Standard engines for F1?

Oh bugger! I have a serious ethical problem – reading today’s paper I found myself in agreement with Max Mosley.

To cut costs, Mosley wants to introduce a standard homologated engine to F1. Ferrari, who have a wholly unacceptable level of influence over the FIA, have threatened to withdraw from F1 unless Mosley backs down. To which I can only say, bring it on!

F1 teams employ supremely skilled engineers, with the technical resources to match, and it’s at least theoretically possible to remove the FIA seals from an engine, fettle it, and seal it up again as if it had never been opened. I’m not, of course, saying that anyone does, just that it’s probably possible, and with a standard engine illegal tinkering would be immediately apparent.

I’ve lost interest in F1 due to the antics of Ferrari (and Mosley), and one of the things that has pissed me off and baffled me, in equal measure, is how Ferrari, at a time when engine development is banned, keep turning up with unfeasibly fast cars (watch this happen in Brazil – and watch for who does a Schumacher on Hamilton!). On one occasion, when a lot more eyebrows than mine  were raised, they offered the reason of having improved the engine’s breathing. I’m sorry, but isn’t this F1, the cutting-edge of motor sport? And Ferrari expect us to believe that their engineers had fielded a car with less than optimum aspiration? I don’t think so.

Consider, too, traction control, which was introduced because a team was known to have introduced this to their cars illegally, and hidden it in the engine management software, where it couldn’t be found during scrutineering. I don’t think that there’s anyone who didn’t believe that this was Ferrari. Indeed, I have a memory of a commentator letting it slip that he thought that, though I can’t remember who it was.

Some years ago, when Mosley wanted to introduce V12 engines, Ferrari forced him to back down and go with V10s instead, just one of a number of instances that have made those close to F1 – and a great many fans – question the reason for this apparently excessive influence, not to mention Mosley’s anti-McLaren stance.

Personally, I see little objection to the introduction of a standard engine (with the teams allowed, perhaps, a limited level of personalisation and tinkering), since it makes economic sense for the smaller teams; as things stand, without having obscene amounts of money, it’s impossible for a team to break into F1 and be competitive. It wouldn’t completely eliminate illegal tinkering by anyone, but it should make it much harder, and easier to spot, especially if standard ECUs were also supplied.

Ferrari’s claim that this would ruin F1, as F1 is all about technological development is a tad simplistic – what F1 is primarily about is racing, and a standard engine would go a long way towards keeping all the teams honest and, of course, it would bring the skills of the drivers to the fore, which is surely no bad thing. If I were Mosley, I’d go even further, and revert to having one set of tyres throughout the race (a system with which Ferrari just couldn’t cope so, of course, it was binned), and also give the teams a year to come up with the ability to fuel the cars for the entire race (which, I believe, would require somewhat more powerful engines to avoid painfully slow early stages of the race), which would prevent the teams from dominating the race from the pit lane and return the racing to the track, where it belongs – too many races are won or lost in the pit lane. An alternative would be to allow just one pit stop for fuel, thus obviating the need for the cars to be excessively heavy at the start. As some teams do this already at some circuits, it’s perfectly feasible.

However, as Mercedes, Honda, Renault and BMW are all said to feel the same way as Ferrari – though no-one else is threatening to take their ball and go home just yet – it probably means that the engine idea is doomed and, as it has always been in F1, money rules. Oh, and Ferrari, of course. . .

One last comment, the ban on team orders must be enforced, not least for Ferrari – the way Massa and Raikkonen swapped positions in the last race was mind-bogglingly blatant, and I have no doubt whatsoever that if McLaren had done this Hamilton would have been severely penalised. The fact that Massa was not surely demonstrates the pro-Ferrari stance not only of the FIA, but of the supposedly independent race stewards as well. By the way, if McLaren have to do the same thing in Brazil you can look forward to Hamilton being screwed by the stewards and, probably, McLaren being fined by the FIA as well – there is, I believe, no doubt about that at all.