F1-turbo-power-units engines

F1 Commission to discuss power unit equalization in Spa

F1-turbo-power-units engines

The F1 Commission is set to convene at this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix at Spa, as Formula 1 teams and the FIA plan to discuss the power unit equalization topic.

F1 has homologated the current engines since 2022, with their development frozen until 2025, as in 2026, a new generation of power units will be introduced.

Under the freeze, the power unit manufacturers are only allowed to bring upgrades “for the sole purposes of reliability, safety, cost saving, or minimal incidental changes” as per the FIA technical regulations.

The concept of engine equalization is not a new practice for F1 as it was applied back in 2007 during the naturally aspirated V8 era with the target of preventing manufacturers from exploiting reliability upgrades to gain performance.

While the latest freeze in 2022 did not include in the regulations any provisions for engine equalization, the topic has been raised recently following a study by the FIA that showed the Renault power unit is around 30hp down on its rivals.

During the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend, Alpine Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer, whose team is runs Renault engines, was asked to confirm the French marque’s power deficit.

He said: “All the teams do the same analysis and the FIA does its analysis. We are significantly down.”

Szafnauer can count on the support of Red Bull counterpart Christian Horner on the matter, who is open to discuss the engine equalization concept, and as he probably knows what it means to run with an underpowered F1 car following his own experience.

That goes back to 2014 when Renault still powered Red Bull and its turbo-hybrid power unit had a huge disadvantage compared to Mercedes and Ferrari power units.

Horner open to a sensible discussion

Horner commented on the subject, he told Motorsport.com: “It is about seeing what are the deficits. The FIA have all of the data and they should present exactly what the differences are.

“I think that would be fascinating for everybody to see, and I think that if there is a deficit under homologation, then it’s something that we should be sensible about – otherwise, you’re locked in for two years. I wouldn’t be averse to a sensible discussion,” the Red Bull boss added.

Szafnauer in return appreciated Horner’s stance, he told the media in Budapest: “I am glad Christian [Horner] said that.

“If you look back, the reason the engines were frozen was because Honda was pulling out at that time and Red Bull didn’t have an engine department to continue developing,” he pointed out. “The reason we all agreed was for the benefit of Red Bull, so it is nice that Christian recognises that.

“And, at the time of the arrangement, there was also an agreement among the engine manufacturers that if anybody fell out by 1% then there would be good faith discussions to bring that parity back,” Szafnauer revealed.

The Alpine boss reckoned that the disparity in power unit performances despite the freeze that took effect in 2022 was because teams were allowed to bring reliability upgrades which they used as a loophole to increase performance.

He said: “Everybody is allowed to fix their reliability issues and, hidden in reliability issues, can sometimes be power upgrades. It depends on what reliability issue you are fixing.”

It will be interesting to see how F1 Teams and the FIA tackle this matter. Will Renault be given freedom to develop their power units? Or will there be a clamp down on the performance of other manufacturers with more powerful power units?

(Additional reporting by Agnes Carlier)