Red Bull’s Honda engine plan rests on rules freeze vote next week

2022 F1 season

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Red Bull’s hopes of continuing to use Honda power units after the 2021 F1 season rest on a crucial vote next week on changes to the engine regulations.

The team wants to continue using Honda’s engines after the Japanese manufacturer leaves Formula 1 at the end of this season. In order to do this, Red Bull has proposed introducing a freeze on development to ensure it will remain competitive with rival manufacturers.

With the current V6 hybrid turbo engine regulations reaching maturity and due for replacement in 2025, teams are open to the possibility of a freeze. However some are wary of locking in any performance disadvantage they might have.

RaceFans understands an electronic vote will be held on Monday to decide whether to introduce a freeze on engine development from the first race of the 2022 F1 season. If the freeze is approved, Honda is expected to continue developing its power units for Red Bull until that time.

Under the F1 Commision’s rules for votes on changes to the power unit regulations, a simple majority of the teams, manufacturers, Formula 1 and FIA is required for approval: 27 votes from a maximum of 34. Each of the 10 teams and four power unit manufacturers have a single vote, while F1 and the FIA have 10 each.

Red Bull also previously proposed introducing a mechanism of convergence to balance the performance between different power units. This has not been ruled out, and could be achieved by giving different fuel flow limits to each manufacturer based on the performance of their engines.

If Red Bull is unable to agree terms under which it could continue to use Honda’s power units, then according to the FIA’s rules the manufacturer which supplies the fewest teams would be required to supply their engines for the 2022 season. At present, that manufacturer is Renault, which has no customer teams.

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59 comments on “Red Bull’s Honda engine plan rests on rules freeze vote next week”

  1. I hope Red Bull can continue with the Honda engine, even if this freeze doesn’t come to pass or doesn’t come to pass at the end of 2022 instead of the beginning it would be better for the sport to have 4 manufacturers rather than 3 and if Red Bull go down this road, certainly from 2025 onwards they’ll continue to be their own engine manufacturer (by either buying into or taking over an existing racing engine developer, or by setting up their own)?

    I don’t really love the idea of the top teams having to rely on customer engines, it’s just not as good for competition when there’s works teams in existence for each of the engine manufacturers.

    As for the balancing of engines, I hope that happens either way. I know some people really don’t like the idea and feel it lessens the competition, but honestly, I just want a competitive sport and I don’t know how many of these almost decade-long single-team-dominant periods I can stand. I’m kinda just done with WCC and WDC’s wrapping up well before the end of the year.

    1. Well said. Totally agree with!!

    2. Freeze all engines on going, no need to make any changes. ICE totally obsolete, I have gone with a Tesla S now and it’s an eye opener in terms of all round performance driving. Formula E should be the new premier Formula.

  2. Hm, so lets do the numbers here.

    Both Red Bull and AT would clearly vote for this. If they get both the FIA and Liberty to support them, that would be 22 votes. I gather that Honda would be voting too, making that 23. So they need another 4 votes. But would the FIA want that? I guess it would put them in a certain camp for the coming talks over new engines. But without their vote, they will be part of losing an engine from the sport, which is also not great (since it clearly won’t pass without the FIA 10 votes).

    Mercedes has made it pretty clear that they are not much in favour of this – that makes it almost certainly 5 votes (Mercedes, Williams, RP, McLaren as well as Mercedes Power) against.

    I can see Ferrari agreeing, but only if they first get to up their engine, or get that extra fuel to boost it to a comparable level. That would be critical to getting them on board. That could be up to 4 votes, which would be enough.

    Also interesting how Renault would vote. They have 2 votes, so they can’t really put in the deciding vote. But it would signal whether they would actually want to supply Red Bull. If they vote for it, that might be a signal they want to supply Red Bull (since their vote would not swing the balance, at least not alone). If they vote against it, that would be a bit awkward when Red Bull then has to “default” to requesting the FIA to ask Renault to supply those engines, immediately setting up a somewhat bad taste to such an arrangement.
    Maybe they would sustain? Since it would directly affect them as they are the ones who would be supplying, I can see a good argument for that to be made.

    1. @bascb
      I can see both FIA and Liberty agree to this. It would be within their best interest to keep Red Bull and Alpha Tauri in the sport.

      Red Bull, Alpha Tauri and Honda will vote in favour of this. That brings the votes up to 23.

      Now the crucial question: which other engine manufacturer will agree to this? In my opinion, this depends on the rules of the engine freeze.

      If the engine freeze also includes convergence of power, then Ferrari will agree to this. Ferrari have openly stated that they are in favour of an engine freeze with convergence of performance. That would bring the votes up to 27, enough to win.

