Formula One’s engine manufacturers have met to discuss how to reduce team costs and head off the threat of the sport introducing a cheaper independent engine.
Governing body the FIA has put out tenders for the manufacture and supply of independent engines and received interest from several companies.
Current suppliers are using their regulatory power to block the idea – saying it hurts their business plans – and are instead pledging to come up with their own way of reducing costs for customer teams.
Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault and Honda plan a series of meetings before reporting back proposals on January 15 to the F1 Commission.
“We are going to work seriously toward a new solution,” Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene said on Saturday.
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff agreed, describing supply costs as “a very legitimate cause”.
“We are going to come back with, hopefully, a concept that is workable, financeable and that ticks all those boxes,” he said.
The FIA has said if the proposals from current manufacturers are not good enough, the idea of an independent engine – whose cost to teams would be subsidised – could be in place for 2017.
For Arrivabene, that may be way too soon, saying “we try to do our best but even the Wizard of Oz couldn’t be able to do it for 2017”.
Renault, which is purely an engine supplier but in discussions about taking over Lotus and becoming a team owner again, said reducing costs too much could destroy the case for being involved in the sport.
“We need to be extremely careful about whatever can threaten or destabilise our business case in Formula One,” chief Cyril Abiteboul said.
“Subsidizing the cost of engines to independent teams – even though we appreciate it might be a necessity to be in the sport and to have a healthy sport – is something that is endangering the business case.”
The introduction of complex V6 hybrid-power engines in 2014 largely transformed F1 – moving from aerodynamic design being the decisive factor in a car’s competitiveness to the power unit being the key, while making those power units vastly more expensive.
Christian Horner, team principal of Red Bull, which gets its engines from Renault and is the most politically powerful of the customer teams, said that had been “a mistake”.
“It’s expensive. The technology is fantastic but we’re not doing a great job of communicating that, and it’s put a situation where probably half the grid is currently insolvent,” Horner said.