SEPTEMBER 18, 2009

Are there enough engines in F1 in 2010?

A year ago Formula 1 had six engine manufacturers involved. Ferrari provided engines for six cars; Renault and Toyota for four cars each and Mercedes, BMW and Honda were supplying two cars each, although Honda had started the year with four cars. By the end of this year we will have lost Honda and BMW and perhaps others as well. We will have gained Cosworth, although this is a very different organisation to the old Cosworth F1 team. The departures began in 2003 and accelerated in 2004 when Ford sold the business and there were further changes at the end of 2006 when Cosworth left F1, having run out of customer teams, as the manufacturers offered teams more than an independent manufacturer was able to do.

Among those who have departed in recent years are the company's main F1 man Bernard Ferguson (now consulting), and a string of engineers including former F1 designers Nick Hayes (who is working with Richard Childress Racing in NASCAR), Rob White (now at Renault F1), Alex Hitzinger (now at Red Bull F1), Simon Corbyn (now chief experimental engineer at Rolls-Royce) and Andy Cowell, the last-named who went with a number of others to Mercedes in the winter of 2006/2007 and is credited with the recent success of the Mercedes-Benz F1 engines. Also gone are engineers Jon Hilton (now running Flybrid Systems), Geraint Castleton-White (now at Lotus Cars Ltd) and John Marston (now with the FIA).

The technical team is now run by Bruce Wood, who has been with the company since 1987, but pent most of his time working in CART. The company's general manager is Jog Lall, who took on the role at the end of last year and has been with Cosworth since joining from Delphi in 2005.

The idea of getting back into F1 kicked off in October last year when the FIA asked for tenders for a spec F1 engine. Cosworth won that tender to redevelop the 2006 CA V8 engine, which was built for Williams in 2006. This was designed for the new engine rules at the time that mandated a minimum height for the centre of gravity height and a minimum weight. The centre of gravity and weight limits have not changed and so the basics of the engines are unchanged but Cosworth had obviously fallen behind in terms of developing fuel-efficiency, which is very important in 2010 as there are no longer going to be fuel stops. The engine will also be limited to 18,000rpm. Initially the FIA was planning to make a concession for Cosworth to allow the engines to rev up to 20,000rpm. This was over-ruled by the other F1 teams and Cosworth had to agree to the same limitations. Cosworth says that by lowering the revs the fuel efficiency of the engine has improved on what it was in 2006 and that stories that the engines will have to carry a great deal more fuel than its rivals will prove to be wide of the mark. Cosworth believes that reliability will not be a problem. Cosworth says that it will be producing a KERS system but probably not until 2011.

If all goes to plan Cosworth will supply eight cars; Mercedes will do the same; Ferrari will provide engines for its own operation plus Scuderia Toro Rosso and the team formerly known as BMW Sauber. The Toyota and Renault teams will have their own engines and one will need to supply V8s to the 14th team. If either Toyota or Renault leave F1, Ferrari could possibly expand to a fourth supply to help out. The only real problem would be if both withdraw.