      Engine freeze without convergence would likely see Mercedes agree to it. That would bring the total votes up to 28/34, again enough to win approval.

      But then I can see Ferrari use their infamous veto to block, because that rule would completely screw them over.

      The only way I can see this rule come through is if it includes convergence of performance.

      1. I’m also curious how this would impact Renault financially: is it better to have an engine freeze, or two extra customers?

        1. @paeschli
          Freezing engine development will likely save more money

          Engine manufacturers spend around a quarter of a billion per year on engine development

          https://www.forbes.com/sites/csylt/2018/09/23/mercedes-f1-engine-investment-accelerates-to-250-million/?sh=72d84f735fe7

          No chance will they make that much profit from two customers.

    2. I thought Toto said they were ok with the engine freeze (ofcourse as they have the best one) So with there 4 votes ( 5 if you count Mercedes too) it should be ok.
      But it depends on which rules they are going for…

  3. a simple majority of the teams, manufacturers, Formula 1 and FIA is required for approval: 27 votes from a maximum of 34. Each of the 10 teams and four power unit manufacturers have a single vote, while F1 and the FIA have 10 each.

    I will never understand how 27 from 34 is a ‘simple’ majority; seems rather complex, or at least confusing.

    1. It’s a majority of the teams and engine manufacturers (at least 7 of the 14 total votes), plus approval from the FIA, and approval from F1. Why that approval is expressed as 10 votes each for the FIA and F1 ending up with this weird 27 of 34 requirement, I don’t know.

      1. Thanks for that explanation @pez2k.

        It would have been easier to give FIA and FOM a single vote plus veto, and require just 9 votes for a majority. But that’s maybe too simple ;)

    2. @coldfly Half of 34 is 17, so 27 is, of course, more than half. This is a simple way of looking at it.

      1. But so is 18-26, but it seems that that would not count as a majority.

    3. Indeed, a “simple” majority appears to be 70%, which is complicated 🤔

  4. So doing the maths says even if Renault (2votes) Mercedes (2 votes), McLaren Williams and racing point all vote against this the deal will still go through

    What an absolutely disgraceful situation it is, performance balance in Formula One! What a joke

    Why would any new manufacturer enter a sport where regardless of how good they do they get screwed over

    1. Why would any new manufacturer enter a sport where regardless of how good they do they get screwed over

      Look it from another angle, instead of spending hundreds of millions trying to catch up with Mercedes (and likely fail) like Honda did, you can build a decent power unit and have a chance to fight (and use that presence on your marketing campaigns).

      I can see more manufacturers being interested on that than not interested.

      1. Which is true if that was the rules from the start, and you hadn’t already spent a small fortune on developing the best PU

        Prospective manufacturers will look at this situation and say an investment is just not worth it if, that is how they could be treated in the future

        1. “and you hadn’t already spent a small fortune ”
          Somehow I think the truth is they spent a large fortune on developing a superior PU.

    2. performance balance in Formula One!

      With the previous PU format F1 had engine performance equalisation rules.

    3. I absolutely agree with you. F1 has always been about the best engineers designing and building the most technically advanced cars and engines and going out to prove it by winning races. The way they are talking at present, why don’t the FIA build all the cars, fit them with the sames engines and sell them to the teams. That would give them almost parity. Of course then they would need 20 drivers all from the same town and all who weigh exactly the same or they will have to carry ballast in the form of FIA tokens. It’s not what F1 is all about. For the people who want close racing may I sugest you go and watch one of the other spec series and leave the DNA of F1 in it’s original for. You may find it boring to see Mercedes dominating but the real F1 fan admires their accomplishment.

      1. Several posters here would actually go for that scenario Patrick.

      2. Isn’t that what A1 was about?

  5. The big freeze would save lots of cash for manufacturers, who can start working on 2025 engine next year. If they can agree on the rules…

    Votes pro:
    RBR
    AT
    Mercedes
    Honda
    Mercedes as PU supplier
    Williams
    Aston
    Plus 20 from F1 and FIA and it’s done.

    Renault is already bringing their new engine up this year just in case.

    Ferrari is the one with the most to loose, since the “new direction” they had to take last year. Hard to see them agreeing to it without some form of compensation.

    Can they use their veto? Knives out!

  6. What is the carrot on the end of the stick that would encourage Ferrari, Renault and customers to vote for either a freeze (which builds in their disadvantage) or a mechanism of convergence (which highlights their disadvantage)?

  7. And of course Mercedes and customers…

  8. I don’t see how this is “good” for F1. If they are going do an engine freeze, they might as well be running F2 cars. Part of the sport is development and engineering, and a rule like this leads to a spec series, which there are plenty of if that is what you prefer.

