Date: 14th November 2014 at 9:35am
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Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff has played down Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner’s claims of an engine war in 2016.

Despite spiralling costs at the expense of multiple F1 teams, Formula One could be on the brink of an engine war according to Horner.

In the build up to this season engine manufacturers spent a great deal of time and investment on developing the new era of v6 turbo-hybrid power-plants, casting aside the old aspirated v8 engines.

This was a long drawn out process, where the likes of Ferrari, Renault and Mercedes invested years of development before the regulations even came into practice.

To prevent spiralling costs following the new engine regulations, an engine freeze was implemented into the regulations.

But after the inaugural season of the v6 turbo-hybrid era, Ferrari and Renault want to see an unfreeze to the current engine regulations as Mercedes hold a competitive advantage.

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

In fact around 92% of the power-unit, including the internal combustion engine and hybrid system is available for alteration.

But to limit overall spending, engine manufacturers are given ‘tokens’ on a seemingly annual basis to spend on changes to their power-plants how they wish, with 32 tokens enabling manufacturers to actually change only 48% of the entire power-unit.

Under the current regulations, after a certain date in the calendar, Formula One engine manufacturers are then not allowed to make any further developments to their engines over the course of the season.

These regulations run through until the end of 2015 and were seen as the only way to limit costs going forward.

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 and now pushing for a change in the regulations.

Honda have also joined Ferrari’s and Renault’s calls to change the regulations and yet Honda would have never returned to Formula One if it wasn’t for the new engine regulations in F1.

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

But something else which is in the very DNA of F1 is competition and politics and that is something that Formula One is now entrenched in.

Mercedes hold the competitive advantage and look set to dominate next season in much of the same way as they have this year, if changes to the regulations are not agreed.

However Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner is not adverse to scaremongering tactics in an effort to try and force Mercedes into a compromise. Calling for a potential engine war beyond 2015 if Mercedes do not agree to changes now.

‘with a majority vote 2016, ’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.

Horner even spoke of his backing for Formula One 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.’

But despite Horner’s threats, Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff seems pretty content with the current situation.

‘No serious company would allow a complete lifting of restrictions. Renault and Mercedes have full alignment.’ he said in regards to the threat of an engine war.

Whilst on the topic of reverting back to v8 engines he added: ‘If we dropped the current format, I can guarantee for sure that manufacturers would not be interested in supplying any other power unit because of the stability and sustainability of the sport and the road relevance of the hybrid technology, We should be promoting the technology of those engines – we are doing races on a third less fuel than last year and going faster.’

‘Renault was very vocal in introducing these engines as a condition to stay in F1 and this is where we are today. All the other things being discussed are just funny.’

So we appear to be at a stand-off.

It looks likely that despite Mercedes holding the upper-hand a compromise is going to have to be made between Mercedes, Renault, Ferrari and Honda.

The next meeting is set for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix next weekend and Mercedes are set to offer a compromise which will enable the use of a five tokens update mid-season in July 2015.

Of course Red Bull and Ferrari will continue to push for more but Mercedes believe they are already making more changes than necessary.

‘because we don’t want to feel like hardliners, we have offered a compromise, even though I still don’t believe this is the right thing to do’.

‘We embrace competition and innovation but we are looking at the bigger picture of sustainability of the whole sport.

‘Let’s be sensible; what we need now is stability not controversy.’

Wolff concluded: ‘We will certainly be very vocal if it’s going to ever come down to a situation that somebody would opt for gloves off in 2016 – full steam ahead into an engine war.

‘It’s very clear how irresponsible that would be for the sport in an environment where we have just lost two teams, where we are talking about financial hardship for some of the other teams, that somebody wants to go gloves off.’