Date: 11th November 2014 at 8:30am
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Despite spiralling costs at the expense of multiple F1 teams, Formula One could be on the brink of an engine war.

That’s the view of Red Bull Racing’s team principal Christian Horner, who wants to see an unfreeze to the current engine regulations.

Currently engine manufacturers are able to make a number of changes between Formula One seasons.

It isn’t clear quite how much can be changes but Mercedes have previously been quoted as saying that 92% of the engine design can be altered ahead of next season.

But under the current regulations, after a certain date in the calendar, Formula One engine manufacturers are not allowed to make any further developments to their engines.

The engine freeze was made a regulation in a move to try and limit spending on engines after a huge investment was made to switch from the normal aspirated v8 engines, to the new era of v6 turbo-hybrid power-plants.

Engine suppliers are limited to only being able to make alterations to engine mapping and software during the season, with any changes to mechanical parts limited to special occasions with advanced permission in the case of reliability, safety or cost.

Since the change in regulations for 2014, Mercedes have dominated, either with their own car or with customer teams Williams, McLaren and Force India.

Obviously with Mercedes dominating, rivals Ferrari and Renault called for the engine freeze to be lifted, to improve competition.

Whilst Honda who join Formula One in 2015 with McLaren have also joined with Ferrari and Renault, as they would obviously also benefit from further development time.

German manufacturers Mercedes however believe that there is enough scope to upgrade in the off-season and in a time of spiralling costs and wanting to lower spending, lifting the engine freeze would see costs increase dramatically.

For any rule changes to happen for 2015, all the teams have to come to a unanimous decision.

However the regulations are not in place for 2016 and beyond and Horner believes that if Mercedes do not cooperate now, then a full out engine war will take place in the future.

‘There are no guarantees we can close that gap significantly to Mercedes but not having the opportunity to do so seems pretty unpalatable, I think that’s the only option because with a majority vote ’16, ’17, ’18 can be open, which is ridiculous because it just means we’re all going to end up spending a lot more money over a longer period of time, whereas it should be opened to allow Renault, Ferrari, Honda to close the gap.’ Horner told the BBC.

At a time when Marussia and Caterham have already gone into administration and smaller teams such as Sauber, Lotus and Force India are known to also be struggling financially. Even larger engine costs is ridiculous. Which is the stance that Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has taken: ‘I don’t think it’s the way forward trying to unsettle the system and saying if you don’t agree for ’15 , we are going to turn the whole thing upside down, [and have an] engine war.

‘You’re looking a bit too narrow on your own team’s performance and not considering what is going on around you in F1.’

Now considering Mercedes hold the competitive advantage that is a convenient stance to take and if they had been in the shoes of Ferrari who knows if they would have still held that view.

That said, that view is the correct one.

The change in engine regulations was an expensive one. The only way to limit that cost going forward is to have a freeze on engine development during the season.

That was why it was implemented in the first place.

The irony should also not be lost that it was Red Bull’s engine partner Renault who heavily pushed for the engine change to v6 turbo-hybrid engines and then got the manufacturing of the system wrong which put them at a disadvantage on the track.

Mercedes would also not have been interested in Formula One if it had not been for the engine change, whilst Honda would also have never returned to Formula One.

The change was needed to keep Formula One at the forefront of technology, something which is in the very DNA of F1.

But in a prime example of why the teams should not be involved in the running of the sport, Horner would back calls to return to the older v8 engines.

‘Nobody likes to go backwards but sometimes desperate means require desperate measures, You look at the costs of these power units. How sustainable is it for all the teams and indeed the manufacturers?

‘I think it’s extremely unlikely but if we were rational about it then yes we would.’

When it was pointed out that Mercedes, Renault and Honda would argue that they’d leave the sport under those circumstances he said: ‘They might pull out anyway [because of the increasing costs]. It’s just a crazy situation; completely nuts.’

If ever the hypocritical world of Formula One was summed up in a single sentence, that was it.

Back an engine unfreeze which would increase costs, but then admit that engine suppliers could pull out of Formula One over increased costs.

It’s no wonder Formula One is in turmoil.