      1. The V8s did indeed have a freeze and (if I recall correctly) Renault treated it as a hard freeze, so they shuttered the R&D part of the operation.
        Surprise for them was that the “freeze” did not include development work to improve reliability.
        The other teams did a lot of development work wrapped up in a reliability blanket. When is a freeze not really a freeze….?

        A simple majority of 34 votes is 17. Some clarification of this would be handy

        1. Fia = 10 votes F1 = 10 votes 10 teams = 10 votes 4 manufacturers = 4 votes
          total = 34
          So teams and manufacturers = 14 votes of any combination.
          FIA can only vote 10 votes. The can’t split it up. Same for F1
          So half of teams = 7 + 10 + 10 = 27 to get a majority.

        2. The calculation assumes that the F1 and FIA would block vote their 10 votes each (why would either organisation split their votes say 6 for, to 4 against) so if in favour of an engine freeze by these two organisations would be 20 votes (this is already the needed majority of votes). The rules of the election must be more complicted than above described, they must additionally require a majority of teams and also manufacturers to be in favour in order to arrive at a figure of 27. Or have I just further muddied the waters.

        3. @rekibsn it is not quite correct to say that the V8 engines were completely frozen, as there were still areas where development was permitted.

          It is also incorrect to say that Renault “shuttered the R&D part of the operation” – their R&D spending dipped a bit at the start of the freeze, but the team soon ramped that back up and they were still actively developing their engines and ancillary components up until the end of the V8 era under the same reliability clauses that everybody else was using. By the latter end of the V8 era, Renault Sport F1 had about 250 people working for them and they were still spending around €120 million a year according to Taffin, so both their budgets and their workforce was still fairly large.

          1. very interesting figures !

  9. I hope they’d keep using the Honda PU and that Mugen Motorsports would be the separate party assisting in the project.
    Re the Renault option: They might face the requirement if asked by the FIA, but whether Red Bull would accept taking the Renault PU is another matter.
    I hope the scenario of using rebranded Honda PU works out, though.

    1. @jerejj Honda are bleeding money at a great rate with no short term improvements insight, that’s one of the reasons they got out of F1. If RB were to pay all or at least most of the costs maybe. The only reason RB would (foolishly) reject the Renault package would be to save the cost of re-designing the car.

  10. I hope, the majority of fans & teams prefer a most meaningful & unique sport over just another artificial kinda-sport. In motorsports there shall be sport among motors. Not in junior categoriies, which only shall be as accessible as possible, but in the top leagues there ought to be technological progress & max freedom.
    Investing / wasting such resources without tech-progress does not make any sense.
    The big trick is loosening the rules: in the 70s, 80s, even 90s, privateers were able to win.
    Creativity, engineering genius is the sole resource which does not cost money per se.

  11. it has been tried out on numerous occasions and it does not get any more convenient & appealing than being utterly inconvenient and ultimately unappealing

  12. (me, too I was wondering why a simple majority requires nearly all of the 34 votes :)
    sounds like another marketing trick

  13. I understood that Mercedes & Renault are not in favour of a freeze

    1. I wouldn’t either considering that RBR didn’t want a freeze before because they wanted Honda to develop their engines while the other teams wanted a freeze of sorts. Now that Honda have left and RBR are scrambling for engines they want the opposite.

      All it is is RBR complaining when it suits them.

      Hope they don’t get their freeze and are forced into taking Renault engines again.

  14. What a miserable time for Redbull if the freeze doesn’t go through
    And a miserable time for F1 if it does… these engines still have plenty to give in terms of efficiency and will help a bit with their clean goal

    Such a mess from Honda tbh

  15. could be achieved by giving different fuel flow limits to each manufacturer based on the performance of their engines

    wow, that sounds as bad as it does

    1. Not to worry, it won’t happen.
      I hate the concept of the Fuel Flow Limitation, but I have to applaud it as a brilliant solution to limiting power output and promoting efficiency development.
      Just wish that they had left more room for designers to be more creative with engine architecture, ceramics being one area that is effectively off-limits.

    2. I agree, it is a handicap system. It just seems so wrong to go against F1’s tradition of not having a handicap system. I understand the frustration at Mercedes winning so many races last year, but that isn’t the fault of Mercedes, it is sort of “everyone else’s fault” that they did this. I know it is frustrating, but “everyone else” needs to improve their game.

  16. Why isn’t it an option for Honda to continue if the engine freeze becomes a thing? What is it that Red Bull can do, that Honda can’t do? The argument for Honda to quit F1 was that they need the engineers for other projects. But these engineers will be free to work on those EV projects after the engine freeze, right?

    Also, Honda can profit from the brand display on the RBR. It’s not like those EV’s (and other Honda’s) don’t need any PR…

    1. Honda would lose the brand display was it will be rebranded think Renault and Tag Heuer as Red Bulll take over the IP of the engine. But we know which contruction after the vote as then it is final.

