Esteban Ocon, Alpine, Hungaroring, 2023

Red Bull support Alpine’s request to equalise performance of F1 power units

2023 Hungarian Grand Prix

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Red Bull will support Alpine’s request for the FIA to equalise the performance of F1’s power units.

The current power units are due for replacement in 2026 and were frozen in specification at the beginning of last year. However Alpine, which uses power units supplied by Renault, believe they do not have parity on performance with rivals Mercedes, Ferrari and Honda RBPT.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, whose team scored its 12th consecutive win this weekend, supports equalising the performance of the power units if one manufacturer is found to be at a disadvantage.

“I think it’s a matter of seeing what are the deficits,” he said. “I think the FIA have all of the data and they should present exactly what the differences are.

“I think that would be fascinating for everybody to see and I think that if there is a deficit under homologation, then it’s something that we should be sensible about. Otherwise you’re locked in for two years. So I wouldn’t be adverse to a sensible discussion.”

Szafnauer welcomed Horner’s support, noting the freeze on development was introduced in order for Red Bull to continue using the units designed by Honda after the Japanese manufacturer’s withdrawal from F1 at the end of 2021.

“I’m glad Christian said that because if you look back the reason the engines were frozen was because Honda were pulling out at that time and Red Bull didn’t have an engine department to continue developing,” he said.

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“The reason we all agreed was for the benefit of Red Bull. So it’s quite nice that Christian recognised that.”

Teams agreed a mechanism to equalise performance when the freeze was introduced, Szafnauer added.

“At the time of the agreement there was also an agreement among the engine manufacturers that if anybody fell outside of 1%, then there would be good faith discussions to bring that parity back.”

Since the freeze came into force, manufacturers have only been allowed to introduce changes to their power units in order to address legitimate reliability concerns. However Szafnauer says he’s “not sure that parity was actually there” between the manufacturers when the specifications were fixed.

He also suspects some teams made performance gains by addressing reliability problems. “I don’t know, but the FIA will know, everybody is allowed to fix their reliability issues and hidden in reliability issues can sometimes be power upgrades,” he said. “It depends on what reliability you’re fixing.”

A similar situation occurred during a previous specification freeze 16 years ago, when Szafnauer was the vice president of Honda Racing Development.

“I remember in 2007 when we froze the V8, I was the one who received every request from other teams for Honda. They came to me first, all the requests, back then it was cost-saving as well as reliability, and then I would pass them on to the correct engineers.

“But there’s a lot of stuff that can be disguised as reliability, and then you increase the power.”

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2023 Hungarian 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...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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23 comments on “Red Bull support Alpine’s request to equalise performance of F1 power units”

  1. Just call it what it is: Balance of Performance. At least then they can get the FIA change it up when needed, so everyone can have a competitive and fun season.

    These guys might be paid millions, but to self-limit their team’s performance to help poor old Red Bull whilst that same Red Bull is running away with dominant win after dominant win has to be some kind of joke. A real 200 IQ move.

    1. From Red Bull’s point of view, an improved Alpine isn’t going to trouble them, but it is going to make them more competitive against Red Bull’s competitors.

    2. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
      23rd July 2023, 20:53

      Lots of people comment on how they think the Merc engine is also down on power.

      Horner can sit somewhat smug because just after he got his way with the freeze Honda put in the most effort to increase the power and reliability of the engine and also decided to keep producing them until the end of 2025.

      1. Iirc the Merc engine has been down on power since the fuel changes

    3. MichaelN,
      Horner managed in the past to get the Qualfying mode ban implemented simply because Honda didn’t have one. RBR aren’t going to be seriously challenged till 2026 unless the FIA intervenes and changes the regulations to spice up the show. The PU has already been marginalized to prevent a repeat of 2015 Honda situation.

      Judging by Horner’s previous comments about changing the 2026 rules. My opinion is that after seeing the figures coming from Ford, Horner realized that they are in deep trouble and the only way for RBR to get off the hook is to get the FIA change the rules in their favour.

    4. This is Red Bull preparing the engine battlefield for 2026. They are afraid they can’t compete at top so they want curtail others.
      Equalising engine
      Equalising suspension
      Equalising aero.
      Equalising pilots
      Enough equalising for Communist F1?

      1. A1GP failed because of this

  2. How about equalising aero performance ?

    1. Sts, just what I was thinking.

    2. Well there’s the funny thing called aero testing rule for that…

      1. But that doesn’t seem to be working very well.

      2. Well there’s another funny thing called dyno hours limits…

        1. Exactly, that was introduced with the purpose of making it harder to carry an aero advantage forward @tifoso1989

    3. Exactly. RBR would absolutely love F1 to be an aero-only competition, removing all other factors, as that’s where they shine. You can see it now, with the engines effectively neutralised, and you saw it at the end of the v8 era. Their ideal would probably be a spec engine Formula, which is pretty much what an “equalised performance” rule would give.

      However, any time any suggests ways to “equalise” aero performance, they are obviously dead set against it.

  3. Lots of people comment on how they think the Merc engine is also down on power.

    Relative to an engine that had development continue in Japan when Japan wasn’t in Covid lockdown, but Europe was, and in Europe when it opened up again? Don’t know what you mean, honest, maybe.

    So, now we have a set of regs coming where engines will be a large factor and twice now we have Hans Christian giving reasons why things should be limited in some way.

    Best to ignore the suggestion things should be limited because Renault will be down on power, as that’s rather like saying the sun will come up tomorrow, they have been down on power for years. CH doesn’t care about Renault, it’s about getting a limitation on his rivals’ ability to best RBR on engine dev in 2026.

  4. F1 should not have this to begin with. All development should be possible without any limitations except for the technical regulations. This should not be spec series or balance of performance in any sense.

    Right now we have an excellent engine manufacturer in Mercedes and and excellent aero developer in Red Bull. Mercedes is not allowed to develop their engine and it is favouring the team that is great at aero. This is not F1.

    1. Right now we have an excellent engine manufacturer in Mercedes

      Mercedes have been trailing both Honda and Ferrari power wise since 2022. I agree though with your last sentence, this is a déjà vu even for the casual fans, a formula where chassis and aero are the only performance differentiator.

    2. This is not F1.

      It is, and it has been before. What’s weird is that so many manufacturers are willing to go down this route despite all the obvious problems, and the proven detrimental effect on the competitive landscape.

      If there wasn’t a guaranteed payout to even the worst F1 teams nobody would agree to spend this much money on a Balance of Performance engine. It’s silly.

  5. It just doesn’t sit right with me that several companies should spend multi-millions on pursuing their own interpretation of the best solution, for the rules to then confine the results to what would be a similar outcome to a spec engine.

    Either let the individual breakthroughs – and results of those costs – shine through, or give all the manufacturers a blueprint and channel the money saved to some worthwhile charities.

    1. It just doesn’t sit right with me that several companies should spend multi-millions on pursuing their own interpretation of the best solution, for the rules to then confine the results to what would be a similar outcome to a spec engine.

      You need to understand and feel the power of the whinge.
      CH – the dark whinge is strong in this one.

  6. Shock horror, the aero specialists want everything which isn’t aero neutralising from the competition…

    This is a worse idea than an engine freeze. If they are going to artificially “equalise” the engines, they may as well run a spec engine and be done with it.

    Instead, they should be going the other way and unfreezing the engines, allowing the manufacturers to develop them as they wish (within the regulations).

    1. I agree, lets have engine vs aero.

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