Martin Whitmarsh believes that the FIA must reconsider plans to introduce a four-cylinder 1.6 litre engine into Formula One 2013 – despite Renault threatening to consider its future if the changes do not proceed.
With the F1 Commission set to meet next week to discuss the new regulations, Ferrari, Mercedes and Cosworth have already voiced their concerns over the new power plant, with an increase in costs cited as the main issue.
Now the McLaren team principal has given his view on the matter, believing that Formula One has to be road relevant so that it can fit the requirements for existing and future manufacturers’ needs.
“I think the traditionalist who believes we need large-capacity, normally-aspirated engines has to accept that they may not be attractive to car companies in this day and age,” Whitmarsh told MotorSport. “So there was some logic in the thought that we need a solution that is attractive to them. Unfortunately, with hindsight we got it wrong, because the intention of the 2013 formula was to see if we could attract more manufacturers.
“Plainly we didn’t, and we failed to do that because we came in at the end of the largest recession the automotive sector has ever had. We also gave them too short a timeframe to develop a new engine. I don’t think it’s worth criticising anyone over it. That’s how it transpired.
“The important issue for F1 is that we find a formula which is attractive to the car industry. We should have a model that averages [involvement from] three to five manufacturers, and inevitably they will rotate.
“We have to accept, respect and not despise the fact that the manufacturers are here to sell cars. If F1 is to be the ideal platform for product exposure and differentiation of their brand we need a formula that is relevant to them and to the needs of society.
“We’ve got to ensure that F1 continues as the technical pinnacle of motor sport. It has to be technically advanced, relevant, entertaining and differentiated. It’s not an easy task, but we have to work hard to achieve that.”
The Englishman also offered a solution to maintain the sport’s aesthetic appeal, suggesting that it opts for a V6 turbo rather than the quieter V4 model.
“We need great-sounding engines, it’s a core asset of our sport. But there’s no reason why you can’t have forward-looking technology and a great sound. I personally feel we’ve got to seek a compromise. If it were my call I’d probably go for a turbocharged V6. I think more and more cars are going to be turbocharged.
“We’ve got to have high revs. A vee engine suits the structure of an F1 car and we’ve got to have that unique sound. It might be different from today’s cars but I think it can still be fantastic.”
In the same article Cosworth’s Mark Gallagher also reiterated the need to ensure that costs do not spiral out of control, but gave some hope that the Northampton-based outfit would remain on the grid.
“There’s a big concern on our side because the new rules have no cost restrictions applied.” he said. “So the manufacturers can spend a huge amount of money and we would have a space race around the new engine formula, which was never the idea. Everyone agreed that wasn’t the idea, but unfortunately that’s what happened. So we’ve also said to the FIA that a delay might be the right thing to do. I think all the teams, not just our customers, don’t need to be spending more money on engine technology.
“We want clarity. If it’s a 1.6-litre motor, fine, we’ll be there. If not, we’ve got a V8 that we can continue with. We’re agnostic. We don’t have to have a V8 or V12 or an in-line four. If the F1 rules required a single-cylinder two-stroke, we’d be there. The FIA president has said he’s listening and taking in everything we’re saying. We just want a resolution.”
Ultimately the F1 Commission’s decision will have huge bearing on the future of Formula One and send the sport on a rocky road whichever way it chooses.