly they should get rid of that full flow limit. they should get on the bandwagon of synthetic fuels to make the sport greener and get rid of that artificial full flow limit. Crank up the motors. Allow more engines per season instead of three or whatever the limit is. And then automatically there will be more of a spectacle. In my armchair fan opinion the full flow limit is the biggest technical hurdle because history has shown when Ferrari seem to have bypassed that rule they were able to take the fight to mercedes. so don’t penalize a team for being so cutting edge and advanced just remove some restrictions and open it up. However I must admit it is very heartening to see more people seem to not like the balance of performance regulations idea from reading the comments.

  13. Currently F1 has one standard specification for all engines, it is covered by the F1 technical regulations. So we have things like fuel flow restrictions, 105 kg maximum fuel load, a 1.6 litre engine, 95 Octane fuel, single fuel injector per cylinder, etc. Every engine used in F1 has to meet those specifications. The fact some engines produce less power than others isn’t the fault of the technical regulations, that is the fault of those lesser powerful engine manufacturers.
    Years ago in athletics everyone used to do the high jump in a certain way, then along came Dick Fosbury at the 1968 Summer Olympics, who did it differently and won the Gold Medal. What happened next? Was there a Balance of Performance rule? No, everyone changed to the new way of doing the high jump.
    In the 19th century the fastest cycle was a Penny-farthing cycle. Then one day some dude turned up at a race with a small cycle that had two wheels the same size, and some sprockets and a chain drive. The riders on the penny-farthings all laughed at the dude on the funny cycle, but once the race started the dude on the bicycle raced off into the distance and won. What happened next? Was there a Balance of Performance rule? No, everyone dumped their penny-farthings and went out and bought a bicycle.
    F1 has had many innovations such as rear engines, aerofoils, carbon fibre chassis, ground effects, etc. Were there Balance of Performance rules or did teams adapt to the new technology? Of course they adapted to the new technology.
    I have no idea why it is Mercedes make a more powerful engine compared to Ferrari, Honda, and Renault, but I do know the fuel flow is the same, the engine capacity is the same, cylinders is the same, the number of fuel injectors is the same, etc. The question isn’t what should Mercedes do to bring equality to engine performance, it is what Renault, Ferrari, and Honda have to do.

  14. Newsflash: Most dominant F1 team ever rejects calls to improve competition. Uses the tired old excuse that ‘that isn’t what F1 is about.’

    They’d still have the best chassis anyway. Nobody really believes that they are winning solely because of the engine, do they?
    That may have been true in 2014 when the best engine was also propelling Williams to the front, but it isn’t the case anymore.

    1. Yep I do. :-) Plenty of us know that Mercedes has a distinct engine advantage. No they do not have the best chassis. Where were they before 2014? Redbull ate them alive. Just watch every restart there has been recently with a Mercedes in the lead. By the first corner they a multiple car lengths ahead. No corners taken and multiple car lengths ahead. Multiple. OK then Toto. Let’s put the v8’s back in for two seasons. No equalization. Just as it was in 2013. You would lose. Badly. Eaten alive. If not then go on – push for it. Prove it’s not the case. lol I think Toto is panicking. The writing is on the wall. This can not go on for too much longer and as soon as their engine advantage is gone they will be found out. I can’t wait! :-) Prove me wrong? :-)

      1. True, I’d like to see that too, let’s see how brave wolff is.

  15. We had balance of performance system for engines from 2006-13.

    Those were some of the best seasons in the sport’s history.

  16. Clear and precise. Support Mr Wolff.

  17. Ferrari was clearly the most powerful engine in 2018 and by far the best in 2019

    is the biggest insults to F1 fans.

    1. Well, as a real mercedes opposer I’m gonna have to say this part is true, just look at spa, vettel didn’t manage to overtake hamilton at the long straight in 2017, back when merc had the best engine, 2018 it swapped around, same manouver and he easily overtook him, and the 2019 ferrari basically was only good in the straights, was its only advantage.

      1. So Ferrari can’t build a competitive chassis so handicap the quicker teams PU to let them catch up?
        How are they going to let the mercedes powered Williams catch up?
        Maybe they don’t matter as they are not Ferrari or Red Bull?
        Any change in will inevitably disadvantage the smaller teams disproportionately.

  18. F1 is a corporate parade. Racing fans can only hope for a close field every now and then.
    Or they can force the rulemakers to introduce countermeasures to balance out the corporate impact.

  19. My solution is to allow higher fuel flow for one practice & Quali only each race to teams running so called down on power engines, but not allow it in race.
    Likely it’ll spice up races if we see plenty of different cars in the top ten for start of race, and maybe new faces on pole. Better powered cars (mainly Merc powered) will then have to fight their way through in races if they are down the grid.
    Now if Merc still dominate Quali and still get front row lock outs guess Toto will have to concede and allow extra fuel flow during races, until new engine formula comes, for the good of the sport.

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