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FIA invites tenders for standard gearbox for F1 from 2021

NEWS STORY
19/02/2019

As testing for the 2019 season got underway yesterday, the FIA was issuing an invitation to tender for a standard gearbox from 2021, as the sport's powers-that-be move forward with their grand plan for F1 post-2021.

"The FIA's objective is to select an exclusive supplier of the gearbox cassette (hereafter "the gearbox") whose task it will be to ensure the production, delivery and maintenance of the Gearbox for the 2021, 2022, 2023 and 2024 seasons of the FIA Formula One World Championship (hereafter "the Championship")," reads the invitation.

All tenderers are invited to complete the technical form and provide all relevant technical and financial documents demonstrating that they are capable of supplying the gearbox to the competitors under the conditions referred to in the draft contract," it adds.

"The FIA reserves the right to request any additional information from and to organise meetings with tenderers who have submitted the most interesting bids. The FIA reserves the right not to select any supplier if no offer is finally deemed capable of being beneficial for the Championship and its competitors.

"Should a tenderer be selected, it will be invited to enter into a contract with the FIA that will establish the terms of the tenderer's appointment as exclusive supplier."

Incredibly, tenders have to be submitted by March 15, which gives potential suppliers less than a month, with a decision due from the FIA in mid-to-late April.

Explaining the move, the invitation states that: "The aim of single source supply is to retain current levels of Formula One gear change performance for all cars at a much reduced cost to the competitors while also removing the requirement for teams to design or source their own gearboxes. The unit can be carried over between seasons so removing the need for costly continual performance development.

"In order to retain competitor's own freedoms for suspension and for the gearbox aero surfaces, the outer housing will remain team specific (designed and produced by the competitor) with the common, self-contained gearbox cassette mounted inside.

"The gearbox cassette will include 7 forward ratios, 1 reverse ratio and the differential/final drive in a unit that also includes its own oil system (excluding the team-provided cooler) and the hydraulics necessary for its own operation as well as some other car functions.

"The unit is intended to replace all the functionality of a current F1 gearbox in a similar package and close to typical current weights.

"New units supplied to teams or PU suppliers will be sealed and tested to ensure functionality, performance and that they are fluid-tight. Any units used at races will be sealed by the FIA and become one of the four designated race gearboxes. If problems are identified during the life of the gearbox, new parts may be substituted providing they are identical (or latest issue equivalent) parts from the selected provider. The four race gearbox cassettes will form a pool and can be used at any time during the season."

The invitation also reveals plans for a more powerful MGU-K.

"Other than conforming to regulations (including any restricted areas necessary for the 2021 aero package - TBD), every team will push on packaging, wanting minimum length, width and height and every team will push on weight and centre of gravity. It is anticipated that significant effort should be applied to achieving a minimum size and weight for the unit, but it is also acknowledged that there are some factors that will make this difficult: Firstly, we need to achieve excellent reliability in the face of a life requirement of around 5000km. Secondly, there will be an average input speed increase of around 14% from today. Thirdly, there should be some power increase for 2021 relative to today, not just because of natural development, but also because of a 30kW increase in the MGUK output.

"With the removal of competition, it is anticipated that some of the most complex machining saving the last few grams can be replaced with more cost effective machining.

"Despite these negative factors, best endeavours should still be applied to optimise these conflicting requirements, but as a guide, it is anticipated that the gearbox cassette will be around 1.5kg heavier than an equivalent cassette-style F1 gearbox today."

Other than a standard gearbox, the invitation suggests that more 'common parts' are to be introduced for 2021.

"Although all teams will be free to design their own driveshafts, it is anticipated that as part of the 2021 technical regulations, the design of the driveshaft inner will be prescribed. The selected provider will be included in the detail definition of this interface, but in principle the gearbox cassette responsibility will end at the output flanges to the driveshafts."

Currently, Ferrari supplies both Haas and Alfa Romeo, while Mercedes provides gearboxes for Racing Point and Red Bull for Toro Rosso.

