Honda website
Honda website

JUNE 3, 2001

F1 engine supplies

THERE are signs that the car manufacturers in Formula 1 are moving towards multiple engine supplies. This is logical for them and useful for the smaller teams although for the moment they still have to pay for engines. There is an argument, made loudly by the likes of Tom Walkinshaw of Arrows, that no team should have to pay for engines and that car manufacturers wanting to be involved in F1 should given undertakings to supply teams (just as happens with tire companies) but whether or not this can be done free of charge is another issue.

The car manufacturers want to be involved with secondary teams for several reasons. Politically-speaking it is logical. Ferrari supplies Prost and Sauber and as a result of the deals has three votes in all F1 technical matters. That is part of the deal. Renault and Ford would like similar political clout, if only to keep Ferrari in check.

The second advantage is that the current system allows the engine manufacturers to offset their costs. Engine supplies cost about $25m a year and most of that is pure profit which can be pumped back into the F1 engine program so reducing costs and therefore keeping down potential criticism from within companies or from shareholders.

The third gain with a second engine supply is that if the customer teams are effective it makes life much more difficult for rival teams. This year Sauber is doing well and points have been taken away from Williams and McLaren, leaving Ferrari with an advantage.

In addition to all this, the testing bans which are now coming into force make life very difficult for engine manufacturers to do as much testing as they would wish to do. Transient dynamometers obviously help this problem but there is still no question that the best way to make an engine reliable is to test on the race tracks so that the engines are subjected to all the forces which even transient dynos cannot imitate.

With so much logic pointing towards multiple engine supplies, life is going to be rather difficult for independent engine suppliers such as Asiatech. The company can only really hope to keep going in F1 if the engines are supplied for free or for much smaller sums that manufacturer units.

Asiatech, however, has much bigger plans than just being an engine supplier with the intention to acquire a team in the years ahead. It is a good idea but it is going to need about half a billion dollars to pull it off. Whether or not the people who have invested in the company are willing to spend that much remains to be seen.