      1. I don’t think you understand the question I was asking. I’m wondering why Honda would sell the IP instead of staying in F1 as an engine manufacturer since the reason why they decided to leave might not apply anymore.

        Btw, RBR renamed the Renault engine because Renault didn’t want to be displayed on the car. So that was a different reason.

  17. János Henkelmann
    21st January 2021, 20:18

    I’m certainly not one of the most conservative fans, but in my opinion, an engine freeze would be against the DNA of Formula 1.

    Engine power and reliability (or the lack thereof) have always been a major element of competition in this sport!

    And last time I checked, the idea of the new regulations was (at least in part) to make the championships less predictable. How exactly is this achieved by freezing the engines?

    1. super contribution, thank you ! True, too.
      There are many reasons in sport, to vote against the freeze of sport.

  18. RedBull are very unlikely to leave they get an awful lot out of F1 for a relatively small investment, they just like to huff and puff… a lot.
    Worst case scenario they spit the dummy and sell the team to someone else, everyone moves on.

  19. The idea of power units which are roughly equal is of course a tantalising thought.

    But it’s not just about PUs. Aero has just as big an impact on car performance – look at Williams compared to Mercedes. And drivers too. In order to equalise cars, the FIA would have to clip the aero wings of the faster cars, add more ballast to ‘faster’ drivers, and stick gaffer tape over the mouths of the pit-lane strategists. You may as well just have a standard build car so all the teams have the same equipment – the last time that happened we had the A1 Racing championship and nobody watched it, it failed.

    F1 has never been “just about the driver” – it’s also about the car, the tech, the development and innovations. Sometimes the clever designs exploit loopholes, sometimes they are illegal, sometimes they are pure genius.

    To effectively punish the most successful is wrong, of course it’s not fun to see the same team constantly a lap ahead ahead of their rivals, but it’s up to the other teams to develop and make up that difference. It’s absolutely not fair when teams with vast sums of money are able to buy their way to the front, but hopefully with cost caps we’ll see a natural closing of the gaps, with those teams with the cleverest innovations and the best engineering able to make the most of the budget.

    the FIA needs to level the playing field. But not by artificial handicaps and boosts. The budget cap is the way forward, let the teams design widgets and clever doodahs, let them seek to exploit every rule knowing that they have roughly the same set of circumstances to do so. We’ll see the results on track, and if one team get’s it more right than the others – then kudos to them.

  20. From a neutral perspective, when an engine concept was around for while (10 yrs is a looong period in hi-tec-terms) and the balance among competitors is that impar, it would need to bring in the next formula, the next concept of propulsion.
    Initially this was planned for this (or next ?) year, but postponed to save money.

    Such moves can only happen when players with public traded stock are the acting parties.
    Such will always prefer predictability over risk. They follow the principle of minimisation.
    Whereby in sports, like R&D, it is about MAXIMISATION.
    When your competitors opt for fostering your own Vorsprung …

  21. When the sport’s DNA was
    TAILORMADE MACHINERY IN TOTAL COMPETITION UNDER UTMOST EFFORT
    and then all cars look the same and are racing in the same order !

    And as a remedy it is decided to introduce ever more standardised parts (when more variety logically would mix up the performance), narrowing every area of development (so that the big teams can throw their superior means onto, while the others cannot apply their creativity), and when it is being decided that track-limits are not THAT important (in racing !) and big faults of the Superstars should NOT be drastically, immediately, visibly penalised — and when instead of altering the aero concept, circuits are being altered (yawny chicanes) and utterly boring wannabe-action-aids introduced (DRS), then we know that a sport is in dire straits.

  22. then it is time to hide the tragic show behind pay walls

    with the positive side-effect that not too many eye-balls will witness upcoming ludicrous decisions — all hinting to limiting risk & invest, what inadvertently but inevitably must lead to limited sport (= technology / knowledge) / action / attraction / ROI
    (ROI harmed in 2 ways: via less public attention & via less accumulation of knowledge)

    Inadvertently they will all go on to milking the cow to death.
    If there would not be such a strong core fan base, with true connoisseurs of exactly THIS sort of motorsport, it would be already like IndyCar.

  23. Just because Red Bull wants to continue with Honda engines, the whole F1 world has to agree on an engine freeze which I think is ridiculous and bad for the sport. Also I have not seen any statement from Honda that they are ok with this. I am also sure that Red Bull is not going to develop their own (Honda) engines because it is stupidly expensive. I predict they engine freeze will fail and Red Bull will go back to Renault engines… I also think that the Renault engines will be pretty competitive in 2022 (just guessing that Alonso will not put up with an F2 engine).

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