The idea was first mooted in response to the substantial costs incurred by independent F1 teams in securing engines from one of the major participating suppliers. With the cost per season said to be in the neighborhood of $30 million, the FIA put the word out that it was looking for another engine manufacturer to step in under a different set of rules to supply independent teams. Though balancing the performance against the current 1.6-liter turbocharged V6 hybrid power units would undoubtedly prove a challenge, the tender calls for a conventional V6 engine displacing no more than 2.5 liters and producing around 870 horsepower to be prepared in time for the 2017 championship.
Already four companies are said to have put their names in the racing helmet - among them Mecachrome, Ilmor, and Advanced Engine Research. Mecachrome is expected to base its proposal on the engines it currently furnishes to GP2. The French company just secured the contract for GP3 as well, and has previously worked with Renault on its F1 engines. Ilmor would base its proposal on its Indy design, but it also co-founded what is now Mercedes' F1 engine works, and designs engines for MotoGP and racing powerboats as well. Finally, Indy Lights engine supplier AER is tipped to propose a modified version of its LMP1 unit. Cosworth was also floated as a potential fourth contender, but ruled out participating in the process due to cost considerations.
While the suppliers prepare their proposals, the F1 Commission met yesterday and voted down the idea altogether, adopting instead a measure that would mandate that the existing major suppliers guarantee each team the engines they need, at a lower cost, with simplified specifications, and producing a more engaging sound for the fans. The meeting encompassed representatives from the teams, current engine manufacturers, fuel and tire suppliers, and a handful of major sponsors, plus the FIA and Bernie Ecclestone's Formula One Management. The existing manufacturers - namely Mercedes, Renault, Ferrari, and Honda - are given until January 15, 2016, to present their plan. In the meantime, the interested independent suppliers are still invited to submit their proposals, which could still be accepted - particularly if the new plan ultimately falters.
Red Bull, Toro Rosso, Williams, Lotus, Force India, Sauber, and Manor currently purchase hybrid engines from one of those four, while McLaren partners with Honda in a quasi-works arrangement. Red Bull is said to be particularly interested in a new engine package after its relationship with Renault (whose engine is pictured here) soured, and a replacement has yet to be found. Whether it would be able to compete at the front of the pack with a budget engine, however, remains to be seen - as does the notion of whether it will even get the chance to find out.