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3 Jan 2015

Formula One undoubtedly has some of the sharpest minds in sport at its behest, yet it constantly finds new ways of looking stupid in the eyes of the fans.  That in part is due to the fact these clever people find ways of outwitting the FIA but also revolves around facts being omitted by the teams, in order that their opinions sway the public.  The latest instance of this is the powerunit 'un-freeze', a situation that should never have been framed in that context, with the mass F1 fanbase led to believe that no powerunit development was possible.

The framing of the regulations for this new era of F1 were developed to allow for progressive year on year development by the engine manufacturers, with in-season changes only made in order to save costs or improve safety.  A system was devised in which the components of the powerunit were 'weighted' not by their physical weight but by their importance with items scaled 1-3:
The total weight of the items came in at 66 with items, with the upper/lower crankcase (2), crankshaft (2) and air valve system (1) all specification frozen when the powerunits were placed in the hands of the FIA for homologation on the 28th February 2014.  The manufacturers would then race the same specification units with each team for the entire 2014 season whilst developing a new unit for 2015 with the intention of being able to 'spend' 32 'tokens' or change items accruing to 32 weightable items of the 61 remaining before re-homologating the unit on the 28th February 2015.

As you can see this is far from the frozen development path that the V8's lived under and the likes of Red Bull and Ferrari would have you believe. Unfortunately someone at the FIA forgot to change the date in the 2015 Sporting Regulations, leaving the original homologation date and opening the door for the teams and manufacturers to intepret the rules as they see fit.  With no re-homologation date in place both Renault and Ferrari have argued (succesfully) that as the weighting matrix (above) only stipulates 2015 as a point in which the 32 tokens can be spent they must be free to continue to develop their powerunit throughout the season.

Honda and McLaren seem to have come out as the biggest losers in the debacle, as Charlie Whiting's technical directive appears to suggest that as Honda didn't homologate a powerunit in 2014 they must do so by the 28th February 2015, and as the other manufacturers did in 2014, run a season whereby they adhere to no changes, having already had the artificial ability to spend their 32 tokens.  I'd suggest that's speculative at best, as the regulations have that intent but aren't prescriptive, meaning that if Honda or McLaren put the lawyers on it they'd win hands down. 

It's a half way house in comparison to the total tear up of the regulations that some had been proposing but it's still against the spirit of what the regulations originally intended, stunting the development curve of these units much earlier in their gestation period and changing the way in which the homologation and token spending procedures must be framed going forward.

What will now become extremely interesting throughout the 2015 season is how these developments are implemented and just how much the FIA will make publically available through the document system.  In terms of transparency I feel that any changes pertaining to weightable items must be presented at each GP but we shall see if that comes to fruition.  Furthermore as each driver is only allowed 4 complete powerunits in 2015 (broken down into ICE, Turbo, MGU-H, MGU-K, ES and CE) staging the 'token' spends will require careful planning based around lifing not just performance gains.

The sport once again falls victim to the very issue that has just led to the demise of two teams; cost.  How ever you cut it, the cost to implement in-season development will cost the engine manufacturers more money and likely result in the units costing the purchasing teams more money too.

In terms of performance Mercedes were in a league of their own last season and although we know Red Bull and Ferrari are eager to make a dent in that with this latest movement of the regulations, we must also consider the fact that in 2014 Mercedes provided identical equipment to Williams, Force India and McLaren, all which were unable to surmount a sustainable attack on the works team.  Therefore although the powerunit is an incredibly large part of their success it's one that has many facets, suggesting that Red Bull, Ferrari et al have more work than on their hands than simply finding a few horsepower.  Even though Renault and Ferrari don't have carte blanche in terms of the in-season development they'd hoped for, they have won a battle in the war of eroding Mercedes advantage, yet they must remember that Mercedes have the same constraints within which to work too.  Mercedes clearly had a designated plan with which to spend their 32 token allocation but who's to say they'd spent all of them developing their 2015 powerunit? They too may still benefit from the in-season development and pull away further still from the others.


