Illien eyeing F1 return?


Mario Illien, co-founder along with Paul Morgan of Ilmor Engineering, has admitted that he would be willing to return to F1 should he be able to find the right partner.

The Swiss has been a regular attendee at meetings of the Power Unit Working Group as the sport looks ahead to post-2020, and the new/revised engine formula.

Mindful of the need of the FIA, FOM and teams for a new independent engine supply, Illien admits he is interested but would need a partner willing to fund the project.

"Obviously there is a desire to have the possibility for independent manufacturers to come in," he told "That's one reason I'm in the meetings, to see whether it's going the right way for an independent.

"It will take a lot of simplification," he admits, "and we'll have to take a lot of cost out, and make the racing better and the sound better. If you have say a standard turbo for everybody, you could take a lot of cost out, for sure."

However, the elephant in the room is cost, particularly in this the hybrid era and if F1 is to attract new engine manufacturers this is something that must be addressed.

"That would be a necessity for independents to have a chance," he admits. "It's not only the initial costs, it's also the development costs. I think everyone will develop and make progress, but the rules should be written in such a way that there is a relatively small gain that you can make with a lot of development."

The Swiss also believes that the ongoing rules restricting the number of engines and components allowed is actually driving up costs.

"That has to be addressed," he says. "Next year, having three engines is more expensive than producing four engines. All the new parts you are developing have to go through testing on the dyno, to make sure you have achieved the mileage for three engines a year. And that is expensive. I think even four is not enough. We're half way through this season, and half the field has got a problem."

Illien also believes that with the hybrid formula introduced in 2014, the sport has gone too far in terms of 'road relevance'.

"Road relevance is not that important," he says. "In my view, we've got to go racing again. Yes we can benefit road cars to a certain degree, but I think the relevance should be secondary. If nobody is going to watch F1 because it's so boring, it's not the point.

"The MGU-H is one of the very expensive elements, for sure. We might even consider going extreme and go back to normally aspirated engines and KERS. I don't think it's on the table, but I'm sure that spectators would love it. Especially as the world is going more hybrid and electric, we need to have something on the race track nobody could have at home."

In terms of funding, he admits that a partner has to be the way to go, as customer deals with teams will not provide the necessary finances.

"Somebody has to fund the initial development costs," he admits. "Customers are probably not the right way to go, that doesn't pay for it.

"You probably need a manufacturer to support it... but if you look at Red Bull they've got TAG, so it doesn't need to be a car manufacturer, it could be anybody."

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Published: 26/07/2017
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