Ferrari not convinced by call to equalise engines: ‘Renault is not so far away’

2023 Belgian Grand Prix

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Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur is not convinced by Alpine’s call to equalise the performance of engines in Formula 1.

Alpine claims it is at a disadvantage because its Renault power unit is not as competitive as those used by rival teams.

Under Formula 1’s technical regulations, performance-related power unit development is not allowed as the specification of the engines has been frozen since 2022 and will be until the end of 2025.

However the FIA announced last week it will consider a request from Alpine to rebalance the performance of the four power units – Renault, Mercedes, Ferrari and Honda RBPT.

Speaking to media including RaceFans after the announcement, Vasseur questioned whether Renault’s power unit is so far off that of their rivals that the change is needed.

“It’s true that when we decided to freeze the engine we considered that in exceptional circumstances we could try to find a way to support the guy who would be completely out of the range,” said Vasseur.

“But I’m not sure that Renault is so far away,” he said. “We don’t have the same numbers as Renault.” Vasseur joked it is “the first time that my engineers are ‘pessimistic’ compared to the other ones.”

Vasseur is adamant that any equalisation should only be done by permitting Renault to conduct additional development. Altering the performance of the power units through the regulations, such as by allowing them to consume fuel at a faster rate, would not be acceptable to the Ferrari team principal.

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“If we have to do something, it can’t be fuel flow,” he said, drawing a comparison to F1’s Aerodynamic Testing Restriction.

“We have the same approach with the wind tunnel allocation. The guy who is P10 [in the constructors championship] has more time in the wind tunnel. It’s not that he has 10 kilos less [weight].

“You allow the team or the PU manufacturer to develop, and you don’t give him an advantage. That I think would be the start of the ‘Balance of Performance’.”

Balance of Performance rules are used in other series, such as the World Endurance Championship which Ferrari also competes in, to equalise the performance of rival cars.

Bruno Famin, who replaced Otmar Szafnauer last weekend as Alpine’s interim team principal, said Renault had made progress with its power unit before the freeze was introduced but it remains at a disadvantage to their rivals.

“We made huge steps between 2021 and ‘22 but it’s still not the best engine. The FIA put the topic on the table, because I understand there was a kind of agreement when the engine freeze was decided, and the FIA put the topic on the table and that’s it.

“I don’t think the engine, the powertrain is so down that we cannot improve the package. The goal is really to improve our package: the chassis, the engine, which is a bit difficult in the present time, for sure, but the integration can always be improved and this is what we’re going to do.”

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2023 Belgian Grand Prix

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Author information

Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching photography back in the UK. Currently based...
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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36 comments on “Ferrari not convinced by call to equalise engines: ‘Renault is not so far away’”

  1. Rather than equalise performance, I’d go for giving a somewhat equal number of teams for each engine supplier. Currently we have 10 teams, 4 supplied by Mercedes, 3 by Ferrari, 2 by Honda (RBPT) and 1 by Renault. At the very least I’d put 3 as the upper limit for each engine supplier.

    1. That doesn’t solve the alleged problem though.

      1. Coventry Climax
        4th August 2023, 11:33

        No, but I think he means to say it makes differences in engine power more easily to determine.

        1. Something like that, yes. With one team it’s a bit hard to understand whether the engine is depowered, with two or more you have more data to determine it.

    2. While I agree that an upper limit would be good to limit control of certain manufacturers, given that they have a vote in rule changes and what not (which is another problem entirely), I don’t think reducing the Mercedes teams for 4 to 3 would result in another Renault engine, but rather another customer for Red Bull Powertrains.

      There’s a reason Red Bull walked away from them, and it’s the same reason McLaren walked away from them. They’re just not a good engine. They’re proven to be unreliable even if this has gotten better, plenty of retirements have happened this year already on their engines. Plus they’re not the quickest to boot. I’ll take one of those Honda RBPT rocketships instead, please.

      1. That’s only assuming that RBPT agrees to have another customer. As things stand, if no manufacturer agree to take a team, the manufacturer with the fewest customers must supply them. That would be Renault right now.

  2. I assure with Ferrari that the only way they should allow “equalisation” is through additional development, but strongly disagree that they should allow only those down on power to develop. I could support allowing only limited development time based on the performance of the teams using it (although care would have to be taken over the potential manipulation of B teams) or something similar.

  3. I can see Ferrari calling for other teams’ strategists to be lobotomized so they have the same disadvantage as Ferrari have :)

    1. @ahxshades and in an incontrovertible demonstration that such a solution is practical, Ferrari submit their team to the procedure first.

