Mario Theissen

BMW, Mercedes and Honda long ago made it clear that they were not going to allow a change of engine rules to pass without a fight. Adam Cooper heard from BMW motor sport boss Mario Theissen on the day that the FIA announced that 2.4 litre V8 engines would be introduced from 2006

Mario Theissen

In many ways the 2.4 litre V8 rules make a lot of sense. There has been no change of capacity since the drop from 3.5 to 3.0 litres in 1995, and since then power outputs have crept far beyond what anyone could have predicted at that time. It's a reflection of the massive increase in manufacturer involvement and expenditure.

At some point a change had to come, but what upsets the manufacturers most is the timescale. They signed up for regulations that were supposed to remain unchanged until the end of the Concorde Agreement in 2007, and now they've seen two years lopped off the lifespan of the technology they've invested in.

That's despite the fact that the new capacity wasn't chosen at random. It's not quite as easy as lopping two cylinders off the current engines, but a lot of R&D will carry over. But it's not just the downsizing, for the new rules package includes lot of detail changes that tie the hands of the engine designers. That's not why big companies go motor racing.

"We will sit down with Mercedes and Honda and discuss what to do next," says BMW's Mario Theissen. "I cannot comment on this before we've decided what we'll do. It certainly is a change of the regulations laid down in the Concorde Agreement. In our view it doesn't meet the targets that were put forward by the FIA. The targets we support, which were cost reduction, enhancement of the show, and obviously safety, we think there will be better ways to achieve the target.

"That's why we will sit down and talk about this situation between the engine manufacturers - at least BMW, Honda and Mercedes. And then we'll decide what to do. At the moment I don't exclude anything. Like I said we will sit down and then decide how to go forward."

Theissen says he had no objection to the short-term implementation of a longer engine life for the current V10s for 2005, but he simply wants to keep them beyond next season.

"All of us have agreed on engine life extension. We think we have a smarter idea on how to make use of engine life. But the main issue for us is the 3.0 litre V10.

"There are two reasons. One is cost reduction. If we want to reduce costs, we shouldn't change the engine concept. The second one certainly is the time frame. Also one of the targets was to enhance the show, and spectacular cars need a spectacular engine."

An obvious question is this - if the engines aren't shrunk, what can be done to slow the cars down? Mario says there are other ways, although they won't have the long-term impact that Mosley is after.

"The FIA asked for a lap time increased of three-seconds a lap for next year. According to the expert view, this will be achieved by the tyre and aero restrictions already. In addition to that we offered a proposed package of materials and design restrictions, plus extending engine life. Together this should account for an even bigger increase of lap time that expected."

Mario even claims that BMW would be prepared to run engines longer than the 2005 rules specify.

"We would be prepared to go beyond two races. I think we are the only manufacturer to go so far, but two races or 1500kms, I think a majority would support that."

They may represent three of the current top five teams, but one disappointing aspect of all this for the 'Gang of Three' is that Ferrari, Renault and Toyota are not kicking up a fuss. Cosworth is not really in a position to say anything.

"Maybe they have other objectives, or they are in a different situation. I cannot really comment on that, because I don't know their real motivation and the rationale behind their position. I think if there are three out of seven with the same view - and this view is not just accepting something but coming up with a joint own proposal - that means something."

In China, Max Mosley made it clear that the manufacturers would be playing with fire if they take him on over this issue. The fact is that speed reduction and safety are his reasons for bringing in the smaller engines, and to challenge a safety improvement - however solid your case - is asking for trouble.

What if the smaller engine plan is cancelled or postponed, and there's a serious accident in 2006? When it came out that the manufacturers had vetoed a measure designed to make the cars safer, F1 would not look very good. It may sound a little contrived, but that's the logic.

"I think we should leave that to the legal guys and to the Court of Arbitration," continued Theissen. "I know about this point, but as an engineer I would prefer to talk about safety and in terms of improving the situation you should look at the causes of the accidents. I think none of the recent accidents have to do with engine power, but there are other issues which have to be addressed."

We haven't heard the end of this story.

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