Engine politics has been a key feature which has characterised the winter so far and the discussions are continuing to rumble on. The loophole uncovered in the sport’s Technical Regulations will allow Renault, Ferrari and front running manufacturer Mercedes, to develop their powertrain’s throughout the 2015 season, on account of the fact that no official date for homologation is disclosed. However, Honda are currently appealing the ruling that they are excluded from this luxury, on the basis that they are fielding a first-generation unit – it is a fast developing storyline.
Honda are already entering the sport on the backfoot. Ron Dennis may have described the powerunit as “a piece of jewellery”, but it is a first generation unit promising to compete with second generation equivalents. Undoubtedly, Honda have the resources and expertise available to compete in this fashion, yet will still face a severe disadvantage in their first season – a disadvantage which will only grow if they are denied the piecemeal change which their rivals will enjoy.
Having the ability to make modifications throughout the campaign is an advantage not to be underestimated. It will not allow an outfit to make any more changes than they otherwise would be permitted, but it does allow the ability to work on a more considered basis. Rather than introduce a raft of modifications, incremental change can be made in reaction to performance and more research and development can be carried out before an update is introduced. As I mentioned in a previous post, the loophole will alleviate the pressure on manufacturers to get everything right this winter.
As such, it is no surprise that McLaren are challenging the FIA’s decision to exclude Honda from the loophole advantages. While they will be undergoing their first year of powerunit development, it seems unfair to disadvantage the supplier on account of the fact that their entry date is a year later than the opposition. They could not have foreseen the circumstances under which the second season of V6 powerunits would be played out. However, the obvious counter-argument to this is that the three competitor engine manufacturers suffered the difficulty of traversing a first year without in-season development and therefore, Honda should face the same ordeal in their first campaign.
Ultimately, I predict the latter argument to prevail, particularly on the basis that the FIA have already declared Honda exempt from the loophole allowances. It would require a U-turn to alter the situation and on account of there being justification for the previously established ruling, this seems to be a long-shot.
Image Credit: "Mclaren MP4-29 Jenson Button 2014 F1 Chinese GP" By emperornie (Mclaren, Button) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons