Honda website
Honda website

DECEMBER 7, 2006

The talk is of chassis design

The Formula 1 team principals will meet later this week in Monaco to discuss a number of issues but the big question is going to be one of chassis design as there are very serious questions being asked about who is designing the Scuderia Toro Rosso chassis for 2007 and the Super Aguri F1 car.

The rules in 2008 will allow teams to build cars for more than one team. This is a concept which is not new in the automotive industry where the use of platform engineering is now widespread with very different vehicles sharing non-visible componentry creating cars which are very similar to one another (and thus cutting costs) but selling them as very different brands. The most dramatic version of this is a VW platform which is used for the Caddy. Touran, Golf/Rabbit, Jetta and Eos models but also for the Audi A3, the Audi TT, the Seat Altea, Toledo and Leon models and the Skoda Octavia.

In F1 terms this means that a manufacturer can build four cars for the price for slightly more than two and thus increase the cost-benefit ration of the sport. This is allowed from 2008 onwards and the Toro Rosso and Super Aguri teams, plus probably Prodrive, have been created with this is mind. The problem is that the teams have to get through 2007 without obviously using cars belonging to others. Toro Rosso this year used the old Red Bull Racing design because legally-speaking it was designed by Ford rather than RBR. Super Aguri used revamped versions of an ancient Arrows. There are fears that this year the two teams will try to cut corners.

Gerhard Berger has said that Scuderia Toro Rosso will be building its own car in 2007 and that this will not be based on the Red Bull chassis. This is quite a claim given that most other sources are saying that the Italian team will be relying heavily on its sister team next year not only for parts but also for the design of the car which most people seem to think has been designed by Adrian Newey and his team. This is a very contentious issue as some of the other teams, notably Williams, feels it is wrong to allow this to happen in 2007 given the rules that exist.

The Honda-Super Aguri case appears to be slightly different with Honda deciding some time ago that it would not risk getting into difficulties and commissioning a third party design team to work on a new car, in case it was necessary.

We can reveal that the mysterious third party is an organisation which is an engineering consultancy business run by design engineer Paul White and a small staff of engineers who began work in an office near Silverstone to design a car for Super Aguri while the normal design team under Mark Preston spent their time working on contunuous upgrading of the old Arrows cars with which the team started the year.

The manufacturing will be done at Super Aguri F1's base. White is an F1 veteran who worked with Gary Anderson on the design of the very first Jordan F1 car with Mark Smith and Andrew Green. He was briefly an F1 race engineer with Martin Brundle in 1996 but in recent years has done consulting work with Toyota.