An F1 engine freeze starting in 2022 was approved this Thursday following the meeting of the Formula One Commission which involves all teams, the FIA and championship organizers.
The agreement, which was reached unanimously, gives the green light to Red Bull’s initial proposal. After Honda’s decision to abandon the F1 at the end of this season, Red Bull was hoping to take over from the Japanese firm and continue using its engines.
At Red Bull, they have been confident all along regarding their capability to continue with the project on their own as long as the Japanese giant agreed, which, in principle, it did.
The team from Milton Keynes, however, would be unable to bear the cost, nor they would have the technical capacity or experience to continue with the production and development of the F1 engines themselves.
F1 engine freezee or goodbye for Red Bull
Red Bull wanted to avoid having to sign a new deal with Renault at all costs and so they needed the rest of the grid to support them in their intentions for F1 engine freeze.
Otherwise, they would have seen their chances of success dwindle to nearly zero as they would have quickly been outperformed by the mechanical progress of their rivals. It was either the freeze or saying farewell to F1.
Red Bull’s strategy to continue competing in F1 has thus become a reality despite it being a complex proposal and needing the agreement of all parties.
At the end of last year, when the possibility of an engine freeze was first brought to the table, several teams declared their opposition to the plan, but those have now obviously come around to the idea and managed to reach an agreement.
The departure of two more teams from the already impoverished F1 grid would have been too hard a blow for the sport to bear.
Also, amid the enormous disruption that has followed the coronavirus pandemic and with only three engine manufacturers (Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault) currently supplying the teams, the exit of Red Bull and its subsidiary, Alpha Tauri, would have been a real tragedy for the Continental Circus of motorsports.
Replacing qualifying with sprint racing
At the Commission’s meeting, the parties also discussed the possible modification of the traditional Grand Prix format. In this respect, Liberty Media suggested a change in the classification system that would make the entire weekend even more attractive for fans.
The proposed new format would replace the qualifying round with a shortened race (one hundred kilometres) on Saturdays, the result of which would decide Sunday’s starting grid.
To complicate things a bit further, the new race would award half of the weekend’s points. As for the starting order of Saturday’s sprint race, this would be determined by a qualifying round taking place the day before, on Friday.
This fancy new format reflects the eagerness of F1 owners to find ways that will increase the appeal of their product to new fans. The sprint races will initially be introduced on a trial basis in three of the 2021 rounds; Canada, Italy and Brazil.
Team leaders, however, asked for more time at Thursday’s meeting before the new initiative is signed off. Given its complexity and possible consequences, they want to discuss the matter in-depth with their sports managers and evaluate all of the possible consequences of this change.
Images of F1 engine freeze: FIA.