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Why F1 should adopt open engine regulations
Current hybrid units are beautiful works of engineering, but greater variation would allow technology to advance naturally

  By Lucas di Grassi

Sergio Perez Racing Point British Grand Prix 2019

Nobody can argue against the current Formula 1 power unit being a beautiful feat of engineering, but in my view it is pushed to a realm that is unhealthy.

If we had a rocket championship and we were pushing for the rocket to be electric, it would make no sense because rockets cannot, by nature, be electric. It's a similar story with F1 - it should be about having the fastest, most extreme racing cars on the planet, without needing to conform to being road relevant or environmentally friendly. We have Formula E and LMP1 in the World Endurance Championship for that purpose.

If we segment the series so F1 is about the most extreme cars, then it raises a very interesting question - what type of powertrain should they use? And should all teams be required to use the same?

The last time we had variation was in 2006, when Toro Rosso was the only team using V10s while everybody else had a V8. But that wouldn't just be the start.

Scott Speed 2006 Australian Grand Prix

One possible solution would be if only the monocoque plus driver and crash structures had to be homologated at a certain weight and the rest of the car could be as light as possible, at least still with the same 'lifing' as current components.

People talk very little about weight, but it's one of the main obstacles to an efficient package and it's not hard to see that current F1 cars are far too heavy.

F1 should be focused more towards extreme technology than commercial relevance

A rules set that follows the aerospace industry by allowing powertrains to be very light and powerful would help F1 appeal to manufacturers, but real-world relevance should be a byproduct of that development rather than the purpose of it.

Since there is no way that F1 can compete with commercially relevant technologies unless it goes fully electric, it should be focused more towards extreme technology than commercial relevance.

If F1 did pursue this path, I doubt that hybrid or electric would be the best solution for extreme performance straight away. But after experimenting with turbines combined with an electric motor, four-cylinder turbos, or even spec V10s that any team could buy, we might end up with a natural convergence. This is what F1 is missing.

Mattia Binotto, Andy Cowell

Mercedes and Ferrari could use their hybrid power units against a team using a V10, such as Racing Point, which doesn't sell cars and is in F1 purely for racing. Whether it runs a hybrid or not doesn't matter, so why not permit any such privateer team to use a cheaper, normally aspirated combustion engine if it wants?

The same goes for OEMs. Why not allow interchanging of engines from other categories like LMP1, so Toyota could use its existing hybrid technology in F1?

Under carefully managed conditions, it could be great for F1 to be the battleground for developing the most powerful drivetrain for a certain weight and amount of fuel used.

Of course, the hard part is designing the rules in a way that creates a technical development interesting to manufacturers without being so expensive that only one or two teams can afford it.

If you open the technology too much, the price will go super-high like the current hybrid engines, but if you make everything the same then manufacturers won't be interested because they can't develop their own product.

The way to do it definitely isn't through Equivalence of Technology (EoT), which should have no place in F1 because it just discourages teams from investing in R&D to make improvements, knowing they will instantly get capped.

WEC Shanghai 2016

Audi brought the first turbo-diesel hybrid to the WEC in 2012, but the EoT always capped the fuel tank at around two-third of the other teams using petrol because the diesel engine was so much more efficient.

But as diesel cars were heavier and we were not allowed to use our fuel advantage anyway, we couldn't use the same class of energy as the petrol cars. In this way, EoT damaged the development of the most efficient drivetrain.

EoT damaged the development of the most efficient drivetrain

One way to do it is to follow the Formula E model of only allowing certain parts of the drivetrain be developed.

Having a small box in which to develop the powertrain creates a very interesting dynamic because teams are free to develop as they want but can't gain a huge advantage on the race track. There's no EoT, but it creates very interesting racing.

Maybe it's something F1 could learn from.

Robin Frijns Lucas Di Grassi Formula E Monaco 2019

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