AUGUST 7, 2008
Engine failures in F1
What is interesting about Felipe Massa's engine failure in Hungary is that it is a sign that engine development is not dormant as it is supposed to be with the FIA-imposed engine freeze.
In the modern era F1 engines do not generally fail. Teams test everything an enormous amount (both on the track and on rigs at factories) and the percentages of cars that finish races are higher than ever before as a result. In an effort to reduce costs and improve reliability, the FIA introduced an engine freeze which meant that - in theory - nothing could be done to the F1 engines. But it is clear that some manufacturers looked at ways around the freeze and began to request changes to their engines, necessary for reliability, which had the side-effect of improving performance. This is old-style Formula 1 thinking, working within the rules, but pushing them to the limit.
The teams who have not done that have inevitably suffered as a result.
Flavio Briatore recently told Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport that his team had conformed with both the spirit and the letter of the rules and complained that others used a different approach. The result is that there is now a gap of perhaps 20-30 horsepower between the fastest cars and those at the back. And people are pushing again.
Felipe Massa's engine failure in Hungary was a clear sign that risks are being taken in an effort to win.
That is the essence of Formula 1 ingenuity and, as such, should be applauded.