Formula 1 announced a deal with the sport’s four engine manufacturers on Friday to reduce prices over three years from 2017, ensure all teams are supplied and reduce performance gaps.
The governing International Automobile Federation (FIA) said in a statement that the agreement had been approved by its World Motor Sport Council and would now be written into the regulations.
As part of the agreement, thrashed out over months, the FIA committed to stable power unit regulations until 2020 — something the manufacturers needed to make the engines more affordable.
Research into “improving the sound”, which means cranking up the volume to appease fans yearning for the old ear-splitting V8 wail, was under way with the aim of implementation by 2018 at the latest.
The 1.6-litre V6 turbo hybrid power units, made up of six main parts including the internal combustion engine and energy recovery systems, were introduced in 2014.
While far more fuel efficient, and technologically relevant to road car production, than ageing V8 engines, the new units have also been considerably more expensive.
A customer supply can cost well in excess of 20 million euros ($22.89 million), depending on the manufacturer, whereas FIA president Jean Todt has said 12 million would be an acceptable amount.
The FIA had threatened to introduce an independent power unit supplier if a deal could not be reached.
It said the new agreement would reduce the cost by one million euros in 2017 compared to 2016 prices. From 2018, the price would drop by a further three million euros.
“Cost reduction on power units will be driven by changes to the sporting and technical regulations in 2017 and 2018, with a progressive reduction of the number of power unit elements per driver per season,” the FIA said.
Drivers are currently allowed five units per season, with penalties applied if they exceed their allocation.
The FIA said there would be an obligation to supply all teams, a bone of contention last year when Mercedes, Ferrari and Honda all ruled out providing engines to rivals Red Bull after that team fell out with Renault.
Red Bull are now using Renault units with TAG-Heuer branding.
Measures to reduce the performance gap, with Mercedes dominant since 2014 and newest arrivals Honda still some way off the pace, would include the removal of a system of ‘tokens’ limiting development during the season.
The FIA is pleased to announce that, following extensive work done in conjunction with the four Power Unit manufacturers involved in the FIA Formula One World Championship, and with the support of the Commercial Rights Holder, a global agreement on power units has been reached for the 2017-2020 period
The agreement has been approved by all levels of the F1 governance structure, including the World Motor Sport Council, and will now be included as Technical and Sporting regulations for the 2017 and 2018 FIA Formula One World Championship.
The global agreement on power units covers four key areas relating to the cost and supply price, obligation to supply, performance convergence and the sound of the power units.
As part of the power unit agreement, adherence to the measures outlined below will see the FIA commit to supporting power unit regulations stability and the maintaining of the current Formula One governance structure for the 2017-2020 period.
- Agreement has been reached on a significant reduction in the price of power unit supply to customer teams and a reduction in cost to manufacturers over the coming years.
- In 2017 the power unit price for customer teams will be reduced by €1m per season compared to 2016.
- From 2018, the annual supply price will be reduced by a further €3m.
- Cost reduction on power units will be driven by changes to the Sporting and Technical regulations in 2017 and 2018, with a progressive reduction of the number of power unit elements per driver per season.
- Supply of power units to customer teams will be ensured, as the homologation procedure will include an “obligation to supply” that will be activated in the event of a team facing an absence of supply.
- The new agreement includes a package of measures aimed at achieving performance convergence.
- The token system is to be removed from 2017
- Additionally, constraints on power unit part weights, dimensions and materials, and on boost pressure will be introduced in 2017 and in 2018.