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F1's worst nightmare?

NEWS STORY
11/11/2019

While attention focusses on the teams, the biggest worry facing the sport is the uncertainty over the future of engine manufacturers Honda and Renault, as new research reveals that a manufacturer needs to spend over 1bn if it hopes to win the title.

Of the 119 Grand Prix held since the hybrid formula was introduced in 2014, Mercedes has won 88 (73.9%), while Ferrari has won 17 (14.3%), Renault 12 (10.1%) and Honda 2 (1.7%).

Along with the teams, none of which has yet committed to race in F1 beyond the end of 2020, there is the question of the engine manufacturers.

While F1 recently announced its overhaul of the chassis and aero regulations for 2021, the current engine formula is set to continue for several more years.

In spite of Red Bull winning two races in its first season with Honda, Helmut Marko warns that change is needed if the Japanese manufacturer is to remain in the sport.

"(Honda) are waiting until the new regulations are on the table. Then they will analyse them and make a decision," he recently told Auto Motor und Sport.

Warning that reducing Honda's costs is "very important", he fears that "if it doesn't get cheaper there will scarcely be anyone left".

In terms of the regulations he says that change is needed, for the current spec "only works if everyone is at the same level. At the moment Ferrari is ahead of everyone in qualifying, Mercedes included".

Following a 1.6% crash in revenue in the third quarter, not to mention its senior management issues, Renault is also pondering its future in the sport, with Interim chief executive, Clotilde Delbos recently telling analysts that the manufacturing giant is examining all aspects of its business including its participation in F1.

Honda supplies powers units to both Red Bull and Toro Rosso, and while Renault currently supplies McLaren in addition to its works team, from 2021 the Woking outfit switches to Mercedes engines.

Nonetheless, at a time the sport is finding it difficult to attract new teams, the idea of attracting new engine manufacturers doesn't bear thinking about.

Since the introduction of the hybrid era it has so successfully mastered, Mercedes has seen its brand value grow by $16.7bn (13bn), with Interbrand revealing it hit $48.6bn (37.8bn) in 2018, with its F1 success playing a significant part as the 'three-pointed star' became the eighth most valuable brand in the world.

At a time many believe there is little in terms of technology transfer between F1 and road cars, Mercedes is seen as the exception.

"Many people say technology transfer is just a marketing story," says Toto Wolff, according to Forbes. "I can tell you, here it is not.

"The S-Class is running on a 6 cylinder turbo engine and the way we optimise our engines in terms of efficiency and power deployment translates directly into road cars," he adds.

"We are using some technology for cooling invented here and that technology is being used in the next generation of S-Class as well. It is all because of the development on track absolutely. So that is happening. It is a reality and this is why the hybrid 6 cylinder turbo engines are so important for us."

Indeed, next year sees the launch of the 2.2m 218 mph Mercedes-AMG One hypercar, the first production car powered by an F1 engine.

However, all this success has come at a price.

According to Forbes, since development of the hybrid V6 power unit began, Mercedes costs have totalled 914.4m ($1.2bn), and while we recently reported that in 2018, its costs only rose by 3.6m ($4.7m), should the trend continue over the course of the hybrid era the German manufacturer will have spent $1.4bn.

And if you were wondering, Ferrari is thought to have spent even more, but as the Italian manufacturer doesn't file separate accounts for its F1 team and the engine division this cannot be verified.

Nonetheless, the fact is that any new manufacturer would be looking at an astronomical level of investment, and even if they already have a racing division the new unit would need to be built from scratch.

Despite being linked with Red Bull, Aston Martin famously did a U-turn in 2018 when the sport scrapped the plan to cap investment in the post-2020 power units, and since then no other manufacturer has been linked with the sport.

Should either Honda or Renault - or worse both - opt to leave F1, it would surely present the sport with its very worst nightmare, and the clock is already ticking.

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1. Posted by Bill Hopgood, 13/11/2019 18:12

"I wonder if F1 is slowly becoming Indy Car:
Two Engine manufacturers.
Restricted Aero making the cars more similar.

What would help F1 is if they got their heads out of their own backsides are realised that F1 is about RACING first and foremost.

I mean, ditch the holier than thou "we must be (seen to) be greener than Greta Thurnberg travel itinerary" and get back to basics i.e. drop the hybrid power supply or at least the most expensive components.

I've been watching F1 for years and I could not care less about harvesting, or any of that rubbish.

The non-F1 public won't care either, they are more interested in the drivers and what they get up to and their rivalries and battles. This is especially because they can't understand the engineering going into the cars.

Bring back an "iron" competition where the donkey in the back is just a high reving turbo charged V8 4.0 or V10 3.0 litre option or V6 Turbo so that the teams can decide what they think is best, even for each race.

I don't really care what the teams want to spend on racing either, that's up to them.

Racing is for racing and the cars on track in F1 have next to nothing in common with road cars and neither should they so just let the teams make race cars.

If they want to do technology transfers then go do WRC, the old Group N."

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2. Posted by Chester, 13/11/2019 12:46

"Mercedes is simply too dominant. Renault and Honda would be wise to drop out. It would hurt us F1 fans, but the vast majority of car buyers are not F1 fans. In the end, Renault and Honda are in business to provide a return to shareholders."

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3. Posted by YuppieScum, 12/11/2019 11:31 (moderated by an Adminstrator, 12/11/2019 11:37)

"This comment was removed by an administrator as it was judged to have broken the site's posting rules and etiquette."

Rating: Neutral (0)

4. Posted by Uffen, 11/11/2019 21:23 (moderated by an Adminstrator, 12/11/2019 11:37)

"I understand your enthusiasm, Mambo, but F1 does not work with road fuels, especially not road fuels of all the countries where Mercedes road cars are marketed. So, that work will have to be done outside F1. Also, F1 cars run without catalytic converters, with all the constant emissions analysis that does along with that. So that is missed by F1. F1 does not run in sub-zero temperatures, nor do they run in varying altitudes (of real significance) without re-adjustment at each venue as done at races. Also, F1 development was stymied by the artificial "don't touch that" rules that surrounded the "engines must last X races" requirements. The FIA also gave the F1 engines and extra 5 kg. of fuel to use recently - an anti-green step that is not available in the marketplace. In the market ones whole fleet must burn less every year or there is trouble.

Development outside F1 is not restricted to 20 times per year and five iterations; it can go 24 hours per day with constant iteration and multiple parallel channels. And failures are not a matter of public awareness. Besides there are many car makers not running in F1 that seem to be able to manage quite well. "

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5. Posted by klmn, 11/11/2019 14:03 (moderated by an Adminstrator, 12/11/2019 11:37)

"No worries Merc will be the new " Cosworth " for the teams."

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6. Posted by Mambo, 11/11/2019 13:20

"Good to read Mercedes is transferring its racing technologies into its road car programme – one has to wonder why the other GP engine suppliers aren't also doing so; surely a total waste of time, money and resources not to.

And if we assume Mercedes would have wanted to develop something similar without being involved in GP racing, the costs would probably be far higher and take far longer through lacking the urgency racing brings."

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