After recently reporting on a potential shift to small-displacement turbocharged engines in the sport, Pitpass.com says that a proposal on allowing the use of gas turbine engines is now being looked at by the FIA. The proposal was reportedly submitted by Project 1221, which says it could supply teams with race-ready turbines as soon as 2013 if the FIA were to give it the nod. F1 fanatics may recall that Lotus toyed with turbine power back in the 1970s, but never scored a better finish than eighth place at the 1971 Italian Grand Prix before giving up on the project.
The incorporation of turbines would bring several benefits while requiring significant re-adjustments to the current formula. Although turbines use more fuel, they require far less maintenance than a conventional internal-combustion engine – especially the highly-stressed units made for F1. Turbines can run on biofuels, allowing F1 to take a step forward as a "green" leader in motorsports. Since turbines cannot, however, be used as a stressed member of a car's chassis construction – another innovation pioneered, somewhat ironically, by Lotus – teams employing turbine power would have to switch to a space frame chassis design. Any drawbacks would be offset by the turbine's smaller form.
Though many teams – complete-package constructors like Ferrari especially – would be hesitant to adopt turbine propulsion, one could easily imagine independents like Red Bull (to say nothing of the reborn Lotus team) jumping at the opportunity. A level playing field would have to be established through equalization regulations with conventional engines, but the people behind Project 1221 say that limiting their turbines' output would be relatively straightforward, opening the door to multiple engine types in the series. That's if this idea ever moves anywhere beyond the proposal stage -- a pretty big "if" at that.