Aston Martin have taken a step closer to entering Formula 1 after deciding that the new engine regulations due to be introduced in 2021 meets their vision, despite opposition from Ferrari, Mercedes and Renault.
Ferrari have been vocal in their stance against the cost-cutting proposals, and have threatened to pull out of F1 if they feel that the regulations no longer meet their demands. The Italian manufacturer may not have won a world championship title for the last 10 years, but they believe that their position as the only marque to remain in F1 since it began more than 60 years ago gives them a considerable level of power in negotiations.
Ferrari also receives the most prize money, having received around £160m last year - £40m more than champions Mercedes – and the arrival of another competitor such as Aston Martin, along with the new engine rules, could see that number considerably reduced.
The chances of Aston becoming an engine supplier appear to be growing by the day, and chief executive officer Andy Palmer has confirmed that he will “probably” advise the company’s board to back plans to enter F1 as a power unit supplier. Under a current agreement with Red Bull, Aston Martin will become the new title sponsor of the four-time F1 constructors’ champions from 2018 onwards.
“It moves from probably I wouldn't propose it to the board to probably I would,” Palmer told the BBC.
However, Aston’s involvement would appear to depend on three key factors: reducing costs on engine development, capping the number of hours allowed to develop engines on ‘dynomometers’, and ensuring that the sport is exciting and appealing for fans.
“The issue is making the sport entertaining again,” added Palmer. “Which means put the driver back at the centre of the sport, whereas today we are talking about a turbocharger being the centre of the sport. I'm an engineer and I love the technology, but it's nuts.
“So at the very simplistic level we are a destructive force that I hope can be used to bring back the sport to what it was when I fell in love with it 40 years ago, which was entertainment with a concentration on the pilot and the chassis and aerodynamic surfaces and, yes, there is a little competitive advantage in the engine but it's not all about the engine.”
The situation surrounding the future direction of F1 engines appears to be crucial towards the futures of a number of teams, both those already in the championship and those considering an entry such as Aston and Porsche. Aston see F1 as a way of directly competing with Ferrari and McLaren in the mid-engined supercar market, but would only do so if there were enough eyes on the sport in the first place.
Another concern is the current engine penalty scheme that is employed in F1, which has seen huge grid penalties handed out over the last three years – Jenson Button still holds the record at 70 places at the 2015 Mexican Grand Prix – despite there only being 22 cars.
“How do you get demoted 35 places on the grid which only has 20 cars on it?” asked Palmer. “There are some absurdities.
“I grant you it is not all about the technical side of the engine but in the end you have to disrupt the sport back into being an entertainment that people understand in a modern era where people are looking at five different screens.
"Obviously there is a commercial reason for me doing it and a commercial reason for Red Bull doing it. But essentially our intentions align and it's fair to say we love the sport.”
With Liberty Media looking to give the sport a fresh look – as this week’s logo rebrand displayed – 2021 already looks to be one of the most radical shake-ups in recent memory due to the new engine regulations and potential team changes.
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