It’s the story doing the rounds at the moment: Mr Ecclestone wants to scrap plans for 1.6liter V6 turbocharged engines, due to be introduced in 2014. The reason? Apparently, he doesn’t like the sound of them. I’ve heard some nonsense from Ecclestone in the past – and some sense, too – but this has to be one of three things: a way of getting column inches, a ‘bury the bad news’ (the ‘bribe’ case currently underway in Germany) story, or pandering to Ferrari. After all, why is a small capacity V6 in any way relevant to Ferrari?
There are a couple of things to remember here: the first is that, despite the belief of many, Bernie Ecclestone does not make the rules. That’s the job of the FIA, and Jean Todt – the President – has, true to form, remained quiet in the face of Ecclestone’s comments. The second thing to remember is that while Ferrari remains intrinsically vital to F1, it is not the only brand in the world. Renault and Mercedes are fully in support of the V6 engine route, and it doesn’t stop there. Part and parcel of the move to smaller, more efficient engines is that they are more ‘road car relevant’; yes, I know that F1 has little – if anything – to do with road cars, but the fact is that motor sport, as a whole, is having to rethink its very relevance in these changing times.
Here’s something to ponder: small capacity engines are prevalent in the everyday road car. It would surprise me greatly if teams were not, at this very moment, pitching the 2014 regulations as a new, manufacturer-friendly era, and trying to get one on board as a ‘works’ engine supplier. Granted, Honda, BMW and Toyota recently pulled out – but they were operating as teams, not engine suppliers. The former two have previously been involved as engine builders only, so why not again? I can see at least one manufacturer returning to the scene, and I would wager it be Honda. The company has a long history of involvement where engines are concerned. Remember, McLaren’s free engine supply from Mercedes ends this year, so you can be sure they will be looking at options. Their past relationship with Honda is not to be forgotten.
Could other manufacturers be tempted into F1? I see it as very much possible, perhaps even more than likely. BMW would surely have a look, and despite the assurances otherwise I remain convinced that the VW group is interested. Perhaps Toyota may dip a toe in, and what about Peugeot returning to the show? Then there’s the eastern brands like Hyundai, and – of course – it may be a way for Ford to get back into the sport. All speculation, of course, but the 2014 engine regulations are certainly more attractive to most manufacturers than the current set. Forget Bernie’s misgivings – it’s not up to him.