Formula 1

Adrian Newey warns unlimited engine development will only benefit top F1 spenders

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Only Formula 1's biggest spenders will benefit from unlimited engine development, that is the warning from Red Bull designer Adrian Newey.

At a recent meeting of the sport's manufacturers, it was agreed the token system currently in place to restrict development of the current power units would be scrapped from 2017.

The system was introduced to stop the four engine suppliers, Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault and Honda from increasing what are already eye-watering budgets to improve their V6 turbo hybrid units.


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Upgrades were allowed to be made but different parts of the highly complex power unit carried different token values.

Now, though, under the belief that it was preventing suppliers from catching the leading Mercedes, development will be opened up.

Newey predicts "spending frenzy"

However, the man behind championship winning cars with Williams and McLaren before Red Bull, sees an opening up of the rules as causing the opposite effect.

"If you look back on the original technical working group meetings and minutes from 2012-13, the agreement at that point was that the engines would be frozen but teams that were behind would still be allowed to keep developing," Newey was quoted by

"That's not happened.

"So it becomes a spending frenzy...the numbers being spent by the big manufacturers are eye-watering and so I think potentially for companies such as Renault who aren't prepared to spend that sort of money it means actually the gaps get bigger not smaller."

Unrelenting development

Indeed with Renault known to have the smallest budget of the four engine suppliers, it could spell future trouble for Newey's team Red Bull.

With Mercedes already predicting output above 900 brake horsepower from its 2016 unit, the spending power of the German manufacturer means their progress will continue to be unrelenting.

"These engines are still relatively infant technology," Newey explained.

"We have already seen the steps that can be made. There's no reason to suspect they've [Mercedes] suddenly reached a plateau."

Customer teams disadvantaged

One area that the Briton also thinks needs addressing is the rules regarding how engines are supplied.

While the actual power unit that goes in the back of a customer team is the same as goes into a works car, software, fuel and other components do not and that, Newey feels, is giving Mercedes and Ferrari the ability to maintain an advantage.

"It's very curious to me that we have this set of regulations where the manufacturer has to supply the same hardware to other teams but it's no under no obligation to supply the same software and, therefore, the same performance," he said.

"Nobody is complaining about this because the customer teams can't complain because their contract doesn't allow them to."

Increasing productivity should be the focus

While it's a valid point that manufacturers with big budgets can do more with fewer restrictions, one aspect that Newey doesn't consider is how productive a manufacturer can be at maximising its performance.

We saw last year how Honda, who have a budget not far behind Mercedes and Ferrari got it horribly wrong with their first specification unit. While in recent years, we have seen small teams like Lotus and Williams continue to punch above their weight by gaining the most from their own strengths despite their lack of budget.

Squeezing the most performance out of every pound, dollar or euro invested is the aim of the game and that is where Renault have failed to match their rivals.

Lower engine prices may create conundrums

Ultimately a key factor in what could be seen as a future spending war will be the push to lower prices to customer teams.

With the suppliers set to lose a third or so of the income they currently generate, the decision has to be made if the hole needs filling in or if they can save costs elsewhere.

It's the small teams, not the manufacturers who have been suffering from higher costs and if the end of the token system doesn't affect them in the pocket then the move is fine by me.

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