  1. Hi Matt, Turbof1 from f1technical here.

    I'm a bit confused on the exact ramifications. As the FIA truly made a blunder here, it leaves quite a lot open to interpretation:

    -Can they spread the 32 tokens over a complete season, or do they need to use it up in a one bound? If they have to use it up in one bound, there's quite a big disadvantage in having to run a 2014 engine against perhaps 2015 spec's. If they are allowed to, for instance, 16 before the season starts and the other 16 at Spain, it allows a much smoother development curve and without huge disadvantages in performance

    -Can they update the same token multiple times? I've had a discussion on this with someone who stated they might just homologate a part several times. Since 2015 is a timeframe and not a specific date, and no other black-and-white rules are full stop hindering this, it might be an option.

    -Is the FIA backcrap crazy, corrupt or simply useless in the current F1?

    1. Hi mate, thanks for stopping by.

      The way I intepret the regulations is that they'll be able to spend the 32 tokens over the whole season simply re-homologating as they go, this as you suggest would also allow the tokens to be spent on the same item if they got their design wrong. However we must remember that they can only use 4 PU's in 2015 so I'd suggest they'll all rock upto Melbourne with a 2015 unit that's been homologated and x tokens spent and then aim to make changes in Spain/Monaco, Germany etc.

      The key areas of the regs that impact this are as follows:

      b) A power unit delivered to the FIA after 28 February 2014 which has been modified in accordance with the Annual F1 Power Unit Homologation table in Appendix 4 to the F1 Technical Regulations.

      28.5 Only power units which have been homologated by the FIA in accordance with Appendix 4 may be used at an Event during the 2014-2020 Championship seasons.

      The homologation table only uses the date '2015' meaning that they can offer up multiple homologations to the FIA..

  2. Will it be of interest to start off with a 2014 PU in a 2015 car?
    Mercedes was so dominant as they developped for 2014 a car and PU that worked together in almost perfect harmony, which was surely not the case with the Mercedes PU customers!
    So if re-homlogation of the PU's in different stages will be allowed in 2015, I am curious with what stage of upgrading the teams will start in Melbourne or perhaps start with a PU where all tokens are already used.
    I cannot see 2015 cars with 100% 2014 PU's.
    What is your opinion?

    Wim van de Kimmenade

    1. I see no reason for anyone to start with a 2014 unit, unless they simply aren't ready. I suspect everyone will arrive in Melbourne with a new PU. (Sorry for the delay in responding, I've been ill these last few days)

  3. But the rules also say: ''Once homologated in accordance with a) or b) above, and except as permitted by (c)
    below, no changes may be made to the design or construction of the homologated
    parts for the duration of the homologation period laid out in Article 28.5 of the F1
    Sporting Regulations.'' ?

    1. Indeed, it's a big mess but with no dates mentioned in relation to the 2015 homologation it makes everything a little ambiguous. (Sorry for the delay in responding, I've been ill these last few days)

    2. Anon - you are 100% correct. If I was McLaren I would immediately protest any attempt to do a rolling development of the 30 tokens.

  4. Bring back the V8's! Frankly anything to end the Merc engine dominance would be good but this idea of aligning F1 with hybrid technologies is wrong headed. I guess I'm with Bernie on this .. what a rarity for me. Any true technology tie in would encourage continual development.

    This engine issue could kill the popularity and therefore the economics of F1.

    1. Hi John,

      The future certainly won't be hybrid / electrical PU's.
      Not for road cars, lorries or F1.
      The ecological footprint for batteries in whatever form is too negative.
      Future will bring hydrogen powered engines, either in fuelcell form or even better, combustion engines fed by liquid hydrogen!
      The FIA should push in this direction in order that F1 becomes the frontrunner for this, technique, instead of the actual PU 'technique.
      And then we could go back to screaming V8, V10 or V12 engines!

      Wim van de Kimmenade

    2. Hi John / Wim

      Firstly I personally felt that in order to save the smaller teams they should have been offered the alternative of running the V8's for another 2 seasons (2014/15) but that would have meant two sets of regulations and who then defines themselves as a small team? It all gets a little messy..

      Anyway as for road relevance I'm not sure F1 should even be playing that game, granted I think the PU's we now have are immense and much can be learnt from them BUT the tech is still restricted. If we want all out engine development and pushing boundaries strip away more and more of the regulations in regard to ES size/weight and energy deployment limits. I'm quite sure we'll then see some actual real world relevance shine through as the manufacturers are pushed to increase efficiency even further.

