Reliability was at an all-time high last season, with F1 teams consistently extending engine life to greater levels. With that said, 2024 could become a far more testing year for engine manufacturers across the field.
Part of what made the latest F1 campaign relatively predictable was the absence of reliability issues.
Unlike in previous years, there were several races where mechanical failures were entirely absent. Aside from limiting the presence of Safety Cars, this meant that DNFs rarely became a limiting factor for success.
The situation could change in 2024, though, with a record number of races on the calendar. In combination with this all-time level of on-track action, engine allocations will be reduced.
In April last year, the FIA made an amendment to the regulations. The maximum number of legal engine components was increased from three to four, giving teams an additional cushion.
As a result, engine penalties were uncommon in the 2023 campaign. At the time, this adjustment was deemed reasonable across the field – owing to the packed schedule.
However, this will not be the case in 2024. Engine allocation has been lowered to its previous limit, with only three power units allowed across the 24-race calendar. This includes six Sprint race weekends.
This will impact teams differently across the field, with F1’s political nature playing a factor in this decision.
Reports indicate that Mercedes and Honda will be pleased with this change, acutely aware of their very strong engine reliability. Their rivals, Ferrari and Renault, are less enthusiastic about this new limit.
Not only does this punish teams for any unforced errors, but it will also force adjustments in seasonal calculations.
Ferrari, for example, might be tempted to complete the season with the aim of avoiding penalties. Whilst this approach may appear logical, it is also significantly more risky.
It would require power units to be stretched more thinly across the season. Moreover, it would assume that reliability failures will not interrupt a very aggressive plan.
Instead, teams could take a more pragmatic approach. This would involve taking a strategic grid penalty later in the schedule. One weekend would be sacrificed for – in theory – a more manageable approach across the 24 rounds.
Of course, only time will tell how teams cope with these adjustments.
Regardless, it seems likely that reliability will become a more impactful aspect of Formula 1 in the 2024 season.
Author: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang