Tech Draft: Mercedes hold all the aces in F1 PU future

The Monza weekend has come and gone, and whilst Formula 1 is a buzz of opinions in the fallout of all the on-track action, in the boardroom the big boys of the power unit suppliers have met.

Together they started trying to pave a path forward for the next generation of F1 PU units, but it appears Mercedes are on a mission to obstruct progress unless it is on their own terms.

With all parties except Mercedes finally willing to adopt a future PU architecture free of complex and expensive MGU-H elements, Daimler CEO Ola Kallenius was begrudgingly forced to agree in principle to the omission, but only under the proviso that other specific concessions are made to appease Mercedes, as they seemingly hold a gun to the head of the process.

We shouldn’t make any mistake about it, the biggest obstacle in F1’s path to reaching a consensus about the future of F1 power units, the inclusion of the VW Group as a supplier, and even the very time frame for the change, is Mercedes.

Omitting the MGU-H elements will not only reduce complexity and costs, but also allow for the use of regenerative motors on the front axles, and make for noisier ICE’s.

The meeting also included discussion of the following possibilities for future PU’s:

  • The possibility of the adoption of a standardized six-cylinder block with free cylinder head and combustion chamber design to help reduce design time and entry costs for new suppliers
  • A greater emphasis on the use of biofuels in the ICE which will theoretically allow the dropping of fuel flow limits
  • An increase in ERS output from 120 to 350kw
  • The separation of PU manufacturer and World Constructors Championship manufacturer entities to better contain WCC teams financial cost capping

Mercedes have stipulated that for them to be willing to honor their agreement in principle to follow suit in settling to drop the MGU-H technology the following concessions must be made:

  • That any new suppliers be responsible for payment of a ‘commitment’ fee for the right to be a new F1 PU supplier
  • That Red Bull Powertrains not be recognized as an existing PU supplier, but rather a new one, and said fee to be payable by them
  • That the current Concorde Agreement be extended by at least 12 months, effectively quashing the FIA and F1’s ability to formulate new PU regulations unilaterally without consultation for that period

In considering the demands being made by Mercedes, it is relevant to acknowledge at the same time that in 2020, Mercedes were the last and the most reluctant signatory to the current Concorde Agreement, rationalizing that its best interests were not being best pursued by the lower entry fees into F1 for potential new entrants that were proposed at the time.

Even more interesting are current rumours that Saudi interests have potentially indicated a willingness to purchase F1 from Liberty, and it is highly likely that the Saudi way of doing business does not work well with ultimatums and bully tactics.

It would seem that at this juncture in time that F1 is indeed at an important cross-road of power, pardon the pun.

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