The FIA has been trying to paint a greener image for Formula 1 during the last few years (as if anyone would mistake an F1 car for being energy efficient). Theoretically, the move to 1.6 litre four cylinder turbo engines (which would replace the current 2.4 litre naturally aspirated V8s) was a step towards the green.
The change has been proposed for 2013 (the first year of Michael Schumacher’s second retirement, and with a move to toy engines in the offing, perhaps Schumi won’t be tempted to make a second comeback).
Now it’s come out, however, that the idea for the smaller powerplants was originally proposed by one of the major manufacturers, i.e. Renault. “It was them who proposed the rules that the FIA accepted,” FIA president Jean Todt recently told Spanish newspaper Diario Sport. “The proposal didn’t fall out of the sky, but instead we had 11 meetings with all the representatives from the engine makers involved.”
Renault, of course, unlike some of the other manufacturers who participate in the sport, actually stand to gain something by promoting a smaller, four cylinder engine.
After all, Renault, unlike Ferrari or Mercedes, doesn’t have a road car business based on high performance or luxury sedan models. Of the major manufacturers they are the brand are most closely associated with anemic economy models. But this goes deeper than brand. Part of the rationale for a manufacturer to participate in F1 in the first place is the trickle down effect of R&D. Gizmos developed for the track often find their way to the street.
But there’s more. With Ferrari and Mercedes balking at the idea of switching to the toy powerplants by 2013 (Luca di Montezemolo is using the B-word again, as in breakaway series, Jean Todt and the FIA are making noises about backing away from the plan. You can read this as either (a) postponing the inevitable, or (b) the death knell for an idea that was never very popular to begin with.
But wait, there’s even more. Now Renault, getting wind of the FIA’s about-face on their about-face, are threatening to quit if the new tech regs aren’t adopted. If I talk to Renault,” said Todt, “they say that if we don’t introduce this engine for 2013 they will leave F1; if I talk to Mercedes and Ferrari, they ask me to delay the introduction for a few years. They aren’t against the rules, they just wanted them postponed.”
Renault leaving F1? Is that bad news? Well Bernie “the Evil Gnome” Ecclestone bent over backwards to convince Genii Capital, the venture capital firm that bought a majority stake in the team recently known as simply Renault, to keep the manufacturer’s brand for the team.
There has been an exodus of manufacturers’ brands from the sport in recent years, and the Evil Gnome doesn’t want to lose any more. But really, if forced to choose between Ferrari and Renault, which do you choose? It’s not really a choice, is it?