Formula One manufacturers will be able to develop their engines unchecked for the 2017 season, but can’t pass on the cost to the teams they supply.
This comes after the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) agreed this month to scrap the engine token system, introduced in 2014 to stop manufacturers from entering a spending war over the then-new hybrid V6 power plants. However, the new rules will only allow manufacturers to introduce upgrades when a driver uses new elements.
“One of the reasons we have all agreed to do this is that we all need the performance of the engine to converge,” Renault Sport Formula One Managing Director Cyril Abiteboul told Motorsport.com in an interview. “You see, it is not good for Mercedes, it is not good for Renault, Ferrari – we all have interest to change that.”
The system worked by giving virtual tokens every season that can be spent developing the power unit, which is broken down into 42 parts that are each allocated a token “weight” from one to three, depending on importance. The entire power unit comprises 66 tokens.
This year, manufacturers have 32 tokens, but this was supposed drop to 25 in 2017, 20 in 2018 and then 15 from 2019 to the end of the current formula. Just three a year would have been allowed for the last two years of the formula, after which manufacturers would have to make a new engine based on new rules.
The token system became controversial when it appeared that manufacturers like Renault and Ferrari were at a great disadvantage to Mercedes-Benz, which has the most powerful engine and most advanced token spending. A loophole in last year’s regulations meant power units could be developed in-season, but this was due to be closed off this year with the introduction of a February 28 homologation deadline requiring all 25 tokens to be spent.
“From Renault’s perspective, [the deadline]is the worst thing because the engines are effectively frozen forever after,” Red Bull boss Christian Horner told ESPN last year in an interview. “If you’ve missed it by February 28, then the scale of difference is unachievable in that time frame. Really, as these regulations are still relatively immature, it would make sense to allow, as we did this year, for development to happen in the season.”
It had already been agreed to scrap the “black and white” parts system for this season, which specified that some parts of the power unit could not be updated after a certain time. This means items that would have been “frozen” this year, such as upper and lower crankcase dimensions, have been freed for development.