      1. Would there be a difference, though?

      2. @davedai – made me laugh – thanks for that :)

      3. Let’s take away even more freedom of making your own car. The price cap I can understand. But for the rest, just give the teams 100l fuel to get to the finish with at least 5 liters to go.
        No Pirelli engineered to fail tires. No limit to the engine size or turbo.
        Only forbid things that are designed to hurt others. And see what they come up with.
        They keep saying F1 engineering should help the development of cars.
        Then don’t force the stupid 1.6 liter V6. Let’s find out what the optimum is.

        1. Sorry, this shouldn’t have been a reply.

  4. Only in F1 can something be agreed and implemented, then argued against by a team and then be reconsidered by the governing body.

    Why not just create a target, a limit of PU specifications and say “that’s as far as you’re allowed to go, it’s up to you you spend the money the budget stays the same”?

    This sport really is needlessly complicated at times.

  5. Humiliation for Renault. They really don’t seem to belong to F1 anymore, in spirit, nor when it comes to capability. Stop making F1 spec series. There are better spec series out there anyway. If you can’t compete, you exit and admit defeat. Don’t beg others to lower themselves to your level, to allow you to try to beat them.

  6. Coventry Climax
    4th August 2023, 11:37

    Why does the FIA always let things like this turn into a political game? It’s technology, for C’s sake.
    Have the engine suppliers bring in their power units, put them on a bench and test them. End of discussion, guessing and the endless ‘I think that’ talk.
    Full Idiot Amateurs, that’s what FIA stands for, nothing else.

  7. This makes absolutely no sense and in fact is anti-competitive.
    4 teams have a great Mercedes engine, 1 team has a garbage Renault engine

    But what you want to have is:
    3 teams have a great Mercedes engine, 3 teams have a garbage Renault engine and can’t even apply for a Merc engine

    How does that make the field more competitive?

    1. Coventry Climax
      4th August 2023, 19:06

      But what you want to have is:

      Who’s the ‘you’ here? Not me at least.

      Let’s assume Mercedes is willing to provide all teams with power units, resulting in 10 teams, 20 cars with a Merc in the back.
      You tell me, where’s the aspect of competition gone?

      Likewise, BoP and all other equalising measures aren’t competition, they’re manipulation.

      1. Coventry Climax, isn’t that basically late 1960’s and 1970’s “kit car” era when virtually everyone ran the Cosworth DFV?

        1. Coventry Climax
          5th August 2023, 12:17

          I don’t care which era that might resemble, point is that it’s no longer competition if they all have the same equipment. It’s just another step towards spec cars. Killing manufacturer competition is killing F1, as that’s always been both a driver AND a constructor championship.

  8. Under Formula 1’s technical regulations, performance-related power unit development is not allowed

    Ah yes, the pinnacle of motorsport.

    This is a complex situation. One the one hand, it’s disappointing that F1 has been so one sided for the better part of a decade. One the other, it’s absolutely hilarious that these millionaire team bosses keep coming up with new ways to hamstring their own teams to the benefit of their competitors, all the while thinking they’re the cleverest person in the room.

  9. They should have kept the token system but the number of tokens for each manufacturer could be determined by the engine performance (it’s just 4 teams, just make a dummy car for each one and let them put their power train for testing).

  10. Ah yes, the pinnacle of motorsport.

    Sadly the sport has been turned into a gimmick ridden circus show.

    Just a shame that with Indycar now a dull spec category there is nowhere else for those of us who used to love the more technical side of F1 to go. In the CART era through the 80s/90s & into the early 2000’s Indycar was a true alternative to F1 with multiple chassis suppliers, Teams allowed not just to create there own chassis but also develop existing one’s & you had competition between tire suppliers, Brakes, suspensions & so on with cars that were actually genuinely thrilling to watch due to the cars producing a lot of grip but not quite enough to tame the 900bhp+ the engines were pumping out.

    It’s not just F1 & Indycar either as I think the sport as a whole has just become so sterile & lost a lot of the wow factor it used to have up until maybe 15-20 years ago. You take a step back and look objectively at things I don’t think there’s a single category out there now that’s as much of a thrilling spectacle or has the same sort of wow factor as they did 20-30+ years ago as they have all become more spec, More restrictive & for lack of a better phrase less extreme in some ways.

    Fine you can argue that it’s more competitive ‘for the show’ but I just feel that it’s all lost a lot of what used to make it such a thrilling spectacle to watch.

    1. There really is nothing out there. I was hoping Formula E would be left open since the speeds are lower and therefor safety wouldn’t come into the development race equation so much, but there is really no high end open technological development sport out there. The America’s Cup has been my go to as F1 has killed itself over the last 20 years, but they are hamstring themselves trying to copy F1. F1 will be a spec sport in 5 years.

