16 May 2013 at 1:33 pm #4219
As has been rumoured for a long time, McLaren and Honda have announced they will be getting their band back together for 2015.
This is great news for F1 (as well as providing the opportunity for lovely photos and misty-eyed recollections of the mighty Marlboro McLaren Hondas of 1988 – 1992), but there are likely to be plenty of ramifications and knock-on effects throughout the paddock, intertwined with the wheeling and dealing that is already ongoing for 2014 + engine supplies. Based on various reports in recent months, it has been suggested that any or all of Lotus, Williams, Force India, Toro Rosso and Marussia could be changing engine suppliers as well.
Marussia will almost certainly need a new engine supplier, as Cosworth is not expected to participate in the new turbo-engine era. However, an exemption similar to the one Minardi/Toro Rosso got last time the engine regs changed has been mooted, which may gather strength on the back of the Honda announcement and general mayhem of 2014 engine supply.
16 May 2013 at 4:03 pm #4222
What do you mean by general mayhem of 2014 engine supply? Are they still talking about scrubbing the turbos and keeping the current engines or is that just Bernie trying to provoke Jean Todt?
16 May 2013 at 4:47 pm #4223
Well, for 2014 it is expected that Cosworth will disappear, leaving Marussia without engines and meaning that one of the other suppliers will have to supply them with engines. Renault already supply 4 teams, for which they had to get special dispensation from the FIA, so it is unlikely to be them, which leaves Ferrari or Mercedes and neither of them have any great interest in supplying Marussia with engines. The 2014 engines are going to be much more expensive than the current engines, so the commercial side of the deal is going to be easily as important as the predicted performance side (which is largely unknown, anyway)
In addition, Red Bull have allegedly been pushing Renault to take on Toro Rosso. Not because it is in Toro Rosso’s best interests, but so that Red Bull Racing can use them for data gathering on the new Renault turbo engines which could benefit RBR. Incidentally, does anyone else think it’s weird that Infiniti have such prominent branding (and title sponsorship) on the Red Bulls despite the fact that the cars run Renault engines? I know that the two brands are somewhat connected via the Renault-Nissan Alliance, but it still seems odd.
Renault have publicly said that they think supplying 3 teams is ideal, yet they currently supply 4 and are under pressure to take Toro Rosso. This means that at least 1, if not 2, of their current customers could be dropped. Of their current teams, Red Bull are pretty much guaranteed and Renault has road car deals with both Caterham (for their Alpine brand) and Williams (for a new Clio Williams). This leaves Lotus looking vulnerable, despite the fact that they are doing much better than either Williams or Caterham on the track and are a potentially title-winning team. So who does Renault drop?
Honda’s entry complicates things significantly, because it is entirely likely that they will want to take on more than one team to gather as much data as possible on their new engines in today’s non-testing F1 world. So teams that are currently negotiating for engine deals might only be looking for a one-year supply for 2014 before switching to Honda in 2015. But would the engine suppliers be interested in supplying a brand new turbo engine to a customer for one year, only to have Honda scoop all their intel for 2015? McLaren and Mercedes have apparently had extensive discussions about how it will work for both parties in 2014 to ensure their 20-year relationship ends as positively as possible, but there is plenty of scope for it to go wrong at some stage.
Williams trumpeted their return to Renault engines last year, but it is still not going well for them despite their Spanish win in 2012. This year’s car looks every bit as bad as the 2011 model. Similarly, Caterham appears to be no closer to progressing up into the midfield, with the most noticeable change for 2013 being much less hype and hyperbole than for the last 3 years. Lotus may be looking strong but have no road-car contracts in place with Renault. Williams, on the other hand, have a close connection with the head of Mercedes F1, Toto Wolff, who used to be a director at Williams and still owns a stake in the company. Conceivably, Williams and Renault could split and they could end up with Mercedes engines. There have already been rumours to this effect.
Force India have used their Mercedes engines to very good effect for the last couple of years, but they have a technical alliance with McLaren which has also been very fruitful for them, so will they sign up with Honda to protect their McLaren connection? Money is expected to be a big issue as their Indian owners are apparently in all sorts of financial perils, so they may be keen to take on a Japanese driver in exchange for free Honda engines. Would Williams be interested in going back to Honda? It ended badly last time, but Williams has been agreeable to providing a Japanese driver in the past to appease their engine supplier. Or would Lotus take a gamble on Honda, preferring to play second fiddle to McLaren instead of second fiddle to Red Bull?
If Ferrari loses Toro Rosso as an engine customer, they could snap up Marussia. But they appear uncertain as to how much help the little team would be in providing useful and reliable engine data. On the other hand, a team like Force India would be better at generating useful engine data and the team has used Ferrari engines in the past. it seems unlikely that either Williams or Lotus would want engines from Ferrari, but I guess you never know.
Mercedes will want to keep a strong second team as well, having lost McLaren, so do they try to hang onto Force India, or do a deal with Williams? Or renew their partnership with Sauber (they did win Le Mans together many years ago, and Mercedes funded Sauber’s entry into F1). Sauber have said that they are happy to stick with Ferrari, but they are also perenially short of funding so they may be interested in negotiating with Mercedes.
Finally, it has been mooted that there may be an 11th-hour deal in place to let Marussia (and maybe others) keep their current V8 engines for 2014, and the FIA could establish some kind of performance parity measure. So far, this idea has been resisted, but with 2014 being a real transition year for everyone, it may still happen. Plus it is possible that Marussia could end up being the pawn in a power game between the FIA and Bernie, as Marussia has been left out of the new Concorde Agreement and gets virtually no money from Bernie. By all accounts, the FIA might enjoy putting one over on Ecclestone by granting Marussia permission to keep their current engines, which would also keep Cosworth in the sport for at least another year.
So, in summary, there is a lot going on and there will be plenty of news and gossip to come!
22 May 2013 at 5:55 am #4288
THats a very comprehensive summary! You could be quite a good F1 reporter you know. Most of them these days are pretty average
24 May 2013 at 12:52 pm #4339
Rumours from Monaco suggest that there will be confirmation very soon of Toro Rosso getting Renault engines for next year, and Williams moving from Renault to Mercedes-Benz engines.
Hopefully, this is a step forward for Williams. Based on the Toto connection, you would expect that they would have a fairly close relationship with the engine supplier, but I think they really need to nail down a long-term engine partner. Since 2007, they have had Cosworth, Toyota, Cosworth (again) and Renault engines, and are now going to be changing again. By contrast, Red Bull Racing, McLaren, Ferrari and Lotus/Renault have had stable engine suppliers – and Mercedes-Benz have only had the one change of engine after Honda bowed out. It can’t be making their designers’ and engineers’ lives easy, constantly having to build new relationships with the engine team every couple of years.