FIA Announces Tender For Spec Engines

Dave HarrisCorrespondent IOctober 17, 2008

On the first day of practice for the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai today, the FIA announced that they were issuing a tender for engines for the 2010-2012 Formula One seasons.

Following months of speculation about the latest measures that teams would negotiate in order to reduce the cost of racing in Formula One, and spurred on by the current global financial crisis, a statement was released that "The FIA will today open the tender process for the appointment of a third-party supplier of engines and transmission systems to be used by competitors in the 2010, 2011, and 2012 FIA Formula One World Championship."

No technical details were provided, but the release noted that further information would be made available in due course on the FIA website.

Thoughts leading up to the announcement in this week's Autosport magazine included concerns from both sides of the argument. 

Those concerned with the spiraling costs saw this as a potentially beneficial measure for small teams, allowing them the opportunity to compete with the major manufacturers without requiring a budget in the hundreds of millions of US dollars.

However, both McLaren and Toyota representatives questioned such a move, suggesting that it would lead to the manufacturers leaving the sport.

Quelling immediate fears, an FIA spokesperson indicated that the spec engine would not mean that teams could not build their own engines, but that they would have to be built to certain specifications in line with the spec engine, and that appropriate checks would be carried out on the parts.

FIA Bigwig Bernie Ecclestone has denied suggestions that a manufacturer pull-out would occur, on the grounds that he believes the new rule will save them money, but there is no doubt that the manufacturers will have to consider whether F1 is still the appropriate showcase for their wares if they are not designing and building their own engines.

Also in the frame for consideration as part of the cost-cutting measures has been the issue of customer cars. 

Prodrive, who were originally awarded the 12th franchise as an F1 manufacturer were forced to withdraw their entry after Williams threatened to to legal action against them.  Prodrive's intent had been to run year-old McLaren chassis, a ploy that Williams consider to be detrimental to its own status.

However, no announcement on the chassis issues was made, and teams are due to engage in further talks with the FIA during the weekend.

Concerns have raged over whether F1 would still have the cache as the pinnacle of motor sport if it resorts to standardised engines and chassis, and indeed, whether such would even make the spectacle any better or the racing any closer.

Mark Hughes, Autosport's Grand Prix editor, noting in his column this week that the levels of competition were much better when the rules on engine and chassis types were less restrictive in the Seventies and Eighties, and that genuine innovation is stifled by the current situation.

That may be the case to a certain extent, but the lack of diversity in the current style of F1 car has proven that close racing is not a particular problem, but the inability to overtake once a car gets within a second of another is. 

If they can address this through spec chassis or engines, then perhaps the spectacle of F1 racing will return, if not the cache.