      1. Division 1 superkarts are homologation free chassis and aero. Engines require homologation but zero BOP.

        Fast as too.

        1. Thanks for that.

      2. WEC had me believing for a while, then Peugeot, … and Audi and Porsche …

        After they restricted the WEC cars to less than the F1 cars (FPRs) it was clear the guys running the show only had a profit (branding) motive in mind, progress, well, that’s more political than reality these days.

        F1 could be great, if they brought back refueling and dropped the fuel restrictions. When the number of opportunities shrink due to over regulation, the outcomes become far too predictable and similar. This isn’t diversity, nor is it in the spirit of competition/innovation.

        Politics unfortunately is not a competitive sport, its a cruel waste of time and other people’s money.

    2. Coventry Climax
      4th August 2023, 19:21

      Yep, my thoughts exactly, except for the ‘making things competitive’ part. The mere fact that that contains the word ‘making’, combined with the attempt to make car performance equal means that it’s just manipulation and has nothing to do with competition.
      The word ‘competitive’ has been hijacked by the spec car adepts, people that have no clue what F1 used to be, should be and could have been without all this nonsense.

    3. PeterG, were things really as good back then as you think that they were, or is it a case of only remembering the good bits and forgetting the bits you didn’t enjoy at the time? After all, if you look back around 20 years to the early 2000’s, were things really that great across the board in the world of motorsport?

      In Formula 1, you had multiple seasons where Ferrari dominated the seasons quite heavily and people were moaning about their dominance in the sport – just dig up some of the old posts from this site and other forums that were around then for how much people were grumbling about their dominance at the time. Asides from that, you had the ongoing repercussions of the bankruptcies of Prost and Arrows in 2001 and 2002 respectively.

      In sportscar racing, the FIA Sportscar Championship was struggling for survival and eventually collapsed in 2003. Whilst the American Le Mans series was in better financial health, and the European Le Mans series that succeeded the Sportscar Championship has also endured, both of those series were crushingly dominated by Audi with the R8, as well as all of the customer teams that used the R8.

      Over in the USA, meanwhile, you had the tail end of the Indycar – Champ Car split still ongoing, with the damaging repercussions that had for open wheeler racing. For a start, the split helped cause the collapse of Reynard Motorsport in 2002, which forced Champ Cars to become a standard specification series because Lola was the only supplier.

      As for Indycar, you had the grand total of two chassis suppliers by the early 2000’s – Dallara and Panoz – and over time Dallara gained the ascendency and became the chassis of choice. Indycar’s eventual adoption of a spec chassis was, in many ways, a recognition that the series had effectively become a spec chassis series in all but name as other manufacturers either pulled out or went bankrupt.

      1. Coventry Climax
        5th August 2023, 12:27

        It was bad yesterday, so today is good? That’s not how it works, despite the amount of ‘examples’ you come up with and the length of your reply.
        Besides, you look back at about a handful of years out of the over 70 that F1’s been around.

  11. Said this before and I will say it again – we need to release the development ban now there is a cost cap in place.

    1. And get rid of DRS since we have sorted out the following problem. The problem is that neither Brawn’s solutions nor the cap have worked. Liberty is heading this to a spec series.

  12. Alpine claims it is at a disadvantage because its Renault power unit is not as competitive as those used by rival teams.

    Supposedly Toto Wolf said something along the lines of “Mercedes and Renault do over a billion dollars of business every year”, although I haven’t been able to verify that statement. If there is indeed that amount of business between the two corporations, then there’s no reason why Mercedes couldn’t sell their engines to Alpine and allow them to be branded something slightly less conspicuous than “Mercedes”, e.g. “Daimler”, “Chrysler”. This would, of course, give Renault an excuse not to make their own engines, which would mean F1 only has three engine manufacturers instead of 4. It would also mean F1 doesn’t need to go through the pretence of trying to equalise the engines.

    1. Untill 2022 there were several Mercedes models with Renault engines. Mercedes sold the stocks and stopped using renault engines after that. Of course there are still spare parts and such needed.
      some Mercedes models with Renault engines : A180, A200, B160 B200 ,Citan, CLA200, GLA200, .

  13. What’s with this “equalisation” concept anyway?

    It’s sport, it’s competitive, it’s up to any manufacturer or any team to do the best they can do. Not cry and beg.

  14. Why not get one company to build all the cars while you’re at it. If you can’t play, go home. Or sit in the stands. You’re obviously not billionaire enough to participate in this ludicrously expensive hobby.

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