Unless you live in a proverbial cave in the motorsport world you will be aware of the monumental changes that have gone on in the rulebook in Formula One. The biggest of these massive changes happens to be in the engine department, which has been completely overhauled by the bigwigs in Paris.
Gone are the days of the aspirated V8 that had served the sport so nobly, and often reliably, since 2006. In its place is a V6 turbo charged power unit that has more torque than the US Air Force’s fleet of fighter jets. Well, almost. Much has been made of this new power unit we now have, and in particular all of the new technology has led to fears about reliability. And now, apparently, it seems some have been proved right.
The technology is extremely expensive compared to last year’s engine, and this has already led to some concerns in an F1 era where money is already a problem. However, the engine/power unit changes do bring with them more fuel efficiency which in the long run may prove cheaper for teams bearing in mind that the FIA have limited teams to five engine/power units from last years eight. The question remains after almost three full tests though; Are these engines as reliable as the FIA hope they are?
Well, based solely on the evidence of the three tests, no. They aren’t. Yet. Many scare stories have arisen from the three tests, particularly if the team you support has a Renault power unit. Renault acknowledge that they have problems and have reportedly asked the FIA for a delay on the homologation of the engines. This was denied, meaning that no official performance improvement techniques can be made to the engines for the rest of the season. Despite this, for Renault, all is not lost.
The rules do allow engine suppliers to develop the engine in the name of safety and reliability, and this regulation mentions little about improving power output. This could, and probably will be, their saving grace this season. If it can be proved that the new part will aid reliability the update will be deemed legal, meaning that any coincidental power increase would be a side-effect. Given what has happened to Renault powered cars thus far, this, in both areas of the statement, is desperately needed.
Red Bull in particular have hit huge problems this year. We knew they would not be fully up to it in testing towards the back end of last year when they warned that they were behind on their car, but the testing woes have shown the watching public just how badly they were behind. Their testing woes have culminated in their latest disaster, with Sebastian Vettel managing just four corners on day three of the final test at Bahrain. They are not alone in having testing problems. Sauber, Mercedes, Lotus, Toro Rosso, Caterham and Marussia have all lost almost whole days due to engine issues.
There have been many issues regarding testing reliability this, and a heavy percentage of fans have speculated about the amount of finishers in the first grand prix in Australia in two weeks’ time, There have been particular concerns about teams at the back of the grid as well as Renault-powered cars and how likely they are to finish the race. It may also take a long time to fix these reliability issues, meaning we could return to the days of half-grid finishes for a while.