Citing the ridiculously spiraling costs associated with engine development, the FIA sent out a statement seeking drivetrain suppliers for every Formula 1 team starting in 2010, meaning that the same engine/trans combo would be fitted to every car on the grid. The company that gets the contract would either build and supply the engines or design and supervise the building of them so they meet a specified range.
This kind of plan seems almost incomprehensible given that Formula One has always been known as a series that allows manufacturers and private teams to compete within the regulations to push the boundaries of what's possible in car development, and especially in engine technology. It seems unfathomable that a team like Honda might consider staying in F1 if they had to use a Renault powerplant, or God forbid a Toyota mill. McLaren-Mercedes/Ferrari anyone?
Despite the obvious negative reaction to this announcement, F1 czar Bernie Ecclestone said he doesn't expect to lose any teams: "We're trying to get a level playing field," he said. "I don't see why [manufacturers] should leave, we're saving them an awful lot of money I hope." While increasing development costs have gotten out of hand and threatened the future of the sport by increasing the likelihood that all teams but those with the deepest pockets will be driven out, the overall feeling is that the FIA is using their usual tactic of offering a pretty unpleasant plan, with the hope that teams will accept their much more palatable alternative when that is offered.
Still, there is some support within F1 for this type of plan, especially among the smaller teams that already rely on the major manufacturers to supply engines. A smaller budget means these teams are usually perpetual backmarkers, and with a spec drivetrain, they might be better equipped to grab more podiums. The FIA is set to meet with the Formula One Team's Association in Geneva after this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix. We'll keep you posted. Thanks to Doug for sending this in!