In addition to the fact a dedicated casing will make it difficult for teams, such as Red Bull and Toro Rosso to share suspension components, the move to a sole supplier will hit those teams/manufacturers already facing a financial hit when (if) the prize money distribution is agreed.

As if to rub salt in the wound, the invitation states that the winning supplier will need to work with the teams, a move which could prove particularly problematic if it is one of the teams that is vying for the contract in the same way that McLaren won the bid to supply the sport's common ECU.

In addition to the fact a dedicated casing will make it difficult for teams, such as Red Bull and Toro Rosso to share suspension components, the move to a sole supplier will hit those teams/manufacturers already facing a financial hit when (if) the prize money allocation is agreed.

The unit will need to be designed in conjunction with all the existing competitors and PU suppliers to ensure it can function as well as possible in all cars and best endeavours should be made to satisfy as many competitors and PU supplier requests as practical in a unit for everyone.

"Clearly, the competitors that currently produce their own gearboxes will have knowledge built up that should be sought and taken account of if possible. In particular, their best design practices should be sought and a coherent set of design practice actioned during the process. The FIA will help arbitrate if any of these practices are contradictory to each other."

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by Uffen, 27/02/2019 23:12

"They've already done this with the control modules (made my McLaren). So, let's continue. The gearbox is fair game because it is complex, costly, they all pretty well operate the same way and fans don't see them. Done.

Next on the agenda? OK, what about the engines? After all they are even more complex, certainly more costly, they all conform to the same rules and restrictions and so operate pretty well the same, and fans certainly can't see them. So, let's have all teams use M-B engines (Ferrari can badge them as "Ferrari").

Item three for consideration... brakes. Same story. Cheaper by the dozen.
Item four... etc., etc.

Soon this will be such an inexpensive endeavour tickets will sell for $10 a seat."

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2. Posted by Kemawi, 20/02/2019 9:09

"In order to retain competitor's own freedoms for suspension and for the gearbox aero surfaces, the outer housing will remain team specific (designed and produced by the competitor) with the common, self-contained gearbox cassette mounted inside.

In addition to the fact a dedicated casing will make it difficult for teams, such as Red Bull and Toro Rosso to share suspension components,

Eh????

"

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3. Posted by TokyoAussie, 20/02/2019 3:19

"F1 teams will always spend what they can, so this won't cut costs. And it takes away yet another variable. Unpredictability with the car is part of the challenge, and removing that using unbreakable parts is spoiling it."

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4. Posted by C5, 19/02/2019 22:18

""so removing the need for costly continual performance development".

To me, the costly continual performance development is the essence of F1.


@Insane Reindeer

"Why do so many F1 “fans” these days have to have a driver that they like and one that they hate?"

I agree. This is a mystery to me. I have a bunch I prefer and a bunch I less prefer. Oh, and I admit, one I'd like to punch in the face. But frankly, it could be anyone with talent driving the cars. Whatever the level of each team or driver, I like following the good days and bad days throughout the season. But as I say above, mostly I appreciate the engineering going into the entire exercise. Without it I could be watching any random series (except I wouldn't because I'm not interested)."

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5. Posted by boatdesigner, 19/02/2019 21:28

"Say what you will about Indycar, but at least you can't tell who is going to win each race before they even start Friday practice. When was the last time anyone seriously thought a car from the smaller teams would even reach the podium nonetheless win the race? I don't know if this is the right way to save money for F1 teams, but I do know they have to do something as they are dangerously close to not having enough field filler to make it look like they actually put on a real race. Somehow these smaller teams need to be profitable because someday there may not be a father who wants to buy a team for his son to go racing."

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6. Posted by Burton, 19/02/2019 18:45

"Todt and Brawn were supposed to be geniuses..."

