F1 urged to rethink ‘horrendous’ gearbox costs

Formula 1 teams and the FIA are looking at substantially reducing expenditure on gearboxes when the new regulations come into force in 2026.

Alpine A521 gearbox

While the power unit rules have already been fixed, everything related to the chassis is still under discussion, and inevitably part of the focus is on cost reduction.

Gearboxes are an obvious target as they are not regarded as a performance differentiator, and efforts have been made in the past to address the issue of cutting expenditure, including a failed attempt to introduce a common gearbox before the current rules came into force.

The team with arguably the keenest interest in the future regulations is Aston Martin, which has used customer units from McLaren and latterly Mercedes for many years, and now has to establish its own transmission department.

The Silverstone outfit is keen to ensure that it is ahead of the game if there is any move to standard parts or an overall simplification of the technology required.

“If you look at the gearbox these days, and you compare it with other motorsport categories, the gearbox is not a performance differentiator anymore,” said Aston team principal Mike Krack.

“Everybody has more or less the same performance from the gearbox. But the cost for gearboxes is horrendous, especially if you compare it to other categories. 

"So in a cost cap world, it's a question that you have to ask – if it makes sense that you go with such complicated technology if there is no difference in performance?

“Every team is just writing off $8-9 million a year for gearboxes where there is no performance difference at all.”

Mike Krack, Team Principal, Aston Martin F1 Team, on the grid

Mike Krack, Team Principal, Aston Martin F1 Team, on the grid

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Krack noted that discussions with the FIA on the subject are ongoing.

“We have been in talks with FIA about if it does not make sense to go simpler, go more cost-effective on gearboxes, with simpler technology, and also maybe less units per year that you would need in an attempt to just make the whole sport more sustainable," said Krack.

“The sum of the paddock [spending] is over $100 million a year. You could ask yourself, is that needed, if you look at other categories?

“So that's that was the reason why we are in talks and why I think as a sport we have to ask these questions, and think about is it making sense that we make things a bit simpler?"

Krack stressed that he doesn’t necessarily want to see all teams using a common gearbox, but said that various areas could be targeted for cost savings.

"I think the list could be long,” he said. “There can be a healthy compromise between keeping some kind of technology. Take F1 differentials for example, which are unique compared to other categories.

“Seamless is something that you can discuss, the amount of gears you can discuss, or you can introduce some level of standardisation. 

"I would not go as far as saying a common gearbox for everybody, or the same gearbox for everybody, but design specification or stuff like that, just to cut the costs down."

Ferrari boss Fred Vasseur agreed that gearboxes could be a target for cutting expenditure, but pointed out that teams are already constrained by having to work within the cost cap.

"The regulation about transmissions and so on, for sure, we can try to find something a bit simpler,” he noted. “But we have also the cost cap and that you can't play on both sides. I think the cost cap, if everybody respects the cost cap, is enough for me."

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