Following the discovery of the homologation loophole which brought a sigh of relief to Renault and Ferrari, a debate has been rumbling on in regards to how the regulation, (or lack of it), will apply to Honda, who are introducing their first generation powerunit this season. Following an appeal to the FIA, it appears that Honda will in fact be granted permission to develop their unit throughout the 2015 campaign, but the scale of the on-going project will essentially be defined by their rivals.
The loophole handed a key advantage to those attempting to chase down the superior Mercedes powertrain – an opportunity to stretch development of the unit across the course of a full year. While manufacturers would still be bound to the 32 token limitation, being able to run a longer ‘improvements programme’ would allow more time for research and the ability to make far more considered decisions.
However, on the basis that the three 2014 engine suppliers had faced a first year of homologation heartache, it was initially anticipated that Honda would be excluded from the loophole terms. Obviously, this was an argument used by the rival manufacturers, who understandably did not want to permit an advantage to their newest competitors but nonetheless, they seemed to have a strong case.
Despite this, the new directive issued by the FIA suggests the inclusion of Honda in the terms. To maintain a “fair and equitable” state of play, the amount of development Honda can make throughout the season will seemingly be defined by the rival manufacturers, with Honda being permitted the average number of tokens remaining for the three other suppliers. For example, if Mercedes have 20 tokens, Ferrari have 15 and Renault finish the winter with 10, Honda will be permitted to use 15.
In truth, this is the fairest verdict. McLaren would be severely hampered this season if Honda were not able to adapt their powerunit in-season – it would mean that they would have to recover the year deficit to their rivals in one winter. Now, it appears as though they will have a much longer period within which to catch up with the Mercedes benchmark. However, the argument will certainly continue as I anticipate that Renault, Ferrari and Mercedes will declare that the directive deemed to be a fair and equitable verdict is in fact a Honda biased one.
Image Credit: "McLaren Technology Centre" By the "Department for Business, Innovation and Skills" [CC BY-ND 2.0]