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7. Posted by Insane Reindeer, 19/02/2019 14:55

"But surely this is what the vast majority of today's F1 “fans” want? Right? I can count on one hand the number of F1 fans I know who have an understanding of the way a modern F1 gearbox works and what makes it so amazing. Of all the F1 fans I know I am the only one who thinks that a move to a "spec part" of any sort is a terrible idea (spec, steel, brakes being the most common idea amongst the fans I know). So I know that some of the F1 fans I know will be perfectly content with this. Someone below has already mentioned the 1970's and the engine/gearbox combination that dominated for so long then, and I have heard several fans say how great that was. I can't understand why anyone thinks that modern F1 needs to ape that era of the sport in anyway, let alone in that way.

This is, to me, a terrible idea in every way. But I am not surprised in the slightest. This is what the "fans" want. They want to see F1, but they don't want to worry that their favourite driver might get replaced by someone who can bring more money to a team. They certainly don't want to worry about their favourite driver getting a grid penalty because his team is struggling to build him a reliable gearbox that season. They think they are a fan of F1, but, in reality what they are a fan of is the driver. As such all they really want to see and think about is the driver and the chance of seeing him beat a driver they don’t like* in a race. As such the FIA and Liberty should just present the teams with a couple of the latest IndyCar model painted in the F1 team's colours and told to use that. The "fans" will love it. They won't care, or even bother to think how moronic it would be to see Vettel in a Chevrolet powered, Dallara called a Ferrari racing against Hamilton in a Honda powered, Dallara called a Mercedes or any other combination of drivers.

What has happened to Jean Todt? What has happened to the FIA? I used to be a big fan of Todt's right back to his rally days, and I have nearly always supported the FIA. Now? Nope. They seem to be doing everything in their, not inconsiderable, power to drive me away.

*Why do so many F1 “fans” these days have to have a driver that they like and one that they hate?"

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8. Posted by English Tony, 19/02/2019 13:57

"Re the very tight mid March deadline - 3 possibilities

A. They already have a supplier lined up

B. They want this to fail

C. They have no idea what they are doing

I suspect A
"

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9. Posted by Max Noble, 19/02/2019 12:46

"Max Moseley was so much better at this..."

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10. Posted by imejl99, 19/02/2019 12:42

"Maybe I missed it, but there is no info that 2021 rules are agreed on, not to mention Concorde...
In my country we have a saying - sharpening the spit while rabbit`s in the woods."

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11. Posted by klmn, 19/02/2019 12:18

"Nothing wrong going back to the 70 's All Hewland and Cosworth...eh except for Ferrari who loses anyway. "

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12. Posted by Max Noble, 19/02/2019 11:54

"@GarH - can you hear the distant sound of a face-palm moment over at Liberty as they realise the implications of what you’ve just written... yup... tragic..."

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13. Posted by GarH, 19/02/2019 11:15

"There are certain jobs in motorsport that require the best brains and most skilled engineers, designing and making gearboxes is one of them. How many team members will be getting their P45 out of this decision? Who's to say the FIA/LM won't decide to accept a bid from an outsider, which will cause one heck of a stink.

I see the FIA still expect gearboxes to last X races per year. If a gearbox explodes now, then the team take the hit. Should a Ferrari running a Williams made gearbox exit the race when it's leading, who's going to take the blame? How many of the teams will be happy to pass on their gearbox 'secrets' to outsiders, especially when 4 of them use that knowledge for their road cars? This is F1, not Formula Ford. The only reason LM want to limit spending is for them to have more dosh to skim off the top.

I can't see Paddy Lowe going to LM. For starters I'm not convinced he's that great an engineer and secondly, he took Brawn's job at Mercedes under very suspicious circumstances, that left a bad taste for Ross.
"

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14. Posted by Max Noble, 19/02/2019 10:37

"@Editor... if you’re going to build a one make car that isn’t too fast so it’s not dangerous he would be your go to man... great call... :-)"

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15. Posted by Editor, 19/02/2019 10:29

"Talking of Ross, no doubt he's drafting Paddy Lowe's employement contract for his 'Jobs for the Boys' - sorry, technical department - as I type this."

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