The entire complexion of the F1 business is set to change significantly from 2013.
Not only will there be a new concord agreement governing the commercial rights income distribution from such lucrative areas as television coverage contracts, trackside advertising and corporate hospitality, but also bold new technical rules, which will change the grand prix landscape for good.
As the teams head for Monza and this coming weekend’s Italian Grand Prix, a number of think tanks have been set up to consider various propositions. The latest concept is for a 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine to become standard.
Couple this with ground effect aerodynamics, a fuel flow limitation and a possible limit of five engineers per season per driver and you’ve got a recipe for the most deep-rooted technical changes since turbocharged engines were introduced first time round in 1977.
How ironic that a technical development, which originally occurred by an accident of rule interpretation, should now be seen as the sport’s way forward.
Back in 1966, when the 3.0-litre F1 engine regulations were implemented, the FIA was concerned that there would be insufficient new power units to go round. So, as an interim measure, a provision was left in the regulations to allow 1.5-litre supercharged engines to be used.
Nobody took up the option until 1977 when Renault arrived with its exhaust-driven turbocharged engine, which was nodded through and accepted, despite the fact a turbocharger is not a supercharger.
But the distinction was conveniently blurred for the benefit of Renault’s acceptance into the F1 fold, even though Cosworth co-founder Keith Duckworth – the architect of the Ford Cosworth DFV – would bend your ear for half an hour on the iniquity of the turbo on any occasion that you weren’t quick enough to escape. Keith was right, of course, but his mantra was repetitive, to say the least.
Still, at the end of the day, it should be a cheaper solution than high-revving naturally aspirated engines. As Nobuhiko Kawamoto, the legendary engineer who rose to become Honda’s president, once told Bernie Ecclestone “boost is cheaper than revs". From 2013 we should find out whether he was right.