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GP Week : Issue 232
Formula One's engine suppliers have reacted angrily to the FIAs proposed cost cap on customer power units, heightening tensions within the paddock. Shortly after the United States Grand Prix the FIA announced plans to open a tender seeking a low cost independent engine supplier for the sport. Currently there are only four suppliers, Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault and Honda, with costs for the current hybrid turbocharged engines reaching astronomical levels. Introduced as a way to align the sport more closely to the automotive industry, the current engines actually share little in common with road going technology. They've also been universally unpopular with fans and promoters courtesy of their muffled exhaust note, a by-product of the energy recovery systems, not to mention unreliable. Strict grid penalties have seen drivers relegated for mechanical failures, another unpopular and confusing development for fans, with Jenson Button in Mexico picking up the equivalent of a 70-place penalty. More worrying however is the power the new regulations have given the engine manufacturers, who are not only able to command hefty sums for their products but also determine who can or cannot use them. With only four suppliers it gives teams little choice, as Red Bull can attest. In an effort to find a solution, the FIA proposed an €12million cap on the cost of engines, a move Ferrari vetoed. "We exercised our veto in line with our legitimate commercial right to do business as a power train manufacturer," explained Ferrari's Maurizio Arrivabene. "Why do I have to justify more? We are talking about commercial rights, we are not talking about budgets or anything else. "If somebody asks to give you a specification to produce something, you produce it in line with the specification. "Then if somebody wants to impose a price on that, what are you going to do?" Ferrari's position is shared by Mercedes, which it claims is already losing money on the supply of customer engines. "We already lose money on the engine side, substantial," claimed Mercedes' Toto Wolff. "The question is how much more do we lose if we continue to subsidise those engines to some of our partners, but it's already a deficit. "Partners expect the most competitive engine," Wolff added. "In order to have that, because it is a competitive environment, we spent substantial amounts in developing those engines. "Nobody has ever asked us how we plan to recover those or if someone can contribute to help us to recover [those costs]. "You can argue whether the marketing benefit or the development spend is right or wrong but we live in a world where we are all facing a commercial reality. "That commercial reality is that we need to be as efficient as possible and try to recover the best possible amount. "You cannot expect of anybody, any stakeholder in the sport, to have a charitable approach." FIA President Jean Todt, who has been notable throughout his reign for his absence, admitted he was disappointed by Ferrari's decision to veto the cost cap. "In this case I only see the possibility of introducing a more affordable engine that will allow the teams to be competitive," Todt said. The FIA is now investigating an alternative supply of affordable engines, announcing plans to open a tender in an attempt to attract companies such as Cosworth back into the sport. That however runs the risk of being vetoed again by Ferrari but is a point Todt claims he would be prepared to fight about. "The veto right which is in favour of Ferrari - and is a historic right - it has to be demonstrated that there is something that goes against their interests," Todt said. "Trying to suggest a customer engine is not against their interests - I'm happy, if needed, to debate on that. "It is necessary we look after the interests of the small teams.If [the teams] say we 'want it, we're happy' then we will move along and propose it at the next Strategy Group meeting where I'm quite optimistic it will be voted through. "It will then go on to the Formula 1 Commission and World Motor Sport Council." However it's not just the smaller teams that are impacted, as both Red Bull and Toro Rosso currently face an uncertain future. Though contracts are in place with Renault for 2016 there is an ever present threat that the teams could simply elect not to compete, while beyond that there is no certainty and no willingness from engine suppliers to help either team. "It is very frustrating to see that teams like Red Bull and Toro Rosso are struggling to get an engine," Todt admitted. "Saying that, I am not a judge of that: so probably you always have a reason why some things happen. "But we should be as supportive as we can be to allow them to be at the first race next year with one homologated engine." 7 GPWEEK.com // 7 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: F1 >>> news engine debate revs up