The announcement from the FIA that it intends to release a tender for an independent and low-cost engine supply for Formula 1 took many in the F1 paddock by surprise. The matter of engine cost has been discussed endlessly in the media and by the governing body and the V6 regenerative turbo engine that we now use remains controversial nearly 2 years after its initial introduction. This turmoil between the rule-makers and teams creates a lot of bad press for the sport but is not necessarily bad news for you the aspiring F1 engineer. As I mentioned in a previous post when the V6’s were introduced, change and new rules often create new opportunities and this latest announcement should be something you are keeping a very close eye on.
There is little doubt that the introduction of the hybrid V6 turbo engines that Formula 1 adopted in 2014 has increased the cost of participation compared to the outgoing V8 engines. Max Moseley’s insistence that F1 should be more road relevant and pursue an environmental agenda before governments and the legislative pressure forced through a change was an admirable foresight in my opinion and a very brave move. The end product is nothing short of a technical wonder and a far more impressive piece of engineering than the high revving naturally aspirated engine that it replaced. On a technical level, it gets only a fraction of the credit that it really deserves.
Instead, and for many reasons, the new formula has attracted much criticism. The complexity of the regenerative systems on these cars is such that many casual observers find it hard to follow and as a result the sport now appears less relevant, not more so as intended. Add to that the fact that the development costs of the new technologies have pushed already financially unstable teams right to the brink of survival, it is no wonder that many are questioning the wisdom of the changes.
Back to the good new though. Traditionally in Formula 1, especially in the 1970’s and 1980’s, it was possible for a fledgling F1 team to purchase an off the shelf yet competitive powerplant for its car at a comparatively reasonable price. The Cosworth DFV engine (and its derivatives) is undoubtedly the most successful Formula 1 engine of all time, having powered countless Grand Prix wins and world championship successes. The sheer number of teams using these engines meant that prices were kept low compared to the works engine development budgets and it was able to match or beat their power outputs.
Cosworth’s participation in F1 however came to an end in 2013 with the demise of the V8 rules and although the company has survived it is now very different in its business model compared to 10 or 20 years ago. The name Cosworth has already been mentioned as the prime contender to fulfil the idea of a budget independent engine and although it is perhaps not as straightforward as it seems, the company could potentially reform its F1 division if the business made financial sense.
Cosworth are not the only name associated with the new tender however. IndyCar specialist Ilmor Engineering have a long history of Formula 1 success having been heavily involved with Mercedes-Benz in the early days of its F1 programme with McLaren before the German giant bought part of the independent firm and started producing its own engines. Several insiders have commented that the new budget F1 engine could be based on IndyCar’s current V6 turbo engines which produce very similar levels of power to a Formula 1 engine yet cost a fraction of the price.
I have my doubts as to whether this initiative will get the go ahead but if it does then valuable opportunities for working in this sport will open up to you. Cosworth in particular have produced many successful graduates in the past and I would imagine that similar opportunities would resurface if it returns to F1.
Any company which applies for this FIA tender, whether it be Cosworth, Ilmor or a new up and coming engine company will be looking to recruit fresh faces to allow it to develop and increase its headcount to meet the new business. Whatever your viewpoint on the regulations and whether or not F1 should be heading down this road, the opportunity to develop your career should not be ignored. If I were you, I would be keeping a very close eye on proceedings behind this latest rumour and hoping that it does indeed get the green light.
The more companies that are involved in this sport the better and a diversity of opportunity is something that is in everyone’s interest.
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