Dec 10, 2008

Sport - Formula One expected to embrace low-cost engine

LONDON: Formula One looks likely to accept radical plans for a low-cost standard engine when teams and the governing FIA meet in Monaco this week to map out a survival strategy for the sport.

Formula One sources said on Tuesday that five teams, including former champions Renault, had expressed interest in the governing International Automobile Federation (FIA)'s proposals.

A Renault spokeswoman declined to comment. The FIA confirmed, however, that there had been considerable interest since the latest details were outlined by Max Mosley last week.

"Since the President's letter last Friday, there has been a very positive response from the Formula One teams regarding our engine proposals," said a spokesman.

"It would however be inappropriate to comment on the status of any individual teams or to give any further details in advance of the World Motor Sport Council meeting on Friday."

Friday's meeting follows talks between the teams's association FOTA and FIA President Max Mosley in the Mediterranean principality on Wednesday.

It also comes after Honda's shock decision last week to quit the championship, a move that would leave just nine teams and has prompted fears of other manufacturers being blown out by the global economic storm.

One team source said the meetings were crucial for the long-term future of the sport.


"They (the teams) are certainly making an effort," Mosley said last week after FOTA met to discuss their own cost-cutting plans. "The question in my mind is whether they are attacking this in a sufficiently root-and-branch way.

"I don't think there's any doubt now that there's a real sense of urgency."

Mosley said he would like to see costs come down to 10 or 20 percent of what they are now, with annual budgets reduced to around the $40 million bracket from well in excess of $120 million at present for the smallest of teams.

The FIA has put forward the option of a low-cost powertrain, provided by Cosworth, Xtrac and Ricardo Transmissions, from 2010.

Mosley said the cost to each team taking up the option would be an up-front payment of 1.68 million pounds ($2.49 million) followed by 5.49 million per season - a fraction of the price of a current engine supply.

While the cost was dependent on at least four teams signing up for the powertrain by the end of business on Thursday, manufacturers would also have the option to build their own engines to the same specification as the Cosworth or have their existing units pegged to its performance.

The World Motor Sport Council may also discuss Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone's proposal for the drivers' championship to be decided by Olympic-style medals rather than points.

However, the response from teams and the FIA to the idea has appeared lukewarm.