Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff has called for a spending cap on power units if Formula 1 is to attract new manufacturers in the wake of Honda's withdrawal at the end of 2021.
The introduction of a $145mllion budget cap for each team comes into force next year, although that does not apply to power units, to any of the current manufacturers in terms of development costs or to the customers with regard to purchasing.
While the 1.6-litre V6 turbo-hybrid systems have been one of F1's greatest achievements given the level of technology and transfer to road cars, it has barely failed to recover from the early negativity surrounding reliability, and the lack of noise compared to its V10 predecessor.
Wolff feels it is now time for F1 to introduce a cap on the power unit, as it has done for many other areas of a team's expenditure.
"With the hybrid introduction, it was an engineering exercise: what kind of engine can we actually develop?" assessed Wolff.
"We didn’t realise that we would have a fantastic engine with, today, more than 50 per cent thermal efficiency that doesn’t exist in any other sport.
"'But] We started the messaging around it in 2014 with Bernie [Ecclestone saying] that this is really not at all good for Formula 1, that the noise is not enough.
"You can’t sell your product by talking negatively about it, and we’re still lacking the messaging that these engines are fantastic hybrid technology, but they’re much too expensive.
"So we need to introduce a spending cap for power units, that’s clear, like we’ve done on the chassis side in order to make it more sustainable and in order to attract other OEMs [original equipment manufacturer] in the future."
F1 is due to change power unit regulations from 2026, although with Honda to pull out, it has led to the question as to whether the earlier introduction of new rules might have resulted in the Japanese manufacturer remaining on board.
Wolff believes such a call would have been detrimental for all concerned, and while Honda's exit is frustrating, the least F1 can do now is make the right decisions moving forwards.
"Should we have changed the regulations? The problem is if we had changed them earlier it would have meant an additional investment for all of us, which wouldn’t have been sustainable, and after a couple of years, three, four years, you’re starting all over again.
"Where we all came together: Honda, Ferrari, Renault and ourselves was that after 2025 would be the right time.
"Certainly, a cost cap and some kind of freeze needs to be introduced earlier, bearing in mind we need the status where all engines are about equal. We don’t want to have a situation where we’re freezing power units and there are big discrepancies in performance.
"But going forward, we all need to all sit around a table, discuss what is the right technology for the real world, how can we simplify technology in order to spend less and then have a new format that everybody buys into from 2026 onwards."
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