Honda RA617H power unit, 2017

Engine freeze agreed unanimously, sprint race plan yet to be finalised

2021 F1 season

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Formula 1 has agreed a plan to introduce a freeze on engine specifications after the 2021 season.

The decision, taken in today’s meeting of the F1 Commission, had the unanimous backing of teams, engine manufacturers and representations of the FIA and Formula 1.

The Honda-powered Red Bull and AlphaTauri teams were the main instigators behind the change, which makes it possible for them to continue using their current engines after the Japanese manufacturer leaves the Formula 1 at the end of this year.

Further details of the freeze, including the exact timing of its introduction, are yet to be confirmed.

The commission also discussed Formula 1’s latest proposal to trial sprint races at three rounds on this year’s calendar. The plan is said to have received a positive response from teams, but its final details are yet to be agreed.

The sprint race proposal would involve rescheduled qualifying to Fridays at three races, and holding a short race on Saturday to decide the starting grid for the grand prix. A previous plan to incorporate a reverse grid has been abandoned.

A proposal to introduce caps on the maximum salaries of drivers and highest-paid team members also remains under discussion.

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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...
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58 comments on “Engine freeze agreed unanimously, sprint race plan yet to be finalised”

  1. These people are incapable of learning from past mistakes.

    In other news: Congratulations, Mercedes AMG, to your titles 9 through 1x.

    With competition like this, you certainly deserve driving this entertainment product into the ground.

    1. @proesterchen
      You are assuming that this engine freeze won’t come with some form of performance convergence.

      I would love nothing more than to see frozen engines with equal performance. F1 is more exciting when it’s just about the chassis and driver.

      2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012 – that was the golden age of F1

      1. I would equally be very much surprised if some form of performance balaning was not part of the deal @kingshark. Surely Ferrari would not have agreed to lock into an underpowered engine.

        As you mention, the racing almost certainly won’t be suffering from having the engines more or less balanced on power.

        @proesterchen – I do not share your view that this specifically will lock in Mercedes’ speed advantage at all. They have an advantage in powerunit, but locking in performance (there will be a balancing thing) is not something that will help them apart from saving money on develpment. Their advantage is mostly in having a combination of the best powerunit, great development of the package, a very good aero package, good team operations, great drivers and all of that is integrated the best of any teams.

        1. I’m not sure how you converge performance with these incredibly complicated engines. The ICE’s should be easy to do, but good luck with the energy recovery systems.

          1. I would suggest at the very basic level, without getting into technical specifics, that since all of F1 has agreed unanimously (sounds like not one entity was against this across the teams, F1, the pu makers, and the FIA), then no there is not likely going to be any locking in of an advantage or a disadvantage for any one team or pu maker. Otherwise there would have been some dissension. Sounds like there is none, so for the time being I’m going to assume nobody within F1 has a fear of themselves being disadvantaged by this, so why should fans?

          2. As i understand it, this ‘convergence’ is suppose to occur as the successful teams are granted less time in wind tunnels etc to develop their new packages. At least that’s the theory. Whether more time for the lesser-able teams will make any difference to their performances, remains to be seen.

      2. I think the key sentence in the article is “Further details of the freeze, including the exact timing of its introduction, are yet to be confirmed.” This means that they are open to the idea but if they don’t agree the terms it might not happen. For all we know, this could have been a strategic agreement amongst big teams to keep Redbull happy for other decisions. These agreements are all a part of political game beyond the grid.

      3. Golden age of was the Turbo Era and a bit beyond – 1983 to 1990.

        1. Actually it was the periode before this 1955-1975 which was the golden Era I really love the racing and development race back then.

    2. @proesterchen – They’ve had over half a decade to catch up with unrestricted spending and they haven’t managed it (other than by bending the rules). I think we’ve reached a point where we should just accept the Mercedes engine is faster and will continue to be. If they’re all allowed to continue developing, there’s more chance of Mercedes pulling further away than there is the others catching up.

  2. So Saturday Sprint Races are probably going to happen. What a shame. Just please don’t award championship points for the sprint races.