  5. I notice that several days on neither the Sky or BBC F1 websitea has covered this issue. Do they think its too complicated for the average F1 fan to understand?

    1. I think they had been awaiting clarification before mentioning anything, however both cover the technical side of the sport very poorly IMO anyway. (Sorry for the delay in responding, I've been ill these last few days)

  6. Is this a correct interpretation of what's happening

    "One thing missing from the article is that while manufacturers may continue to develop their 2015 engine throughout the season, they will be limited to running their 2014 engine in the meantime. Merc's 2014 engine won't have gotten any slower over the winter break and they'll probably run their 2015 version from the start anyway, increasing their advantage. One could also assume that Honda will at least produce something better than the Ferrari/Renault offerings of last year, so the question is how long can Renault (Red Bull)/Ferrari afford to be un-competitive?"

    "Yes that's right. It's really frustrating how this is being reported. You can only run a homologated engine, so Honda will have to do this prior to the first race else have no engine at all in the Mac!! Ferrari and Renault teams will have to continue with the 2014 engine if they wish to continue development into 2015."

    If so, this makes the whole situation even more interesting

  7. Hi Matt,

    I'm not nearly as knowledgeable as you are for sure but, are you sure that they can keep strapping new tokens as they go throughout the season?

    If I'm not mistaken, only a single engine can be homologated per season and introducing a new part for the engine would effectively mean that it is a new one when compared to the 2014 unit that's been homologated at the beginning of the last season.

    My interpretation is that the teams either would have to start with 2014 power units and somewhere mid-season they'd have to introduce those 32 or so tokens and homologate for 2015 season, or they would have to spend all their tokens the first race. So there is this trade-off of using an old design for 4-5 races and then introducing the new design with the benefit of additional development time, thus sacrificing performance for the first few races. Or, using all the available tokens at the start to try to gain a headstart.

    Boy, this situation IS complicated. I'm not sure even the FIA knows what they're going to do. lol

    1. Yes, that's the way I see it and see my cut & paste comments from another forum above. I think the lack of clarification / opinions shows that a) its complicated alright and b) there is a chance that no-one has actually worked out what in season development means. Either way, the interpretation will either effect Honda a lot or very little!

    2. For starters, if I were in charge of any of the PU manufacturers that started 2015 with a 2014 PU then I'd sack all the staff anyway. Giving the rest of the field a 5 race head start is simply not viable from a performance point of view IMO.

      As for the conflict between the two it is my intepretation that they will be allowed to homologate more than one PU throughout the season in order that:

      A. The FIA save face from being non-descript in the regulations in terms of dates
      B. Artificially allow Renault and Ferrari what they feel is their right to catch up with Mercedes
      C. Prevent a situation whereby the V6 regulations are dropped for 2016 as Renault/Ferrari have been given sufficient leniancy to catch up in 15.

      The problem with A is that it opens up Pandora's box, making light of the entire appedices covering homologation. For example:

      a) A power unit delivered to the FIA no later than 28 February 2014.

      b) A power unit delivered to the FIA after 28 February 2014 which has been modified in accordance with the Annual F1 Power Unit Homologation table in Appendix 4 to the F1 Technical Regulations.
      Once homologated in accordance with a) or b) above, and except as permitted by (c) below, no changes may be made to the design or construction of the homologated parts for the duration of the homologati
      on period laid out in Article 28.5 of the F1 Sporting Regulations.

      28.5 Only power units which have been homologated by the FIA in accordance with Appendix 4 may be used at an Event during the 2014
      -2020 Championship seasons.

      As we can see, without the inference of a homologation date for 2015 the whole appendix becomes circular. Added to that as the matrix which refers to the amount of weightable parts that can be changed only stipulates 2015 it can be seen as the entire year, leading to multiple homologations.

      Hope that clears it up from my perspective..

    3. Well, it does clear it up and it does rather suggest that Honda will be at a massive disadvantage, contrary to what a lot of people are saying on other forums.

      In simple terms, they all Homologate on 28/02/15, but the 3 existing manufacturers keep coming back to re homologate as they wish throughout the season (within the limit of changes allowed).


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