Following the dominance of Mercedes during the 2014 Formula One season as well as the success of Mercedes-powered vehicles up and down the field, the other engine suppliers asked the FIA to allow mid-season engine development to help them catch up. While the FIA has yet to announce such a change to the rules, it has emerged that the existing laws have a loophole which effectively allows in-season engine development.
As per the current laws, engine suppliers were told to finish developing the power units by the start of the forthcoming season. However, no specific date was set opening the window for Ferrari, Renault and Mercedes to develop their engines through the season.
2014 German Grand Prix
Discussing the loophole, an FIA spokesman said, “It was always envisaged, although not explicitly stated in the rules, that manufacturers would have to deal with modifications on the engine within the constraints of the rules, and then submit their 2015 engine [at the first race]. It is simple, but when you read it [the rule book], it doesn’t say that unfortunately.”
As part of the discovery, the FIA has grouped a number of engine components under so-called ‘tokens’. There are 66 tokens altogether and five of those remain restricted from development or modification. As for the remaining 61 tokens, 32 of them can be tinkered with by engine suppliers which accounts for about 48 per cent of the power units. For the 2016 season, this will drop to 38 per cent and then 30 per cent in 2017, 23 per cent in 2018 and five per cent for 2019 and 2020.
Interestingly, Honda won’t benefit from the loophole as the FIA has stipulated it must submit its final engine design by February 28 as the other engine suppliers had to do that for the 2014 season.