The Belgian GP weekend was important not only because of the action on the track but also for the decisions that were (and weren’t) made outside it.
Indeed, late on Friday morning, the F1 Commission, made up of the top management of Formula 1 and representatives of the ten teams, met to discuss various topics.
These included the question relating to tyre warmers for 2024 and the levelling of the performance of the Power Units.
While a decision was actually expected on the first question, which in fact was taken, on the second matter, only preliminary talks were scheduled by Alpine to understand if there was the will on the part of the other engine manufacturers to open negotiations together with the Federation.
Most engine manufacturers’ teams do not want power unit performance to be balanced
In the press release issued on Friday, the FIA indicated that “in relation to the Power Units, at the beginning of this regulatory cycle, it was agreed with the Power Unit Manufacturers that there would be the possibility of adjusting performance from 2023.
“In order to prevent a significant difference in performance from being stuck for an extended period. The FIA has analyzed the performance of the various power units during the first half of 2023 and has concluded that there is a significant performance gap between the competitors.”
Starting from the beginning of last season, the endothermic component of the power unit, also called ICE (Internal Combustion Engine), can no longer be developed, as well as the hybrid part, albeit starting from 1 September 2022.
The decision taken was largely influenced by costs, thus allowing engine manufacturers to shift their investments to the engines that will come into force with the new regulatory cycle, i.e. starting from 2026.
The freezing of power units can only be released for exceptions relating to reliability. However, the FIA’s objective has always been to not penalize any engine manufacturer for years or more of non-competitiveness.
Alpine wanted to bring this topic to the agenda, speaking of a gap from the best drive unit of 30 HP. Even according to competing teams, the French engine is the least powerful and makes up for the gap to the other power units.
However, a number of manufacturers said they don’t think the deficit is as big as Alpine claims. So also according to the FIA, which in any case spoke of a “significant gap” as above 2%, in terms of power alone endothermic (ICE), and because nothing can be done to change it due to freezing.
However, the fact remains that all the players involved are open to finding solutions to guarantee a suitable equalisation of the various power units, with a gap that must remain below 2%.
This enthusiasm is so much so that further debate has been agreed upon at the next Committee Advisory on how to create some additional opportunities, primarily currently for Alpine.
“The power unit manufacturers represented at the Commission have agreed to mandate the Power Unit Advisory Committee to look into this matter and make proposals to the Commission,” the FIA stated in its press release.
We want to bring the equalization of the Power Units already introduced for 2026 to next year’s regulation
What is clear is that the FIA has suggested a solution that favours reducing the performance of the best engines to bring them into line with the others.
Rather than helping those who are lagging behind, the majority of motorists have expressed their willingness not to introduce a real Balance of Performance (BoP) to control the performance of the power units. H
However, the idea of giving a “free” boost via the fuel flow to the engine in a power deficit is also not welcome, so a decisive change to the technical regulation would be needed since, currently, any form of fuel flow regulation is forbidden.
A more affordable idea is to use the method that was written for the new 2026 regulations.
“We have a rule in the 2026 regulations where it says teams sit down in good faith and discuss what can be done if an engine is more than 3% behind the best,” said Toto Wolff.
For the new power unit cycle, it was decided that in the first five races of each season in the period 2026-2030, the FIA will monitor the performance of the internal combustion engine, and an average power will be calculated for each ICE.
Any engine builder who has more than 3% less power than the most powerful engine will be granted additional development, such as extending the use of their Test Benches and opening some areas for development.
A similar approach to what has already been implemented with regard to aerodynamics where, depending on their position in the Constructors at mid-season and at the end, one team has more hours in the tunnel than another in the second half of the season or later.
And as with reliability concessions, poor performance concessions will be discussed in good faith with all power unit manufacturers.
In short, this is the objective of the next Advisory Committee relating to engines, that is, to try to find the majority to anticipate the ‘performance safety net’ for next season, with all the relevant details, which usually require many weeks to be defined and approved.
Author: Piergiuseppe Donadoni
Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang