Formula 1

Formula 1 on brink of new spending war warns Christian Horner

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Formula 1 is on the brink of another spending war, this time on the development of engines warns Red Bull boss Christian Horner.

Horner made the claim as his team's supplier Renault join Ferrari and the newest arrival on the scene, Honda, in calling for a relaxation of engine development during the season.

Currently, development of the new 1.6 litre V6 hybrid power units is frozen until the end of the season but during the winter, each of the three current engine suppliers will get a set number of 'tokens' to develop their units as they wish until a new homologation date is set and development halted again for 2015.

As for Honda, they are preparing to join the grid with McLaren from next year and will only have to halt full-scale development at the homologation date.

The call for a relaxation on the development of the power unit comes after a year of domination by German car maker Mercedes.

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The Silver Arrow has won 15 of the 18 races so far this year and the works team have broken records left, right and centre en route to their first Constructors' championship. Therefore it is unsurprising that Mercedes are the only hurdle to the relaxation of development coming into effect.

It is believed they offered a restricted amount of in-season development during the meeting of teams and suppliers last weekend in Sao Paulo, however, their idea was rejected by Ferrari and Renault.

For any change to the engine freeze to be allowed in 2015, the motion has to have unanimous support from all teams involved, however, from 2016 and beyond any change would only need majority support which, with five teams currently outweighing Mercedes' four, would mean the motion would go through.

"A full-scale opening up of engine development from 2016 would only cause another dramatic increase in costs." - Christian Horner

However, Horner is warning that, with the cost of the new V6 power units partially related to the current financial issues smaller teams are facing in F1, a full-scale opening up of engine development from 2016 would only cause another dramatic increase in costs.

"I think that's the only option because with a majority vote '16, '17, '18 can be open, which is ridiculous because it just means we're all going to end up spending a lot more money over a longer period of time," he told the BBC's Andrew Benson.

"Whereas it should be opened to allow Renault, Ferrari, Honda to close the gap."

Indeed it is this competitiveness issue that has created the current calls for the relaxation of development in the first place, the three engine suppliers believe that, under the current rules, even the opening up in the coming Winter months doesn't give enough scope to allow them to at least close some of the huge margin between themselves and the pacesetting Mercedes.

"There are no guarantees we can close that gap significantly to Mercedes but not having the opportunity to do so seems pretty unpalatable," Horner added.

V8 return?

With the current financial issues in Formula 1, Horner even suggested returning back to the much cheaper V8 engines that the sport used up until the end of last year but Mercedes quickly doused those ideas claiming it would quit the sport if such a move occurred.

Even Renault, Red Bull's engine supplier, had said their participation in the sport would come to an end if the move to the current V6 hybrids had not occurred but in response to those claims the 40-year-old blasted: "They might pull out anyway [because of the increasing costs]. It's just a crazy situation; completely nuts."

Other agendas

There are several other factors that have to be taken into account when adopting an opinion on this matter. After all, Horner's Red Bull team has seen its four-year grip on the title ended in quite spectacular fashion.

Indeed in these final few races his team is struggling to even make the podium as the longevity of the Mercedes power unit as well as its superior power and driveability shines through in these closing Grands Prix.

For sure he has a point about the large increase in cost relating to the switch to the V6 power units with some bills three or four times higher than last year in most cases, but its far from the only reason why teams like Caterham and Marussia have left the grid and others are struggling merely to survive.

Room for compromise

At the same time, however, the competitiveness of the F1 grid does need to be looked at, while it is far from Mercedes fault that they have dominated the 2014 season if it is a theme for the next five years or so other suppliers will question their participation and fans will continue to switch off.

The reason why the V8 era worked so well was that the various suppliers who participated were very close in terms of power output and that was what put such a large emphasis on aerodynamics.

It is true that a full-scale return to unlimited spending and development of engines must be avoided, but a compromise must be reached so that changes can be made but at a reasonable expense so that some teams are not priced out of F1.

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