2014 FormuLA 1 power units
are discussions that might allow changes
to be made in-season in the future with
the same technical limits that govern the
freeze. The number of changes permitted
diminishes each year until 2019. A token
system is used to regulate this. Each of
the 42 components is awarded a
weighting of between one and three,
which equates to tokens. For 2015,
changes worth 32 tokens are permitted.
However, several components are
already frozen permanently. These are
(deep breath...) the upper/lower crankcase
cylinder bore spacing, deck height, bank
stagger, air valve system, crank throw,
main bearing journal diameter and the rod
bearing journal diameter of the crankshaft.
Everything else, 92. 5 percent of the engine,
is potentially changeable, and 32 tokens
equate to a total of 48 percent that can
actually be changed this winter. It’s up to
each manufacturer as to which 48 percent
that will be. So, if Renault or Ferrari want
to emulate Mercedes in splitting the turbo
compressor and turbine, they can – it’ll just
mean using some of those tokens.
“The trick is to work out which are the
most profitable changes in terms of
performance,” says White. “It’s a matter of
ranking where the opportunities might lie,
then starting work on the developments
needed in order to decide whether to
confirm or amend the plan. There’s
enough scope for substantial change.”
In the coming years, a sliding scale
gradually freezes more of the engine and
allows fewer changes to the point where,
in 2019 and ’ 20, only the ERS wiring
loom, engine-mounted electrical
components and the pressure charging
system from the exhaust flanges to
turbine inlet are free. In effect, that’s a
total freeze. New manufacturers can join
the process along the way, but are bound
by identical constraints (see sidebar).
So Ferrari and Renault will both
improve. But Mercedes is also making
improvements, and its 2015 engine
package is known to be more powerful. It’s
a fast-moving target, and one source close
to Renault suggested that, even with all
the changes, a realistic target is only to
halve the gap to Mercedes this winter.
But these engines are only in year one.
With the prodigious financial, technical and
intellectual resources in F1, there is still a lot
to come from them in the seasons ahead.
There’s a difference between being
late to the party and being
fashionably tardy. But which one is
Honda, which returns to F1 after a
six-season absence next year for the
second year of the new engine rules?
The Japanese auto maker, winner of a
combined total of 11 constructors’ and
drivers’ titles, returns to F1 with old ally
McLaren to win. But even Yasuhisa Arai
(ABOVE), who heads the project, admits
that “we have both advantages and
disadvantages” from the late start.
There’s more time for research and
development and the chance to study
what Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault
have been doing. But Honda cannot
test in anything even vaguely
resembling an F1 car before the end of
this season and, given the timescale,
there’s a limit to how much of what it
learned from watching the rest can be
incorporated into its 2015 power unit.
Results will dictate whether Honda’s
approach is the right one. But,
realistically, winning from the outset
would be a sensational achievement.
And the grapevine suggests Honda has
some way to go. In just two-thirds of a
season, the current manufacturers
have made huge strides with software
improvements. Dyno work can only
substitute for some of that experience.
And if Honda does lag behind, only
77 percent of its power unit design isn’t
locked by the engine freeze for its
second year in 2016, as opposed to just
over 92 percent that the current engine
makers are permitted to change in ’ 15,
meaning catching up will be harder.
But...never underestimate Honda.
Honda, which recently released an image
of its 2015 V6 (ABOVE), has had a year to
observe what its opposition has done so far.
pLAYinG CAtCH-up or
pLAYinG it CooL?
2015: HONDA IS BACK
“The trick is to work
out which are the most
profitable engine changes
in terms of performance”
YEAR OPEN CHANGEABLE
2015 92.5% 48.5%
2016 77% 38%
2017 77% 30%
2018 65% 23%
2019 5% 5%
2020 5% 5%
ENGINE FREEZE PROGRESSION
For 2015, a manufacturer can change 48.5% of its ’ 14
power unit. But only 92.5% of the parts are eligible to
be changed. After that, both percentages fall each year.
Renault (ABOVE) has
some tough calls on
which parts to change
this winter. (TOP) With
the technology still
new, even Mercedes
has its bad days...