2017 engine rules Q&A with Fabrice Lom, FIA Head of Powertrain and Charlie Whiting FIA Formula One Director.
Fabrice Lom, FIA Head of Powertrain: You heard that we made some decisions for '17, '18 and onwards for the power unit, that we call the power unit package, and this is just to explain how it works.
This was started in November last year and we had a mandate from the Strategy Group, with four pillars. The first one was reduction in price for the teams. The second one was obligation to supply. Then third one was help performance convergence, and the fourth one was to improve the sound. So these were the four pillars we worked on.
We had extensive work with the power unit manufacturers to try to achieve this. As always, we are not in a perfect world, so we achieved what we could achieve, but I honestly think it is a very good achievement.
So, I'll explain you what is inside.
For the reduction in price for the teams, we first worked to reduce the cost, because we cannot ask the power unit manufacturers to reduce price without reducing cost. So to reduce the cost, firstly in '17 we will go down to four power units per driver per season, instead of five today, whatever the number of grands prix. And in '18 we will go down - and this is a big task for them - we will go down to three ICE, plus turbo, plus MGU-H and only two energy stores, control electronics and MGU-K. So it's nearly 50% less parts, so it should reduce the cost by a nice amount.
We will also have standard sensors. This is a small part of the reduction but it is a bit of a reduction.
In addition to this we will have a discount for the price and there is an engagement from the power unit manufacturers to decrease by €1 million in '17 compared to '16 and by €4 million compared to '16 from '18 and onwards. So it gives discount for all the customer teams of around €28m per year, which is not something negligible I think.
For the obligation to supply: the idea was to have no teams that is not able to have access to a power unit. This was a big part of the discussion because we also don't want people to be able to play with that and to change from one power unit to another from one year to another in order to have the best one. So there is a quite complex system in place, but the basic [premise] is that if you are a team with no offer, so nobody is offering you a power unit, you can ask the FIA to have one and there is a system of ballots. So we will take the power unit that has the smallest number of customers. If there is only one, this will be the one that will be required to give the power unit. If there is more than one there will be a ballot between the two to decide which one will supply, and there is a low price of €12m from '18 for this supply.
The third pillar was to help performance convergence. So, to do that the first big thing that people thought was important is to have stability in the regulations.
There was a lot of discussion of changing completely the regulations, going back to normally aspirated engines, no hybrid. Firstly, nobody wanted that because the trend of the world is to go hybrid and to go low consumption.
But also they thought if there is a big change there will be a redistribution of the cards and there could be a big difference in performance between the power unit manufacturers, so they said stability of regulations would help a lot. So this is the first tool for convergence.
Then we free the tokens, because the ones that are a bit behind wanted no limitation of development to try to recover. We also put limits on some performance related dimensions. This is a bit technical and you all have the regulations but for example we put limits on the crankshaft dimensions, on the weights of some parts, so we are sure that there are limits on the development on these items. These limits were put where the best one is today, so that people know the target and also allow us to stop the best ones to develop more, to go lighter or smaller, so that we put something like a bit of a barrier to development.
In addition to this we put limits on the boost temperature, so they cannot develop too much their cooling and also a bit of packaging on the energy store and control electronics to avoid having to redo all the energy store to help the chassis performance.
Finally, this is an important point, but a short one - to improve the sound. There is a perception that the sound is not enough, and we have had very good results with what we call a 'sound generator', which is not fake, but it is not purely natural, let's say, but that would really increase the intensity and the quality of the engine sound.
So that's all I wanted to introduce, so if you have any questions, please don't hesitate.
Questions From The Floor
In terms of the restrictions on dimension of various parts, I understand that some of that is to do with the hybrid system, including the energy store. Given that these engines were introduced in the first place to have parity with road car technical development, is that not restricting an area that would benefit road car development, in which case, why would you do it?
FL: For example, for the energy store, as you said, we are limiting the packaging in Formula One. I honestly don't think you are limiting the global development for road cars. We are far ahead of road cars. They can work on the cells but the integration of the thing must be within certain limits to not go too far in Formula One. So it's really only impacting Formula One. I don't think it's impacting all the rest.
Is there going to be any change in the fuel amount, the 100 kilos. Has that changed?
FL: This is actually not part of the package but effectively it will go up by five kilos just in relationship with the new aero or chassis regulations, because we have cars that will be going much faster with much more full load so naturally the consumption will go up, but it is not at all linked to the package.
Will the fuel regulation go up in time for the faster cars? Will you have that regulation introduced, even if it's not part of this package?
FL: It was not part of the package but it was already voted and it's already in the regulations for 2017. It's 105 kilos.
Fabrice, when you do the power convergence, how are you going to ensure that whoever your benchmark is is actually not sand-bagging at the time to be artificially low, so that you can ensure that you have there actual performance to ensure that they don't gain an advantage after the convergence date?
FL: So clearly the package is to help convergence. We are not mandating convergence; there is no prescribed convergence. So we just put measure that should help convergence.
Naturally the convergence will come with the stability of regulation and we try to speed up the convergence by having these measures but there is no prescribed convergence.
What's the timeframe for sorting this convergence out, because they have talked about 0.3s per lap around Barcelona. When would expect that to be in place and what if it's not? What if one of the manufacturers has found something and is suddenly 1.0s clear?
FL: So this figure of 0.3s is apparently something that went in the media. There is nothing prescribed, as I said, but we will measure it at the beginning of each season and if it is considered to be not at the level that we expect to be, we will come back to the Strategy Group and just report, and then what will happen will be a decision of the Strategy Group, according to the F1 governance we have today.
With regards to the guarantee of supply, whilst it's obviously in the regulations have you met any resistance from McLaren because Ron Dennis has made it quite clear in the past months that he wants to retain Honda as a sole supplier for his team, without them supplying engines elsewhere?
FL: For sure, it is not linked to McLaren, it is linked to every team. These negotiations were not easy but I think everybody understands for the sake of Formula One we need this to be implemented. So there is in the text some protection for newcomers and I think that's what you heard about Honda, when they were really new they would struggle to supply. I think everybody is happy to implement the text.
Can you explain how this sound generator is working, on what basis it is working, because you said it's not 100% natural, but it's not fake, so how is it working?
FL: It's a bit early to say. It's really under development. But we are using the energy on the exhaust, even if it is not very high, because we recover a lot, to increase it. To go into pure detail now I think it's a bit too early. I'm sorry.
Just to go back to the subject of McLaren and the contract that Ron says he's got with exclusivity with Honda, does that mean we can say for certain that the new rules go over that contract now and they will be forced to do what the FIA says?
FL: Honestly, I don't think I can answer this one, it's really a private matter, I'm sorry.
Check out our Friday gallery, here.