    1. @f1frog I don’t know why they would award points for qualifying now, just because they want to try a more exciting way to qualify. Has qualifying ever been worth points in F1’s history? Are they just to never be believed when they say they don’t want to disrupt F1’s DNA? I think people seem stuck on the concept that since this sprint qualifying race is a race rather than an individual time-trial event, it must therefore no longer be qualifying, which is bizarre to me. It has only ever been presented as a potentially more exciting way to set the grid for Sunday’s races. The winner of the sprint race wins pole. Nothing more. The rest of the order at the sprint race finish is also how they will start the race the next day. No different that what the purpose of qualifying has been for decades. I don’t get why this has to be made so complicated. It isn’t.

      And if they go ahead with this experiment at 3 venues, and then even if they go ahead with this permanently at all venues ad infinitum, there will be no opportunity to miss qualifying as many have come to know and love, for that type of session will still be taking place on Fridays in order to set the grid for the qualifying race on Saturday.

      Personally I look forward to the experiment if indeed that is ok’d, because then I’m sure people will at least have the exact sense of what this means to them and their enjoyment of F1, rather than so many misperceptions about this concept that seem to be drummed up out of nowhere. Example…have they ever mentioned that this sprint qualifier would be for points?

      1. @robbie it was mentioned on a previous racefans article that whether or not championship points would be awarded was something that was supposed to be discussed today. If championship points were not awarded, I wouldn’t mind trialling sprint races (I don’t think it would improve the show, I actually think it would make it worse, but there’s no harm in giving it a try because it might be better). However, if championship points were awarded, it would become like a second Grand Prix, even if it was not officially a Grand Prix, and would devalue the main event.

        1. @f1frog Fair comment. I don’t recall reading that they were going to discuss awarding points for this, and I don’t think they should nor would need to. I will be very surprised if they do, for that would surely complicate things and alter F1’s DNA imho, and I would then be against the idea. I would like to think that even if the concept of points were to be brought up in a meeting, it would just be so they could officially, in the minutes for the meeting, set that concept aside as a no, with virtually no debate. I would rather like to think Brawn would immediately at the outset of the discussions, while he’s presenting the concept, make that one of the key points about this concept…it’s a qualifying session for pole and grid placings, not a points race.

          1. If they are having a proper qualifying session on Friday, then I don’t know how it doesn’t behoove to award points for the sprint races. If they are still going to race for 100 km, then might as well award points for it proportionally.

            I have never like the use of tradition or DNA in an argument as I have found people to have different perceptions of it based on the era they grew up with. I, for one, prefer to go along with any changes, be it the number, location or points concerning a race, or otherwise we would have been stuck with a dozen races in European countries with half a dozen cars earning single digit points. There is no point drawing comparisons with a bygone era, just move with the times.

      2. @robbie

        here will be no opportunity to miss qualifying as many have come to know and love, for that type of session will still be taking place on Fridays

        When most fans won’t be able to watch it due to work & where it will also be far less worth watching as it won’t be setting the grid for the Sunday race.

        I saw somebody raise the point yesterday that back when we used to have a qualifying session on a Friday it got far less viewers & was seen as been far less important since it wasn’t what was setting the grid. It will be no different now with this pointless sprint race that will do nothing but devalue the main Grand Prix & render the actual qualifying session less relevant.

        F1 is turning into a complete joke, Failing to understand why that other comedy NAPCAR series lost most it’s fans by going down the constant messing with the formula with gimmicky ideas route. But F1 is owned by American’s now so I guess it makes sense they don’t understand the SPORT!

        1. @roger-ayles I think no matter how one looks at this it is undeniable that whatever significance there was to Friday practice, whatever audience Friday’s has now, based on the reality that has always been in place that it is a weekday and a workday, will only be enhanced by this added session that sets the grid for the qualifying race on Saturday. So perhaps more people will watch or record it and watch it later, or perhaps not. This has not been about making Friday more exciting so much as it has been about a way to explore whether there is a more exciting way to qualify the cars on Saturday. And something has to set the order for the Saturday qualifier. Personally I always watch practice later on Friday evenings, having recorded it, and now I will be more enthralled with Fridays.

          I think your rhetoric about a complete joke, NAPCAR, constant messing, gimmicky ideas, is way overblown, for after all what really is changing with F1 literally (not talking about ideas and concepts that have been bantied about and rejected) but what actual solid changes are taking place that has you thinking this is just more Nascar? Specifically. And I’ll just say ahead of time, I’m sure I’ll counter any actual changes that are so upsetting to you with the fact that Liberty and Brawn have come in and addressed the major issues in full, with full agreement and cooperation with the teams and surely that massive accomplishment has to count for something, or would you rather just be distracted by minutiae?

