F1 indecision forces Daimler to put brake on engine research

German manufacturer saves £11.2m by cutting development of its Championship-winning designs
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The Independent Online

Daimler has revealed that it cut spending on research and development of its Formula One engines by 21 per cent last year due to uncertainty over future regulations.

The German car manufacturer's high performance engines (HPE) division makes the 2.4 litre V8 engines used by McLaren, Force India and the Mercedes team which it owns.

The division's accounts for the year-ending 31 December 2009 were released earlier this month and show that research and development expenditure reversed from £52.8m to £41.6m, giving total costs of £91.4m. But, this has not dented Daimler's on-track performance. Its engines powered the Championship-winning Brawn team last year and McLaren currently lies second just eight points behind Red Bull. It may not stay this way for long.

In a bid to cut costs, F1's governing body, the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), restricted engine development in 2006. This expires in 2013, but HPE has been unable to begin work on developing new engines because the FIA has not decided on their specification.

"Due to the FIA uncertainties and pressure on cost we have not undertaken future development," says Thomas Fuhr, HPE's managing director. The company suffered a further blow in June last year when F1's teams dropped the energy recovery technology which had been introduced at the beginning of 2009. HPE spent £16.2m developing the devices and in 2009 it was hit with a £1.4m impairment charge on the value of the assets since they are not being used this year.

To stabilise costs, F1's chief executive, Bernie Ecclestone, says that the sport needs a more independent rule-making framework than the current structure, which involves the teams putting proposals to the FIA. "You can't have competitors writing the rules," he said. Adding: "We maybe need an independent body, independent from the teams and the FIA, writing the regulations."

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