          And btw I cannot for the life of me understand how a sprint qualifying race on Saturday devalues the actual main event on Sunday. It is merely a more exciting way to establish the pole sitter and the starting grid order. Sunday would still be the main event for which points are handed out as usual.

    2. From my understanding they are going to try it, see what happens and if it doesn’t work ditch it.

  3. So this means that Red Bull & AlphaTauri get to continue using the Honda engine then. Out of curiosity, does that mean next year onwards their engines will continue to be branded as Honda or will they be rebadged as something else?

    1. Given RB’s propensity for sticking the name of an auto manufacturer on their car who has absolutely no connection to the actual manufacturer of the engine, I would imagine that they’ll be rebadged as a Rover, Daewoo or something equally as daft!

    2. @rocketpanda They’d get rebranded as something else. Since Honda will officially leave, so will their logo disappear from the cars, clothing, everything. Mugen, ALV, Cosworth are entities that have been brought up as possible separate parties before. I hope for a Mugen-branded Honda PU the most because Mugen is Japanese like Honda and has indirect links to Honda.

    3. British Leyland! …..go on Red Bull, do it…I dare you!

      1. Red Bull Rich Energy?

      2. Ha… that would be a good one. Red Bull Morris also kind of has a ring to it.

  4. As an engineer, I see the beauty in the construction of these amazing engines….my other half looked at the pic above and said “looks like a pile of old bits in your garage!'”….she’s not wrong!

  5. The question is, will there be a performance balancing system or will any advantages/disadvantages be locked in place for years?

    Personally my preference would be for no performance balancing. I’d hate one manufacturer been allowed 95 kg/h while the other is permitted 105 kg/h. Respect the work that each PU manufacturer has put in from pre-2014 to 2022, and if there is any performance difference left so be it.

    Overall happy with the news. I think its good for everyone. Red Bull will have their fate in their own hands and we are spared another RB-Renault saga.

    1. How is that good? That means another 4 boring years. Nothing will change. We can safely turn off TV and return in 4 years, as we know what team is going to keep its dominance and who will be the champion while being number one in a team.

      1. Call me naive but I honestly think that at the start of 2022 the difference in PU performance and installation aspects will be minimal. Honda has commited to develop throughout this season. Renault is doing well. Ferrari is expected to improve this year and again next year when they are said to go for the Mercedes & Honda style split turbo.

        I’d rather it be fair than equal.
        Besides, there are more aspects to performance than the PU. Aero for example, for which there already is a performance balancing system since this year. Short term Mercedes will have to do with less wind tunnel hours than the rest.

        1. @me4me

          Call me naive but I honestly think that at the start of 2022 the difference in PU performance and installation aspects will be minimal.

          We said the same thing in 2014. And 2015. And 2016, and so on. There finally was hope that Ferrari had in fact caught up and indeed surpassed Mercedes, but it turns out they were cheating so that has dissipated. We’re starting the 8th year of these engine regulations, and Mercedes is still head and shoulders above all the rest. Why should it change for 2022? Renault has been terrible and I don’t think they’ll ever catch up, Honda is just empty promises most of the time, Ferrari is an unknown (they are apparently going for a complete design revolution, but that could turn out in disaster, Honda tried the same in 2017 and failed miserably). I really hope I’m wrong, but I get the feeling that Mercedes will continue to dominate in 2022 and long into the new regulations. They are the best team with the best engine, with the best engineers, the best leadership team, best driver lineup etc. It appears as if Red Bull, who realistically are the only hopes of challenging Mercedes, will have a power unit disadvantage locked in for the foreseeable future, which only further strengthens my belief Mercedes and Hamilton will reach 10 titles each.

          1. And they’ve been saying same in 1998, 2000, 2010. Yet it always ends the same.

  6. Well, it certinly is good to see that they can still agree on things, shows it was not just possible during the crisis of the first half of last year, but continues. That has to be good news for the sport.

    As for the engine freeze. Sure, why not. I am curious to see more of the details, see what Ferrari, what Mercedes and Renault got out of the deal. And yeah, will be interesting to see whether Red Bull Racing now start to blame Red Bull engines/power/whoknowswhattheywillbecalled for a lack of power/development/winning.

  7. I’m surprised for the unanimous favor towards the PU development freeze getting brought forward by a year.
    The openness to the sprint race plan is even more surprising.

    1. @jerejj

      I’m surprised for the unanimous favor towards the PU development freeze getting brought forward by a year.

      Honestly, I’m also surprised there’s unanimity on this one. The way I see it, Renault, Honda and Ferrari have only this year to catch up to an incredibly competitive Mercedes PU, or else, they’ll be locking in Mercedes’ advantage for years to come. We could all be in for another Mercedes domination run post 2022.

      Red Bull are in a tough spot. They don’t have an engine manufacturer post 2021 to develop the engine, so they are more afraid of losing further ground, rather than recovering performance to the Mercedes PU. I don’t see how things will ever look bright for Red Bull in the future. If Honda’s ‘revolutionary’ 2021 engine turns out to be a ‘diamond’ like the 2015 Honda engine, then I’ll be praying for the future of the Red Bull team in F1.

      Ferrari and Renault also need to get their act together. There’s no opportunity to fail and learn from it. If they fail to make improvements over the next year, F1 as a sport is going to have a hard time in 2022.

      I would have liked engine performance development to go on till the end of 2022, but let’s see how this pans out.

  8. So qualifying is moved to Friday therefore those who work will miss it. Then we have a race on Saturday and the race results give the starting grid for Sunday. So cars with more race pace start the Sunday race ahead…

    1. It’s pretty clear it’s a stupid idea but if it will shut people up about implementing them in future once and for all then lets get it over with.

      1. I predict more DNFs on race day as those same engines are over stressed in the saturday sprints.
        Some will say the prospect of DNF’s adds uncertainty and excitment to the championship, I would
        disagree with the element of chance and fate and bad luck which now seems likely.

        May the best ‘prepared’ team win.

    2. @f1mre Canada and Brazil occur in the evening for people in Europe. Only Monza in the afternoon.

  9. And yet again the trolling propaganda from Horner and Marko works.

  10. If after the freeze Red Bull and Alpha Tauri can go on without Honda, what will Ferrari, Mercedes and Renault be supplying their customers once the freeze goes into effect? Spark plugs and hoses?
    And of course after the freeze, my assumption is that anytime a top team makes their car go faster, there will be claims of engine cheating.

  11. I must say I am pleasantly surprised they have agreed to the engine freeze as I thought that even though it was sounding like many were in agreement, I also thought enough would disagree that it wouldn’t fly. Some of the recent articles on this site had my hopes up, but then some had me with my doubts, and in general I didn’t think this would go through and so I was wondering if RBR had some other plan or were just going to resign themselves to Renault pus. That it has been a unanimous agreement gives me great comfort that all of F1 is on the same page with this. Great stuff.

  12. A proper qualifying session on a week day to set the grid for a qualifying raccoon Saturday for us to watch a race where no-one will risk any move and will be saving their engines, to then again see the same race on Sunday but longer.

    … Way to water down the experience, banalizing the race, giving nothing of value in return.

    With all the great things they were doing for the future of F1, this feels just like going back to the Ecclestone days again.

    Looking at this, a qualifying race based on the reversed championship order at least would give something in return: racing action and cars developed to pass.

    1. Tell us more about this qualifying raccoon, it sounds much better than whatever Liberty have come up with.

    2. This is true. Having drivers grid that already took the right place on its merit, racing craft and cars, at Saturday only make Sunday race more boring.

  13. Just further proof that F1 is becoming nothing more than Indycar+.

    Frozen engines that will no doubt be ‘equalized’ which is a word that shouldn’t exist in F1 because F1 has always & should always be about pure performance with each team & engine supplier pushing the limits of performance/technology. Freezing engines & any equalisation of performance is completely against the spirit & purpose of F1 & just further proof of the reasons for it’s decline.

    Fans don’t want Indycar+, They want F1. If people wanted to watch a lesser series like Indycar they would watch Indycar. If fans did actually want a frozen, equalised series then why don’t they watch Indycar? Because they want F1 & when F1 is no longer F1 it will just speed up it’s decline.

    Those running the sport & even those competing in it clearly don’t get it & haven’t for a long time!

    1. Disagree. I believe most fans just want tight competition where the drivers and teams battle it out on track and not in the factory which means convergence. Even a hardcore fan like myself would like that even if I also appreciate the design and manufacturing competition too. As long as it’s the pinnacle of motor sport, it doesn’t matter so much if there has been convergence. It’s a formula series after all.

  14. Also it just goes to show how much power Sky have over F1 now as once again these are all ideas that Croft & others on Sky have spent the last 2 years pushing very heavily for.

    Sky having any involvement in F1 was one of the worst things to happen. Less viewers able to watch, No access in the UK to the sports own streaming service & those that do pay for Sky get sub-par coverage that does nothing but push for silly, contrived, artificial gimmicks every weekend!

    1. @roger-ayles If I remember correctly when the sprint race was discussed on Sky during practice sessions last year while Croft, Di Resta & Chandhok were all in favour of one Di Resta & Chandhok both felt it should be it’s own thing maybe running to a sprint championship or something.

      I think both raised concerns about running it as a qualifying race or a race awarding points to the overall world championship. David Croft however was desperate in pushing the idea, He & others on Sky did indeed just seem to want a sprit race on Saturday regardless of format or what anybody else thought.

      I mean they even tried to suggest that drivers would all love a reverse grid race when about 30 seconds earlier they had run a video piece in which they had asked most of the drivers with all saying they hated the idea.

  15. Great news on all accounts. Glad to see Red Bull get to proceed on this journey of becoming their own engine supplier, a move that was long overdue and will ultimately benefit the sport in the long term. Four suppliers are obviously better than three.

    Sprint races I am glad is going to make it while preserving the qualifying format as it is. The only way to find out if it is good or bad is by doing it as a trial, so nothing ventured nothing gained. Great to see some initiative.

    1. @aiii

      Great news on all accounts. Glad to see Red Bull get to proceed on this journey of becoming their own engine supplier, a move that was long overdue and will ultimately benefit the sport in the long term. Four suppliers are obviously better than three.

      Yes if that will be the outcome it’s most definitely good news, agree.

  16. My concern with this sprint race idea is that your just going to take action that would usually happen during the GP & shifting it to Saturday which may then make the actual race less interesting.

    For example say somebody qualifies out of position during the actual qualifying session. On a normal weekend we will have the prospect of them coming through the field during the race to look forward to, Yet with a sprint qualifying race they will simply do that on Saturday which will then rob us of some action during the main race on Sunday therefore making it less interesting/exciting.

    Additionally your going to be setting the grid based more off race pace then before which may again end up doing nothing but resulting in the Sunday GP been more static than it could be.

    In trying to make Saturday ‘more exciting’ (TBH I think it’s exciting enough as it is) I fear all they will end up doing is make Sunday’s worse when the Grand Prix should be the main focus & biggest attraction of the weekend.

    1. Also having the actual qualifying session on Friday is just going to result in less people watching it due to been at work & stuff.

      And yes we have DVR & catch-up services now but many prefer watching live so they don’t have to worry about spoilers & also have access to any additional video/data feeds & stuff that you won’t have if you view it later.

      I know with me that if I miss something live I don’t enjoy watching it as much when I get to it. Especially with F1 where I enjoy using the Sky race control app to watch the additional OnBoard feeds & stuff.

      1. @stefmeister Canada and Brazil QLF fall in the evening in Europe, so not going to make much difference on this continent. Only Monza in the afternoon.

  17. Sprint races shouldn’t count towards the championship season at all.

  18. Why Ferrari said yes to this proposal?

    1. They can still veto!

    2. Because the freeze is in 2022 not this year and IF rumours are correct they will have a hell of engine this year. Also Honda comes with the 2022 engine brought into 2021.
      So Ferrari thinks they will have a strong engine this year and you can have only 1 engine spec upgrade this year.

  19. I have a feeling that this unanimous agreement to a freeze has a lot to do with the next set of engine regulations.
    And not in a good way for the potential introduction of new manufacturer/s.

    Feels like F1’s recent push to build a wall around its current competitors to prevent them from escaping has been strengthened even further – making it even less attractive for anyone outside to try to come in.
    The F1 club just got a little more exclusive, yet again, in the wrong way…

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